Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to hand applique skinny stems

Below is a detail of the skinny stems on the Be Merry Journal Cover from my book "Be Merry: Quilts and Projects for Your Holiday Home". These stems are 1/8" wide, and I'm going to show you how I make and applique these stems.  I use a method in which I prepare the stem with a 1/4" bias tape maker. After making the bias stem, I trim one pressed-under edge of the stem. The remaining pressed edge gives me a nice sharp edge to stitch in place first. The other side, which is now a raw edge, I needle-turn applique.

To begin, you will need the following items: 

Your marked applique background
1 - 1/2" bias strip
a 1/4" bias tape maker
needle, thread, thimble, scissors, pins, iron (not pictured)

Following the manufacturer's directions, pull the 1/2" bias strip through the bias tape maker, and use a hot iron to press the seam allowances as you go.

Pictured below is another method for making the bias stem if you do not have a bias tape maker available. Use a long straight pin and pin it into your ironing board cover in such a way that it leaves a 1/4" opening for the fabric strip to be pulled through.

Do-it-yourself bias tape maker
 Next, cut off one side of the pressed under seam allowance.

Baste the stem onto your applique background (I generally use applique pins for expediency). First, applique the pressed-under side of the stem.

The opposite raw edge is next. Needle turn applique this side. You will find how easy it is to turn.

Needle turn applique the raw edge under to complete the stem
Be Merry Journal Cover
And here is the finished "Be Merry Journal Cover" with skinny stems.  If you try my method for making skinny stems, please let me know what you think!

Well, we got our Christmas tree up yesterday, so today is the day to put on the tree lights - not my favorite part. But putting on a little Christmas music can make even putting on the lights a little bit fun. Cookies baking in the oven wouldn't hurt either!

Until next time,


Friday, November 30, 2012

Phoenix Holiday Quilts, Craft and Sewing Festival 2012

It's the last day of November, and it's been a busy month. We had a booth at our first retail show ever at the Holiday Quilt, Craft and Sewing Festival here in Phoenix, held at the Arizona State Fairgrounds Nov. 8, 9 & 10. It was a three day event and it was fun to meet new customers and see old friends.

Our booth at the show

I was so happy to find that right across from our booth was my friend Angie Steveson, of Lunch Box Quilts, demonstrating her machine appliqued embroidery technique for 35th Ave. Sew and Vac.

And to add to my good fortune, my booth was sharing a back wall with another friend, Trish Harriman's booth, Attic Heirlooms. Trish hand dyes wool and designs patterns for a variety of needlework, such as needlepunch, rug punch and wool applique. Trish will be making kits for my "Countryside Needlebook" pattern from my book Annie's Scrapbag, and selling them in her Maine shop, as well as her booths at the various shows where she will be a vendor (check her calendar for her show schedule).

Santa showed up to help me out, too! How lucky can a girl get?

Until next time,


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quilts from 100 Blocks Winner!

Thank you all so much for all of your comments. I would have liked to have responded to everyone individually, but I ran out of time! I really enjoyed reading each and every one, and for those of you who haven't tried applique, I do hope you give it a whirl!

And the winner is .... Rebecca Grace. Congratulations, Rebecca! Please email your address to to receive your free issue!

Until next time,


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Quiltmaker Rocks the Blocks!

Welcome to the kick-off to the Fall 2012 edition of Quilts from Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks!

My quilt featured in this issue is "Posy Path", which uses my "Garden" block from Volume 4 of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks from Today's Top Designers.

"Posy Path" is a medallion quilt, using the Garden block at the center, with rows of quarter square triangles and more applique, using the same templates as the block, to surround the center. This quilt was beautifully machine quilted by Judy Danz! One of the great features of Quiltmaker is their addition of quilting diagrams to go along with the quilt instructions, so you can duplicate Judy's designs yourself!

"Posy Path" by Martha Walker, machine quilted by Judy Danz

I usually applique my quilts by hand, as I did with "Posy Path", and I use two different methods to make bias vines and stems, depending on the project. I usually use a bias tape maker if I need just a small amount of bias, or if I do decide to applique by machine. But if I need a large amount of bias, or have very long vines to make, I usually use pressing bars.  For "Posy Path" I used the pressing bar method, because of the amount needed for this quilt.  I'll show you my process for making these stems.

For this method you will need pressing bars (also known as bias bars). You can buy pressing bars that are made either with plastic or aluminum. Both work great. The plastic bars are a little thicker, so they don't press as crisply, but can definitely be pressed again, after they are removed. I have also made my own. I happened to see some brass strips in several different widths at ACE Hardware. So I bought them, and cut some curved edges with scissors, and voila! The edges are a bit rough, but they work!

