East Dakota Quilter


Sampler Quilt Progress Report

I must admit I didn’t get much sewing work done last week because I had a birthday to celebrate. So far, being “old” is awesome! My boyfriend and friends threw me a surprise party. Since then, I’ve been working on three different projects:

1. Scanning & organizing family photos. My grandma’s health is failing, and I would really like to honor her by organizing some photos to share at the funeral that will likely happen this weekend. While the circumstances are not great, it has been incredible to see how meticulously she kept photo albums, indicating how much she valued the people in them. She also had some interesting documents from my grandpa’s service in World War II.

2. Sampler Quilt. I finish a quilt block every now and again, and I’m done with 23 of the 49 total blocks. (My original grid below shows I’ve finished 24 blocks, but one of them turned out ugly, even if the measurements were correct and the corners lined up. I felt cheated.)



3. Barn Quilt. My sampler quilt requires use of a sewing machine, so the project has limited mobility. But ever since I crocheted the edge of a baby blanket, I have enjoyed working on smaller projects during my lunch break. (Much of the Windy Hill onesie was done in my car.) I have decided my new “mobile” project will be a “barn quilt.” There will be 13 embroidered blocks, each featuring an image from my childhood in South Dakota. Examples include my grandparents’ house, the house I grew up in, our barn, my dad’s 1980 Buick LeSabre (which we had looooong after the 1980s), our mailbox, the first tractor my grandpa bought brand-new, etc. This is general layout, minus some of the photos I’m still collecting:

BQ template

I plan to use a patterned tan-and-navy border in a primitive style–and since I already purchased 5 yards from Primitive Gatherings, this plan is almost certain to become reality! I also purchased several skeins of matching embroidery floss and traced the main lines of four different photos, so I am ready to begin as soon as I finish the most urgent family photos.

This project was originally inspired by the Barns of Wisconsin set I saw featured at the Quilt Expo in Madison (September 2012). I thought I was being clever by using a color other than red and including buildings other than barns, but I have since learned that bluework is a popular style of embroidery, and I discovered this set of quilt blocks, too. Mine will still be one-of-a-kind and feature images that are special to me, so I eventually found peace with not being as original as I’d hoped.

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Homemade Gift: Embroidered Onesie

Now that Christmas is over, I can share one of the last few homemade gifts I made. It was technically a baby gift. My grandmother moved out of the home she and my grandpa built in the 1950s this year, and it was our first Christmas not at Windy Hill Farm. I used an old photo of her house to create the image on a onesie with embroidery.


The week before Christmas was really busy because my sister had to go to the hospital, and of course that meant I spent a lot of time there, too. I actually finished the onesie in the ER, and after my sister started feeling better, she held it up for me, IV and all!


Finally, I wanted to include a photo with the finished onesie, the embroidery drawing, and the original photo:


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Sashiko Embroidery – Pillow Gift

Prowl: this quilt, called Goodnight Sweetheart by Jean Lohmar, this project by Purl Soho, and the Harujion Design blog for general inspiration

When I was at the Quilt Expo earlier this year, I saw several red and white quilts that I loved. The colors really cheered me. They also reminded me of friends I made on a business trip. These friends welcomed me into their [Austrian] home and took me hiking, touring, watching their son paraglide, and even invited me for cake during Sunday afternoon family visits. I felt a sense of belonging that I’ve never felt before on a business trip. Since their living room is decorated in red and white, I immediately thought to make them a quilt in those colors. Never mind that the fall season was already well under way and I was already working on a dozen other projects. When mid-November hit and I still hadn’t begun, I reluctantly abandoned the project for this year.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of handmade gift-giving. It’s hard to gauge whether the recipient is getting something (s)he enjoys or whether (s)he feels obligated because I spent time making it. Of course, I have received many handmade gifts I’ve enjoyed. I’m not saying handmade gifts are inherently lame, just that there can be a fine line between something the giver wants to make and something the recipient wants to receive. Quilts for me have been the exception. I can’t imagine putting in as much time as a quilt takes without first being sure of color preference, etc. I give the other handmade gifts I’ve given a 50% chance of being appreciated. All that said, I decided to do a non-quilt gift for my Austrian friends.

I work for a Japanese company, so I wanted to use the Japanese sashiko embroidery technique to make a pillow. I chose red and white to match my friends’ livingroom, and the sashiko style is meant to symbolize the Japanese company that brought me to them.

