Cuttin’ It Up – Teaching Children

Why learn to sew and quilt? Why teach your children?

Learning how to sew is a valuable skill and there are plenty of reasons why you and every child should learn how to sew. Let me enlighten you.

  1. Sewing helps in developing Hand-Eye Coordination: From cutting to threading a needle and operating a sewing machine these simple exercises aid dramatically in this development.
  2. Mathematical and Geometry skills: Math and measuring is an integral part of sewing, especially quilting. Practical application of math and geometry is in all parts of sewing and quilting. This is such a solid way to teach these skills and a child particularly will love to use and show these skills they learn.
  3. Planning and Preparation Skills: Sewing and quilting require advanced planning and preparation, kids will use their problem-solving skills to prepare their sewing and quilting projects. They have to plan their pattern, figure out how much and what materials they will need to complete their project. This is something I focus on with my second year students and is a skill that will take them through all aspects of their lives and careers, even the corporate world.
  4. Creativity and Accomplishment: When a child completes a sewing or quilting project, they will have a physical reminder of their accomplishment. They can show their work by using it in a very practical way either for themselves, to help others as a donation or as a gift.
  5. Mending their clothes: When a child learns to replace a button, mend their clothes, patch a hole or fix a hem they have a skill set that will follow them into adulthood and provide a solid independence and confidence that too many people today seem to lack.
  6. Sewing provide defined stages in their life: From sewing doll clothes to their own clothes, as a child, allows them to express their individuality. Each sewing machine marks a mile stone in our lives and helps us to strengthen our coping mechanism in today’s crazy world. Imagine what this does for a child?
  7. Sewing can save you money: Oh yes it can! Have you ever gone into a store and looked at a garment that was just too expensive for what you are looking at?  Well enter sewing – go home and make it!  Only you get to choose exactly the color and cloth you like and make it really fit just you.

Before you verbally eviscerate me for such a strong opinion, let me explain. Sewing has so many layers. Sewing by hand, home decor sewing, sewing for children/grandchildren, fashion/garment sewing, quilting (ohhh – especially quilting!), crafts, and a lot of other sewing areas I can’t even begin to recount. Saying that, sewing is a useful skill that is worth learning.

When it comes to sewing tasks like winding a bobbin or threading a machine it can bring a person to a screeching halt, just too much for them to master. The thought of inserting a zipper or a buttonhole can cause overwhelming trouble with breathing! Enter teaching, especially as a child, learning through a teacher can be invaluable. This takes much of the stress away since you are relying on someone else’s experience, past mistakes and patience to guild you through this new world.  Part of why I feel so strongly in teaching children is due to their ability to not limit themselves.  I don’t hear ‘I can’t do that’ with young students, they haven’t yet learned that they ‘can’t do something’ and plow right through a project. Sewing does something else most don’t consider; it can reduce your environmental impact; no sweatshops, no cheap – fall apart cloths that you replace every few month and fill up our landfills with so many synthetic materials which take around a thousand year to fully decompose.  Even producing cotton takes a tremendous amount of water, water that many 2nd and 3rd world countries do not have in abundance.  One bolt of material can produce up to 25 garment, depending on what is being made. By sewing your own clothes, you’re reducing your impact on the environment and creating something that will last for years – I could go on but you get the picture.

Sewing also connects us to history, to our parents, our grandparents.  It is a bit of nostalgia, love and memories.  Those who sew have a wonderful tale about who and how they were taught, most involve a loved one. A button box, an embroidery hoop, a thimble – these are some of my most treasured possessions – this gives me a connection to the past and slows down my mind allowing me to escape from the busy-ness of modern life.  With each stitch, each garment, each quilt block I am sewing in my love, and my prayers for those who are so very dear to me.


Cuttin’ It Up – Paper Piecing

Foundation Paper Piecing, (FPP) commonly called paper piecing, is a method of piecing quilt blocks using a printed paper for stitch lines. Foundation piecing is the technique of sewing fabric to a foundation in order to achieve very precise results. The foundation can be fabric and left in place or paper to be removed later. It allows a quilter to make blocks with small sized pieces or complex angles that would be difficult to cut and piece otherwise and make your process a breeze!

English Paper Piecing is a historical quilting technique that traces back to the 1770s. The earliest hexagon template that quilt researchers have found was made in England in 1770. Hexagons and English Paper Piecing became one of the most popular patterns and styles in England by the early 1800’s. Foundation piecing is very old indeed.  At the Virginia Quilt Museum there is a quilt top on exhibit that was dated January 1889 and the papers had been left on.

Fast forward:

FPP’s new popularity is due in large part to Lesly-Claire Greenberg. “Guilty as charged,” was her answer when asked to confirm a persistent rumor that she is the “mother of modern day foundation piecing.” Her development of the foundation/paper piecing technique began as early as 1976 because she couldn’t sew log cabin blocks straight. She tried everything possible but she still couldn’t do it! So she traced the sewing lines onto a piece of muslin and sewed on the lines. At the same time she was producing a line of patterns and to help her students’ complete the designs as close to the original design as possible, she had them trace the patterns onto a muslin foundation and then lay out the fabric patches on top of the patterns. It was just a matter of time before they were turning the paper over and sewing right on the line!