You will need to cut enough bias strips for the project. To find the bias of your fabric, fold the selvedge edge (lengthwise grain) up so that it is parallel to the adjacent edge (crosswise grain) of the fabric. Finger press the fold.

Finger press the fold

Use the finger pressed crease as your guide to cut your bias edge. Notice on this ruler that there are 45 degree lines marked, that can also be used to cut bias from your fabric. Many cutting mats include 45 degree lines as well.

Next, cut the amount of strips needed in the appropriate width from the fabric. For "Posy Path", cut your strips 1 1/4" wide to make 3/8" stems.

Fold the strips wrong sides together lengthwise and stitch a 1/4" seam. Begin the stitch at about 1/8", gradually increasing the allowance to 1/4", to make inserting the pressing bar into the resulting tube easier.

Insert the pressing bar into the tube, with the seam allowance centered and on top.

Press the seam allowance open as you press the tube along the length of the pressing bar.

Trim the seam allowance close to the stitching to reduce bulk.

finished bias stem, wrong side

Now your bias is ready to stitch!

I have one issue of Quilts from Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks to giveaway!  For a chance to win a copy, please leave me a comment below. I will draw one lucky winner on Thursday, Sept. 6th at 5 pm PST.

And if you haven't done so already, be sure to go to the Quiltmaker blog, Quilty Pleasures at for more chances to win! Good luck!

Until next time,


Monday, August 27, 2012

My Big Fat UFO (aka unfinished quilt)

Since wrapping up production on my new book, Annie's Scrapbag, I have been working on a new project that, although quilting related, has left me little time for actual sewing/quilting. However, it is during times like these that I can always pull out my trusty "Big Fat UFO" to work on if I have a few minutes to spare.

I began working on this quilt in August, 2000, so it is an official 12-year-old work in progress. But, I'm in no hurry with this quilt. The quilt started when I was getting ready to take a trip and needed something to work on during my stay. That trip was an exciting one, as I had just won my first big prize for a quilt I had entered in the AQS Quilt Exposition Millenium Celebration contest. I was the Arizona state winner for this contest, for my quilt "Cloud County Memories" and it was my first published quilt as well. So I was on my way to Nashville, to see the show, another first as I had never been to one of the big quilt festivals! With four or five nights in a hotel, I needed some handwork!

I decided to cut out pieces for a block I really enjoyed piecing, the sunburst block, and thus began this quilt. Twenty-five blocks later, I had the center of a quilt. Next up, designing the border, which ended up being a very wide one - 16" each side.  It is very folk art - I have a blueprint of where each flower, bird and leaf are to go, but exact precision isn't needed here. It will have 500 or more berries, but that will be determined as I begin working on that part of the top border (pictured below).

The side borders are finished and sewn onto the center, and this summer I pulled out the top border to do a little applique. A few steps closer anyway!

Until next time,


Monday, July 23, 2012

Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine Fall 2012

Have you seen the Fall 2012 issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine? It should be reaching newsstands soon. My little quilt "Board Game" is one of the 15 featured projects in this wonderful issue!

My "Board Game" quilt in Primitive Quilts and Projects Magazine

I hope you're getting a lot of sewing time in this summer! So far, I have not. But hopefully, very soon!

Until next time,


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Annie's Scrapbag

I have a new pattern book out, Annie's Scrapbag, and here is the cover!:

Annie's Scrapbag features 7 projects - four quilts and three wool applique projects, all of which are inspired by nineteenth century needlework.

Pictured below is a detail of "Annie's Scrapbook", a small crib-size quilt covered with appliqued birds, baskets, blooms and more and also pictured on the cover. The beautiful quilting was done by Judy Danz, who also quilted two of the other quilts in the book. I was truly in awe of Judy's creativity in designing the quilting for all of the quilts, as well as her execution!

And here is the back cover of Annie's Scrapbag which has "Blooms Doll Quilt" pictured:

One of the wool applique projects is "Countryside Needlebook". I had been wanting to design a needlebook that could hold and organize all of the different needles I use for various needlework tasks, and I finally got it done for this book! "Countryside Needlebook" features pages for each of the different needle types: betweens (for hand quilting), chenilles (for embroidery), sharps (for applique and piecing), and tapestry (for embroidery and cross stitch).

Here is the cover of the needlebook:

And here is one of the inside pages:

We started shipping books to quilt shops this week, so be looking for it soon at your local quilt shop! And if you don't have a shop nearby, we have it on our website too!

Until next time,


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Boy Crazy!

