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.


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.

Artist FAQ

What I’m doing is called sketching, or urban sketching. I’d love to talk with you about it but then I’d miss out on time to sketch, so I made this handout for you. Thanks for understanding.

I use watercolor pencils.  I sketch dry and add water later. There are other ways to use watercolor pencils – this is just the way I like to use them.  You can see the finished sketch @betsybeadhead

Yes, I am an artist. Anybody is if they make art. Being creative is part of being a human being.  I also work a full-time job. I don’t get paid to be an artist.  I still make art, because it makes me happy.

You may say “I can’t even draw a straight line.” That is not an excuse to not make art. Get a ruler. Or notice that how little in nature is composed of straight lines. Straight lines are boring anyway.

Nobody’s art looks great at the beginning. It takes years of practice to be good at it. That is not a reason to not make art. If you want to get better at anything, you have to practice it.  Making art is just like learning how to play the piano.  Make a “play date” with yourself – schedule time to make art.

You can get books from the library (subjects: sketching, urban sketching, art journaling) and learn how to do this. You can also take a class for free through the Nashville library system. You can get a free library card even if you don’t live in Davidson County.  You don’t need a card to attend a class.

The fact that you are interested in what I’m doing means you too are an artist. Go make art!

How many books?

A friend recently asked me how many more books I have in me – on a rough count 8 are already to be assembled / edited.

– the short stories “Short and Strange”

– secular poetry

– a novella called “The Visitors” – speculative fiction.

– a book on creativity, to inspire other people to create

– women’s issues/rights

– other short stories inspired by ephemera

– yet more short stories – no particular theme

– Bible study (yes, there is some in Free Range Faith, but other stuff, and just Bible study – no essays)

There are probably more. These are what I can think of right now, based on what is already written. I have written a lot of material in the five years since I started my blog. I have slowed down on creating and producing new material and am assembling books with what I wrote. I might assemble a book based on my “Invisible House” musings. This will include pictures.

I will also write a book using the pictures my husband and I have taken using the Doctor Who action figures as models – a story based on those characters. Just taking them has been fun.

My art inspiration list

A random collection of artists and other creators that inspire my writing and art.

Maira Kalman
Dave Pilkey
David Shannon
Chris Van Allsburg
Nick Bantock
Vivian Swift.

Handwritten, illustrated journals

Daily reading. Affirmations.

Sara Miles
Barbara Brown Taylor
Anne Lamott

Day of the Dead

Alice in wonderland
“Grover and the everything in the whole wide world museum”
Madeline L’Engle

The Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey

Music – —
Punk and funk
Red hot chili peppers
Old Stevie Wonder
Soul Coughing
Michael Hedges

E E Cummings.

Sutton Hoo helmet
Celtic. Woad.

Rob Gonsalves
Bev Doolittle
(Hidden in plain sight, different perspective)

Stamps (tiny art)

I don’t write fiction. I report it.

I don’t write fiction. I report it. This may make no sense. Reporting is something you do with facts, and fiction isn’t real. Right?

I didn’t used to write fiction. It all started with pictures. I found a box of old photographs of people (family photographs from albums, most likely) at an antique mall in Boone, NC. I bought a few because they were intriguing. It is as if they reminded me of something I didn’t know yet. I needed to write about it to understand it. This too makes no sense. Stick with me here.

I’ve heard of other writers creating detailed maps of their stories before they even start to write it. They like to know where they are going before they get there. I’ve heard of others who just write. They start and see where it goes. The first way seemed too difficult, while the second seemed unlikely. I couldn’t see how a story could be constructed and make sense without a plan, but I’d been doing the same with collages and paintings for years, so I decided to try with words.

I am just as surprised as you are by how these stories develop. Writing for me is like reading the slowest book ever. I discover as I go.

I don’t normally write fiction. Essays and Bible study are my thing. They are solid, verifiable. It is like putting together a paper for English class – something I’m very familiar with. Fiction? That is out there. I love reading it, but have never felt that it was something I could do.

