Disappearing 9 patch quilt

You can make a nice quilt out of just 9 fat quarters. Depending on the size you need you may want to add sashing. These examples are using the traditional quilting design known as “Disappearing 9-Patch”, which I’ll sometimes refer to as D9P here.

I trimmed these fat quarters (originally 18 inches by 21 inches) into 18” squares, then cut those into 9 squares that are 6” each.

The yellow at the top was the middle of all the 9 patches. I used the colors in order, and then rotated the first one that I started with to make them all different. 

This is what it looks like with the 9 patches sewn together. There are 9 sets of 9-patches.

Then I cut the patches in half horizontally and diagonally, rearranged the units, and re-sewed them. These are now “disappearing 9-patches”, a traditional quilt block.

The colors that you want to dominate the design need to be in the corners of the original 9-patch. They remain uncut after the division to make it a disappearing 9 patch. The color in the middle of the design gets cut up the most – it becomes four small squares. So put the fabric that you like the least in the center, or the one that overwhelms the others. The remaining fabrics (they are on the sides, in the middles) become rectangles.

But after all that sewing, a lot of the fabric was in the seams, so the 9-patches weren’t big enough for an adult quilt. They would work fine for a baby quilt. So I added sashing.

Each completed D9P is 14.5” square, as sewn into this quilt. If I’d not included the sashing, the quilt would have been about 43” square, which is 3’7”.

I added “jelly roll” sashing (2.5” before sewing) and it became 51” square, which is 4’3”.

The first would be fine for a baby quilt, or maybe a lap quilt for someone in a wheelchair. The second works as a nap quilt, or for a couch /TV/ snuggle quilt. It is also good for taking on road trips.

With the following example I cut the 18”squares into four 8.5” squares. I’d intended them to be 9” but I had a problem. So I adapted. There are four disappearing 9-patch panels, sewn together. I didn’t want it to be a square so I added more fabric to the top and bottom.

The patches are 22” square, so the quilt is 44” (3’8”). The extra fabric at the top adds 14” to the length. (4’10”) 

This used 9 fat quarters for the D9P. Four in brown, four in blue, and one neutral (for the center). I used (I think) four other fat quarters (two brown, two blue) with maybe 9” squares, with some leftover, for the top and bottom extensions.


If I cut the fabric into four 9” squares, the finished D9P should be about 25” square. Three panels across would be about 73 inches (6’1”). Square, that would be very large. That would require 21 fat quarters, with some fabric left over.

If I arrange them two across by three down, it would measure 50” (4’2” across) by 73 inches (6’3”)

This means there are 6 D9 Patches, which comprise 54 pieces of fabric total. That requires 14 fat quarters (will have two 9” squares remaining)

If I have two 21-piece bundles of fat quarters, I can make three D9P quilts with this design.


A sestina about silence (inspired by the Sandman)

If you have seen episode 11 of the Sandman on Netflix, you will have come across a writer who is flooded with ideas – so many ideas that he goes insane. One of those ideas was “a sestina about silence using the key words dark, ragged, never, screaming, fire, kiss

I’ve written a few sestinas so I had to give it a go. If you aren’t familiar with the form, there are articles online about how to create one. It is a fun challenge and I encourage you to give it a try.

Here’s my version.


The hope of a thousand years is in the dark.

I had not planned to come here, ragged

breathless, empty of thought. No, never

in my life would I be found screaming

in a cabin devoid of fire

hoping in vain for an empty kiss


The world began with a kiss

that silently drew two people together in the dark.

only later, by the light of the fire

did they see their faces, how ragged

how disfigured, how screaming

with loneliness in a world that never


showed them love. No, never

in their lives had anyone wanted to kiss

them, for their hearts were screaming

in the silence, in the dark.

They had given up hope, like a ragged

butterfly finally admits it is time for the fire.


But then, by the light of the new fire

burning within them, a love they never

could have imagined bloomed from the ragged

holes in their hearts, a silent kiss

that made their fear of the dark

go away forever, screaming.


Silence is like this, a knowing that is screaming

into the void of existence, a knowing that fire

is the source of all that is dark,

because only there can light never

forget the first kiss

of a life that ragged.


Life that is smooth and easy, not ragged

with the fears of those screaming

fools who forgot what it is like to kiss –

that life is without fire.

