Friday, November 6, 2009

Welcome to Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Blog Tour Visitors

Thank you for visiting our blog today to celebrate the release of the new edition of Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks from Today’s Top Designers. Several months ago we were inspired to create new blocks to submit for inclusion in this publication. To our delight, both of our designs were accepted. The design source for the blocks came from Japanese circular crest designs. For several years we have enjoyed working with both Asian themes as well as Asian fabrics, although we feel that these designs would work up nicely in a variety of fabrics and color schemes. We simplified the designs so they can easily be appliquéd, either by hand or machine. [At top right, Diana's design; at bottom right, Laura's design]

Our goal is to make several more blocks in this same style to make a larger quilt. We used a blue/green plaid fabric, which was cut on the bias for the outer circle of Laura’s block. (To watch a video demonstration on cutting bias strips, go to our website at and click on Instructional Videos.) To provide unity to the blocks, we intend to use this fabric in each of the blocks.

Our color palette was a soft blue/purple for the berries and flowers with several shades of green leaves to represent all the colors in the garden. The inspiration for the color scheme came from a gift bag, which we purchased because we liked the soft colors and designs on it. We started pulling fabrics from our stash and then went to our local quilt shop to fill in the needed colors and textures to complete the designs.

Be sure to post a comment for your chance to receive a free copy of the magazine!

Thank you for stopping by today. Be sure to follow the Blog Tour until Nov. 13th. Simply go to to receive more inspiration, ideas and giveaways galore. Look for 100 Blocks from Today's Top Designers in your local quilt shop, or purchase it at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hear Our Stories

What a busy and exciting week. Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, we receive word from our friend and fellow quilter, Annie Smith of Annie’s Quilting Stash that the interview she did with us a few months ago is now available on her website at Look for Program #170. Annie is celebrating her 4th year of producing podcasts. She says she loves to talk and interview quilters (Alex Anderson, Ricky Timms included) and shares their stories on her blog. The best part is that it is all free and you can even become a subscriber. If you haven’t yet tried listening to podcasts you should try it. You just might become addicted – you can listen to them while sewing. They are both fun and informative. Thanks so much Annie. We love you and all you do for the quilt world. Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We're So Excited

The August issue of American Patchwork and Quilting just arrived and as you might guess, we are the featured artists. We didn’t expect it to be out for at least another month but when we received a call from a woman in Iowa last week asking about our “Neiman Marcus” pattern, we knew that copies had hit the stands. Be sure to get your copy to see photos of Diana’s beautiful studio where we meet to work each week. Also included is our new “Asian Teacups” pattern. It is complete with yardage, cutting and construction for the quilt. To our surprise, there is a smaller variation made from fabrics designed by our friend Lizzy House for Andover Fabrics. Be sure to read about this talented young designer on her blog at

Monday, May 25, 2009

Do you enjoy a mystery?

Try one of our new mystery patterns including Mystery at the Altar, Mystery on Daffodil Hill and Mystery of the Wild Seed. Each pattern includes a deck of clues printed on individual cards. Each card contains instructions and colored diagrams to help you unravel the clues to making your new quilt. You can purchase either a single pattern or a pack of six – just perfect for your Mystery Party Night.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Instructional Videos are Up and Running

It has been our goal for several years to have instructional videos on our website to support our patterns. We are happy to say that we have finally got the first few up and running. They are pretty basic but clearly cover the techniques we wanted to demonstrate. There is one on binding as well as techniques used in making our four new patterns. Eventually we hope to have many more that will cover many of the basic techniques so important to successful quiltmaking.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Report from Spring Market in Pittsburgh, PA

It’s always a race to the finish line getting ready for quilt market. There’s the last minute proofing of patterns, printing, shipping and packing (and hoping that everything fits). Travel is the next challenge with all the large, heavy suitcases. You always hope that they all come in under 50 lbs and that they all arrive safely on time. This is especially worrisome when there are multiple stops along the way. We were fortunate not to run into any glitches along the way and arrived in Pittsburgh in one piece with all seven pieces of luggage – ugh.

