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?


My Gold Foot!

20170910_221848This past weekend, I had the honor of attending Teacher Certification training by Leonie and Bill West of Westalee Designs. We all met in Eugene, OR; the home of Sew Steady.

I started my education by touring the manufacturing process of Sew Steady Extension Tables and Cabinet inserts. Tables are cut to order and then hand finished, one at a time. The time from order to shipping can take up to 3 weeks, but it is usually less. I loved looking at all those new shiny tables awaiting to be boxed.

Next up was the laser cutting of the quilting templates. This amazes me. First there is the computer design file which is magically sent to the laser cutter. Eventually a huge sheet of acrylic becomes a handful of templates. The process is not as quick as I thought even though they manage to get as many templates in one file as possible. Think cutting cookies. Acrylic cannot be rolled up like dough, but I am happy to report that the left overs are recycled. Manufacturing runs 24/7. Even though there are computerized cutters involved, it is still a labor-intensive product. I honestly think the price could be more; especially considering the cost of acrylic.

Meeting the staff was a high-light as I talk to these folks on the phone regularly. I love connecting faces to voices. Then of course, there was shopping. It was too tempting seeing all those shelves of ready to go template sets, so yes, I came home with a few……or more.

Now it was time for class. Leonie and Bill spent 2 days going through basics to advanced uses for templates and showed us prototypes of soon to be new template sets. We shared our own work, talked about up-coming education for consumers, and brain-stormed for the future. My head kept spinning with the possibilities; both with the product and classes I can offer. Leonie has what I call the perfect mind for designing. She can see a simple shape and imagine endless possibilities. She marries this with the math we learned in Geometry (ok, that may be over simplified) and a template is born. Then she takes it further to see what other designs can be made. It is genius. The possibilities are truly endless. The Whoa! Wait! What? moments kept coming. I am inspired and yet humbled as there were only 5 of us invited.

The Wests are truly lovely people with a heart of gold. There a few new tools being released and they took the time to make some with our names engraved on them. That small gesture means sew much to me.


Mine, all mine.

Every course requires graduation ceremonies and ours was nothing short of special. My expectation was a paper certificate with my name in a curly font. And then the unexpected happened as I was the first called to the podium. Inside a small cloth bag was a Full-Size Gold Ruler Foot and a Mini 12” Arc Template hanging on a chain. It is the official sign of being an Accredited Teacher.


My new necklace!

I am now one of 10 in the world that have been accredited by the Wests. With honor comes responsibility and one I will not take lightly. I will continue my online classes; adding new sessions as quickly as I can and look for opportunities to teach in shops around the country. If you want to see my necklace up close and personal, please feel free to contact me.






Why I Love to Teach/Learn


Photo Credit: Cel Lisboa


School is back in session; seems like a perfect time to share my love of education.

I have always loved the process of learning and I am fortunate to be able to teach. For over a year now, I have been hosting the Quilt as You Go Sampler Quilt designed by Leonie West of Westalee Designs. In this course, students learn Ruler Work on their domestic sewing machines by using 7 different templates. Currently, I am conducting the course on-line.  Leonie’s husband, Bill, filmed while she quilted every block. In these videos, she guides the students with her extensive knowledge of the products she invented. The two of them are an amazing team. The brilliance behind their collections of quilting ruler templates is beyond compare. They are so perfectly engineered and paired with their true 1/2″ ruler foot, a quilter will never lack for inspiration.

Why do I teach online? Ruler Work requires a flat surface and many quilters have their machines in a cabinet.  The bigger machines that so many of us love, are too cumbersome to transport. Then there are those who either don’t live close to a local quilt shop or lack the means to get to one. I provide a place for them to go.

When I first started teaching online, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to connect with my students. There was also the challenge of not being able to “see” when they are heading down the path of bad habits. Monthly live sessions in my virtual classroom, email, digital photography, and social media have all played a role in giving my students the level of education they not only need, but deserve. A little Sassy-ness sprinkled here and there by us all adds to the atmosphere.

We are all busy learning. My students anxiously try their new skills and challenge me with questions. I’m exploring ways to improve their experience and experimenting with both stand-alone software and online options for my business. Each new platform requires education. Linking files, adding photos, entering data, oops moving data. Then my obsession with perfectionism kicks in, or I discover a better way to accomplish a task and I start over. The exhilaration of this new knowledge mixed with accomplishment keeps me going. There isn’t much time at the end of the day for me to spend in my studio. Moving forward, I will have to find more ways to fit that in.

This mixture of my passion for ruler work, teaching, and technology has taken me on a journey that is filled with excitement at every turn. I receive comments almost daily that confirm I am headed in the right direction.  I am hopeful for what the future holds and the never-ending batch of new students the World Wide Web steers in my direction.



Learn more about my online class  OR  or contact me

*to learn more about Westalee Design, check out the following:

Westalee Design Website             Westalee Design on You Tube

*Sew Steady is the Distributor and Manufacturer for Westalee Design in the US.