A Left Brain Autumn Table Runner Post

For Autumn table runner number 3, I’m doing a left brain sort of a project. Actually they’re all pretty left brain for me, because rather than offering a tutorial or a gallery of images, I tend to analyze everything that went into a project. To the nth degree.

This project looks pretty simple, but it was troublesome to pull off.

I had it in my head that I wanted to do some machine appliqué text letters. But nothing in my pattern files fit. Ditto for the two of my favorite sources for machine embroidery patterns,  Embroidery Library site and Urban Threads. I found the appliqué font for this project, Sporty Script, at Rivermill. It was delivered in a zipped file, including several different sizes. I chose the biggest size, 7 inches, for this.

As this is the first sewing project featuring text as the main design element, that I’ve done in a while, I was experimenting. Just playing around, really, to get a feel for what I could do, how it would end up. My fabrics were remnants, of course, of about a yard each for the top and bottom. The top piece is Hoodie’s Collection for Michael Miller Daisy Drama  in fall colors. The bottom is a mustard-colored Fabric Traditions NTT print with glitter shot through it. At first, I wanted the fabric of the text appliqués to be a yellow-orange or a sherbet-color, but I tried mocking that up, and didn’t like the resulting look much. In the end, I decided on the green batik. It picks up some of the color of the green and beige and yellow in the top fabric, but it’s more subtle than a solid orange or yellow would have been.

The thread for the satin stitch around the letters was a light gold Robison-Anton rayon, color Patricia. When I first bought an embroidery machine, I got several boxes of thread with it from the dealer. I didn’t realize this spool was from the special Marcia Pollard Elegance Collection, as I guess the free box was a sampler of various RA threads. But I liked the color, and have used it for a lot of machine embroidery. The machine’s embroidery software has a matching feature, so that if you don’t have a color your pattern calls for, it will bring up the closest color you have on hand, if you have entered all your inventory into the program’s database. Anyway, I forgot to search in the matching db, but took off for the sewing store thinking I could just grab another spool of “Patricia,” pay, and leave. Wrong. They didn’t have it. So to be on the safe side I got 3 spools of similar gold colors, hoping one of them would be a good match. One of them was ok, but it took some testing to determine that.

To do appliqué embroidery on a quilting cotton-type fabric, I hoop up the fabric and stabilizer(s), in this order: 1) tear-away stabilizer on bottom, 2) table runner top background fabric (the Daisy), 3) fabric of the text appliqués (the green batik), 4) possibly a transparent water-soluble stabilizer on top, but not always necessary. I didn’t break it down into a detailed mathematical placement here, so the lettering is somewhat haphazardly scattered. I did do some general arithmetic to make sure I had enough surface area to put 13 letters down, including 3 upper case ones, that were in a 7-inch font size. As I hooped and appliquéd the letters one or two at a time, I didn’t get the same amount of space in between them, like you would if you were hand-lettering from a Speedball chart. I will need more practice positioning with chalk or a disappearing marker, before trying to eyeball it next time.




Sorry to report that, weirdly enough, after many attempts, I could not get this photo, taken with an iPhone in the portrait position, to rotate into the correct position!  A WordPress phenomenon! I’ve found since, that a workaround is to only use iPhone photos taken in the landscape position. Unless you know how to insert some code that will get the program not to automatically rotate your portrait photos, which I currently don’t.

I added some leaves and acorns cut with the Accuquilt Go! Big machine and Fall Medley template and applied with Steam-a-Seam 2. Then stitched around the shapes with a machine satin-stitch.

I loaded the top, bottom, and batting onto the quilting frame, with the long edges pinned to the leader cloths, in hopes that it would only take two passes to quilt with the Qnique. It did, but the bobbin stitches for about half of the runner were horrifically ugly.


Ugly bobbin stitches with obvious tension problem.

I briefly considered leaving this the way it is, because the top looks fine, and hopefully no one will come over for dinner and snoop underneath the runner, to see what the underside looks like. But dang! If they do, seeing this will ruin their appetite for sure. So I picked out all the ugly stitches while watching the Blacklist last night on TV.

Next, redid the meander stitch quilting using sewing machine with a free-motion spring foot, then squared up the corners and edges. For the binding, nothing I had in a package looked good, so I went into the scrap bin and cut up all the scraps of the green batik into 2-inch wide strips, sewed them together, folded the strips in half long-wise, and sewed the binding out of that.


