One Little Step at a Time: Writing and Following Pattern Directions

Have you ever given someone directions for how to do something step by step?  And then no matter WHAT you say or do, they just don’t get it?  OH MY GOSH! It’s so frustrating!

I have come to the conclusion that most people need very simple step by step directions that INCLUDE a picture.  A clearly-defined picture that supports one simple direction. Without that simplicity and visual learning, many people will struggle.

If you are an educator, you probably already know this, but everyone learns differently.  I tell my husband that all the time.  He now clearly understands that if he wants me to really understand something, he has to have paper and a pencil so he can draw it for me while he speaks.  I love it when he does that.  I am a visual person. If I don’t see it while I hear it, I don’t get it.  Period.

I have been looking for a simple pattern for a quilted cosmetic bag that has a zipper and two handles.  When I look on Pinterest, there are so many cute bags that I would like to make, but the directions just, well, stink.  The bag designers I’m referring to are talented people when it comes to sewing and making the patterns, but lack ability to put the steps in order that makes sense and is clearly understood by the reader.  Now I admit, I am zipper-challenged.  My mom tried for years to help me learn how to sew a zipper in place, but I struggled every time.  Mom has been gone now for almost 8 years, and each time I need to sew a zipper, I yell at her.  I’m sure she can hear me up there… That’s why this bag – that I dearly love and adore – will never get made by me.  Too many zippers.
I’d love to make my granddaughter Samantha and her girlfriend this little clutch bag for Christmas, but again, it has a zipper.

Have you ever tried to follow sewing directions and then found yourself yelling at the directions when you can’t follow them? If so, I’m with you.

So here is my challenge to pattern writers everywhere:  keep me in mind.
Make your directions simple, step-at-a-time, picture-by-picture, clearly written for someone who is… oh, let’s say, seven years old.  Then maybe I might understand.


Published by Caron Mosey at Michigan Quilts!, Copyright 2015.
Thanks for leaving a comment! Please be sure to include your name, and make sure your email address is enabled so I can respond.

Remembering all the stitches… It was well worth it!

I love to put a lot of hand quilting on my quilts.  There’s something about all those little puckers that warm me up and make me smile.  This quilt is stitched every quarter-inch.  I thought adding it to the October fun at Amy’s Creative Side would be in order…

This Feathered Star is one of my favorite quilts now.  I was sitting and stitching last night on a simple Nine Patch quilt, with the rows of stitching about 1.25 inches apart.  It made me think of this quilt and how it took FOREVER and a day to do all the stitching. Many people probably wonder why anyone would add that much stitching to a quilt.


Just because.

Published by Caron Mosey at Michigan Quilts! 2015.
Thanks for leaving a comment! Please be sure to include your name, and make sure your email address is enabled so I can respond.

Way Back When… Are You Up For a Challenge?

Observation, 2015

When I visit quilt shows, whether large or small, I notice a lot of trends.  I see many quilts in the same patterns, I see quilts that are made up of multiple fabrics from a designer’s line of fabric, and I see collections of quilts made by quilters who have obviously all taken the same class.

NOTE: There is nothing wrong with any of this.  But it makes me think.

When I started quilting way back in the mid-70’s, I picked up a stack of quilt books at the library downtown.  They came home with me, and I spent several weeks looking at sketches of block patterns.  I found a few that I liked, and whipped out some graph paper, a ruler and a pencil and set to work drafting the patterns myself.  When one of the patterns really spoke to me, I enlarged it on another sheet of graph paper, then made my own templates using an old sheet of developed Xray film (not template plastic).

Once the templates were created, I drove to a local quilt shop and looked through the available fabric. I found what I was looking for, estimated about how much I thought I would need, bought it and headed home to pre-wash and press.  The next six months found me hand piecing and appliqueing whenever I could.  Alas, I learned that I had not purchased enough of one of the fabrics, so I bought one that looked close.  It later turned out to be not close at all, but I still love that quilt, with all its flaws.