Silence can’t be born from easiness, no, never.

It is born from hardship and the dark.


Oh ragged life, oh fire!

Tear forth from me screaming that I will never

forget the kiss of the dark.

Grief is a journey

Grief is a journey

that nobody can really prepare you for.

You just have to walk through it,

step by step.

You will be surprised by how it affects you.

Keep to your regular routine as much as possible

(sleeping, eating, movement, prayer)

because not taking care of your body

will make this journey harder.

I’ve read that grief has a half-life

– it takes as long as

half the time you knew the person.

So, with parents,

the grief lasts a very long time.

It will change, and lessen,

but it will always be there.

You will grow around it,

like a tree growing around a stone.

Pandemic skills

Things I’ve learned how to do since 2020. Most of them I learned from watching videos online.

January 2020 – I bought a mandolin. Two months later I realized what useful thing that was to have in isolation. I watched a lot of videos and joined online communities, and have learned about a dozen Irish and Old-Time tunes.

April 2020 – knitting

June 2020 – traditional bookbinding

July 2020 – weaving (with a rigid heddle loom)

November 2020 bookbinding using a Proclick binding system

January 2021 – made a Socktopus (see the book “Stupid Sock Creatures”)

August 2021 – hand-sewed flannel slippers

September 3, 2021 – quilting

September 16, 2021 – finished first piece of embroidery (started in the summer)

September 18, 2021 – handmade moccasins (from a kit)

December 2021 – monoprinting (a gel press)

March 2022

baking – Welsh cakes, Cornbread, created Almond bread (breakfast bread)

April 2022

baking – Naan, blue pancakes.

Sewing – quilt blocks – log cabin, fence rail, bear claw. Made first zipper pouch.

May 2022

Cooking – Lavash bread, saltine crackers, kimchee, Farmer’s cheese (also known as queso fresco). Picking – carrots. (quick pickle technique).

Sewing – Better zipper pouch (boxed bottom, used interfacing, used zipper foot). ). Stuffed animal – stupid sock creature technique, used doll eyes for the first time.

June 2022

Cooking – tea cake cookies, pickled grapes, pizza (from scratch), yeast bread (a sandwich loaf), soup from scratch – a curried red lentil soup, mason jar ice cream

jewelry – Byzantine chain mail bracelet


You’d think that commissions would be a great way to make money. You’d think they would be a guaranteed sale. Most of the time they are a guaranteed headache.

I have several things up for sale that I’ve made. Some things I make are for personal use, some things are made for gifts. Some things I make just because I like to make them and I have no idea what to do with them.

Sometimes people like to try to order things.

Special orders are tricky because people often have one idea in their head, and the result is often different than what they imagined – and meanwhile I’m out time and materials because of it. I discovered that when I was making beaded jewelry.

Say someone wants a necklace in blue beads.  Sounds simple, right? But there are important questions to ask. What shade of blue? What size beads? Shaped ones, or not? Translucent, or opaque? All the same, or some variety?

Any deviation from what they had in their mind and they won’t like it – and I’m out money and time. They may think that I can just sell that to someone else, and sometimes I can. Sometimes I’m stuck with it.

And all of that time was time I could have spent making what I wanted to make.

It reminds me of folks who wanted me to help them write their biography, or to write up a story idea they had. Nope. I have plenty of things I need to write – I don’t have time to write YOUR stories too.

Even if I’ve asked them to measure the length they want with a tape measure, half the time they still aren’t happy with the length of the completed necklace. If they want it shorter, that is doable as long as there is still room to work with the cord. If they want it longer I have to start all over from the beginning. Sometimes they don’t like the pattern of the beads so they want me to totally redesign it.

With crochet, a lady I knew from church asked for a baby blanket in specific colors and said that she’d give me $50 for that. I think that she thought that was generous, but in general customers don’t get to set the price, for good reason. They don’t know how much materials and time are involved. I informed her that wouldn’t even cover the cost of the yarn. They weren’t colors I happened to have on hand, so I’d have to make a special trip to the craft store. And would the shades of those colors be what she wanted? I told her it would be easier if I taught her how to crochet and she could make it herself.

