Gardening and decorating


I had a full notebook sheet of items on my “to do” list for this past weekend, which also included Friday night, Saturday, Sunday and Monday visits to the cabin.  Getting food ready for a group is always on the weekend agenda.  For Saturday brunch I prepared a make ahead potato egg bake which is always a great thing to have ready to put in the oven.  I can make it at home and it travels well to the cabin.  This time I changed up the recipe by using Italian sausage rather than the usual breakfast sausage blend and served it with warm Marinara sauce.  That with some fresh fruit and cornbread muffins, got everyone on their way for the day.


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Also on my “to do” list was to finish planting and getting some new mulch laid in the garden.  A few weeks ago, we had a very late frost three nights in one week.  Even though I covered what I needed to with bed sheets upon bed sheets, some of the very tender plants did not survive.  So I had some replanting to do.

Here is a quick glimpse of what is blooming in my yard this weekend.  These blooms are always the first out and so rewarding to see after the long winter and spring clean up. The plants will show their splendor on a weekly basis, blooming throughout the summer.  The garden changes every day.  That is the joy and the challenge.  The garden house garden is the first thing I see from my deck in the morning.  I love how the sun makes the birch tree leaves light up.  The purple Iris with the variegated leaves are early bloomers.  The blooms are modest but I grow them because of the pretty leaves that add interest to the garden all summer.   I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the Hosta with all of the lovely dew drops.  And, my favorite new Hosta this year is the 2016 Host of the Year…Curly Fries.  It is a charmer.  I planted it in a pot arrangement this year to raise it up a bit.  When it is larger this fall,   I’ll put it in the ground for its permanent home.  It is small and I thought it deserved a bit of a babying and its first year.  I have planted a ten foot row of staggered Creamy White Marigolds around my back patio.  They are in front of a row of short Blue Stem grasses and when they are all filled out will be a nice contrast in both color and leaf shape.  These look quite yellow here but are very soft , creamy yellow.  The last two pictures are of my two different Weigela shrub varieties that I use in a number of spots around the yard.  The blooms are lovely in the spring and I like the leaf color and shape of both all summer, even when not in bloom.  Tomorrow, something else will be ready to pop.  My Peony hedge is on the verge….can’t wait for those plants to blossom out.  They make the whole east side of the house smell so good.

2016-05-29 08.49.00 2016-05-29 08.50.12 2016-05-29 08.50.42 2016-05-29 08.51.10 2016-05-29 08.52.20 2016-05-29 08.53.332016-05-29 08.51.31As usual, sewing is always on the list of things “to do”.  I had two quilts that needed binding and one runner to finish.  I save that kind of handwork for after gardening is done.  It’s a good way to relax, and rest up a bit.  I can share the runner with you now.  The other two quilts I will have to save for later when the patterns and kits will be available.

The Ricky Racky Runner is made from my new Autumn Landscape fabric collection which will be arriving soon, if not already, in you local quilt store.  I am in love with the prints and colors, especially the large floral print. This particular color way is yummy.  It’s always a great starting point when putting together fabric for a project.  Notice how the design focuses the attention inwards to the lovely floral center.  It’s a quick project.  You are going to love making it in any fabric collection. The pattern for the runner is also on as a FREE download. Look for the Ricky Racky Runner.

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The Big Quilt Cupboard has arrived!2016-05-25 05.26.38

Whenever I amass a collection of a category of things, storage becomes critical.  When my quilts started to become an issue, I decided I needed to dedicate a special storage space to accommodate them. A  spot that was easy to access and a good environment for the quilts…meaning not plastic tubs or plastic bags, but shelving with good air flow was a must. Luckily, I have a spare room that really has become my grandson’s bedroom that he uses when he visits. The room had a nice big vacant wall that allowed me to design a wonderful quilt cupboard.  It actually is three separate cupboards that were placed snuggly against each other and then the top crown molding and bottom base molding were applied to make it appear as if it were one, huge cupboard.  It certainly would not have been able to move it into the house without breaking it up into thirds.  It has adjustable shelves.  Right now, they are placed about 18 inches apart.  You can see a couple of throw pillows tucked in the sides of two of the shelves on the right.  Just in case…the measurements of one of the three units are 34″ wide, 20″ deep and 72″ tall.2016-05-25 05.16.39

