Jenbenbry's Blog

Quilting in the Windy City

Christmas 2010 January 14, 2011

Filed under: Finished Quilts — jenbenbry @ 10:03 pm

It’s been so long since I posted.  I started working  on Christmas presents early this year (I had a lot I wanted to make!)  and then didn’t want to post them in case the recipients were checking the blog!  So, here’s what I’ve been working on over the past few months.


The first quilt was made for my Aunt Patti & Uncle Jerry.  Patti sent me a picture of a quilt she liked in an artist’s open studio that was made using batiks with circles.  So, I whipped up this wall hanging with some batiks I had.  I decided to to add the circles using raw edge applique because I haven’t quite managed circles yet.  I’d really like to learn how to piece circles sometime this year, but for now raw edge applique works for wall hangings.

I have to give a shout out to Weeks & Bill Ringle of Funquilts for their amazing binding method.  I definitely still have room for improvement, but I’m really happy with this method of binding.


The next project was a set of rag letters for my great nephew, my niece, and a daughter of a dear friend from high school.  I’ve read research about the benefits of tactile manipulation of letters in improving the understanding of kiddos learning their letters and thought these would be perfect for the little ones in my life.  They’re pretty time consuming to make but are great ways to use up small pieces of fabric and batting.  I also got to practice my free motion quilting and tried doing different patterns for each letter.  Here’s a link to the blog, Ohsohappytogether where I found the tutorial: Rag Letters Tutorial.  I made little drawstring bags to hold the letters using an alphabet fabric which I think complements the rag letters perfectly 🙂


The next project was for my Mom and Grandma, rice heat therapy bags.  These bags are great for aches and pains, they contain rice which  holds heat for about a half an hour after 2-3 minutes in the microwave.  I love to heat one up and put it under the sheets a few minutes before I go to bed in the winter, it heats those cold sheets up right away!  It’s very easy to make, but while the tutorial recommends putting essential oils in with the rice I found that to be too overpowering and  instead I cut up dried cinnamon sticks and put a few tablespoons of those in with the rice.  The tutorial is available from Sew, Mama Sew!


I made the next quilt for my Dad for Christmas.  I used all blue fabrics for the star pattern.  The back is a much more modern look with solid blocks of color.  I have to say that the back is a bit more up my alley, but I think Dad will prefer the front.   A friend from my quilt guild, Beth, helped me pick out the binding color which picks up a green some of the fabrics in the stars and gives the quilt a crisp, but slightly surprising edging.



Quilts for Kids – Completed! May 5, 2010

Filed under: Finished Quilts — jenbenbry @ 11:39 pm

I just sent off the two Quilts for Kids that I finished, I thought I’d post some “after” pictures to share.  This was such a fun project, but I’m happy to send them on to their new homes, I hope they find someone who needs a little comfort.  The first quilt is entitled “Underwater Parade” and the second is “The Bug Parade”.  I think they turned out pretty well, I really like the striped border and “The Bug Parade”.  To get your own quilt kit, complete with fabric and label, go to


Chicago Modern Quilt Guild April Meeting April 19, 2010

Yesterday was my first meeting of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, a group of quilters who just began meeting a few months ago.  It was such a blast!  Lots of the members brought ongoing or finished projects to share, and I really enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful quilts (and the poetry spool!).  We had a workshop led by Angela on ticker tape quilting.  Everyone brought a scrap bag to share and a placemat sized piece of material.  We dumped all the scraps out and started digging through for treasures!  It was so much fun getting to see all the fabrics people have used and combing bits and pieces in to a tickertape quilt.  I had trouble leaving the scrap table to actually assemble the quilt, and was one of the last stragglers of the meeting.  I’m so looking forward to next month’s meeting!


Kaffe Fassett Squares March 18, 2010

Filed under: Finished Quilts — jenbenbry @ 10:22 pm
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My next quilt project is for me!  Yay!  I received a book of Kaffe Fassett quilt designs for Christmas (Passionate Patchwork) and decided to make a small version of one of his quilts.  I love the way the squares form from the striped fabrics.  I scoured most of the Chicago quilt shops looking for striped fabrics in bright colors. I tried to vary it up in terms of size and colors.   I’m still having some trouble getting everything even, as you can see along the bottom edge of the quilt.  Any suggestions for getting things a bit more even?

