Jewel of a Pillow


Whenever I start with new templates, I almost always work the design out on paper first. The Jewel Series was an exception as I couldn’t wait to see the results. I ended up making a few mistakes which turned into a great design. I call those “Personal Design Variations” The following is a tutorial of how this pillow came to life.

Supplies, etc

Templates: The Jewel Collection; Pearls, Diamonds, and Hearts. All 1” and of course a Westalee Design Ruler Foot
A foot that can do a zig-zag stitch
6 Point Crosshair Square
Sew Steady Table and Circle Sewing Tool (I used my Wish Table)
1 yd of fabric (can get by with ¾: see cutting diagram)
16” square batting
Thread for quilting
Thread for construction
Needle, scissors, and pins.
Something to stuff the pillow with, like FiberFil.


Stable Tape: I use this exclusively to keep my templates from slipping.
Grid Glider: Makes everything sew much easier.
Westalee Design Adjusting Locking Ruler: If you haven’t seen this system, you really need to check it out.

Waxed Dental Floss: I use this for gathering. The person who came up with this idea is a genius!
Two 14” squares of muslin for the pillow form.

Let’s Cut some fabric


I get perfect straight cuts every single time using my Westalee Adjustable Rulers.


Make the Ruffle:

The Grid Glider made making the ruffle a breeze. I used the entire WOF of the 5 ½” strips and trimmed off the selvage. Attach the 2 lengths of 5.5” strips on the short ends. Use the ¼” marking on your glider to keep it all straight. Press this seam open. Press the strip length wise, wrong sides together. Now seam the 2 raw short ends making a large loop. Press that open as well.



Gather the raw edge. My favorite way is with dental floss. Simply sew a zig sag stitch over the dental floss. I did overlap as I find it is easier to get an even gather on a continuous loop. If you’ve never tried this, I strongly recommend it. Be sure to use the waxed kind and when you’re done, you can pull it out and use for another project. I kept the edge of the fabric on that ¼” line. Thank you, Grid Glider. Hold the floss with your thumb so you don’t sew into the floss; I really like to avoid that.


Before going to the next step, I hemmed one 16” edge of each of the 10.5” x 16” piece. They should now be around 10” By 16”.

Let’s get the design done!

24 Reference lines with 6pt Crosshair
If you are not familiar with how to use a Crosshair Square,  click here to see a video tutorial. 

Stitching the Design

Showing how I made the design was easier than trying to write up the instructions, but I have listed the steps as well. I ran out of the fabric that I used for the pillow; lucky me I now have 2.

Round 1
Diamonds 4.5”
Every other line
Ring on the outside
Round 2
Pearls 7.5”
Same lines as above, every other line
Alternate ring to go from outside to inside.
Round 3
Diamonds 8.5”
Every line
Ring on the outside; make complete Diamonds where you can and half where you meet the Pearls from the previous round.
Round 4
Hearts 11.5”
Every line: Ring can only be on the outside.

Do not remove the pin or the reference lines from the design!

Putting it all together and Play with The Circle Sewing Tool

Time to put the Grid Glider away. Be sure to put the plastic sheet back on and then pop it in the tube for safe keeping. Another great feature.

If you need to, mark the center of your design, where the tack/pin is before removing it. Remove the tack and insert the Circle Sewing Tool pin in the same place. Put the blue silicone cover back on so you don’t get scratched.
Take your sandwich and find a hole for the tool that will stitch beyond the design. I marked this location with a piece of tape. Insert the Circle Sewing tool two holes to the left of that location. Be sure to go back to a straight stitch. Stitch your first circle. This is a placement line, so I used a longer stitch length, but it doesn’t really matter. Be sure to keep the sandwich flat.


Remove the sandwich and grab some pins. I stuck a pin to the outside of every 3rd reference line. You should have 8. Grab the ruffle fabric and mark it with 8 pins. This is sew easy. Lay it out and stick a pin in each end. Now put those 2 pins in the middle and add 2 more to the outside. Repeat so all 8 pins are spaced equally. Next, grab your sandwich. I placed mine on an ironing pad that is fairly thick. You will still have the Circle Sewing Tool attached and you don’t want to scratch a table or yourself. Adjust the ruffle putting the raw edges on the placement line lining up the pins on the ruffle with the pins on the pillow top. The fabric slides easily along the dental floss. I used a lot of pins. When it looks good, take it back to the machine.