Sashiko facts worth noting: the ratio between stitches and blank space is 2:1, meaning the space between stitches is half the length of a stitch. Also, I used a typical design with lots of diamonds. The recommended method is to complete full rows/lines rather than individual boxes. A photo of the back side of my project shows the direction of the stitching.

back side of project

My first sashiko project went pretty well, and I can’t wait to explore the technique further. I am already making some mental adjustments to my next project!

sashiko pattern

embroidered paper

sashiko design - complete

finished pillow


This last image is a photoshopped image of my friends’ livingroom, showing where I thought the pillow might work.

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Embroidered Notebook Cover

Prowl: Lucky Jackson

I’m in the middle of many projects right now, but they’re taking so long to finish! As a treat, I decided to work on a project I knew would only take a few days.

Lucky Jackson does some neat embroidered portraits with two or more fabrics. I knew if I drew an original portrait or did anything very involved, it would quickly go from a 2-day project to another of the unfinished projects that make my head ache. Instead, I decided to try to apply the technique to clip art.

My boyfriend was recently offered a job with the U.S. government. His favorite time of day is the morning when he’s drinking his coffee and reading internet news. With the new job, I probably won’t see as much of him during this golden part of his day. I decided to make him a notebook cover. In the notebook, he can jot thoughts or follow-up notes from his online foray. He’s in his 30s but jokes about being a doddering old professor someday, so I thought this image, which I found for free online, would be perfect. I added the coffee cup.

Embroidered Old Man With Computer

I saw a product at the store that would’ve prevented fraying, but I’m okay with the way it turned out. I was equally lazy in tracing the notebook and adding a seam allowance instead of doing the proper measurements. I’m not bothered. If I try the technique again, I’m sure the next one will be better.


It’s so rewarding to finish a project! Frankly, I doubt my boyfriend will use the notebook much. It’s not really something you whip out in front of your professional colleagues. But he knew I was thinking about him and had a smile.

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Embroidered Onesie: the Collaborative Version

I’m not a stereotypically artsy person. I am not laid-back. I don’t spontaneously have an idea that I have to sketch out without using other art as reference. And I’m not good at laughing at myself. So when my boyfriend started offering unsolicited advice about my most recent project, I was kind of peeved, to say the least. Then EVERY SINGLE ONE of his suggestions improved my project! Now I have to offer an awkward thank you for his help.

My aunt had a baby last week, which means I have a new cousin! I knew I wanted to make her something. The baby blankets/quilts/play mats I’ve been making don’t seem to be terribly useful, so I wanted to try something new. I decided to embroider a onesie after seeing this post by Sew Lovely Embroidery.

Shopping for onesies is hard, by the way. I don’t have kids, so I was really out of my element at Target. The regular clothing racks only had pre-designed onesies. I knew there must be blank ones somewhere, so I kept searching. Eventually, I found some plain onesies between the bibs and the blankets in a regular aisle, not the clothing area. They were mostly white. I know you can dye fabric with Rit, but let’s be honest: I wanted to start right away. (I found a few onesies that I thought were blank and colorful, but they had really hideous bears on the front! Ugh.)

I got the onesies home and realized right away they were too thin for embroidery, that my threads in back would show through. I decided I would just embroider on a separate patch of fabric. Enter boyfriend. “That square looks kind of weird. You’re just going to stick it on there?” Um, yes, that was the plan. “Maybe you can change the shape. You know, make it more organic.” Hmm… He rifled through the contents on my desk (NoNoNo!) for a paper and pen to sketch what he meant. His original sketch looked scary, but when I played around with it, I found a hexagon was actually pretty similar to his suggestion. Definitely better than my plain rectangle, but also not as difficult as a circle.

While the boyfriend read a book, I started stitching. I finished the animal and the baby’s name and got to the hearts in my pattern. “These should be the same color as her name, right?” I asked, turning to him. I thought if I asked a directed question, he would just agree—especially since he was reading and not really paying attention—but noooo. “They should probably be a different color,” he replied. “Red?” I asked suspiciously. “Yeah, red.” He’s going to ruin it, I thought to myself. I continued my project, secretly pleased I could blame him when it didn’t turn out. Only the red was really cute. I decided to do red stitching around the hexagon, too, and voilà:

I bought a few more onesies while I was at it. I think they’ll be good gifts. I mean, even the mom with everything can work a personalized onesie into her baby’s wardrobe. I will also try VERY hard to be more receptive to good advice! For example, I have read on various blogs that some people embroider with 2-3 strands of floss instead of all 6. I might give that a try next time.