whimsiesMary Lou Weidman is one of my most favorite admired quiltmakers and authors. Her Whimsies & Whynots: A Playful Approach to Quiltmaking has been on my bookshelf for years.

And so it was with great pleasure that I received a copy of Mary Lou’s latest book Out of the Box: Unleash Your Creativity Through Quilts from Martingale & Company as our featured appliqué book for this month.


Mary Lou’s quiltmaking style is one of riotous, colorful fun, personal meaning, and brave and fearless fabric choices. (It was through her that I first noticed and learned to appreciate the color “cheddar.”) This book is an inspiration to anyone who is willing to be inspired, and Mary Lou writes at length about the process of discovering your inner artist, inviting play and discovery, and listening to yourself instead of to your friends and/or critics.

Every day you have at your disposal the ability to think big, think colorful, think happy, think with large imaginative images, think clever, think expressive, think funny, think lofty, think about the past, think about the future, and think things that no one but you can think of. You have the ability to think ‘out of the box’ and to share your wonderful thoughts and your imagination with others in the form of art, in this case, quilts.

How different is that from the quilting rut of choosing colors and fabrics that “go” with our living rooms, of fretting over “perfect” precise blocks, of fearing the quilt police so that our childlike creative voices are stifled?

What is out of the box? “Push the lid open and jump out!” says Mary Lou, and she gives us a checklist of 24 sample items to test our position in relation to the box. After administering this self-test I discovered that I am not quite out LOL, but I can peep over the lid.

This book holds quite a bit of wisdom, more reading and thoughtiness that your average quilting book I’d say. It’s a process book rather than a product book. I really appreciate that approach. When I’m in my booth at quilt shows, I’m often asked, “How long did it take you to make that?” or, “How long would it take to learn to do that?” Wow, that’s a really product-oriented type of thinking. I want to reply, “Does it matter, if you’re enjoying yourself?”


Mary Lou emphasizes the need to think and daydream, and this struck a chord with me as well. Often, what happens to me during shows is that when I have some down time… slow periods on the show floor, or upon waking up too early in the morning… I seize a pen and paper and write down long list of thoughts that flood into my brain. The inspiration and energy that comes from being at a quilt show turns on a tap for me and I love it when the daydreaming flow of creativity starts. Mary Lou says we need to set aside time for this every day to doodle, think, and imagine.
(Yes, you really can find a half an hour each day.)


There’s a list of creativity stoppers to watch out for (like, ‘there is only one right answer’), pages and pages of inspiration exercises and sources found in our everyday lives, how the author shops for fabric, a section on words in quilts, and lots of information on color. How about being shown the eight styles of fabric! This was an eye-opener for me and something I especially enjoyed.

Then there’s an extensive gallery of the author’s quilts and short-story quilts made by her friends and students. Martingale has done their usual fantastic job on the photography… kudos Brent Kane!!! The quilts burst from the pages. Mary Lou finishes up the book by talking about the making of short-story quilts and how you can derive them from your own life. She shares “secrets” of scale, theme, focus, design elements, drawing, creating patterns, and also shares her own methods of appliqué. Borders, quilting, finishing, and embellishing (‘the icing on the cake’) are also included.

Out of the Box is quite a pep talk and an energizing boost! If you’d like to win a copy, leave a comment before 7:00 p.m. California time on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. (U.S. and Canada only.) Tell us why you need this book in your quiltmaking life!

The winner will also receive a copy of my book Easy Appliqué Blocks: 50 Designs in 5 Sizes. Thank you Martingale!

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Have I got a good one to show you this time! It’s Mimi Dietrich’s classic, Baltimore Basics: Album Quilts from Start to Finish.

baltimore-basicsWhat a delight for the appliqué enthusiast! Mimi, a Baltimore native and lifelong resident, is an authority on this amazing quilt form that has hooked so many of us on appliqué.

Mimi begins by presenting food for thought in planning your quilt, considering options, making decisions, and getting organized. This is not your quick-and-easy type o’ deal. These are more like thoughtful, measured, long-range projects that you should enjoy all along the way.

Next comes a great idea — printed layout mockups! You can photocopy the block thumbnails, cut them apart, and try them out in several pre-printed arrangements to see what you like best. Very cool.

Then there’s a whole beautiful section giving fabric yardage and cutting instructions for a wide variety of sizes and settings. Mimi really helps you design your own quilt.

After giving information on fabrics and supplies, Mimi takes you step-by-step through several methods of preparation for hand appliqué. She encourages you to try them all to see which is your favorite. Then comes detailed information on hand stitching, plus sections on the stems, circles, baskets, and bows that we see so commonly in Baltimore Album. Since Mimi also knows dimensional appliqué, she throws in folded rosebuds and ruched flowers.

Then, of course, there are the 12 beautiful block patterns reminiscent of old, each one accompanied by a color photo of the stitched design.