Image found online at

I learned a lot in the process of making this quilt.  I know now that many quilters who have made this pattern hand pieced it rather than appliqued it as I did.  And that’s OK.  I learned how to measure the pieces required in a pattern and how to use that information to more carefully calculate fabric quantity.  I learned the importance of the quarter-inch seam allowance.  I learned to trust my own judgment in selecting fabrics that are pleasing to me rather than fabrics that follow a trend.  (Note: when you decide to trust your own judgment in fabric selection, you find your comfort level and learn what colors and patterns make you happy.)

This quilt (just a little portion of it shown above) was made by me from start to finish.  It was not designed to be a show quilt, it was not created to please anyone but me.  The sole purpose of this quilt was to experiment, to take a quilt from thought, planning, measuring, choices, practice, learning, and final product… to create something that I could cuddle my little boys in while I read to them or while we watched television.


Give yourself permission to take a quilt from start to finish.  Visit the library or your own bookshelf or one of dozens of websites that provide sketches of block patterns.  Put yourself into each step of the quiltmaking process, and don’t be in a hurry about it.  Enjoy each step.  Learn from it.  Allow yourself to choose fabrics that please YOU, and try not to follow fabric trends.  Follow your own heart.  See what develops!


Published by Caron Mosey at Michigan Quilts!, Copyright 2015.
Thanks for leaving a comment! Please be sure to include your name, and make sure your email address is enabled so I can respond.

Quilting for Beginners: Choosing and Pre-Washing Fabric

Do you want to learn how to quilt? Perhaps the very thought of quilting gets you not only excited, but maybe a little nervous and scared. It seems as if there are so many things to think about before you even get started. Let’s talk about that one major thing you will need to get started learning how to quilt:


If this is indeed your first quilt, your choice of fabric is critical. Quilters normally use 100 percent cotton fabric. A visit to your local “big box fabric store” might show you lots of pretty fabrics, but there are a few more things to look for beyond just a pretty fabric.

When you walk in the store, I want you to touch the fabric. That’s right, it won’t bite you. You will be touching this fabric as you sew it, and the finished quilt will be used by someone who will be touching it a lot. Pet the fabric.  Nice, pretty fabric!  Don’t you love it?  Find some pretty cloth and pet it some more.  Crinkle some up in your hand.  Yes, wad it up and see if it holds a crease when released.  You want the fabric to be soft to the touch, not coarse and stiff.  If it has a lot of starch and chemicals in it, it will hold more of a crease when released.  Walk around the aisles of fabric, then stop and stand in place. With your eyes closed, reach out and touch several different bolts of fabric. Run your fingers over the cloth, and compare a few different fabrics from different manufacturers. Which ones feel the softest to the touch? Which are stiff?  Which ones make you cringe?

Let’s avoid the stiff fabric. Here’s why. 
Stiff fabric may have a lot of chemicals, starches and other products on it that make it stiff.  It may also have been woven with thick thread! Tightly woven fabric can be very stiff AND make it much more difficult to stitch on, especially if you are going to do applique or piecing by hand.  Let’s not even think about hand quilting a quilt made with stiff fabric!  My hands hurt just thinking about that!

Another reason a fabric can be stiff is if it is batik fabric. Batik fabrics use 100 percent cotton fabric that is waxed and dyed, boiled and processed to give it that great look that we all love.  However glorious the fabric appears, the process tends to make it more stiff and difficult to (especially) hand stitch. There is a great article on batik fabrics here: 

If you just can’t resist using a batik – and I don’t blame you at all – I suggest that you wash the fabric several times in your washing machine with hot water and detergent.  It won’t hurt it!  In fact, it will help soften the fabric for you.

Some batik fabrics also include the application of paint or a paint-like substance on the fabric.  Take a look at the gorgeous fabric here, especially the gold parts.  Isn’t that stunning?  Yes, it is, but the gold parts feel like rubber that will not play nicely with your needle.