Many people who quilt but are intimidated by the labor-intensive cutting and fitting process that makes a quilt or quilt block.  Paper Piecing takes all the hassle out of cutting and sewing your quilt block.  You can use pre-cut shapes or…use up you’re oddly shaped scrap pieces of fabric without extra cutting.

Learning to paper piece is like learning ballroom dancing. You have to perform all your steps in a certain order while dancing backward in high heels and checking your progress in a mirror! 

It sounds harder than it is.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll breeze through it without giving it a second thought – it is a wonderful new technique if you have never tried it. There are superb tutorials on line that demonstrate this technique, you can take a class or learn on your own. I would recommend a class for a beginner, this will save time, money and frustration…mostly frustration… down the road and you will glean great tips.  Every spring here at BellyAcres Twisted Stitchery we have a paper piecing course that takes all the uncertainty and confusion out of this process and you have a great time learning as well we carry all the things you need to complete your first paper piecing project.

The paper you choose will make a difference on whether you enjoy this technique or not. And there are significant price differences on the various options. You can use copy machine paper, vellum, newspaper print, tracing paper, wash away paper, or freezer paper. Pretty much any paper can work, however, those that can be run through a copy machine are best. Some perform better than others. Two of my favorites are ‘Papers For Foundation Piecing’ by That Patchwork Place’ and ‘Foundation Paper, and Simple Foundations Translucent Vellum’ by Carol Doak. 


Happy Piecing!

Cuttin’ It Up – Ironboards

Ironing boards, we all have them, we all use them but what are they other than something that takes up space and most of the time are unattractive – no – just plain ugly. Some people get creative and use Ironing boards for decoration to hang other items to keep your space neat, but it usually gets stuffed in a corner or closet – mine was not exception, it was just used and ugly with scorching, wear and tear from students, myself and time.

One morning I found myself unable to sleep – so at 4am I got up, built a fire in my studio, turned on my music.  I sat there trying to focus with a cup of coffee and figure out what I should start working on. Then my eyes focused on my very ugly but necessary ironing board.  It had belonged to my mother that I inherited many years ago and didn’t want to get rid of it…so I thought to myself…self – what should I do with it?  Spying some left over camo canvas I used to make a jacket with and wondered if there was enough there to make a new cover and YES! There was not only enough to make a new cover but to cover my smaller board to! So I got busy and made both covers, backed them with left over heavy batting and they both turned out even nicer than what I hoped, I love them and discovered this heavy canvas makes a wonderful cover. I was so pleased that I woke my sleepy man up to show him this wonderful thing I created. When he finely got into my studio to see this creation – my ironing board was nowhere to be found…next time I’m going to rethink my use of camo fabric….

Cuttin’ It Up – Why I quilt

Fall is a time for reflection, preserving and preparing for the long winter months indoors. Making sure all your beef is sold before butchering. canning is done and the turkeys are almost ready for their final feed, so much to do but the feelings the changing seasons bring slowly embraces me.  I love each new seasons but fall in, particular, allows me to reflect upon my life, my accomplishments, my shortfalls and preparing to create all the things I have been waiting all summer to do.  You see I am a farmer, a rancher, an artist, a quilter, a wife, a mother and grandmother but of all these things I love and cherish I am an artist, a creator and a quilter. All the designs, patterns and plans rattling around in my head all summer are screaming to get out!  What goes on in my head is rather scary (ask my husband) just trying to control them – it is now a battle of will to finish what I must so I can do what I love; create with cloth – I use it as a medium to reach others through teaching and sharing, out local guild and quilt shows.

When we quilt we share love, warmth, beauty and joy – have you ever snuggled under a quilt and NOT felt comfort? While I’m not sure why I am driven like this to quilt I do understand the journey – it’s just who I am so I embrace it.

Cuttin’ It Up – A Kind Hearted Person

There are moments in our lives we come to a realization that somethings Just. Can’t. Happen. “Like teaching my sister to quilt”.

My sister, Julia, is one of the most talented people I know – she is infectious in her personality, and a true joy to be with and we are always laughing together. She loves going for rides on her Harley Motorcycle with her husband or just by herself… A few weeks ago she was out riding and she passed a dog alongside the I-5 freeway eating fallen fruit. She was appalled that no one would stop and help this starving animal. Being the kind hearted person she is she pulled over, grabbed her phone so she could call someone with a car to pick up the stray, and walked back to this poor dog. Walking closer, she watched people slowing and staring at her; yes staring!  ‘How can so many people be so heartless’, she thought. She walked on and as she got closer this ‘dog’ stood up on its hind legs and took a step towards her…this made her stop dead in her tracks as well almost caused an accident with the passing cars.  This dog was a bear! Some choice words crossed her mind as she took a step backwards and all she could think was ‘don’t turn and run – don’t run! It will think I’m a squeaky toy’.  As she started making a fast retreat backwards trying hard not to fall lest the bear would chase her and knock her down! Fortunately the bear was more interested in the fruit than her unsalted meat and she made it back to her bike safely.  During all this her husband, Bob, pulled over and watched, not sure if he needed to come to her rescue.