The applique saying is “Happy Fall Y’all” and with a black cat and a velvet pumpkins on the table, it’s beginning to look like Halloween around here.  Never mind about the digital photo orbs in the background.

Autumn Table Runners

This is the second autumn table runner post, the first one presented a few posts ago, here. That first one was pretty much general quilting, with a pieced top and a whole underneath side, with batting in between, quilted on the Qnique longarm, or “mid arm,” as some people designate it. The raw edges are bound with Wright’s Quilt Binding.

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pieced Autumn table runner

If you had to categorize this next one, the main descriptive word that comes up is “appliqué.” It is quilted, in that small pieces of fabric were put together on the top. But the underside is not pieced, unless you count that I ripped it in half length-wise and serged the two long halves together.  And there is no batting in the center.

appliqué Autumn table runner, with Sheenah

Naturally, the fabrics used in these projects are mostly remnants from the 50%-off bin at JoAnn Fabric Store. I had a couple of larger pieces of fabric, say, almost a yard each, for the top and bottom. The top is a plaid fabric with metallic orange-gold threads woven into the check pattern. The backing is a striped very low-pile flannel in yellow, tan, and tobacco-ey colors that wash together.  You can see the center seam of the runner above, and I decided to make one side a maple motif, and the other side an oak motif. All the leaf, pumpkin, and blackbird appliqués were cut with the Accuquilt Go! Big machine and templates. I backed each appliqué piece with Steam-a-Seam 2 double-sided fusible web, also cut on the Accuquilt cutter, and then ironed them on to the runner top side.

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deciding where the appliqué shapes were going to go, and securing them down

After the appliqués were applied, I wanted to pull them all together with branches and tree motifs. I looked at lots of methods for yarn and textile couching, which is technically just laying down strands of yarn or string and then sewing over them. Looking through my box of sewing machine feet, AKA my Foot Stash, I found that I had a heretofore unused Yarn Couching Feet Set.

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couching kit

The two plastic feet each had a small hole (one was larger) through which the end of the yarn was to be threaded. You hold the end of the yarn in one hand and move it around, if in “free motion” mode, and then sew over it. (You can also use it with an embroidery hoop and software pattern.) The kit also contained two different types of hooks to mount on the back of your machine, to use as thread guides for the yarn, a device for threading thick yarn into small holes, and some sample yarn and a DVD and basic instruction sheet.

I found this process to be pretty interesting, but this yarn was very slubby and every so often I had to cut and re-thread, because the big slubs wouldn’t go through the hole.

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yarn couching on the oak side

Next, after couching, I needed to sew down the appliqués. Originally I wanted to do a big thread-art project, using different colors of thread to add shading to the pumpkins and also do the tree trunks and branches in embroidery thread. But since I used the thicker yarn, I decided to just basically outline the shapes in one color and not do a whole bunch of shading, and leave it as sort of “primitive” colors and shapes.

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finished runner, with free-mo embroidered appliqués

After going over all the appliqués with free-motion embroidery, I spray-starched the backing and ironed both top and back, making sure the back piece lined up with the top. Then I sewed all around the edges of the top  with Wright’s Bias Tape Maxi Piping in black, with the piping facing inward, toward the center of the cloth. I then sewed the backing on, right side facing the appliquéd side of the top, and sewed the edges, leaving the piping sandwiched between, and leaving about a fist’s length of seam unsewn, for turning. After turning inside out, and hand-sewing the opening closed, I pressed the edges, making sure the piping was peeking out and at the very edge of the seams. Then I top-stitched around the edges, about 1/4 inch from the piping edge, using thread that matched the top (and back for the bobbin thread).

Sometimes people will comment on the nice stitching, so I wanted to come clean and say that it isn’t me who’s responsible for that, it’s my Foot Stash. I use a special see-through foot with a little groove in the bottom, for sewing piping, and another special see-through foot with a metal attachment, called an edge-stitching foot, for top-stitching.  And the machine has a triple-stitch function that I use for pretty top-stitching, setting the length on a 5 or so (normally it’s more like a 2.5 for ordinary seams).

jenny skip natural edge table and runner
Skip’s natural-edge table decked out for a Fall party

It was fun to make, and the cats definitely like it.  Sigh.  Cat people will understand.


It’s no puzzle why ghouls like Halloween

by Skip

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ghoulish ghoul puzzle

According to Dictionary.com :

“Come Halloween, miniature ghosts, ghouls, and goblins ring your doorbell. But each of the three freaky frights has a different history and personality.”