The Westin Hotel was perfect as it is connected by a skywalk to the Convention Center. What a beautiful venue… lots of room and great lighting. It overlooks one of the three rivers in Pittsburgh. The benches on the balcony makes for a peaceful place to rest if you need just a few minutes away from the booth to refresh. There was a very curious stream of words running along the side of the roof. We tried to make sense of it but never had much luck. Do anyone out there have a clue as to what it is… are they just random words that someone “up there” is typing in, or perhaps a story or poem? Would love to know. We asked several locals and they had no idea… interesting.

After a long day of travel, then on to set-up the booth. This can take up to 2 full days depending on the amount of decorating that goes into it. It is impressive to see forklifts with containers of not only products but also props for the booths. Fortunately we finished early and had time to take one of the 3-hour bus tours of the city. What a bonus! We had no idea what a gem of a city this is. We always associated it with steel and coal mines but did you know that the city has over 900 bridges and many, many hospitals and universities? One of the stops along the tour was at the University of Pittsburgh to see both the Cathedral of Learning and the Heinz Chapel (a gift from Henry John Heinz, founder of Heinz Food Company & his children). The spectacular Gothic style Cathedral is a historic landmark and the 2nd tallest education building in the world. In addition to the libraries and learning centers, it has 26 classrooms each representing a different cultural heritage. They each embody the beauty and heritage of a particular country. This is definitely a must see if you are in the area (

Market was smaller this year and although attendance was probably down, it still held the excitement and enthusiasm we enjoy getting from this show. The locals were warm and friendly and the food excellent. In fact we ate at the same restaurant 4 out of the 5 nights we were there… the Sonoma Grille, it was great. Thank you Pittsburgh. We can’t wait to come back.

Be sure to check out our new patterns and take a few minutes to watch the video demonstrations we have added to the site.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Win These Quilts and Support the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

In an effort to support our local quilt museum ( we have donated two of our quilts.

Tickets are a $10 donation each. They are our own original patterns that are machine pieced, hand appliquéd; the larger one is a traditional floral design and the smaller version has an Asian flare. The drawing will be held on Thursday October 1, 2009 at the opening reception for the quilt exhibit honoring Joyce Gross to support the American Quilt Study Group. All proceeds from the sale of tickets for the opportunity quilts go directly to the Museum. We hope you will be interested in supporting this wonderful space. You can contact us directly if you are interested in purchasing tickets (

Thank you for your considering the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles among your list of donations. Here’s a comment from the Museum’s web site:

If you believe as we do — that art nurtures a sense of community, and that celebrating women’s astonishing contributions to the history of art and culture is important — we ask you to please show what this Museum means to you with a gift to our Annual Fund. Make a gift and help us create those moments in life that a person never forgets — moments when you suddenly feel intensely alive to your own and others’ capacity to make beauty and to find meaning out of the chaos of human experience.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Do you like a Mystery?

We are always looking for new and exciting ideas for classes. Mystery quilt classes have been around for several years and we have taught a few of them. This past weekend Laura decided to try another design. Laura made the students a mystery lunch – a big pot of tortellini soup, salad and Ghirardelli brownies (yum!). It was such a fun day and a huge success. The students were kept guessing right up until the very end of the day when all of the pieces were pinned onto the wall. Each and every one of the quilts turned out fabulous. We will definitely be making this into a pattern. We will post photos of the students work when they are completed. Until it’s ready to go, here’s a sneak peek at some of the pieces.

Can you tell whet the overall design will be? Let us know and we will send a free pattern to the first one who solves the mystery.

If you have never tried a mystery quilt class or pattern we encourage you to do it. It’s an exciting way to spend the day sewing with friends or other students. Consider having a mystery quilt party. Let us know how it goes. We enjoy hearing your stories.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bouquets for You

Empty Spools Seminars sent out cards last week with the image of our quilt pattern “Bouquets for You”.

