Wednesday Wisdom

Monthly Goals and Letting Go

I have been participating in the Elm Street Quilts One Monthly Goal ( for a couple of months. I am very goal oriented and I know that setting regular goals, and sharing that information somewhere where I need to be accountable is a good way for me to achieve hard things. I have been using the One Monthly Goal (OMG [isn’t that a great abbreviation]) to do something that would otherwise be put on a back burner. I don’t use it for the pattern deadline, which I WILL meet, or the 100-day project which only requires a little time each day. Last month I used it to move forward on a wedding quilt that is more than 18 months late. This month I used it to finish up this glorious quilt top. This was my first 100-day quilt project. I started it on June 1st this year. One of my quilty friends was posting her 100-day project and I figured that with being in quarantine, it would give me a little goal that I could achieve every day – just one square. It was also a great way to use up the big box full of irregular strips I had been saving. The 100 days were finished on September 8th. I had already ice dyed the fabric for the back. But by October 1st, I still didn’t have the borders on and I had no clue what I was going to do about quilting it. The finished top is 103 x 103 inches and I was dreading trying to baste it and quilt it on Bernie, my trusty Bernina 1260. So, my OMG for October was to finish the top and decide on the quilting. In early October we met some of our adult children in Memphis for a family holiday. Because we were driving (13 hours each way) I was able to take my 1951 Singer Featherweight. I cut the borders before we left and I took the quilt and borders, along with my mask making stuff. I got the borders on while staying in an awesome mansion in downtown Memphis. And I made a decision – While my husband really wanted me to quilt this and emphasize the diamonds. I knew that I couldn’t get started until January with my crazy schedule. So I decided to take it to a good friend who is a long-arm quilter. This was a huge “letting go” for me. I have always done everything on my quilts myself. I have had this friend quilt one baby quilt when I got really backed up, but letting her do a quilt that was important to me was a big step. I dropped the quilt off a week ago and I was thrilled with her ideas for quilting it. I can’t wait to see it and share it with you all.

100-day quilt mock up in EQ8

In the meantime, I am celebrating achieving my OMG and starting to think about what goal I want to set for November…maybe it is time to look at some of my UFOs?

I encourage you to take a look at Elm Street Quilts One Monthly Goal and consider trying it for a month – you may be surprised at what you get done!

Tools and Tips


Pins are such basic sewing tools that we don’t think about them very often. For years, I used whatever pins were available. I didn’t pay attention to whether I was using quilting pins for sewing satin clothes, or silk pins for a cotton quilt. A dear friend taught me that quilting pins are for quilts and you need the appropriate pin for the fabric you are using. But I didn’t understand the finer points (pun intended) until recently. I have a toolbox of pins. My all purpose pins are on my red magnetic pin holder. My large safety pins for basting are in the clear container. I also have small safety pins that are used primarily for costumes and quick repairs. I have become a lover of the lowly pin. As I discuss my favorites, please be aware that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases through the links.

For basting, I like large (at least size 2) curved safety pins. These work very well for me. I have a box of size 1 safety pins, but I don’t use them except for some wallhangings. Here is a handy size chart for safety pins:

SizeLength in inches (mm)
003/4″ (19mm)
07/8″ (22mm)
11 1/16″ (27mm)
21 1/2″ (38mm)
32″ (51mm)
42 1/4″ (57mm)

Straight pins also have sizes. Some manufacturers list a pin by the length and some include diameter to distinguish fine pins from regular or large pins. Here is a chart for straight pins:

SizeLength in inches
442 3/4″
281 3/4″
241 1/2″
201 1/4″
171 1/6″

Pin diameter also varies:

Diameter in mmSizeUse
0.4 mmSuper fineSheers, chiffons, satins
0.5 mmExtra fineCottons, sewing curves
0.6 mmFineAll purpose sewing
0.7 or 0.8mmHeavy dutyDenim, corduroy, heavy fabrics

I have played around with a lot of pins over my nearly 50 years of sewing, and I am happy to share some of my favorites with you.

My favorite pins for keeping track of pieces for a quilt are these star pins from Dritz. They are long (2 3/4″) and thick, but the variety of numbers and marks works for most of my quilts.

There are pins numbered 1-10 and blank stars, and stars with up, down, right and left arrows.

If I need more variety, I add in my Wright flower pins . These are also long and are slightly thinner than the star pins. I wrote numbers 1-75 on my flower head pins, but some of the numbers have worn off. They work well in conjunction with my stars.