What do I mean when I say I am a reporter instead of a writer? I ask the basic questions – who, what, where, why, when. And then it goes from there. When I get to a place where I’m not sure what is next, I ask the questions again. Often I know just one step at a time what happens. It is rare when I know the goal and have to write to catch up with it.

I’ve heard that you should always write things that you’d like to read. If you as the author aren’t interested in it, then your readers won’t be either. I like reading things that surprise me, thus I write things that are surprising even to me. This too makes no sense. I, the author, should know what is happening, what is going to happen, right? Yet it is often sentence by sentence that I discover where the story is going. I don’t make up stories so much as write them down, almost as if I’m taking dictation.

I start by looking at the picture. These days I find unusual pictures of people online, since I don’t have ready access to family photos from strangers. I look very closely because there are often details I’d miss in a brief look. So often our eyes look but don’t see. Details make the difference. There is so little to the image, I need all that I can get out of it.

I’m OK with deviating from the picture if the story calls for it. The picture is a seed, a starting point. It is not a frame that limits, but a doorway that suggests and invites. Once I get inside the story, I can see more.

Could I use photos of people I know? I doubt it. They already have their own stories that I know. I think I’d be limited. I also think they’d get angry at my fabrication of their lives. I often use ideas and events from reality to flesh out my stories, however. People I know might find themselves, for good or not, in my words. You have to write about what you know, even if you are writing fiction. Saying it as fiction helps express it, get it out, in a way that can’t be construed as insulting someone’s character, because their name isn’t mentioned.

Time to make art?

People sometimes ask how long a piece I made took. This usually is in reference to beaded jewelry, but I soon expect it to happen for my collages. I’ve not been creating in that manner as long, and I’ve not started to try to seriously sell them, so I’ve not had this happen yet.
Why does it matter how long something took to make? Does that devalue it if it didn’t take the artist very long? Does it mean that it should cost more if it took more time?
How long does it really take? When do you start the clock? When you first had the idea? When you bought the materials? When you started putting paint or ephemera onto the canvas? Or does it start before that – with classes and study, learning how to use the materials?
There have been plenty of times when I’ve realized that the only way I could have learned how to make the piece I just did was to have made the twenty other ones that the potential customer does not see. Sure, this one took two days to make. But in reality, it took two years of trial and error to learn how to do this in two days.
If a necklace took twenty minutes to make, does that mean that it shouldn’t cost $45, because you only make $15 an hour? What if the same customer would spend $30 on a meal that took ten minutes to cook?
Food is a good analogy – the raw ingredients have to be raised or grown or processed (chicken, asparagus, pasta). All of these things take time and skill – before you even get to cook them into a meal. Learning how to cook takes time and a lot of practice.
Making art is the same. The materials used have to be created and / or purchased. The expense (time and money) involved in just the materials alone must be considered, as well as the time it took to learn how to prepare it.
Perhaps artists should start saying the real time it took, starting with when they first had the idea for that piece or bought the first supply that was used. or when they first learned a technique they used in that piece. In some cases, that would be 20 years for me.

On modern conceptual art.