The book ends with how to sew your blocks together, how to make appliquéd borders, and quilting and finishing your big or little masterpiece.


Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Daily blogger Pat Sloan put up a post showing some of the antique appliqué quilts that were displayed during Festival in Houston. They are so amazing.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Susan Brubaker Knapp and I became acquainted through a Yahoo discussion group for pattern designers. Her Blue Moon River blog was one of the stops on my Easy Applique Blocks Book-a-Round in April. In May, Susan and I were able to meet in person during Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh. (See my post-Market post.)

We were both as high as kites above Pittsburgh. Me because my book had just come out, and Susan because she had just found out that not one but two of her quilts had been chosen for the 2010 Quilting Arts Calendar, one of them actually being on the cover! That’s right, those stunning citrus slices are Susan’s. Not only that, she and C&T Publishing were hard at work on Susan’s first book due out in the fall.

During the summer, C&T contacted me to ask if I would like to write an blurb about Susan’s book. Would I! They sent me an advance galley copy of Applique Petal Party so I was able to pore over the gorgeous floral designs and the written information. I wrote my blurb and sent it in.

Check out the interview with Susan on the C&T blog.

Now the book is out!

Applique Petal Party is presented in a unique format… a glossy heavyweight sleeve contains an instruction booklet and… get this… 16 full-size patterns! Each block is 13”, so what a convenience. You can make the Petal Party quilt, a smaller wall quilt, or use these designs whenever you need an appliqué block. Click here to see the full quilt on the C&T site..

The booklet gives great hand appliqué instructions plus construction information for the Petal Party quilt that goes from cutting to quilting to binding and labeling. The quilt has scalloped borders so here’s your chance to learn how to do those, including the binding part.

My blurb? It just flowed from my brain through my fingertips to the keyboard. When I got the book, I saw that my quote had made the back cover! In fact, it’s the only one!!! Wow!


Susan has generously sent me an autographed copy to give away in a drawing to a lucky reader. Leave a comment before 7:00 p.m. on Halloween to enter the drawing. (U.S. and Canada only unless you’re willing to pay the shipping.)

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Today I’m writing about my favorite quilt as part of the Bloggers Quilt Festival put on by Amy of
Park City Girl.

My favorite quilt is usually the one I just started :) but if I had to pick just one, I’d have to say that it’s my Sixteen Baskets.


Here are the reasons why:

In many ways I think this is my best work. It’s hand appliquéd, back during the time that I favored the freezer-paper-template-on-top method (before I learned back-basting). The tiniest motifs are machine appliquéd or hand embroidered.

Each of the blocks is my original design… they’re published in my book Baskets to Appliqué. It was an exciting, emotional, fulfilling process developing the concept for each basket, and I still remember that time…. the mischevious kitty, the fat quarters rolled up, the nod to Baltimore, the pastel eggs inspired by Janet’s chickens who gave us eggs exactly those colors.

This quilt is also hand quilted. I took a picture that’s unevenly lit on purpose to try to get the quilting to show up. I love hand quilting and don’t get the chance to do it as much as I used to.


I love the soldier blue and the dogtooth border. (Also that it’s called a dogtooth border, because I love dogs.)

So that’s my favorite quilt. Thanks for visiting to see my entry in the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival! Visit Park City Girl every day through April 24 and get a ringside seat for other bloggers’ favorite quilts! It’s quite a show!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

And here’s my quilt of the same name.

Tis the Season by Kay Mackenzie

I made this little 18 x 18 wall quilt last year, just putting together some motifs from A Merry Little Christmas to Appliqué and filling in the white space with some cute red and green buttons. I used different prints and widths for side and top and bottom borders, something I’ve become fond of doing. The Christmas cracker is tied with embroidery thread. This one’s machine appliquéd and machine quilted.

If you’d like to see more Christmassy quilts, click on the ‘Holiday’ category in the left sidebar and that’ll bring up the ones I posted last year.

A very happy holiday time to you all! See you next year.

By Kay Mackenzie

Being the ever-curious appliquér, I picked up a package of Ricky’s version of freezer paper.


Here’s what the package says:

  • Large, ready-to-use sheet — more than twice as wide as standard freezer paper rolls
  • No cutting or taping needed to fit a full width of quilting fabric
  • Softer and more flexible than other brands
  • Lies flat, reusable
  • Use for piecing, appliqué, or ANY freezer-paper technique

  • Here’s what it looks like when you take it out of the package. This is only a portion of it.


    I cut out a hunk of the regular supermarket freezer paper and a piece of Ricky’s. Ricky’s does feel softer, thinner, and more flexible. I hope you can see a difference in this photo.


    Personally I end up chopping my freezer paper into little pieces for the type of appliqué that I do, but I can see where this product would come in mighty handy if you’ve been taping together sections of freezer paper to use with large patterns in other techniques. For instance, what comes to mind is designing and marking swag borders, where you use a piece of freezer paper that’s the same dimensions as your border, then fold it into sections for the swags.