For piecing, I have two sets of pins. Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Whole Circle Studio suggested that better pins would improve my precision in piecing tight curves, and she was right! Sheri recommends (and I agree) the Iris 1 1/4 inch pins for tight curves. Iris also makes 1 1/2 inch colored head pins which are great general use pins.

These are European pins with a delightful tin. I love opening and closing it! The pins are fine and relatively short and work great on tight spaces.

For most piecing, my favorite pins are Clover Fine Quilting Pins<a href="http://<a href="http:// .

These pins are 1 1/2 inches long, with a glass head and a 0.5mm diameter.

They are long, thin and hold up to heavy use quite well. I have been using them for curves and straight piecing. Clover also makes a super fine which is also 1 1/2 inches long but is 0.4mm.

I don’t do much hand applique, so I have not worked with fine applique pins, but there are numerous short (1/2 to 3/4 inch) special applique pins to choose from

I am always looking for the newest, best pin. Do you have a favorite to share? Remember to change out dull or bent pins. I keep a “discard” bottle for old pins next to my sewing machine.

Happy sewing and may your pins be sharp!

About me

What is home to you?

I was asked this question recently, and it led to a lot of reflection. This week, home was spending time with my husband and most of my children, even though we were in a place none of us had been before. Home has meant different things at different points in my life – the house that I grew up in where my father was also raised, a hug from my mom, a favorite meal made by my uncle or mother-in-law. As I have gotten older, many of these things are gone – the house was sold, my parents, many aunts and uncles and in-laws have passed away. I still have some favorite foods that remind me of home, but somehow it is not the same when I have to cook. But one thing takes me home in a second – a quilt. The Dresden plate shown here is from one of a pair of quilts that my Grandma Ella made with her mother and sisters. I wore out one of the pair with constant use in high school and college. As soon as I touch it, I am at home. I feel Grandma Ella’s love and remember everything she taught me. Over the years, I have made and gifted many quilts. I hope they convey my love and become a source of comfort to those I love. That is one of the best blessings I can offer you as a quilter – may your quilt become the essence of home!

About me

New Blog – What to Expect

New things are always fun and exciting, and this blog is one of many new things I have started in the past month. I launched a business (Better Done Quilts), a website, and released my first quilt pattern! All while working more than full time at a day job. I am tired, but excited that all of you have decided to join me on this journey. For those who have subscribed to my e-mail, you can expect weekly blogs – usually on Tuesday or Wednesday. Blog content will include tips, tutorials, updates on works in progress (WIPs) and projects half done (PhDs) and my musings about quilts, quilters and quilting. Please comment and let me know what you like and want more of and what you don’t care about so much. Subscribers will also get pre-release information on new patterns and special discounts. The picture is of my first quilt made with a rotary cutter and rulers. I cut and pieced it around 1992-3, pin basted it, started to hand quilt it, and left it for 28 years. Stay tuned to learn the fate of this Bethlehem Star quilt!

Wednesday Wisdom WIPs and PhDs

One Monthly Goal

Patty at Elm Street Quilts has this wonderful project called “One Monthly Goal”. If you click the link to her site you can read all about it. The basic premise is to set one (1, not 3 or 5 ) goal for the month. I like to set goals, and I am good at working toward both short- and long-term goals. But the idea of ONE goal was a revelation to me. I usually have multiple projects in various stages (right now I am working on 5) and the idea of making one goal seemed impossible. But I decided to try it.

I knew September would be busy with launching a business and a website, finishing one 100-day quilt, starting a new 100-day quilt as a quilt-a-long, making a new version of the Tree of Life quilt, and prepping my first quilt pattern for release (whew, I am getting tired just writing that). I wanted to make sure that other projects did not get neglected. So I turned to a quilt that is a very overdue wedding gift that always seem to be on the back burner. I had started the diamonds for my broken lone star quilt, but only had about 8 done of the 32 that were needed. My one monthly goal (or OMG) was to complete all 32 diamonds. I scheduled it on my calendar – and then moved it when other priorities came up – and then moved it again when something unplanned happened. And got to Monday, September 28th and I still had 12 diamonds to go. Because I had set the goal (and declared it publicly), I spent Monday and Tuesday evenings finishing up the last of the diamonds!

OMG worked for me – all of my big goals were achieved. And setting the OMG pushed me to make progress on another important project that was not quite so urgent.