Most of my quilts are housed in this cupboard….well most.  Others are in use around the house, some are in big baskets ready to grab for TV watching  and I do have another closet that I had shelving put in for quilt storage.  I left the rod bracket in the closet and the shelves are removable so the closet can be easily turned back to one for clothes.  This closet houses my antique quilts.2016-05-25 05.20.122016-05-25 05.19.13

Let me be honest here, my quilts often get used for many other creative things.  We have a cute playhouse in the corner of the playroom of our house that for some reason, Taylor and Ella always want to have dark inside, so the quilts come out to cover the whole house….go figure!2016-05-25 05.12.36

Now, the challenge is to not grow the collection beyond this so I have to be willing to share, keeping those that for some reason or another, seem special to me.

I have posted these quilt display items previously, but they too, are a part of my quilt storage system.  The quilts on the metal curtain rod in the basement family room gets changed out often. It is a good way to rotate the quilts and to actually enjoy the design, color and workmanship of more quilts.2016-05-25 05.11.45

The cupboard in Ella’s room is a new addition and will probably always hold quilts that match her room.  She may unpack them now and then, but that is okay with Grandma.2016-05-01 15.49.19

If you have a few quilts to store, remember not to store in plastic bags or tubs.  Fold and put in cotton pillowcases to keep the dust away and gently protect the quilts.  Take the quilts out often and refold in a different way so fold marks don’t become permanent.  Sometimes, a quick fluff in the dryer on the “air only” setting (no heat) is a good way to remove dust. Treat your quilts nicely and they can be loved for years to come, well into the next generation.


2016-05-07 12.41.08Last week, when I took these pictures of the blossoming trees in my yard, we were having warm, sunny, spring weather.  I was busy planting annuals in the garden and in my many pots around the yard.  In a few days, the weather turned on us and it has been rainy and downright cold.  I am actually going to have to cover my planted areas and pots this weekend to try to protect the new plants from frost. This is way too late in the season to worry about frost, but it is happening and there is nothing I can do about it except hope my efforts will save the plants.  I think we go through this every year and I never learn my lesson.  But generally, we can plant after Mother’s Day.  Just not this year, I guess.  This weather actually puts me in the mood for flannel quilts.  We are certainly still reaching for them this week at our house.

2016-05-07 12.44.412016-05-07 12.44.16So, it is back to the sewing room while I wait for nicer weather.  A dear friend of mine is about to move into a new home and is finding items deep in the closets that need to be addressed.  She found a Thimbleberries kit for a flannel quilt from the late eighties.  I was at her house when she found it.  I  took it off her hands to get it made so she can enjoy it in her new home   in front of her new fireplace.  The quilt is Fireside Cozy. It was a very popular quilt design and I am sure many of you made it.

2016-05-15 12.53.29We are still using the original two I made.  It’s the perfect size for curling up on the couch for a little TV watching or nap.  Flannel quilts are the best for overall family use. Everyone loves them…just as they love well worn flannel shirts.  The designs are generally simple and piecing is easy.  Quilters often categorize quilts as “users” or “keepers”.  Flannel quilts definitely fall into the” user” category.  I really have to dig out my flannel stash and make a few more. Everyone grabs the flannel quilt first and there just aren’t enough to go around when everyone is home for the weekend.  This pattern is no longer available but I have included a great flannel quilt design in this post.  It is a quick and easy quit to make…that goes for any fabric, flannel and otherwise.

Here are some general hints when sewing with flannel and a FREE PATTERN for a flannel quilt called Block City for those cool spring evenings.