A similar process is used when creating many of the beautiful white-on-white prints that you will see.  The fabric I am holding here is a very light gray, with rubbery white circles and little purple dots in the middle  Cute as the dickens, but you can bet your needle will struggle to stitch through it.

Let’s return to the discussion of washing machines and washing your fabric.  Some people refuse to wash their fabric before they use it.  Others will not use the fabric until it visits the washer and dryer.  I am one of those people who pre-wash.  Here’s why:

I am mostly a hand quilter.  I usually piece my quilts by hand and all applique work is sewn by hand.  Most of my quilts (not all, but most) are quilted by hand.  I want all chemicals and gunk OUT of my fabric before I start cutting and stitching it.  Thus, I have a practice (ok, a phoebia) that dictates all new fabric must visit the washer and dryer as soon as it comes in the house.  Always.  No exceptions.

I have seen too many people cry about dye running from one fabric to another in their finished quilts. I know when I sew my quilts that there will be no such crying in my house, as all excess dye is removed and tested by me prior to use.  I am assured that chemicals are gone, starch is gone, etc.

Many new quilters ask me how much fabric they should purchase if they find something they absolutely cannot live without.  That depends entirely on what you plan to do with the fabric. Some people think that three yards is enough.  Some think 5 yards is a must.  I have many whole bolts of fabric in my basement sewing area that I have had for decades.  It does get used, bit by bit, little by little.

Please know that I am not a member of the Quilt Police, I do not wear a badge, and you are free to do what you want to do with your own fabric and quilts.  My guidelines mentioned above have served me well for almost 40 years, and I stick by them.  You may, however, feel free to contact me if you use fabrics in your quilts that have not been washed and you find the dye runing onto other fabrics.  I can help you learn how to get the excess dye out.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!  Leave them in the comment area below.

Quilting Groups On Facebook

Are you a quilter?  Do you love looking at quilts?  Then you probably have already spent hundreds of hours surfing the Internet looking for beautiful quilting!  There are many Facebook quilting groups that you might not be aware of.  I put together a list of the ones that I am familiar with.  Click here for the list that you can save to your own computer.  If you know of more that aren’t on this list, please feel free to list the name of the group AND provide the link in your comment below.  Please be sure to include your name, and make sure your email address is enabled so I can respond.

Quilt Police: Show Me Your Badges

The concept of the existence of “QUILT POLICE” has been around for many years now. As I remember, we spoke of quilt police when I was an beginning quilter in the mid to late 1970’s, and their presence would appear to still be in force ​today.

One would think that a card-carrying member of this police force would have qualifications to back up their professionalism, but sadly, this is not always true. In an excellent online article,
“Experts May Have Influence, But What Makes An Expert?” Daniel Newman asks, “is there some sort of advanced criteria that you can (should) run someone against to determine whether or not they are really credible in a particular area and moreover if they are an expert?”

​​Daniel adds that “In the old days​,​ you could go into their office and look at the degrees on the wall like with a doctor or attorney, by which you could deem expertise.” “There is just no real set criteria in the vast majority of fields as to what makes an expert.​ ​​​​In many fields an expert may be someone who has done it for a long time. For instance​,​ if you have a favorite mechanic to work on foreign or classic cars, there is a chance that person studied how to be a mechanic, but there is a better chance they learned by spending a lot of time under the hood.​”​

​As a quilter, no matter how long you have​ been at it, it’s important to remember that quilting is a craft; an art form, a hobby. A quilted item that you make may have a prdetermined purpose (as in gifting it to someone or creating an item to hang on a wall in a particular place). But by its nature, quilting is supposed to be a relaxing way to unwind and enjoy a time of peace and beauty. That’s not to say that you don’t care about the finished quality of the item! I don’t know any quilter who sets out to make something that is shoddy, ugly or disgusting!, do you?