Bottom line – Don’t let the urgent goal keep you from achieving the important one.

Patterns and tutorials

100 Day Quilt-a-Long

Here are the full instructions for the #100qal, currently on Instagram.

This is a super easy, semi-improvisational quilt with few corners to match. It works well with scraps, jelly rolls or yardage and uses 2.5 inch wide strips.

If you are like me and have been cutting your scraps into 2.5 inch strips for 5 years, you may have enough in your stash, or you may need to supplement.

All fabrics should be cut to exactly 2.5 inches wide. Seam allowances are calculated into fabric needed.  **If you use precuts, make sure they are 2.5 inches or cut them to size.

Dimensions104 x 96 in.88 x 96 in.64 x 88 in.49 x 64 in.32 x 48 in.
Columns (column width)4 (26 in.)4 (22 in.)4 (16 in.)2 (24.5 in.)2 (16 in.)
Choose one of theseYardage18 yards15.5 yards10 yards5.5 yards
Jelly Rolls6.55.5421
40 inch strips130110734020
Inches of strips5088432029041600792

The primary directions are for a king or queen sized quilt. Other sizes will finish faster:

  • King or Queen 96 days of strips = 4 days to assemble
  • Twin 88 days of strips = 12 days to assemble (or a 90-day project)
  • Throw 64 days of strips = 36 days to assemble (or a 70-day project)
  • Baby 48 days of strips = 52 days to assemble (or a 50-day project (you could make 2!)

Requires two contrasting fabric choices. About half of the fabric should be foreground color (A) and about half background color (B). You can use darks and lights, colors and neutrals, two different colors, etc. Decide which fabric you want as dominant – you will need a little more of this fabric.

I am using up my stash of strips and have approximately half that are cream or white and half that are purple, blue or teal (guess which colors I use most).

Piecing Days 1-24, 26-49, 51-74, 76-99

Sew one A to one B piece, end to end. Sew second A to second B piece, end to end.

Cut so both strips are 26.5 (22.5, 16.5, 25, 16.5) inches wide – vary cuts so light and dark are not the same length. The effect is best if the dominant color is at least 1/2 of the strip length. Use the remainder for another day. Each strip should have one A and one B piece after trimming.

 A B
 B A

Sew strip 1 to strip 2 lengthwise.

 A B
 B A

That’s it!

Assembly Days 25, 50, 75, 100

Every 24 days (24, 22, 16, 12), you will have enough strip units to assemble a column for your quilt.      

To assemble:

Layout your strips until you like the combination. Alternate A on right with B on right as shown.


Sew strips into columns first:

For baby quilt – two columns of 24 rows each

For throw – two columns of 32 rows each

For twin – four columns of 44 rows each

For queen and king – four columns of 48 rows each.

Then sew columns together, matching corners.

Add a border if you wish. Your top is done and ready for basting, quilting and binding!

About me

Who made me a quilter? Grandma Ella

My Grandma Ella lived in an apartment near us when I was young, and moved into our home when I was nine. For most of her adult life, she did her housework, chores and errands in the morning, and spent her time in the afternoons working on needlework. She taught me how scraps could be transformed into beautiful quilts. Grandma Ella was born in 1892 and shared her memories and stories as we worked together on sorting fabric scraps. She taught me how to make a template from a cereal box, and how to carefully cut my pieces with a good fabric scissors (she also taught me to respect the fabric scissors!). She tried to teach me hand sewing the pieces together and hand quilting, but I wasn’t very good at those parts. My favorite part was playing with the colors and shapes. I also loved the quiet companionship of our time together with fabric. As I got older, my mom let me use her 1951 Singer Featherweight and learn machine sewing, which I thought was more fun than slow hand sewing. When I was about 10 or 11, a family friend gave me her White sewing machine and cabinet so she didn’t have to move it across the country. From then on, I experimented with fabric. I created my own clothing and patterns, many of which were awful. But Grandma Ella always encouraged me to experiment and to improve my skills with each project. I also played with quilts. When I was about 14, dollhouses and miniatures were very popular and I pieced and machine quilted miniature quilts to scale for dollhouses. The local hobby store that sold dollhouse furniture bought the quilts I made and I was thrilled! It was the first “job” I had. I didn’t make a lot of money, but I loved being able to make something valuable from scraps we would have otherwise thrown away.

Bottom Line: No matter your skill level, you can always learn, grow and improve – and someone may want to buy your work!