SEWING WITH FLANNEL Sewing with Flannel






2016-05-07 06.16.39Like many communities across the US, mine has a group of dedicated quilters that give of their time and talents to make quilts for our service veterans.  The Quilts of Valor effort is nation wide and flourishing by all accounts. Check out for the full story.  There are general guidelines for sizes and quality requirements, but in our group, the quilt maker makes the decisions concerning fabric selection and pattern.  However, most of the group does stick to the red, white and blue theme.  Sometimes a family of a veteran will request a specific color scheme, but that is the rare exception.  The labor is all volunteer and in most cases the materials required are all donated.  Our group also accepts donations of cash to purchase batting and fabrics for the quilts.  I am one of the many volunteers involved and my job, along with others,  is to do the hand stitching on the bindings.  When I pick up the quilts they are already for me to sit down for the evening and stitch.  Even a label is provided for me to stitch on the back.  It takes many hands and dedicated people to pull this effort off every year but such a touching tribute to the veterans in our country.  Each year, a beautiful display of many of our groups quilts are on display at our McLeod County Fair.  It’s quite breathtaking to see an all-patriotic quilt display. My local quilt shop, Quilt Haven on Main is instrumental in helping our group coordinate the piecing of the Quilts of Valor by providing their sewing studio to the group on a monthly basis so the quilters can gather to sew together.  It’s also where we all drop off and pick up quilts for all the various stages of getting the quilt completed.  Since we are approaching Memorial Day at the end of the month, I thought I would share the quilts I am working on right now.

2016-05-07 06.18.032016-05-07 06.19.572016-05-07 06.22.31This is a sample of the lovely labels that are prepared for each quilt.  Two sides are stitched on when the binding is attached leaving just the other to to be stitched on my hand.  A special thanks to Nancy Greve and her entire group of volunteers who make these quilts and present them to the recipients each year.2016-05-07 06.59.28


I had a very busy and productive weekend.  The weather was perfect to do a lot of outside scrubbing, cleaning, painting and planting.  I was even able to squeeze in a trip to Babe’s Blossoms to pick up my first load of plants on Saturday and got all the plants in on Sunday afternoon in the midst of other projects I had going.

This dresser has been bouncing around our family for a number of years.  I bought it second hand ages ago and gave it to Kerry about twenty years back when she was in college.  She kept it through the first years of marriage and then when Taylor came along, she painted it yet again and turned it into a changing table for the nursery. It worked great and then two and half years later and another coat of paint and new drawer pulls, it became the changing table for baby Ella.  Now, 4 years later it has been permanently replaced, mostly because the bottom of the lower drawer completely fell apart leaving the drawer bottomless and useless. 2016-04-12 10.46.23

To give this chest another “life” I had my handymen, Butch and Rod, put shelving in where the two drawers previously occupied.  Next, the interior needed to be painted yet another coat of paint  and new drawer pulls were added. This has become a cute quilt cupboard for all those quilts that look like they belong in a sweet little girl’s room at Grandma’s house.  The top two drawers are perfect for stashing small treasures.

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2016-05-01 15.49.19To think this was on its way to the trash.

MORE OLD BECOMING NEW AGAIN…I really can’t resist a good flea market find.  This little table has so much character and is such a good size. It has been hanging around for a few years and it is time to make it “new” again.  Today is the day!2016-05-01 10.44.06

It will be perfect in so many places in my house.  Just enough space for a book, beverage or a cute accessory.  I pulled a page from a 2015 Country Living issue.  I love the color scheme…all rich and neutral with a pop of this great teal green in the side table.  This was my favorite aunt Gladys’ color scheme of choice.  I wonder if that fond memory has always influenced by affection for the color combination and why I have always been attracted to antique pottery (and new) in this color family.

2016-05-01 11.14.58I keep a file of pictures like this so I don’t have to go back through all of my older magazines to find pictures that I eventually use as inspiration around the house whether it be for gardening, decorating or design.

I cleaned the table with warm water and a little PineSol to remove the dirt.  Then rinsed with clear water with a bit of white vinegar.  I use this combination on most of my finds that need refurbishing.  Then I allow it to dry thoroughly.  I use satin latex paint for furniture.  It gives it just enough sheen to be a bit easier to keep clean than a flat, matte finish would produce.

2016-05-01 10.55.35Now the table is ready to use and adds a nice pop of color to the room.  It is the perfect size and shape for a painted piece of furniture…really, an accessory all on its own.  FYI…I used Benjamin Moore satin in Caribbean Teal.

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Next ups on the OLD IS NEW AGAIN category are were my father’s horse shoes that were  used many a Sunday afternoon by my father and uncle Vernon at the lake cabin we now own.  I still love the sound of clinking horse shoes that I can hear from the park across the river on a summer evening bringing back some very sweet memories.   I am cleaning up the horse shoes with a good scrub of soapy water and then finishing with a spray of polyurethane to give a little clean sheen to the shoes and keep any further rusting from occurring.  My son remembers playing a few games with his grandpa at the cabin and is now planning to use them as an accessory in his new office.  It is always a good thing to have a fond memory around you on a daily basis.

