Do Lent the right way.

Lent is a scam. It isn’t in the Bible.

It was made up by the Church to make you feel guilty for being human.

If you want to give up something for Lent, try one of these:
Guilt. Fear. Judgment. Hate.

Or you can take something on – volunteer, meditate, learn a new skill.

But don’t fall into the “penance” trap. The Hebrew word that was translated as “repentance” actually means “to return”. You aren’t supposed to feel bad for doing something wrong. You are simply supposed to stop doing it and start doing the right thing.

Imagine if you were driving to another city and halfway there you realized you were on the wrong road. The healthy response is to get to the correct road as soon as possible. An unhealthy response would be to sit on the side of the road and beat yourself up for being on the wrong road.

It happens – we are human and we make mistakes. Maybe someone gave you bad instructions? Maybe a road sign was missing? Don’t worry about blame – just get on the right road as soon as you realize you are headed the wrong way.

Don’t waste any time on punishment. Just start over.

How to make a ‘zine.

How to make a ‘zine.

Write something smallish that you want to share with people.

Put it into a Word document and make the font size at least 36 points.

Print it, but set your printer to “8 pages per sheet” so it will put the entire thing on one page, thus reducing the original to ‘zine size.

Cut all the pieces and put your 8 tiny pages in order.

Take another sheet of paper and a glue stick and glue the tiny pages onto the blank page in the correct order

(To find out what that is, make an “origami pamphlet” and number the pages. Unfold so you can see the orientation of each page).

Copy that finished sheet, and/or scan and upload it. Distribute.

The Nativity of Jesus, Condensed Gospel version.

In the beginning


To my friend who loves God: Many people have tried to put together a story about the life and times of Christ, using material from the earliest disciples and other eyewitnesses. It seemed to me that it would help if I shared my research with you. I have independently compiled a sequence of all the events in proper order. I hope that these words will assure you of the truth of everything that you have already been taught.

LK 1:1-4

In the Beginning, God created everything through his Word. The Word was with God, and was God. All things were created through the Word of God. The Word was filled with life, and that life was the light of all people. That light shines forth in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overpower it.

JN 1:1-5

Gabriel predicts John’s birth

There once was a man named Zachariah who was a priest in the Abijah division when Herod was the king of Judea. He was married to a woman named Elizabeth, who, like him, was descended from the priestly line of Aaron. Both were honorable people and followed all the commandments of the Lord. They were childless because Elizabeth was barren and both of them were elderly.

Zachariah was chosen by lot to enter the inner sanctuary to burn incense when his division was on duty in the Temple. The entire assembly stood outside praying while he performed this task. An angel suddenly appeared, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Seeing the angel, Zachariah was startled and a feeling of terror fell upon him.

Then the angel said to him, “Have no fear Zachariah, your prayer has been heard! Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son and you will name him John. Both of you will be filled with joy and gladness, and many people will rejoice with you at his birth. He will be a champion of the Lord. He must never drink alcohol, because he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will convince many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God. He will serve God with the same kind of spirit and power as Elijah, and will transform the hearts of parents to be like their children, and the hearts of the disobedient back to the wisdom of the faithful, to prepare all the people for the coming of the Lord.”

Zachariah challenged the angel, saying “How can I know that this is going to happen? Both I and my wife are very old.”

Then the angel replied “I am Gabriel, who stands in the very presence of God. I was sent to tell you this good news. But because you didn’t believe my words, which will come true in due course, you will lose your ability to speak until the child is born.”

Meanwhile, the congregation outside was wondering why Zachariah was taking so long in the sanctuary. When he finally appeared before them they deduced from his gestures (since he wasn’t able to speak) that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He continued to work at the Temple until his assignment was over, and then he returned home.

Shortly after that, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and she went into seclusion for five months. She said “Blessed is the Lord for taking away my public disgrace!”

LK 1:5-25

The angel Gabriel predicts Jesus’ birth

Six months after John was conceived, God sent the angel Gabriel to a village in Galilee called Nazareth to visit a woman named Mary.  She was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of King David.

The angel said “Rejoice! The Lord is with you! You are blessed and favored among women!”

Mary was perplexed by his words and wondered what he meant by this greeting. The angel continued, saying “Have no fear Mary, for God has chosen you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and called the Son of God, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor King David. He will reign over the house of Israel forever and his kingdom will have no end!”