    I went ahead and tested it out for the freezer-paper-on-top type of appliqué that I know.


    Note the cardboard underneath. The firm surface helps create a better bond when ironing the template onto the fabric.

    I’m a baster… can’t abide pins when I’m trying to stitch.

    Works great!

    It strikes me as amusing that Ricky would need to call this product by a name that’s not what it’s intended for (wrapping meat for the freezer) so that it will be familiar for quilters!

    C’mon gang, chime in. What use would you make out of extra-wide freezer paper?

    Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

    Vine and sugar bowl border

    Filed Under Books, Borders, Patterns | Comments Off on Vine and sugar bowl border

    Pam Crooks is one of the members of the small quilt group I’ve been stitching with for over 12 years. She’s a super-busy gal, working full-time and traveling for her position with a banking institution, plus participating in so many appliqué projects it could make your head spin. Yet she has been a fabulous supporter of my publishing work, finding the time to contribute beautiful original samples when I have a new book in the works.

    Here’s what she made for Teapots 2 to Appliqué. I just love it!


    Pam was at Round Robin Fabrics here in Santa Cruz, a quilt shop that specializes in ethnic, beachy, and not-your-ordinary-calicoes. Some Kaffe Fassett prints and some rusty batiks captured her imagination that day.

    Pam has a habit of giving me her project for photography without telling me a name for it. I was considering “Sugar, No Milk” or maybe “With Sugar Please” because of her adorable vine-and-sugar-bowl border. Before the book went to print, I ran my ideas past her, and a funny look came over her face. “Not so much,” I said to myself. Turns out that Pam was thinking more like “Tea With Kaffe” because of the K.F. print she used for the teapot. Well, I already had a “Tea with…” quilt, so we came up with “Tea Garden” to include the beautiful twining vines.

    Pam in her generosity also gave me a hand-drawn pattern for her original border. So if you order Teapots 2 to Appliqué over at Quilt Puppy and you’d like the border pattern, just type “Pam’s border” in the comments area and I’ll put one in with the book.

    Thanks Pam!

    Until next time,
    Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

    Look at this cute thing I just stitched up to hang in my booth at quilt shows!

    A Spot of Tea by Kay Mackenzie

    I made this version of “A Little More Tea” smaller than the sampler pattern in Teapots 2 to Appliqué…it has 9 of the 16 designs. I call this one “A Spot of Tea.”

    The appliqué notes in Teapots 2 are all about the back-basting, or no-template prep method for hand appliqué. For this cheery sample I used fusible appliqué with a small machine blanket stitch.

    Sometimes I pull fabrics and make blocks, then go hunting for a border that will work with them. In this case I started with the border fabric and pulled the teapot fabrics from there.

    Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

    You’ve never seen it all

    Filed Under Borders, Embellishment, Fusible web, Machine appliqué, Raw edge, Threads | Comments Off on You’ve never seen it all

    Mistress of machines Janet showed me a border she’d made for a round robin. I couldn’t believe it. Yet another edge treatment for fusible appliqué!

    At first I thought Janet had used the machine embroidery technique that I’d seen on her pieces in the past. I asked her to describe how she’d done this beautiful stitching. Here’s what she told me.

    Usually, when machine embroidering, Janet hoops the fabric. This time, since the oak leaves and acorns were fused onto the background fabric, there was enough stability so that she could skip the hoop. Instead of stitching back and forth a little at a time to simulate three strands of embroidery floss, Janet did a free-motion stitch traveling in one direction all the time, and went around each motif two or three times close to the edges. The veins on the leaves were done the same way. She used variegated Star cotton thread from Coats & Clark, which is one of her favorite threads for her machine work.

    Here’s the project so far, with just the center and Janet’s fabulous appliquéd border. Janet told me I could put this picture up, but shh! don’t tell the person whose center that is, or we’ll get busted. :)

    Until next time,

    I sew mitered borders from the top, where I can see what I’m doing. For me it’s more of an intuitive approach, but maybe that’s just because I’m an appliqué girl!

    This illustration shows an inner border and an outer border, sewn together and applied to the quilt top at the same time and mitered at a 45º angle at the corners. The border strip sets need to start out longer than the sides of the quilt.

    Sew the borders to each side, leaving ¼” free at each end of the seams. Secure the starting and stopping points with backstitching.

    Place the quilt on the ironing board. Fold one border under at a 45º angle so that it lines up exactly with its neighbor underneath. Use your ruler to check the angle of the miter and its 45º relationship to the square corner of the quilt top. When all is satisfactory, press and then carefully baste in place without shifting the fabric.

    Hand appliqué the miter, using threads to match the fabrics. Remove the basting stitches.

    Complete all four corners in this manner. After a final check that all four corners are square and correct, trim off the excess border ends, leaving a ¼” seam allowance. Press seams open.

    And that’s how I do that!

    Until next time,