“One of the only features these staples of the supernatural share is their ghastliness. Ghosts are considered to be the souls of the dead. They are imagined as disembodied spirits, and are often visualized as vague or evanescent forms; hence, the white sheet routine. The Old English gast means “soul, spirit, life, breath.” A red blood cell having no hemoglobin is also called a ghost. ”

The details behind ghoul are far more malevolent and may have inspired a horror film or two. “

According to Wikipedia,

“A ghoul is a monster or evil spirit associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh.”

“In modern fiction, the term has often been used for a certain kind of undead monster. By extension, the word ghoul is also used in a derogatory sense to refer to a person who delights in the macabre, or whose profession is linked directly to death, such as a gravedigger or grave robber.”

This puzzle started with what I envisioned as a ghost.  However, my skill at drawing in a Word file is extremely limited. So, as you can see from the file I ultimately loaded into the Full Spectrum laser, this could have been anything; ghost, ghoul, goblin or even a skull.

After I cut out the puzzle, I glued on a back to make it a tray puzzle, and after sanding each piece, I put the puzzle together and gave it a white primer coat of paint.  I did have to sand each edge of the puzzle a little to loosen it up. The laser makes such a fine cut that it is very difficult to take it apart and put it back together.

After applying the primer, I turned the puzzle over to my wife to again use her artistic talent to make a pearl out of a pig’s ear, although a pig’s ear probably looks a lot better than my puzzle outline. My wife really got into this which really worries me about what goes on in her mind!!  After all, she use to work for the property tax collector’s office, so she is familiar with ghouls…which I think inspired her to paint such a ghastly figure!  Compare this to the sweet Jack o’lantern she painted last year for my Laser Jack puzzle.

Hope you enjoy the outcome!  Subscribe to our YouTube channel and our blog for more projects.


The Covers

While waiting to be caught up in the next project, I’ve been turning out a few interim FO’s (finished objects) that loosely fit into the category of “covers.”

The main thing they have in common is that they’ve used up larger pieces of fabric that have been lounging in the fabric stash.

These are mostly cotton lightweight lap quilts we sent to the non-profit organization that is closest to our hearts, plenitudpr.org .





The tops of the quilts are cotton flannel remnants pieced together, and the backs are cotton remnants in sizes of about 2 yards. The solid yellow one above possibly has some polyester in it. But the idea was to have a smooth, bedsheet-like side and a warm, flannel side. The edges of the backs extend over the tops, and are folded over and sewn down with a machine featherstitchto make borders.

img_2460This one is a lap quilt made from the selvedges of fleece fabrics. A few  years back, I was making fleece blankets a lot, and trimming them with packaged Wright’s fleece binding. First, Wright’s discontinued the royal blue fleece binding that went perfectly with Florida Gator trademark pattern fabric. Now, you’ll be lucky if you can find fleece binding on eBay in any color other than black or white. Normal people, I guess, would trash the selvedges, but I threw them in a box, and this is the end result. This little quilt of sewn-together selvedges can also be turned around and used for light non-fiction reading if we get tired of watching TV in the La-Z-boy. Fun for the whole family.

Next, if you’ve seen my Pinterest page, you might find that I’ve gone nuts pinning tablerunners. These little projects are wonderful for expressing creativity, but not getting bogged down in a big, long, quagmire of obligation like you would get making a full-sized tablecloth or a queen-sized quilt. It’s just a little slice of a quilt, the slice with all the good stuff in it!


As soon as we put a covering of any size on a flat surface, a cat’s bohunkus is right on top of it.

This tablerunner was an experiment, using remnants. The top is 5-inch squares pieced together, and the back is one whole piece, about a yard of 44 or 45-inch wide cloth, cut in half lengthwise and pieced together on the short sides. I longarm quilted it, loading the short sides on the frame and rolling out the length. I used the meander stitch, and although I thought I had the tension right from the previous project, it came out with some of those spidery-looking ugly  stitches on the back. When Lorraine came over and did a little project, we decided that one problem with the tension was the cheap-o thread I had loaded up. Without even thinking, I got a cone of thread that I normally use in the serger and threaded it up, bobbin too. Next time, we will try thread designated for machine quilting.




It was a Mushroomy Monday

Now it’s almost dark at the beginning of the morning walk. For a few days it was cooler. Now it’s hothouse-hot again, and the humidity is above 90% every morning. Sigh.

Mushrooms are flourishing in our neighborhood.

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white dish mushroom

Almost every yard I pass by has a few.