Mary asked the angel, “How is this possible since I have never been with a man?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be overshadowed by the power of the Most High. Therefore this child will be completely holy and God will be his father. Consider this – your relative Elizabeth who was barren and elderly has conceived and is six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God!”

“I am a servant of the Lord,” said Mary. “May everything happen to me that you have said.” Then the angel left.

LK 1:26-38

Mary visits Elizabeth

Shortly afterwards, Mary went to visit Elizabeth at her home in the hill country of Judea. The child leapt within Elizabeth’s womb when Mary called out her greeting, and Elizabeth was suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud voice, “God has blessed you above all other women, and the fruit of your womb is blessed! How did I deserve the honor of the mother of my Lord coming to me? As soon as I heard your greeting, my child leapt for joy in my womb! She who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her is blessed.”

LK 1:39-45

Mary praises God

Mary then said, “I proclaim the greatness of God from the depths of my being, and my spirit rejoices in God who is my Savior, because God has looked with favor on me, a lowly servant girl. From now on every generation will call me blessed because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is Holy. God’s mercy is eternal for those who respect and honor him. He has done mighty things with his arm – he scatters those who are proud, he has overthrown the rulers and lifted up the meek, he has provided a feast for the hungry, while sending away the rich empty-handed. God has remembered his promise to be merciful and has helped his servant Israel, just as he promised to Abraham and all of his descendants.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth until just before John was born.

LK 1:46-56

The birth and naming of John

The time arrived for Elizabeth to give birth to her son. The word spread quickly to all of her neighbors and relatives about how merciful God had been to her, and they celebrated with her about her son’s birth.

Eight days after the baby was born, at the circumcision ceremony, everyone thought that the child was going to be named Zachariah after his father, but Elizabeth protested, saying “No! He will be called John.”

The guests said to her “None of your relatives has that name, so why would you name him that?” They motioned to his father to find out what the child’s name should be. To everyone’s surprise, he wrote “His name is John” on a piece of paper.

Immediately he was able to speak and he began to praise God. All of the neighbors became greatly concerned, and the news of this unusual occurrence spread throughout the hillside of Judea. Everyone who heard the news thought about it very deeply, saying “I wonder what this child will become?” They could tell that the hand of the Lord was with him.

LK 1:57-66

Zachariah’s prophecy

Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy.

“Give praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to visit his people to redeem them. He has brought forth a mighty king from within the house of his servant David to save us, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago – someone to save us from the clutches of our enemies and those who hate us. He has shown mercy to our ancestors and remembered his holy covenant that he swore to Abraham – to rescue us from the hands of our enemies and make it possible for us to serve in the presence of God freely and without fear, with holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Mighty One, for you will prepare the way before the Lord, by teaching people how to find salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.

Because of God’s great mercy and compassion, a dawn from heaven is about to shine upon us, to give light to those who live in darkness and suffer in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the ways of peace.”

The child grew and became strong in the Spirit, and he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to the people of Israel.

LK 1:67-80

The nativity 

Here is the story concerning the birth of Jesus.

His mother Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, but while she was still a virgin it became known that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Because her fiancé Joseph was an honorable and righteous man, he decided to break their engagement off privately rather than publicly disgracing her.

But after he had decided what he was going to do, an angel appeared to him in a dream saying “Joseph, son of David, don’t be concerned about taking Mary as your wife, because the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you shall name him Jesus (meaning “Yahweh saves”) because he will free people from their sins.”

All of this fulfilled the prophecy spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold the virgin will become pregnant and gave birth to a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel.”  (Which means “God is with us.”)

After Joseph woke up, he did as the angel had told him. He took Mary as his wife but did not know her intimately until she gave birth. And Joseph named him Jesus.

MT 1:18-25

The birth

At that time Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that a census should be taken of the whole empire. This was at the time when Quirinius was the governor of Syria.  Everyone was required to go to his family’s ancestral hometown for the census.

Because Joseph was descended from King David, he had to travel from his home in Nazareth in Galilee, to Bethlehem, the city of David in Judea.  He took his fiancée Mary with him.

It came time for her to give birth while they were there. She gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and placed him in a manger, because there was no place for them to stay at the inn.