This is our original design and an example of what Laura will be teaching at the 5th session (August 30-Sept. 4, 2009). This five-day class offers you an opportunity to learn to draft your own original design, determine the best methods for cutting and constructing them and selecting fabric. Those interested in taking it one step further, can also learn how to write instructions for producing your own patterns. If you are a shop owner or teacher you can use this time to develop new classes. With Laura’s expertise you can make the sample quilts and write the instructions. You will be ready to return to your shop not only with an abundance of new ideas for classes, but samples ready to display. We ran the Teacher’s Development Seminars for C & T Publishing for over 7 years and have taught classes for over 25. We know what is important for designing successful classes.

Consider joining us at the Empty Spools Seminars located at Asilomar.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Interesting that RED is both our favorite colors; red walls, sofas, jackets, doors and as you might imagine, an abundance of luscious red fabrics just waiting to be used. We never need an excuse to adorn ourselves with red or use it in one of our quilts. The heart shape has always been special to Diana. As a child she enjoyed paper-cutting and the heart shape was one of her favorites. There is a small basket in Diana’s studio that collects the mail until Laura stops by to collect it. You can see that the paper weight is heart shaped.

Little did Laura know that tucked into the stack of mail was a special Valentine for her. What a delightful surprise to open the envelope and find this special and personal handmade Valentine.

It is just perfect. That sweet little dark-haired girl in the center of the crazy quilted block just touched my heart. Just look at those adorable ladybug buttons hanging from the ribbons. Diana knows how crazy I am about ladybugs. The backside has a place for writing your own personal love note. This is a quick and easy gift for your special valentine.

Laura loves baking almost as much as quilting. This week the heart-shaped cutters will get a lot of use. These delicate sugar cookies with pink tinted buttercream frosting will be shared with the students. Here’s our favorite sugar cookie recipe. I like to bake them so they are just a little underdone and then let them finish while cooling. This makes them just a little soft to the touch and melt in your mouth. I usually double the recipe as these go quickly!

Our Favorite Sugar Cookies

Taken from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
granulated sugar (optional)

Mix thoroughly butter, confectioners’ sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extract. Blend in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough in half. Roll to 3/16” thick onto a lightly floured board. Use your cookie cutters to cut into desired shapes, sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until light brown.


From our heart to yours… HAVE A WONDERFUL VALENTINE’S DAY.
Diana and Laura

Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Cotton Patch!

This year is the 30th year celebration of our local quilt shop, The Cotton Patch in Lafayette, CA. Carolie Hensley, the owner is passionate about her business. As a thank you to all of her customers,has invited a guest artist each month to give a trunk show of their quilts.

We were honored to be to be part of this exciting celebration. The first week in January we arrived with suitcases filled with approximately 60 quilts, including our first ones as well as our wedding quilts. Laura also brought her wedding dress, which was made entirely by hand using French hand sewing techniques. After a year of hand sewing and the help of Diana, Laura finished the dress just days before the big event.

In addition to the 70+ customers that came to celebrate the success of The Cotton Patch, Laura’s 80-year-old mother came to see the quilts and hear the stories. We were so grateful to be part of this happy occasion and be surrounded and inspired by the fabulous fabric selection at this special shop.

Happy Birthday Cotton Patch! We love you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Readers' Choice Awards

We just received our Feb/March issue of Quilter’s Newsletter magazine and reading the article on the first-ever Quilter’s Newsletter Readers’ Choice Awards. We were thrilled to see so many of our well-deserving friends included in the line-up for most influential people in the quilting industry and favorite teachers.

Then to our surprise and delight… we found our names among the list! Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!, our first book, published in 1988, was named the most helpful book for beginning quilters.

But wait, there’s more!

Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar was given the award for the Favorite quilting retreat. We are so very honored. Thank you readers and all of you who have supported our books and seminars for more than 20 years. We appreciate you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

There was such electricity in the air at the Northern California Quilt Council meeting. It was a special “Meet the Teachers” event with 30 talented quilt teachers promoting their lectures and workshops. Quilt shops and guilds had an opportunity to see the samples and hear what each one has to offer.