I read a post on an artist group page that wondered what was wrong with modern conceptual art. The video that was used to spark discussion had a commentator that said that it was all crap, and showed recent examples to prove his point, some of which was in fact fecal matter. No, I’m not being euphemistic. It was actual fecal matter, used as “art” and hanging in a museum. There were other examples that were equally bizarre and unsettling.
What I found most interesting was that the people who commented in defense of the “art” said that at least it provoked a reaction. To them, simply making someone react was proof that the artist had done a good job.
However, the issue is that the reaction isn’t a healthy one, or one that inspires. It is a reaction of confusion (what is the artist trying to say?), or anger (how did this random paint smear get into a museum/get bought for a million dollars?).
Perhaps the reason so many people like modern conceptual art is because it reminds them of their own feelings. It is “misery loves company”. People like things that remind them of who they are. Deep down they must be very lost and confused and broken. Therefore they like art that is also lost and confused and broken. This art is a reflection of a feeling of loss, of anger, of destruction, of violence, of hopelessness. This art tries to show us how meaningless our existence is, how random, how pointless.
Madeline L’Engle, the author of the “Wrinkle in Time” series, said that art should elevate and make us feel better. Art should point the way out of the bad situation. Art should remind us of our inner strength and point us towards hope.
Art that is purely used to express rage and destruction and violence and anger can be useful as a catharsis. It can be a way to get out those feelings rather than letting them bottle up inside. It can tell other people that it is safe to have and express those feelings. But the problem occurs when we get stuck with that kind of art, when we are only shown the darkness of the world or ourselves.
At that point we are idolizing pain. We are making a fetish of our failure. We are saying that loss and destruction is our lot in life and where we must stay.
There must be another way. Art should be a rope ladder rather than a noose. Art should inspire and encourage and enlighten in the truest sense of the word. It should shed light on a dark situation and reach that small part of ourselves that wants healing, that knows how to heal.
Rather than being a passive thing where we expect others to save us or heal us or help us, art should remind us of our own inner healing nature. It should be a map to the center of our being that shows us how to get out of the hole we are in. Art that is only about loss and violence and anger cheats us, because it speaks only to itself and does not point beyond.
Consider this – poetry that is purely descriptive, that details for us what is right now isn’t poetry. It is merely a news story written in verse form. True poetry elevates and points beyond itself and hints to other and greater things. True poetry guides us back to the best parts of ourselves. Likewise, art that only shows the ugly side of life is not art. It is a photograph that happens to use paint or collage.
True poetry, like true art, can speak about the horrors of life, but to make it poetry or art, it has to show us a way out of it. Art and poetry have to be doors that are open. They show us that while we are on one side of the door, there is a way out of it to another place.

Use your words (a meditation on making art)

Parents tell children to “use your words” when they are feeling frustrated. But what if they don’t have words? What if the problem is that the things that they are experiencing are too large for words? It is important to give children as many different ways of expressing themselves as possible. Consider this – studies have proven that babies who are taught sign language before they are able to communicate verbally show a greatly reduced level of frustration.

I think that learning many ways for self expression is the cure for everything. Everyone needs to learn different ways to communicate. Sometimes words fail us.

The arts provide us with many other ways to communicate. Dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting, knitting, beading – the list is endless. It is only limited by your imagination. Whatever you try is good.

Plenty of people are upset that the public schools are cutting their budgets and eliminating the arts. You don’t need to go to school to make art. In fact, school can’t teach you how to make art. You already know how to do that. Children do it without thinking, and this is the best way. Just have fun playing and you are on your way.

Not having a lot of money is also not an excuse. Crayons and paper are cheap. You can find used musical instruments at a thrift store. You can even create your own tools to create with.

I used to write a lot before my parents died. After they passed, writing was too much for me. Every time I tried, too much would come out and it would get tangled up. My feelings were too big to be expressed with words. Thankfully, I had beads as a form of self-expression at the time. I would string together beads like I had strung together words. They had rhythm and feeling. There was an internal logic to them. Did others know what I was saying? Not always. But that isn’t always necessary. In that instance, it wasn’t important that I communicate an idea to others. It was essential that I got those feelings through and then out of me.

These days I work on visual arts such as painting and collage as well. I find I can process deep emotions this way, handling them in a safe and healing way. Some things that come up while I’m making art were so buried that I didn’t even know they were there. I’m grateful for my practice of making art as a form of self-healing.

Art doesn’t have to be “good” to be useful. It can be more abstract than representational and still do the job. Nobody else has to even see it. In fact, not thinking about an audience usually means that you’ll do more and better work because you aren’t trying to edit it to make it “safe”.

If you want to use images and you aren’t good at drawing (yet), you can cut out pictures from magazines. Don’t have any? Ask your friends – someone has a few that they would normally throw away. Not good at mixing paint? Buy art paper with pretty designs and cut it up and glue it on. Consider having an art-supply swap meet, where everybody brings materials that they are tired of and switches out. You’ll find new ways to express yourself with new supplies.

Remember that anything you want to do well takes time and practice. Nobody is a Rembrandt overnight. Have patience with yourself, but most of all – play.