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Now they are clean with a coat of finish and ready to display.

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“TO DO” LIST PROJECT UPDATE…I did get four outdoor pillows made last week during our rainy weather for our patio chairs.  I found an outdoor fabric at JoAnn Fabrics that coordinated with the chair color. Granted the fabric is waterproof, but I will often put them under cover when I know rain is in the forecast.  I have a large drawer from an old pot-belly kitchen cupboard that I quickly pop them into  and keep on my covered deck out of the rain.  It makes them handy to grab and a good looking display of color and print on the deck while protected from the elements.

2016-04-27 18.19.09It is a good feeling to have another project checked off my “To Do” list.


Minnesota is having an unusual weather year, as is the case in much of the US. For us it means a mild winter and an early spring.  Even though the snow and ice is gone, we know we can still get some very cool weather, but for the most part this nice weather sends us all mentally to spring activities.  I know I can’t even consider putting any plants in yet, but  I certainly start thinking along those lines.  It takes a good two weeks or so to get the gardens and yard cleaned and ready.  There is always a lot of pruning, weeding, transplanting and raking to be done each spring before any planting is done.

This is what my front courtyard garden looks like right now.  Plants are emerging and starting to leaf out but far from the glory of summer.  Stay tuned for an updated photo when summer roles around.

2016-04-27 09.46.47On the rainy, cool days like today, I will tackle the indoor projects on my to-do list.  They all need to get done before the really warm weather hits. I always have a few things lined up in my sewing room that beckon me when I can’t work outside.  I have a whole line up of miscellaneous items on the list to get done. You know how that feels…they just sit there nagging away until they are complete.  Once I get into each one I will enjoy them.  I just need to get started.  Here is the stack of random things to do…(left to right)…tea towels for aprons, fabric for pillows for my outdoor patio chairs, a flannel quilt to bind, pink striped decorator fabric for curtains for my granddaughter’s room at their cabin, and cotton knit for 2 dresses for Ella.  I will post the finished projects when completed.  First up…tea towel aprons.

2016-04-27 08.59.17I recently happened upon great displays of kitchen tea towels while shopping at Crate and Barrel and Anthropology.  Granted, these are a lot nicer than my normal fare for kitchen towels.  All the prints and colors were very tempting.  While it is time to replace some of my very worn and well used towels in my kitchen, I actually purchased a few more to make very simple aprons.  I prefer the light weight towel fabric over the heavy canvas so many commercial aprons are made of and good tea towels are generously sized and make perfect aprons.

IMG_1655IMG_1653To make apron, fold back the top two corners of the apron angling the fold to fit where you would like the waist ties to be and how wide you want the top of the apron bib to be.  Press and stitch a 1″ wide casing that the sash can be pulled through.  I stitch down the excess part of the folded triangles so that the apron can always become a towel again if desired by simply pulling out the switching. The print of the apron generally hides the stitching.

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To form the sash, cut 3,  2-1/2″ x 44″ strips of cotton fabric.  Stitch end to end to make one long strip. Fold in half lengthwise and press. Now unfold the strip and fold raw edges of both long sides of the strip to meet the fold line in the middle.   Refold back in half folding in the ends as well and edge stitch to finish.  Attach a large safety pin to one end of the sash and thread through the casings stitched on the apron.  Adjust to form the neck strap and waist tie to fit. I love my new apron!2016-04-27 13.41.242016-04-27 15.02.55



My husband loves to golf… I do not. So when he is off playing golf on the  weekend, I hit the sewing room.  Strangely however, I do like to watch professional golf tournaments on television.  Last weekend, I was kept company by the golfers at the Masters Tournament on the TV in my sewing room.  Granted, most of the time my back is to the screen, but I can keep up with who is in the lead and who has just lost the lead by just listening.  Neil always says I still treat TV like a large radio. It is true, I rarely watch anything without having my eyes on something else I am doing with my hands.  Today, I made a really fun accent pillow with some bits of a new line coming out soon, Autumn Landscape, and a random scrap of fabric that had an interesting decorative weave that I had used on another throw pillow a few years ago.  I’ve noticed patchwork pillows with a mix of fabrics and decorative stitching seem to be the hot item this spring in stores like Pottery Barn, West Elm and Crate and Barrel.  Also, small rectangular pillows and small bed pillows are the new shapes used with 20 inch throw pillows.  I admit, it is a good look.  To start, I sketched out a design on graph paper and then assembled the fabrics.  I decided to use a decorative stitch on my machine to embellish one of the fabrics.  I used a cream thread for the decorative stitch to tie the mostly brown fabric to the large floral with the cream flowers.  It seemed to lighten it up a bit.  When using a decorative stitch, I test it to determine the width and the length of the stitch that I like before stitching on the piece I’m going to use.  I also like to back the fabric with a foundation to give the fabric more weight which always results in a nicer stitch.  I fell back on my usual product for this purpose…paper toweling. I always have it in the house and it tears away easily after stitching.  I have been using it forever, and it always works.