LK 2:1-7

 The shepherds and the angels

Some shepherds were watching their flocks in fields near the village that night.

Suddenly an angel appeared, and the glory of the Lord shone forth. The shepherds were full of fear at the sight. But the angel reassured them, saying “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to everyone – the Messiah, the Savior, was born for you in Bethlehem this very night! This is how you will recognize him – you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast number of other heavenly beings who were praising God and saying –

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people of good will.”

After all the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other “Let’s go to Bethlehem right now to see this thing that the Lord has revealed to us.” They hurried off to the village and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger.

After they left, they told everyone about the message they had received from the angels about the child, and everyone was amazed. But Mary treasured up all these things in her heart and often thought about them.

Then the shepherds returned to their flocks, giving glory and praise to God because of everything they had just seen and heard.

LK 2:8-20

The circumcision and presentation

Eight days after he was born, the baby was circumcised and named Jesus, in accordance with what the angel said before he was conceived.

When the time came for Mary’s offering at the Temple as required by the Law after the birth of a child, his parents brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The Law states that every firstborn male shall be dedicated to the Lord. They were required to offer a sacrifice of either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

LK 2:21-24

Simeon’s prophetic praise

There was a righteous and devout man named Simeon who lived in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit was with him, and he looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple complex when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to dedicate him to the Lord, according to the Law.

Taking Jesus in his arms, Simeon praised God and said “Lord, now I can die in peace. For I have seen the Savior as you promised I would. In the presence of everyone you have prepared a light of revelation to the nations and glory to your people Israel.”

Joseph and Mary were amazed at what he was saying about their child. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary “Truly, this child is destined to unsettle many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against. You will be sick at heart that people’s scheming thoughts will be made known.”

LK 2:25-35

Anna’s testimony

A prophetess named Anna was also at the Temple that day. She was a daughter of Phanuel, who was of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, and had been a widow for 84 years, having been married for seven years before that. She served God constantly with fasting and prayer, never leaving the Temple complex.

While Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, she also began to praise God and tell everyone that their long awaited Messiah had arrived.

LK 2:36-38

The visit of the Magi

Wise men entitled Magi (who were ministers and astrologers from Eastern lands) arrived in Jerusalem after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, during the reign of King Herod. They began to ask “Where is the King of the Jews who has just been born? We came to worship him because we saw his star rising in the east.”

King Herod and everyone in Jerusalem were upset and concerned by their question. Herod called a meeting of all the chief priests and scribes, asking them where the Messiah would be born.

They answered that it was to be in Bethlehem of Judea because the prophet Micah said “You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not an unimportant Judean village, because a leader will come from you who will shepherd the people of Israel.”

Then Herod secretly sent for the Magi to find out exactly when they first saw the star. He told them “Go to Bethlehem and find this child, then come back and let me know where he is so that I can go and worship him as well.”

The Magi continued their journey to Bethlehem after leaving Herod. They were overjoyed because the star that they had seen led them straight to where the child was. They entered the house where the child and his mother were and fell to their knees to worship him. They presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then they returned home by a different route because they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod.

MT 2:1-12

The flight into Egypt

The Magi left, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel said “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the baby and his mother and stay there until I tell you it is safe to return. Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.”

That very night he got up, and taking Mary and the child, escaped to Egypt. They stayed there until King Herod died. This fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea who said: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

MT 2:13-15

The massacre of the innocents

Herod flew into a rage when he realized that the Magi had outwitted him. He gave orders that all male children who were two years or less who lived in and around Bethlehem were to be massacred. This was because the Magi had told him that the star first appeared two years earlier.

This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah who said “Cries of tears and mourning were heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children, and she was unable to be consoled because they are dead.”

MT 2:16-18

The return to Nazareth

Herod died, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was in Egypt, saying “Get up! Take the child and his mother and return to Israel, because those who wanted to kill the child are dead.”

Joseph immediately traveled to Israel with Jesus and Mary. While on the way he learned that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was king over Judea, so he was afraid to travel there. He was warned in a dream as well, so he went to Galilee instead and settled in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled the words of the prophets who said “He will be called a Nazarene.”

MT 2:19-23

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, becoming strong, wise, and filled with God’s grace.

LK 2:40

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.