I have always been a big fan of the magazine Quiltmania. So I am very excited to have one of my quilts published in one of their publications for the first time! "Boy Crazy" is pictured below, and the instructions to make the quilt can be found in Quiltmania's Special Children's Issue 2012, which should be reaching our newsstands here in the U.S. very soon. There is also a French edition, Quiltmania Hors-Serie Enfants 2012, which I have a feeling is already on European newsstands!

"Boy Crazy"

I like to design pieced quilts where I can incorporate a large variety of different prints. With my Boy Crazy block, it was so much fun to pick out the different prints for the shirts, hats, pants and backgrounds. You can add the optional appliqued buttons, too, just for fun! Each block in my quilt has a unique combination of prints. Here are some closeups of two of the blocks in the quilt:

Boy, that last picture is blurry! But we can be assured of beautiful photography in Quiltmania. I look forward to seeing my copy when it arrives from France!

Until next time!


Friday, June 1, 2012

My Blast From the Past

Last night my husband and son went to see the movie "Dark Shadows", based on the 1970's soap opera of the same name. I was an avid "Dark Shadows" viewer, at the tender age of 12 or 13. My husband enjoyed the movie and said they did a good job creating the 1970's.

Today, I had my own blast from the past - and the 1970's, no less.

I was flipping through my Hancock's of Paducah fabric catalog, as I do quite frequently, and a particular Alexander Henry fabric caught my eye. It looked very, very familiar. Here are the three colorways of the fabric taken from their website:

Alexander Henry Fabric "Cat in Calico Pink"
I had to get out my quilt to check. When I was in Junior High School, I made my first quilt, a simple four patch bedspread. One of my best friend's mother was an avid seamstress, and was kind enough to give me a large bag of her scraps for me to include in my quilt. One of the fabrics was one of my favorites - a purple patchwork print with cats.

Here are some photos of the blocks in my quilt made with that purple cat print:

Well, what do you think? The Alexander Henry fabric is very cute. But, I have to say I'm not anxious to revisit the 70's style fabrics or styles. Maybe that would be what the ladies from the nineteenth century would say if they were here today and presented with those old calicoes.  As for me, I'll take their old fabric any time!

Until next time,


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

International Quilt Market Kansas City 2012 in pictures!

It's been a week now since Spring International Quilt Market 2012 wrapped up in Kansas City. It was great to see old friends, and meet new ones!

A few days before set up began, I was able to get out to Greenwood, Missouri to search for a cupboard I was needing for my booth. Greenwood has some terrific antique stores, and sure enough, I found the perfect cupboard!

It has some great cubbies inside of various sizes, and I love the unique sawtooth trim at the top! The color was perfect, too!

I was very fortunate this year to have my niece, Jennifer, helping with the set up, as well as the show. Jennifer is very creative and was indispensable!

Jennifer in the booth!

One of our first visitors was Melissa Towne, owner of Primitive Stitches in Warrensburg, Missouri. Melissa also had some of her patterns displayed in the National Nonwovens booth (maker of wool felt)!

Martha and Melissa

I have been corresponding with Kimber Mitchell through email for the past several years, and it was a thrill to finally meet her in person! Kimber is a creative doll artist, has a beautiful blog
and on top of all that, she is an editor for many publications, including Primitive Quilts and Projects Magazine, in which I will have a quilt featured in the upcoming Fall 2012 issue!

Kimber and Martha

While I don't have a lot of time to visit other booths, I can't help taking a little time to visit the booths selling antique quilts! I made a point to stop into Cindy Rennel's booth, Cindy's Antique Quilts, to see some of the wonderful quilts she had to sell - yes, there were some that I really, really, really wanted to walk away with! 

Cindy and Martha
My indecision on the applique quilt in the picture on the left meant that it left the show with another owner!

It was a pleasure to meet for the first time a fellow Kansas City Star author, Anni Downs. Anni has self-published numerous books and patterns, and is the author of Some Kind of Wonderful by Kansas City Star Books. If that's not enough, she and her husband have a shop The Home Patch in Australia!

Anni and Martha
Speaking of Kansas City Star Books, we attended a reception Saturday evening sponsored by Kansas City Star Books, with quilts from some of their publications hanging everywhere! It was great to see my editor, Edie McGinnis, again, and also to see some of her wonderful quilts up close in the exhibit!

Edie, Martha and Jennifer

It was wonderful to see Alex Veronelli from Aurifil again on our last day. Alex stopped by to see some of my new projects from my upcoming new book, Annie's Scrapbag (more about it in a future blog!), many of which are sewn with Aurifil thread.

Alex and Martha

Many thanks to my husband, Thom, who took all of the pictures! Without him, I can guarantee I wouldn't have any to show you!

Until next time,