IMG_1699After finishing the edge with a binding (just like a quilt) I then decided to add a decorative hand stitch with a double strand of #5 pearl cotton in the ditch right next to the binding of the pillow to add an outline and accent to the patchwork center.  I used a simple stem stitch and stitched only through the top layer of the pillow.  It’s easier that trying to go through all the layers of the pillow covering.  Because of the thickness of the pearl cotton, you will have to use a hefty needle with a very large eye.  Since you will be stitching through just the top layer, the big needle will still go through nicely.


As with so many of my pillows, I made an envelop back to avoid putting in a zipper. Instructions for this technique can be found in many of my past Thimbleberries publications. The fabric used on the back of the pillow was also a scrap of decorator fabric from years ago. I have just enough left to make one more pillow.  As usual, scraps just never seem to go away, no matter how many times I attempt to get rid of them and throwing away is just not a option.


IMG_2163I recently mentioned we had been on family vacation with our grandchildren.  We had a relaxing stay and a great time watching the kids experience new things.  They spent so much time in the ocean and pool that their swimming skills increased by leaps and bounds which really bodes well for cabin and lake time coming up soon here in Minnesota.  They loved every minute of the trip.  I think what they liked most was the undivided attention from all of us.

Before we left on vacation, I made Ella some fun balloon flip flops using ordinary small multicolored water balloons and flip flops.  This project takes very little time, no instructions…just mindless knot tying while watching a few episodes of Fixer Upper on HGTV, my go to TV show choice.  It is also one of my projects that I have received the most raves for, which is a little disturbing considering all of the other very time consuming projects I have undertaken. Most importantly, they are loved and used by our dear little Ella.

I ordered the balloons from Amazon as I was unable to find water balloons locally.  When I had the idea to make these, we still were in snow shovel mode so summer items were not available.  However, Amazon had what I needed. I found the flip flops at JoAnn Fabrics. Simply tie balloons while stretching a bit in an overhand knot.  Place them nice and close together to create what I refer to as a balloon ruffle.  Obviously these are waterproof, easy to wash off if they get muddy, and very inexpensive to make.IMG_1650

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While I have been away vacationing with my family, grandkids and all, you have been stitching away on your Painted Daisy Quilt.  I would love to be a mouse in your sewing room seeing your fabric combination that you chose for this great traditional quilt.  The instructions for this week will involve putting the multiple borders on the quilt.  I have a few tried and true tips for putting on borders to keep the quilt “square” and not stretching or distorting the borders.  I also have a few opinions about batting selection to pass onto you.

 Painted Daisy Section III


The following steps were a mainstay at the Thimbleberries Design Studio and many quilts over the years were successfully completed for photography and trunk shows using this method.


Step 1…With pins, mark the center points along all 4 sides of the quilt.  For the top and bottom borders, measure the quilt from left to right through the middle.  This measurement will give you the most accurate measurement that will result in a “square” quilt.

Step 2…Measure and mark the border lengths and center point on the steps cut for the borders before sewing them on.  Often the border lengths given in the instructions are cut a bit longer than needed to give the opportunity to trim and “square off” perfectly on each border attachment.


Step 3…Pin the border strips to the quilt matching the pinned points on each of the borders AND the quilt.  Pin borders every 6 – 8 inches easing the fabric to fit if necessary.  This will prevent the borders and the quilt center from stretching while you are sewing them together.  Stitch a 1/4-inch seam.  Press the seam allowance toward the borders.  Trim off excess border lengths using a large acrylic square or a  long acrylic ruler.  Use all the marks on the ruler to line up seams etc. to keep border ends “square” and accurate.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 7.58.06 AM

Step 4…For the side borders, measure your quilt from top to bottom, including the borders just added, to determine the length of the side borders.