As a beginning or intermediate quilter, who do you turn to for help when you really want to learn what you consider to be the proper way to do something quilt-related? I usually will turn to someone I consider to be an “Expert.” Determining who that person is is not always an easy task. I look for someone who has years of practice behind them; someone who has been recognized for having talent in that area; someone with a good reputation in the field. I would think that an individual who has only made one crib quilt might not be my best go-to person for quilt advice. If I wanted to learn how to machine quilt something, I would not go to a hand quilter, and vice versa. If I wanted to become proficient in hand dying fabric, I would probably not go to someone who uses Ritz Dye purchased at the grocery store. I would want someone who knows how to mix Procion MX dyes to create their own color pallet.

While there really are no quilt police, there ARE some basic guidelines about quilting that a competent quilter should know. Quarter inch seam allowances, pre-washing fabric, methods of marking quilt lines, different methods of stain removal, how to select the proper batting to get the look you want, and more. If you are a novice quilter, you owe it to yourself to take a good beginning quilting class from someone who has experience.

Find someone who…

  • Has made many quilts in a variety of styles and methods
  • Has received some kind of recognition by others in the field
  • Can explain the how’s and why’s of quilting in a way that you can understand
  • Has, perhaps, earned ribbons at quilt shows
  • Makes quilts that take your breath away

After you take a good beginning quilting course, seek out other quilt instructors and continue to take lessons. With each course you will learn more tips, tricks and good, sound methods. In time, you will develop your own tips, find out what works for you, and be ready to go into the world and be a mentor for new quilters yourself.

A Topsy-Turvy World

It’s been awhile since I added anything to this blog. Sometimes life takes twists and turns, and then there are those bumps on the highway of life that throw you off kilter. Let me take a few minutes to share some of those bumps with you, and then we’ll pick up where I left off.

My business, “Hand Quilting Supplies,” had a short life-span of 14 months, closing on August 31st. I was sad to see it go, but I told myself that I would give it a year, and if it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do, I would pull the plug. There are plenty of hand quilters in the world, but big box stores (Jo Ann, Walmart, etc.) are a road block for the little ma and pa shops that struggle to survive. I don’t really blame anyone. It’s not like I have never purchased sewing supplies at those same stores! You can get some really good buys if you keep your eyes open, but it’s because of those cheaper costs that quilters gravitate to those shops. But because I’ve seen first hand what this does to the small quilt shop owner, I know this coming holiday seasonI plan to do most of my purchasing in small family-owned shops and give them all the support I can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining. It is what it is, and I’ve accepted it and moved on. But whenever I can support the “little guy (or gal),” I will do so.

Two years ago we lost my Mother-in-Law who had been very sick for years with pulmonary fibrosis. After she passed away, we came to realize that Dad had some serious memory issues, and for the past 18 months or so, those problems have become much worse. Every week we see more of a decline in his memory and ability to do anything for himself. And my own father is now in his 90’s, so where we used to take care of one house and property (ours), now we are pretty much caring for three. And that takes a lot of time, especially when you work full-time.

While we really didn’t get to do hardly anything we wanted to during the warm Michigan weather this year, we did have one special time: the birth of our fourth grandchild on August 14th. Carson came into the world after a week-long struggle to get him out of his warm cocoon and into the light of day. We love him to bits! He joins his cousins Jacob, Samantha and Fischer and helps fill our house with more giggles and smiles and baby gurgles. Welcome to the world Carson!

Grandson Jacob (11) holds Carson (6 weeks old)

I have kept plugging away at the hand quilting on my scrappy nine patch quilt. It’s nice to sit down in the evening and spend an hour or more sitting and stitching. I look forward to that time every day; it’s a time of peace and quiet meditation to reflect on life and what it might hold in store for the future.

As my dear hubby and I have worked together the past few years dealing with all of this, the one thing that keeps coming into our discussions is… what IS in store for our future?

 We are spending more time thinking and talking about that lately. A few plans are in place, but mostly we are gathering thoughts, wishes, likes and dislikes and putting them in a basket to play with as we go along. It is encouraging that our basket has lots of things in it that we BOTH like and want. And bit by bit, day by day, we pull a thing our two out of the basket and pet it, if only for a few minutes.

How about you? What is waiting for you in YOUR basket?