My sister is now seriously considering Lasik surgery, until that time I can’t teach her to quilt – since I won’t let her near any of my quilting machines…

Cuttin’ it Up – Quilt Guilds

Quilt Guilds have been around for three centuries in the American culture, as formal and informal groups, meeting in churches and homes and barns.  Guilds are formed for various reasons and for specific causes from supporting the community to commemorating important people or events. The 19th century Guilds were known as ‘quilting parties or circles’, the 20th century quiltmakers formed groups in order to establish a sense of identity as well for education and mutual support.  During the last half of the century fewer mothers and grandmothers have passed on the traditions and techniques of quiltmaking to their children, the 20th century woman have been too busy making a living.

Enter modern quilters today who have taken quilting to a whole new level through Guilds.

In the 21st century American quilting is considered one of the last traditional crafts still being widely practiced, millions of people are making quilts every year throughout the world. Human beings are born makers, we all have a desire to create and to help others. Quilt Guilds help to support quilters in collective groups through teaching, sharing of ideas, community projects and supporting each other.

Grant County Oregon has an established Quilt Guild (Grant County Peace Makers) and has a new Quilt Guild (Strawberry Mountain Quilt Guild, established 2017) that are supporting exciting agendas along with teaching and sharing of ideas. Whether you have quilted for years or you ‘have always wanted to learn’ I urge you to see what these two Guilds are doing, the growing involvement with our community, bring art, beauty and support.  Strawberry Mountain Quilt Guild’s ‘Sit & Sew’ make quilts for children receiving beds from ‘Sleep in Heavenly Peace’ as well teach new quilters the ‘art’.  Grant County Peace Makers support Quilts of Valor and have provided hundreds of beautiful quilts for our veterans.

Cuttin’ it Up – Marathon Quilting



Marathon Quilting….We’ve all been there; the long hours, the excitement, the fatigue – being so close to the finish and pushing until completion – and swearing we will never do it again! You know how long that lasts – kinda like giving birth, at the time ‘I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!’ comes to mind as we ‘push’ through to the finish. Then we see the beauty, the possibilities, the hope and something in our brain blocks all logic and we do it all over again…and again.

This happened a couple weekends ago, our youngest daughter, Aubri, came down with her family and she needed help with a quilt, this quilt she was working on was for her husbands cousin’s first child.  We decided on a new quilt and a different pattern completely so early Saturday morning we began; we measured, we cut and we sewed, we laughed and talked all day long. Fortunately Rob and Papa were there to help with the little ones (of course dirt bikes, quads and tree forts helped). We completed the quilt top in time to put it on the longarm for quilting while the ‘men folk’ made dinner and fed the littles.  At 11:40pm Saturday I pulled this quilt off the longarm all done and beautiful, saved the binding for the next morning and she left happy at noon Sunday with a completed quilt to give as a gift the next weekend… her smiling face was all I needed – life is truly good.  I love and cherish these moments with my daughter, she is a blooming quilter and yes, I would do it all over again and again…just not too soon.

Cuttin’ it Up – Scisssor’s

One can never have enough tools – good tools, just ask any man about his shop, his man cave, his reloading room, his…well you get it; men and tools can be never ending nor will they ever have enough.  I happen to agree with men on this one.  Having good tools on hand to do your work can be critical to the outcome of your project.

Take something as minor as scissors – no really.  Scissors have a rich and long history in the world starting out as spring scissors during the Middle Ages, in Mesopotamia 3,000 – 4,000 years ago. These were larger, ‘spring scissor’ shear type and hard on your hands. In 1761 pivoted scissors were manufactured in large numbers being the first modern-day scissors and they have become even more specialized.

My daughter and family visited us a while back.  Aubri was working on her quilt in my studio while Rob corralled the little ones. Rob sat for a bit and looked, really looked at my tools (oh yeah – I have tools) and made some smart mouthed comment about all my scissors – why so many scissors? And they are all organized! I had to explain what I do with all these ‘tools’,  I use shears, snips, clippers, paper, leather, silk and cotton scissors for various projects – and now we quilters use an amazing tool – the rotary cutter and we have never looked back. The first rotary cutter was introduced by the Olfa Company in 1979 for garment making and quilters quickly adapted to it. It’s a time saver and allows us to cut fast and accurate.

After I explained all this to my son-in-law, Rob, he just sat there, quiet… and shook his head slowly.  I really thought I lost him until a few weeks later Aubri sent a picture of Rob buying several pairs of scissors to begin his collection.

I love my family…..