Place the tool one hole to the right of the last step. Set your stitch length back to the default setting if necessary. Sewing this circle attaches the ruffle to the pillow top Remove the pins as you go. Don’t sew over them!


Place the backing fabric right sides down on top of the pillow. Again, be careful. You can do this at the machine if you would like. I aligned the edges of the backing fabric with the edges of the sandwich. They will overlap in the middle. Be sure the hemmed side is in the center and not on the outside. Pop them onto the Circle Sewing Tool. I secured the 4 corners with pins. Move the tool one last time one hole to the right. This should be the original hole that you marked when we first used the Circle Sewing Tool. Makes sense now why I marked those holes. Sew the circle, being sure to overlap your stitches from where you started so it stays secure.


Remove from the Circle Sewing Tool, but leave the tool in place if you want to make a pillow form.

You can remove the floss now as everything is secure. Trim about ½” away from the innermost circle (the last one you sewed.) Turn it right side out and use your hand to shape.

If you are going to add a button, do so before stuffing. I just came across the perfect button in my button box, but you could leave it plain, or glitz it with crystals. Perhaps a bow?

I made a pillow form with fleece because I had some the right size, but muslin or any fabric would work. I simply put 2 layers on the Circle Sewing Tool and stitched the circle, overlapping the stitches. Trim and cut a slit in the center of only one side. Now fill with the stuffing of your choice. When I inserted the form, I made sure the slit was towards the front. You could just stuff the pillow and not make a form. Hand sew up the back opening if you wish, I did not. Super simple to switch out different designs; I have a feeling I’ll be making a lot more of these. I hope you enjoy making this pillow. Feel free to leave a comment or let me know if you have any questions.

For more inspiration from Sew Steady, click here.

Celebrating National Quilting Day

Baby Quilt 2007 Pam Varner

My First Quilt









I’m sharing the first quilt I made from start to binding. I didn’t have a pattern; mistake one. I’d never done the quilting process and backed with Minky; mistake two. I’d never used a walking foot. Never the less, I forged on. I had seen a block like this somewhere, looked easy. I didn’t know that the borders could be cut in 2 pieces, so I didn’t. The only way I could figure out to make it work was with partial seams. I’ve put arrows so you can see what I am referring to.


The good news: I figured it out. The bad news: it took me forever to piece what could have been a very simple block.

The one thing I knew was that you needed to start your quilting in the center and that Stitch in The Ditch (SID) was supposed to be easy. It really isn’t and I am constantly frustrated by those who tell beginners that’s the way to go. As an alternative, I teach to either stitch just outside the ditch or use a simple stitch on your machine that goes to the right and left of center. Mistakes don’t jump out as much as they do with a classic SID.  Back to center. I started dead center. Like in the middle of the quilt! Halfway from left and halfway from top. I also didn’t pull my threads; why do that? My machine had a locking stitch; all good. Not really. I ended up with a bump in the middle of the quilt.

Binding? I don’t even remember how that process was done. With the leftover fabric, I put together a bag. Most likely I used a pattern.

Lessons Learned:

Keep a journal of what you are doing. Patterns used; things that worked and didn’t, etc. As your skills improve, those notes will remind you how far you’ve come. Plus you’ll have a record of your accomplishments. What a great way to share with the future quilters in your life.

Center does not necessarily mean target center.

Quilters generally make things look more complicated than they are by fabric placement.

Minky is great for backing a baby quilt; be sure to baste appropriately.

Take good pictures. My apologies for the lack of focus on this one.

Buy a pattern or a book. Not all of them are created equal. The internet is full of info and reviews and videos.

Better yet, take a class if you can. Join a Block of the Month (BOM) program. You will learn skills along the way.  My first quilt class was a disaster; again, get recommendations. (That’s another story)

Most importantly, enjoy the journey and don’t judge your work on other’s accomplishments.