When I worked at the library I had regular “Beading with Betsy” programs, where we’d spend an hour making a bracelet. People would want to design a necklace and I’d remind them that it took an hour just to make a bracelet. A necklace can take hours to design and assemble. I hope I introduced people to the idea of making things by hand – but also to gain a respect for crafter’s time.

Now that I’ve gotten into weaving, people are asking for items in specific lengths and colors. There are several potential problems here. Again, we have the issue with color – what shade?  And then there are concerns with materials – do they want natural, or synthetic? Does it need to be washable with the regular wash, or can it be washed by hand? All of that factors into what kind of yarns I can use – and their prices vary considerably.

As for the length, that is a whole other set of problems. Getting the length exact is impossible, since the item is one length on the loom (which I’d have to keep up with using stitch markers, since the length is wound onto the beam), but another taken off (since it is no longer under tension) and another once wet finished (it usually shrinks). 

The worst commission was from my brother, but that wasn’t a real surprise.  He wanted a rose quartz necklace, hand-linked with sterling silver wire. I had the beads but I had to order the wire. I asked him to send me the money for that in advance – and he didn’t. Christmas was coming, and I was running out of time to make this and get it to him in time. So I went ahead and ordered the wire and made it. He paid me, eventually, but there was a lot of concern if that would even happen.

It would have been better for me not to have made his lack of planning my emergency. 

So from now on, IF I take on a special order, the person will have to sign off on the length and the beads (if a necklace, for instance) in advance. They’ll have to pay half before the item is even started. And when they get it, they have to pay the other half. I’ll have to write up a contract including no alterations.

But in general, it is far easier to not take orders at all, and simply let people buy what I’ve already made.

Basic quilting tips

Quilts don’t have to be hard. Take this for an example. It is 44 x 59 inches. This is a quilt top – the first part of making a quilt.

 The strips are pre-cut. I bought them that way.  That makes it easier. No reason to fool with cutting and measuring when you are first learning.

This is one “jelly roll” of 20 batik fabrics (2 in each color) and one roll of 20 cream strips. “Jelly roll” is one name for precut fabric that is usually 2.5 inches wide by 44 inches long. You can also buy “charm packs” which are 5 inch squares. There are others – “fat quarters” are generally 18×22 inches. I’d recommend waiting on those because you’ll need to get better at cutting fabric since they are too big to use by themselves.  (Well, you could…but you’d have really large blocks of color.)

I’m a big fan of showing that art can be easy and still beautiful. There is zero reason to make it more complicated than necessary, especially when beginning. Look for precuts to start with.

I’ve been to independent shops that sell quilting supplies and they were pretty snotty about precuts.  Beginning quilters have money too. If you don’t have what they need, they’ll never come back when they get better skills. So I bought these fabrics at a major craft store.

I’ve learned that I don’t even need to fuss with binding tape.  I make a “quilt sandwich” with batting, backing, and the top (wrong side up) and sew the 3 together, leaving a gap about 15 inches wide at the bottom.  Once sewn together, I clip the edges, turn the thing inside out and boom, the edges are tidy. Then I sew up the hole where I turned it, then quilt from the middle outward.  I use the machine for all of this. 

Curved quilting safety pins are essential to hold the layers together. You’ll need them at the quilt sandwich phase, then take them out when you turn the fabric, and use them again when you are quilting.

The patterns you sew for quilting can be easy. You don’t have to use a free-motion attachment on your machine – just get used to the idea of moving three layers of material around without getting them bunched up too much. One way of sewing is “stitching in the ditch” – which means sewing along the seams where two fabrics meet. Sometimes that is difficult for beginners, because there are several layers at that point.  It is OK to use the seams as a guide for sewing – so sew ¼ inch away from the seams.  How closely your quilting lines need to be depends on your batting – check what the tag or bag says.  A general rule is that your lines need to be a minimum of 4 inches apart. 

Start quilting in the middle of your quilt, and work outwards. This helps to keep the material from bunching up. It will still happen – just not as much. Puckers are part of the process – and they will become nearly invisible after you wash the quilt.

Don’t do like I did and sew all around the edge after you’ve turned it – and then start quilting.  The thing will pucker and shift in unhappy ways.  Start in the middle and quilt moving out to the edges.  Then, if you want, you can sew all around the edges. 