Appropriately, I used Kaffe Fassett fabrics for the backing and binding. I like the contrast of the circles on the back and the squares on the front.


Wonky Blocks March 17, 2010

Filed under: Finished Quilts,Quilting Tips for Beginners — jenbenbry @ 11:50 pm
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Wow! I’ve discovered the coolest thing, wonky blocks! When you don’t feel like planning an entire quilt out and measuring everything to the millimeter, try a wonky quilt block. To make a wonky quilt block, follow the instructions on the great tutorial from Tallgrass Prairie Studios. I really enjoyed making a quilt this way, it allows a little more creativity and spontaneity in quilt making. I made this quilt for my mom’s birthday present. I’m really happy with how it turned out and it’s going to be a little hard to let it go out the door!

I used an abstract grey and back floral print on the back and a grey spotted binding

Ok, this is going to sound super basic, but I finally figured out how to machine quilt. On all of my previous quilts I’ve used simple stitch in the ditch quilting with my basic sewing foot. I read online that you can get different feet, a walking foot and an embroidery foot to help with different types of quilting. I haven’t had a chance to use the walking foot yet, it’s for straight stitching. On this quilt I tried out the embroidery foot for the first time, and WOW! It’s amazing! Two important tricks, I wasn’t sure how to attach the foot as it didn’t seem to fit in the lever mechanism, finally I figured out that there’s a screw on the left side of the sewing machine that holds the foot in place. One other important note, it’s a lot easier to use the embroidery foot when your feed dogs are not engaged (the metal with grooves under the needle that move the fabric forward). Some machines have a mechanism to raise and lower these, but mine came with a plastic piece that you snap over them. If you’re a beginning quilter, I’d highly recommend getting an embroidery foot, or borrow a friend’s and try it out.

An embroidery foot in action

Here’s Mom with the quilt, I think she likes it!


Flannel Baby Quilts March 15, 2010

Filed under: Finished Quilts,Quilting Tips for Beginners — jenbenbry @ 12:52 pm
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I created two baby quilts for newborns coming in to the family, both born in January 2010 (Olivia and Asher). I chose bright patterns with predominant hues in pink, blue, green, yellow, and violet with trim and a backing in a pretty striped flannel. I used a very simple square pattern, with the colors running diagonally across the quilt. During this quilting project I learned about the importance of correctly lining up the bias tape.

When you attach the bias binding, you sew once on the top of the quilt and once on the underside of the quilt. It took me a little time and playing around with fabric before I understood how it works, but basically you fold a 3-4 inch strip of fabric in half (with undersides together) and iron it along the long axis. Then you lay the fabric across the edge of the quilt, overlapping with the quilt front, with lined up edges. The edge of the bias tape along the edge of the quilt should be the open edge. Now, you sew a seam all the way down this edge. Next, you fold the bias fabric around to the back and sew another seam (theoretically in the same place as the first). And that’s the rub, if you sew the second seam too far in it shows up on your quilt top, but if you don’t sew it far enough in, the original seam shows on the back of the quilt. I’m working on finding that balance where neither seam shows, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Here’s a picture of Olivia snuggling on top of her new blanket 🙂


Miniature Quilts – Star themed March 12, 2010

Filed under: Finished Quilts — jenbenbry @ 11:32 pm
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A close up of the center of the quilt, the whole thing measures only 24

Now that the baby quilts are finished and gifted to the respective babies, and the class quilt is finally done, I’m on to a new project. My mother in law, JoAnn, has a beautiful mini quilt hanging outside of her quilting room, and it inspired me to try one of my own. For my dad’s birthday I created a miniature star quilt using contrasting blues and yellows. I used Mary Graham’s pattern available here.

During this project, rather too late to use it, I discovered paper piecing. Paper piecing looks like a great way to deal with intricate patterns and small pieces. I’m not sure how it is in practice, but I’ll definitely be trying this method for my next mini quilt.

I used a balloon print for the back, my dad likes balloons!

Here's Daddy with his quilt!