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UFO-looking mushroom

Ooooh…fungus! Even though I like the kind of mushrooms you can buy in the store, I wouldn’t have a clue about how to forage fungi that you can eat without keeling over, poisoned to death (see Death Cap article–says people who ate it found it to be especially delicious!)

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cute as a button

This one looks like some that grew in a ring-shaped formation at my mom’s house. Whenever she saw mushrooms growing in the yard, she would make haste to go kick them down. I didn’t see any fairy rings in the neighborhood as I walked. Apparently only certain varieties grow in the ring formation (see Wikipedia Fairy Ring article.) 

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yellow mushroom
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lacy mushrooms
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puffy blimp of a mushroom
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thick yellow crusty mushroom

One of my memorable scared-half-to-death moments was watching the 1960’s Japanese-dubbed-into-English horror flick “Attack of the Mushroom People.” After a walk in the 97% humidity, scratching No-see-um bites and scuffling through lichen-encrusted twigs that fell onto the lawn, it’s easier to imagine the fate of those poor shipwrecked folks in the movie!

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looks like a human ear mushroom
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mushroom bud

I wanted to go to a gazetteer online and possibly identify these varieties, but after looking, I found so many! Even some of the more seasoned researchers put disclaimers on their sites, because they might misidentify some varieties. So I won’t even attempt to post the correct names of these guys here. I never realized there are hundreds of types of mushrooms. They are beautiful, but also a little creepy, too. Maybe in the future we’ll discover amazing medicinal properties in some of these little gems.


Display Cabinet Build #7

The display cabinet is finally (almost) finished! It’s been a long project, slowed down even further because of personal injuries, a hurricane, and multiple design changes during the construction, but we’re so happy with it.

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We ordered the glass for the shelves and mirror, and originally planned to pick it up ourselves with the help of our friend Ray and his truck. Then Skip wrenched his ankle, and we decided carrying glass around might not be a good idea, so we rescheduled the delivery and asked for the Glass Company professionals to install it.

Then—wouldn’t you know it—Hurricane Hermine blew in, and the delivery was postponed again.

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Once the mirror was epoxied in, we were able to mount the shelves on the brass rods.

display glass

We ordered the mirror backing to be 1/8 inch thick, and the glass shelves with a 1/2-inch bevel on the front edges.


We’re going to place felt dots on the undersides of the shelves at the points where they sit on the brass rods. And then Skip will add some molding to the outer perimeter of the mirror.

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displaying quilts

Shown above are some tentative display items. We’re enthused that we can vary the items we decide to display. According to proper fengshui, you shouldn’t place a mirror directly opposite a door, but I’m hoping that the friendly, creative, familial Qi of the objects we’ve chosen to feature  on the shelves will be retained in the home. Currently, nothing is on the lower shelf, because the kittens have been jumping up there and lounging on the shelf with great delight. They are able to reach their little paws up into the next shelf, so we must favor kitten-proof display items there.

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close up of display items

The lower shelf has two quilts my grandmother made, and an antique glass service plaque (see more about the origin of service banners and plaques here). BTW, we saw an awesome video recently  about making a wooden service banner, from Opa’s Workshop (click to watch!). As for the two quilts, the one on the bottom is chronicled here in a prior post. The top one is a Dresden Plate quilt that was probably originally made in the 1950’s or 60’s. I can see places where my mom tried to mend it with fabric that I recognize from my own stash, part of which I inherited from her stash!

The middle shelf has an antique quilt that my great grandmother made (see a prior post on this quilt here) to the left, and a woven pine needle mat that was made by my grandmother, circa 1960.

The upper shelf has several quilt mats hand-sewn by my mother during the last few years of her life, when much of her precise quilting skills and abilities were stolen by Alzheimer’s disease. But it is heart-warming to me, that she enjoyed piecing beautiful fabrics together into practical projects, even up to the end.

Here’s the You-tube composite of the whole process.




Early Morning Walking Before and After Hermine Made Landfall

Didn’t want to let a hurricane keep me from my morning walk, did I?

Yesterday morning as I walked in the neighborhood (Central Florida) it was sort of misty and drizzling–“mizzling” as they call it.

mizzle pre-Hermine
walking in the pre-Hermine mizzle September 1

We did all the usual hurricane preparedness things: (1) stocking up at the grocery store (other shoppers  were buying gallon plastic jugs of water and batteries, my cart was full of BOGO Klondike bars… #thugmormon) (2) making sure we had plenty of pop-top cans of Fancy Feast, the cats’ preferred food, and Super Clump litter, (3) located the car cell phone charger…

pre-Hermine morning sun

Usually it’s a false alarm in our area, as we are sufficiently inland. But the power went off at two-something AM, and it’s still off at almost noon Friday. Rain bands are still swirling across the state. Right now it’s sunny; two minutes ago rain was pelting our roof like a barrage of bullets.