It was an outstanding show of very exciting quilts. There was even a workshop for making some adorable quilt shoes. Laura was one of the presenters and wore her apron with a home-baked sugar cookie and heart napkin tucked into the pocket. In fact, each of the 100 packets of brochures included one of the cookies. If you would like a copy of the brochure with a description of the lectures and workshops, visit our web site.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inspiration is where you find it!

We are frequently asked where we find our inspiration for designing new patterns. While I (Laura) was teaching at Tennessee Quilters last summer I was greeted by an enlarged version of the house pattern featured in our book Q is for Quilt. I had a wonderful time teaching at their annual Quilt Fest , a must go if ever you are in the Jonesborough area. Better yet, plan a trip. It is well worth it!

This shop has everything. Check out their extensive inventory at . I was so touched and inspired by the quilt that I shared the idea with Diana.

We expanded on the idea and came up with "Our House" quilt pattern. It was a showstopper and looked so cute in our booth at Market. One local shop liked the pattern but didn't have the Michael Miller flower print on the ground so decided to make their own collage of flowers. What a great idea. We love all the creativity that the patterns inspire. As soon as the quilt returns from the quilter I will post an image so you can all enjoy this adorable new design.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We love working with Asian fabrics...

We shared a delicious lunch together at a lovely Japanese restaurant. We were inspired by the simplicity of the lines and designs and presentation of the box lunches. When a box of fabric arrived from Kona Bay fabrics we knew immediately that we wanted to capture the memory of that lunch.

Our Asian Teacup quilt will be featured in August in an article in American Patchwork and Quilting magazine. We’ll keep you updated as you won’t want to miss seeing this new design. Complete yardage and instructions will be included as well as some beautiful photos of our sewing studio.

In the meantime, check out our best-selling patterns that showcase some beautiful Asian fabrics including: Bamboo/Pinwheels, Sensu (upper right), Through the Window and Shoji Screen (lower right).

Sign up now for Empty Spools August 2009

We want you to get this information early so you can sign up for Laura’s exciting class at Asilomar Aug. 30 to Sept. 4, 2009.

Imagine the bliss of spending five days of quiltmaking with me! Visit the Empty Spools web site at and click on Session V. You will find all the information about the class, as well as a registration form.

There is an article on the Feb/March 2009 issue of The Quilter magazine (pg. 62-64) featuring incredible images by our photographer, Gregory Case. These photos highlight what a beautiful setting Asilomar is, located on the Monterey Peninsula of California. Don’t miss this opportunity to spend time both enjoying the ocean and creating quilts. I would love the opportunity to work with you for five full days!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shop online at our website!

We are so excited to announce that you can now shop online at our website,

We have installed a secure shopping cart, and all of our books, DVD and patterns are available for purchase.

We hope you'll start the new year by taking a minute to browse through the patterns and find something that gets you excited about sewing! We have such a variety of patterns that will make great wall hangings, table runners, aprons, and more -- something for every quilter.

If you order any of our books through our website, we'll even autograph them! Just let us know in the "comments" section of the order form, and we'll take care of it.

Santa's Elves caught in the act: Tea for Two Aprons make great gifts

The most appreciated and talked about gift this past Christmas was the Two For Tea apron, pattern #143. We were recently hunting through a box of old aprons and found one made by Diana’s mother in the 40s. Tucked in the bottom of the pocket was her original paper pattern. What a treasure! We knew we had to make more, and that’s exactly what we did.

We spent an entire day with two of our friends sewing these adorable aprons to give to our loved ones. While we were sewing, we had a surprise visit from Alex Anderson who stopped by to see what we were doing. Alex's website at has lots of great information, and her daily blog is full of fun and useful tidbits. Check out this videocast from her December 17 visit, for a sneak peak at our workshop, and the Apron Assembly Session. These are quick and easy gifts and perfect for any holiday. I’m sure we’ll be making more for Valentine’s Day.

Let us know if too make one. We always enjoy seeing what you do with our designs, and post photos of finished items on our website.