I’m headed back to my studio to celebrate by quilting.



Win a Private On-Line Session


I’m celebrating! I now have over 500 subscribers on my mailing list. Sew to celebrate I’m giving away a Private 2-hour On-Line Session. Simply post a comment on this post telling me what you would like to learn or discuss if you win. Entries will be accepted until midnight January 28, 2019 PST. I will choose a winner from the comments at random on January 31, 2019. I’ll notify the winner by email, if I have that info. I will also post a comment here, so be sure to check back. Better yet, be sure to sign up for my mailing list and feel free to share with fellow quilters.


Update: The contest is closed and a winner will be announced on January 31, 2019. Good Luck Everyone.

And the winner is:



Happy New Needles



2018: A Year in Needles

A new needle can make all the difference in the quality of your sewing, not to mention the hours of frustration saved trying to get a good stitch only to realize your needle needs replacing. I keep a pill bottle next to my sewing machine and fill it with needles and pins that have served their purpose, but no longer work. I remember last New Year’s Eve emptying it to start 2018 fresh.  Check with your local recycling center to see if they will take them.

As this year was winding down, I sat down to start a new project; knowing I had to put a new needle in my machine. There it was, a bottle full of used needles and a few bent pins. A year in review so to speak. I reflected on projects I have done; the table toppers and runners, coasters, quilts, embroidery projects, bags and wallets, costumes, and a few hems. I used topstitch, microtex, ballpoint, jeans, and metallic needles. Sizes 75/11 to 100/16. I’m not sure I even own a universal needle anymore.

You and your machine will be happier using the right needle for the job. Superior Threads has a great needle handout. If you’re not familiar with the different types and sizes available: click here to read.

No matter what your sewing plans are for 2019;

I wish you Happy New Needles and Spools Full of Thread.


Try an On-Line Ruler Work Class

QAYG Westalee Template Quilted by Pam Varner

Getting a machine and table to a class prevents many from taking them. Then there’s those of you with cabinets….try putting that in your vehicle. Perhaps your closest quilt shop is hours and hours away.

Come join us. Classes are live and there is ongoing support via email and Facebook.

I sew love teaching this online course designed by Leonie West of Westalee Design.  You will gain confidence using your ruler foot and Westalee templates in this 7-month series sew before you know it, you’ll be quilting all your pieced tops.

Not a beginner? There’s also a Feather Series I designed and more in the works.

Click here to read more.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


Too Good To Be True!


If it looks too good, it probably is too good. In this age of internet shopping, we can become victim to all kinds of fraud. I have come across some ads on social media lately for products that just seem to be priced way too low. So I did some investigating and you know what? I was right. These usually fall into one of the following categories.


This is when someone copies another person’s/company’s product. Can be a sewing notion, pattern, picture, etc. This often ends up in a legal mess, but the damage may already have been done. Dealing with international copyright and patent laws is best left up to the lawyers. But guess what? As soon as ABC company is caught, they reappear as Company XYZ. Same people; new name.

The scary thing is they look legit with addresses in your country of residence. They have stores that take credit cards, just like the stores you use on a regular basis. Chances are if you actually receive the product, the quality will be far inferior to what was described.

Outright Scams:

You see something, you click on it, you want to buy it. Next you’re entering your credit card number, address, etc. Feels good; even exciting. And then it doesn’t. Oh, your card gets charged, but that’s where it ends. You never get the product. You never can contact customer service. Emails go unanswered. Now you have to get your bank involved. Not fun.

What can you do?

Not everyone is out to take your money. There are a lot of legitimate businesses out there floating in cyberspace. (mine included) Do some homework. Search their address. They process credit cards, just like the stores you use on a regular basis. They might even have a corporate logo so close to the original, it’s hard to tell it’s fake. Check the internet address aka URL.  The spelling could be off or a change in one letter: mysassynotions vs mysassynotion.  Search for the product and find out what it is actually selling for. Look at the pictures. You can right click on a picture and search for it in google images. This may or may not bring up the original. Do not rely on reviews and comments you see in ads.

Buy from reputable sources that respect copyright and patent laws.  If you have a question about what you are ordering, contact the company and make a decision based on their response. Ask your friends. Bottom line, shop smart.