Making the edges curved looks nicer than square.  You can’t see it on the top photo because it is a quilt top. I’m talking about when you sew the quilt sandwich together. Curve the edges as you sew and see what you think. To me, it makes the quilt look more friendly.

There are things I do to make the process easier.  They aren’t exactly short-cuts, but they are efficient. Maybe even lazy.

I don’t iron. Somehow the idea of pulling out the iron and the ironing board makes me want to not even start. So I don’t.  You can finger-press the seams to make them lay flat if you like.

Buy cotton fabric.  Don’t use polyester or other synthetic fabrics. Cotton just works better. Better materials make better finished pieces.

It is totally OK to cut up old clothing or bedding if you need fabric and don’t have a lot of money.  Also, you can often find material in thrift and secondhand stores.  You also might have an art material thrift shop in your town – ask around. Where I live, there are two!

If you are buying fabric that you need to cut, look into getting a rotary cutter. They are a little tricky to learn how to use to start with, but worth it. You’ll need a mat to cut on and a ruler. For quilting, there are special see-through rulers that make it easier. 

Don’t buy really expensive fabric for your first quilt. You won’t want to use it. Get something that you like, but don’t love. That way you won’t be sad when it turns out differently than you imagined. This is a new skill for you, and has a learning curve. Be patient and set yourself up for success by choosing forgiving fabric.

Don’t prewash the fabric. Prewashing would make a big mess of precuts, and it makes the fabric wrinkle.  It is easier if you aren’t going to iron to skip this part. When you finish your quilt, then wash it and all the fabric will pucker in a nice way that makes the quilt look better.

I don’t pin my fabrics together. I just can’t be bothered. I hold them together and work slowly and carefully as I sew. The time spent pinning is spent sewing instead. And this also means that I skip having to pick all the pins out and forgetting several.

Patterns to consider – Four Patch, Nine Patch, and Disappearing Nine-Patch.  Look online to see examples. You can also make a “crazy quilt” with lots of random fabrics however you like.

Disappearing Nine Patch is a very nice pattern to give you a lot of interesting fabric arrangement with not a lot of fuss. It looks like you did a bunch of piecing. You make a nine patch panel, and then cut it horizontally and vertically. Move the resulting squares around until you get an interesting design and resew. You can get different effects by planning where you place the fabrics at the beginning. Since the corners don’t get cut, consider putting the fabrics you like the most there. The center is cut into four pieces – so make it the busy fabric.  The middles are going to be rectangles, so experiment with making them all the same neutral fabric.  You can experiment using colored paper and tape first if you like.

You can do all of this using a regular sewing machine. No reason to hand sew or quilt unless you really want to. And no reason to buy a fancy computerized machine either. Get one that you can open up and clean out and oil by yourself. That will save you a lot of frustration when (not if) your machine starts to sound clunky.  You can clean and oil it yourself rather than losing time taking it to the shop.  Buy actual sewing machine oil with a long spout. It is smell and stain free, and easy to get into the spots it is needed.

To make my life easier, I bought the entire bolt of cream colored muslin at the fabric store. It is 120 inches wide (it is wrapped on the bolt folded over 4 times) so I have enough to work with for a long time. To me, the back doesn’t matter much. Some people like to coordinate front and back, or even make a second quilt top from the scraps from making the first one and use it as the back.

I also like buying a king-size bag of batting. It is 120 inches square, which is enough for 4 quilts that are 60 inches square.  If you make smaller quilts, you can get even more.  Save the larger scraps of batting – you can Frankenstein them together on your machine by butting them together and using the zig-zag stitch.  Or scraps can be used if you are making a bag or clothing that needs some thickness. Not all batting is the same – some are easier to work with than others. Find what you like and stick with it.

YouTube quilters I like:

Just Get it Done Quilts

Melanie Ham

Missouri Star Quilt Company

April Story

Probably the most important instruction is to have fun. This is supposed to be a hobby – not a job. Enjoy doing it. There’s no reason to make it stressful. Sometimes I’ve made a quilt top and I just don’t want to finish it into a quilt. That’s OK. It can wait. I move on to another quilt top that I want to make.