Step 5…Measure and mark the side border lengths as you did for the top and bottom borders.

Step 6…Pin and stitch the side border strips in place. Press and trim the border strips in with the borders just added.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 7.59.51 AMStep 7..If your quilt has multiple borders, measure, mark and sew additional borders to the quilt in the same manner.

This attention to detail on all the multiple borders in your Painted Daisy quilt will produce a perfectly finished quilt top. These steps are very helpful especially when making wall quilts to keep all outside measurements accurate.  When borders get stretched, it is so obvious when a quilt is hung on the wall.


The availability or many high quality batting products has really exploded over the years.  In the past,  we didn’t have so many choices.  We had cotton or very poor, puffy polyester. Now there are beautiful blends, silk, wool, bamboo and yes, even high quality polyester.  The choice is probably very personal, meaning how lofty or how flat you like your finished quilt to be.  Now, all of my quilts are machine quilted by long arm quilting artists.  I will cherish my hand quilted quilts from the past, but now the reality is machine quilting for me.  I am so pleased with the results as well as the convenience and speed, that there is no going back to the quilting frame for me.  For those of you who still love the process of hand quilting…hats off to you.  But for most of us, machine quilting by a long arm quilter or on a home sewing machine seems to be the norm.  I find quilts machine quilted with 100% cotton batting are too dense for my taste, and sometimes too stiff and heavy because of the weight of the thread that has been added to the surface of the quilt. I have mentioned many times before, my family likes floppy quilts. My preference is a 20/80 blend or even a pure, light polyester.  I am still really fond of Hobbs Poly Down.  I like the light loft it gives the quilting design in the spaces between the stitching.  The loft casts a slight shadow that in turn highlights the quilting design.  The line of quilting stencils that I designed  for Quilting Creations International were designed to all work for the machine quilter as well as the hand quilter.  And they have been digitized for the long arm quilting industry as well.  You might want to check the Thimbleberries Stencil Designs available from   The block and border designs were designed specifically for the most standard block and border designs I use in most of my pattern designs.  Check them out if you haven’t already.

In most cases, my preference is to use a thread color that is neutral and blends with the the fabrics of the quilt top so the actual stitches are secondary to the quilting design quilting.  The exception, is of course, when decorative threads are part of the final design decision.  So far, that hasn’t happened on my quilts, but I have seen many beautiful quilts done with vibrant thread colors and a variety of thread fiber content.  If you need to change colors to blend with high contrasting fabrics used in the top and you do not want the change in the stitching to show on the back side, plan on using a print on the back of your quilt so that the change in thread will not be noticeable.   It will be a more attractive quilt back and could also be used a a reversible quilt if the backing fabric is chosen with that in mind.  It is always good to get double use from your quilt…especially a large bed quilt.

I hope your have enjoyed our quilt along.  I am working on a few more for my upcoming fabric collections, Autumn Landscape and Christmas Remembered which will be available in quilt shops this late spring.


IMG_1644Now that all the pieced blocks are done, you are well on your way to completing this quilt. I think the blocks take the most time for precise piecing.  It’s nice to have that all done.

Painted Daisy Quilt; Week 2 – Section II  focuses on cutting the center green squares and the side and corner triangles so that you can proceed to sewing the blocks, side triangles and green center blocks together in diagonal row.  Note: the side and corner triangles are cut a bit larger than needed, giving you the opportunity to trim so you have a perfect quarter inch seam allowance and very straight edges on all four sides of the quilt before attaching the borders. Refer to the diagrams under the section titled Trimming Side and Corner Triangles.  This is the point which pays to be precise because it will make the next 6 borders fit perfectly.  All of the pieced borders balance the center of the quilt in a graphic bold fashion and make a lovely drop off the side of the bed with the pieced design centered on the top of the bed.

Painted Daisy Section IIPainted Daisy Section II





I am looking forward to seeing the fabric selections you’ve made for this quilt.  Share your pictures with me at Tops only are accepted, but I do hope you eventually get yours quilted.  In Section III, I will talk about batting and quilting design choices.

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