Wishing all a stress-free shopping experience.






This entry was posted on November 26, 2018, in Quilting.

Ways to protect your sewing equipment from an electrical event.

canva-lightning,-electricity,-pattern,-render,-design,-power-MACZWEKUXjwMy house was hit by lightning.

An important reminder that we often take modern conveniences for granted. Electricity, hot and cold running water, access to the internet, and communicating by telephone are a few that pop into my head. Then there’s indoor cooking; with the holidays approaching, I have cooking on my mind.

I am lucky. There was no fire; it hit a metal chimney and then ran havoc thru my home trying to ground itself. Which it did, in multiple places. One being the hot water heater where it toasted the gas connection and yes that caused a gas leak. Again lucky, as I came home within a few hours and immediately smelled gas. The clues kept coming over the next 24 hours; kitchen appliances, HVAC, ceiling fans, Audio/Visual equipment, phone lines, internet, outdoor timers and circuit boards. Some of these items are hard-wired so “unplugging” isn’t an option; others had surge protectors and some did not.

My die-hard habit of unplugging my sewing equipment when not in use most likely saved me from not only thousands of dollars more in insurance claims but also the heartbreak of not being able to use them during this stressful time. Even a few minutes at a machine is helpful.

How can you prepare for an electrical event?

First of all surge protectors can only go so far; purchase ones that come with insurance if you can. They are very useful with surges that happen without our knowledge. The local electric company lists a power surge at my home this morning. Absolutely no indication at all. There are whole house protectors that run about $200-$300; a bargain at twice the price. If you already own one, check that it is still functional; mine either was not or couldn’t handle the load. Check your home owner’s / personal property /rental policies. I am completely covered for replacement items, albeit there is still the deductible. Lastly, don’t leave your equipment plugged in when not in use. I pull the plugs at the machines; I find this easier than at the wall.  The iron from the wall. Remember that the surge happens when the electricity comes back on so if you’re at home when the power goes out, you can sometimes save yourself by unplugging before the power returns.

What will I change?

Probably not much. I may consider unplugging the TV’s during lightning storms, but that won’t protect me if an animal gets into the neighborhood transformer; so who knows. I have enjoyed watching electrical storms since I was young, I wonder how I’ll react during the next one.

This entry was posted on October 29, 2018, in Quilting.

Coburg Blooms

Westalee quilt block in cream with blue/green varigated thread by Pam Varner

I was asked to submit a 12” square quilted block for the Coburg Quilt Show Block Challenge that was held this past July (2018) in Coburg, OR. Sew Steady was the major sponsor for this show and having recently been invited to be one of their Brand Ambassadors, I jumped in.

I love using the Westalee Design Spin-e-Fex templates as pantographs. (aka continuous line designs). The mini size would be perfect, but boring if horizontal. I decided to make the design go from corner to corner and switch up the sizes between 1 ½” and 2 ½”. This involved math; you know that geometry class you took in high school. Initially my plan was to fill in the empty triangle space created with the 1st part of the design with more Spin-e-Fex patterns. Then I looked at the block and thought it would be too busy and the original design, quilted in variegated threads, would get lost. Now I needed a design that would fit in a triangular space and not compete with the beautiful flowery design I had stitched out. Thread that matched the fabric would help and I have templates, Flying Bell Curve Triangles from the London Collection, that are the right shape. I played around with my stitching line discs and before I knew it, I had the solution.

I’ve never been to Coburg and have no idea what kind of flowers grow there, let alone know about flowers in general. My block looks like flowers, flowers probably grow in the Pacific Northwest in summertime, so I went with name “Coburg Blooms.”  My goal was to create a block that wasn’t super complicated, but still looked good; not win awards. I am happy to report success on both counts.

I hope you like it and if you try this block, I would love to hear about your success.

I used the Mini Spin-E-Fex  #8, but any in the line will work.

For the Flying Bell Curve Triangles, I used sizes 2”-5”.

Marked my block with an 8pt. Cross Hair Square.

The first one I did on cream. Next I tried Orange. Which is your favorite?