Lemon delights


One stick margarine (or butter) – melted

1 cup flour

1/4 cup xxxx sugar (confectioner’s sugar – can use 10x)

Combine together, press into 8×8 inch greased pan.  Bake 15 minutes at 350o F.


1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons lemon juice, plus rind

Mix together and pout over baked crust. Bake 25 minutes at 350o F.


Recipe from family friend Diana Hudgins, June 1966. I’ve since learned from her daughter that the original came from Diana’s mother.

Can add a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar to the top once baked.

I prefer this to a birthday cake as a celebration food. Also delicious with lime instead of lemon.

My belief about Jesus in a nutshell.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been to Oz and seen behind the curtain, and so I can’t pretend anymore. 

Jesus isn’t God, and Jesus isn’t my Savior. Everything I was told about Jesus didn’t match up with what I read about him in the Gospels.

For me, Jesus is the Messiah – in that he kept pointing people back towards God. When someone called him “good teacher” he got upset, and said only God was good, and only God should be your teacher. God never intended for the people of Israel to have a King. God was to be their King. But they felt left out, because all of the other nations had kings. So God relented and gave them Saul. And boy howdy, that should have cured them of a desire for a king!  So, the Messiah is supposed to be the new King. But the problem with that is that any person who says they are King – is once again taking away the focus on God. God should once again be worshipped as King of Israel, and the world. And the rebuilding of the Temple – Jesus was totally right on that. The human body is the Temple, and the intent is for the Holy Spirit to dwell within. That was God’s plan all along. Anyone who thinks it is a building is practicing idolatry. Jesus also wants us all to be equal – nobody is to be higher or lower. So: no ordained ministers. 

So, yeah, I’m too Christian for Jews, and too Jewish for Christians. I don’t fit in with Messianic Jews either, because they are all about Jesus as God and Savior, but with Jewish holidays. 

To all the Others on Mother’s Day

To all the Others on Mother’s Day,

I see you.

To all the Others who don’t have a Mother

perhaps because of death, or abuse, or neglect,

I see you.

To all the Others who wanted to be a Mother

but can’t, perhaps because of money or biology or pressure,

I see you.

To all the Others who are Mothers

but your children are absent from your sight,

I see you.

To all the Others who are Fathers

doing the job of two,

I see you.

To all the Others who are doing the work,

who are showing up,

who are doing the best they can,

I see you.

Family Monkeys

You know the phrase: “Not my circus, not my monkeys”.  Sometimes you have to admit that it isn’t your problem to fix. But sometimes – it is your circus because the monkeys are in your family.

And then it is OK to tell them to shove off so they don’t throw shit at you – because that is what monkeys do. And then, it is OK to talk about it publically, because their bad actions aren’t yours. There is no reason to feel guilty for someone else’s bad behavior. If they try to make you think otherwise, that too must be exposed. Darkness hates light.

To paraphrase Anne Lamott- if people want you to talk better about them, they need to behave better.

My brother spent years attempting to brainwash me into remaining silent about *his* illegal and unethical actions, somehow twisting them into “family” secrets that should be hidden. His sins aren’t mine.

I have a sister-in-law who attempted to convince our parents-in-law that I was crazy and should be treated with suspicion, all because I refused to accept her abuse. This is especially concerning since she is in the mental health profession and her opinion could have been seen as a diagnosis.

I would have thought that someone who had been involuntarily committed by her own parents would understand the danger in accusing someone of being insane. Her statements to them were unethical and unprofessional, and untrue.

Thankfully the parents-in-law knew me better than she did, and they did not take action on her views.  

No matter who they are, how they are related, how long you have known them, evil people must be confronted with their actions. If they do not change, remove them from your life or else be drawn into their orbit of evil.

You are under no obligation to tolerate people who treat you badly.

It doesn’t matter who it is – friend, family member, coworker, or customer.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve known them forever or if they’ve been kind to you in the past. 

It is OK to tell people how their actions have negatively affected you.

It is OK to set boundaries and decide what kind of behavior you are willing to accept.

It is OK to speak up about how their bad behavior makes you feel – even with other people.

And it is OK to cut off all ties with people who treat you in a way that isn’t OK.

That includes in person and online.

You do not have to allow anyone to treat you badly.

This also goes for strangers on the internet who think they have the right to have a negative opinion about your writing or art.