Hermine fallout
tree debris this morning, September 2

We drove around town charging our cell phones and checking to see which McDonalds’ were open, and saw lots of tree fallout and a fallen tree blocking a side road.

The mirror and glass shelving were supposed to be delivered today to finish the display cabinet, so we don’t know if the glass company will chance it.

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display cabinet waiting for its final accoutrements

Hoping everyone is safe and weathering the storm as it makes its way north and east.


Is it Time to Start Knitting Yet?

It’s been a long time since I posted anything about knitting…

Temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s, egregious humidity, dog days of summer…are a few reasons why knitting isn’t on my mind lately.

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been knitting!

I’ve tried a few projects, but they just didn’t work out for me. So I decided I’d work on a hat, at my leisure. I have a feeling it’s going to fit a very big-headed person, since I didn’t consult any pattern but cast just a whole bunch of stitches on to a circular needle. Tired of starting patterns, goofing up, and not knowing where or how I went wrong. There’s pretty much no good TV on at night, so we’ve been binge-watching Netflix shows.

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Sheenah and big-head hat

I came across a Netflix show that offers the best of both worlds for me: Slow TV National Knitting Night. It’s national for Norway, that is.  Wonder how that would pan out with an American TV producer:  hours and hours of knitting on TV?  Apparently, when the knitting episode originally aired in 2013, it was a very popular program in Norway. See more here from the Craftsy blog.

I started watching it, and every time I got ready to get up and do something else, a new, interesting scene came up. [I haven’t finished it yet. For some reason, Skip didn’t find it as compelling as I did! Maybe the same reason I don’t thrill to watching hours of woodworking shows and listening to the soundtrack of a saw blade.] The TV stars of knitting  got a project going (knitting a sweater for a tricked-out Harley), a contest going (beating the record for making a sweater from scratch; that is, from the sheep’s hide to the finished article), and all sorts of sidebar activities featuring historic knitting patterns, viewing the gorgeous seascapes the country offers, meeting enthusiastic knitters, touring a knitting museum. All with beautiful music and English subtitles. It’s a great show!

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Pony boy lounging on the quilt I’m trying to sew a border onto



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More inspiration for the onset of knitting season

What’s on your needles lately?




Family History in a Quilt, c. 1980’s

When we had lots of family members descend for the Beach Weekend, we were dragging out bed linens from the closet to accommodate folks sleeping on the beds, couches and floors. I found this quilt my grandmother had made. Part of the crazy-quilt patches had come unsewn, so after everyone left, I took it to the sewing machine to mend and repair it as best I could.

I’d forgotten that my grandmother wrote on the back of it. She had a whole set of these little tubes of “embroidery paint”  similar to this modern-day product (click the link to see).  For a time period, she was very prolific with the embroidery paint, making pillow cases, sheets, all sorts of things. She had been in the habit of stamping a design or motif onto a piece of fabric, then embroidering (or drawing with the tube paint) over the stamped designs.

This is what she put on the back of this quilt:

Gran jenny skip.com
For John, made by Gran in 1985

Here, on the backing (which looks like it probably was an old sheet, so thin here it is almost transparent) you can see the underside of some heirloom quilt stitching, all hand-sewn. In the next photo, you can see the top side of the feather-stitching, probably done in a few strands of contrasting-color embroidery floss.

The quilt top itself is remarkable too.

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double-knit patch quilt

It’s made of patches of double-knit fabric, which was an innovative fabric type for those of my grandmother’s era (she was born in 1906). See this article at Seamwork about the differences between the double knit fabrics available then vs. now.  John said, “I remember it [the quilt] was really scratchy, the sort of polyester material that leisure suits were made from.”  Hence, the soft cotton sheeting on the back of the quilt, which side would go next to the tender skin of a little 4 or 5 year-old great-grandchild.

I’d like to say that I matched the embroidery thread and repaired the blanket in the style and manner of the original–but for me to do that would involve quite a learning curve. I picked a decorative stitch on the sewing machine and put the pedal to the metal. For any curious posterity, it will show obvious mending by machine.

Meanwhile, how enlightening to have this information!

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts