Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Dakota Storm


Good morning.

Another powerful summer storm swept through our region on Wednesday evening. The storm resulted in golf-ball sized hail, high winds, and hard rain.
Funnel clouds were spotted in the region, and a tornado warning was issued by the NWS. Fortunately, a true tornado didn't develop. But, the hail was bad enough.

Trees & plants were especially vulnerable to the damage. In the aftermath of the storm, many gardeners surveyed the leafy mess with discouragement, and shed a few tears of frustration.

But, the storm also presented a beautiful contradiction. A breathtaking rainbow accompanied the darkly rolling clouds, illuminating the earth with a heavenly glow.


Wesley & Matthew were in town when the bad weather came up, helping out at our weekly "Burgers & Brats" in the park. They took shelter in the basement of KB Jewelers when the tornado siren went off. Not truly comprehending the danger of the circumstance, Matthew found the experience to be a grand adventure.

Our home on a hilltop SW of town was spared the brunt of the storm. With the animals and vehicles safely inside, I watched as we got a few soft hailstones, a moment of brief, hard rain, and a few gusts of wind. I waited anxiously for the weather to worsen, and breathed a sigh of relief as the storm headed south.

When it was quiet, I climbed the hill next to our house, camera in hand, to watch the storm in the distance. Standing high above the flats below, I could see for miles in all directions. The experience was breathtaking.

As thunder rumbled, and storm clouds churned, the smell of sweet green grass and fresh rain permeated the air. The sunshine sparkled in the moisture. And, the complete arc of an glittering rainbow stretched across the landscape.

Sox and I stood quietly on the hilltop, his warm fur brushing up against my bare calves. I prayed for the safety of those in the storm's path, and hoped that the animals could find shelter. I felt a little vulnerable alone on the prairie, with Sox the only witness to my whereabouts. But, Mother Nature's Majesty was on full display, and it was a beautiful moment of solitude that I will never forget.

~ Laura Walker, June 28, 2009

Welcome DCQ Newsletter Subscribers!

Hello. Welcome to "Blogs from the Cabin".

Be sure to check out our posts below about the "Three Squares" wool pincushion, & the "Figgy Pudding" quilt.

As a special thanks for taking the time to visit, we reward you with a free shipping code for all purchases greater than $50.00 at

At the time of checkout, simply enter this coupon code (exactly as shown, all little letters, no spaces):


Coupon is valid through Saturday, July 4th. Shoppers from Canada, Mexico, and International locations will receive a discount on their shipping equivalent to the cost of shipping the package to a USA address.

Also, we invite you to become a "follower" for our blog. Click on the link at the bottom left to get set up. You'll be alerted when new posts are published, and also qualify for special "Cabin Rewards".

The first "Cabin Reward" will be announced in the blog on Sunday July 5th. We'll randomly select a lucky person from the list of "followers", and present that person with an online gift certificate valued at $25.00. The winner will be announced in the blog, so be sure to check back to see if your name has been chosen.

~ Laura, Wesley, and the staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cottage Creek Quilts Wool Applique Pincushion: Part I (Hand Blanket Stitch)

Project: Cottage Creek Quilts Wool Pincushion "Three Squares Pattern"
Finished Size: About 3" x 7 1/2"

Skill Level: Everyone
  • Assorted 100% hand-dyed wool pieces for background and applique
  • Backing: a scrap of flannel, wool, or homespun of your choice
  • Lining: a scrap of muslin or other good quality tightly woven cotton
  • Stuffing: play sand or crushed walnut shells (found in the "bird aisle" at well stocked pet stores)
  • Steam A Seam II Lite (Click here to purchase at
  • "Wool Pincushions IV" pattern by Cottage Creek Quilts (Available for $8.00 from DCQ. Each pattern includes instructions for (4) different pincushions. There are (6) different patterns to pick from, for a total of (24) unique pincushions

The "Three Squares" pincushion is one of (12) that we'll be making in our new program "DCQ Wool Pincushion of the Month". Click here for complete program details.

In fact, we'll be making every pincushion shown here:

I've been having a lot of fun making the sample pincushions for the program, and have completed (7) of them, using scraps of wool from my stash. But, we ordered beautifully coordinated, hand-dyed wool from Mary Flanagan for our kits, so the colors will be even nicer than my first attempts. We're in the process of cutting kits, and the first shipment will go out in early July.

Let's get started making one of the simpler pincushions: "Three Squares", found in the "Wool Pincushions IV" pattern.

Within each pattern, you'll find full-size applique diagrams, useful for tracing all of the different shapes. Trace (3) large squares & (3) small squares onto Steam-A Seam II light fusible web. Peel the paper backing from the fusible web, and fuse it to the wool.

Cut out the applique shapes, using the most appropriate method. I cut these squares with a ruler and rotary cutter. For many of the other pincushions, the applique shapes are curved, or have cut-outs, and require sharp scissors to cut them out.

Peel the backing off the fusible web, then align the cut-outs on the background wool. Using an up and down motion with the iron, gently fuse the shapes in place.

Choose the thread of your choice for the hand-applique blanket stitch. I've used Aurifil Lana wool thread (12 weight), (2) strands of embroidery floss, or perle cotton. For this project, I used a nice variegated 12 wt Valdani perle cotton in a coordinating blue. I just use an all purpose needle.

I like to bury my thread behind the applique shapes, rather than tie knots. Working from the back, I weave the needle in and out about (3) times, near the spot where I plan to bring the thread to the front. Pull the thread nearly through, but not quite, so the tail is neatly buried in the wool.

Then, take a "backstitch", retracing the final stitch, grasp the tail tightly to keep it from pulling through, and snugly draw the thread completely through. Now, you're ready to bring it to the front side, and start blanket stitching.

Bring the thread up at a corner, or other convenient place. Then, catch both the background fabric and the applique shape in a single stitch. Arrange your thread as shown in the photo, so that a "blanket stitch" is created as you pull the thread through.

The first blanket stitch should look like this. Then, repeat the same stitch over and over. With practice, your stitches will become quicker and more uniform.

When you get to a corner, be sure to tack it down.

When your thread gets short, simply draw the needle to the back, directly behind your last stitch.

With a new strand of thread, bury your tail and take a backstitch behind where you left off. Then, bring the needle to the front, essentially in the same spot you left off.

Start blanket stitching again. And just keep going until all shapes have been neatly stitched into position.

Trim up the edges finished pincushion top, using a ruler & rotary cutter. The dimensions don't really matter... just trim the edges a neat distance from the applique.

Coming soon: I'll show you you to transform the pincushion top into a lovely pincushion, stuff it with walnut shells, and stitch it closed.

Figgy Pudding: Contemporary Christmas Quilt (Part 1)

Project: Basic Grey Figgy Pudding
Contemporary Christmas Quilt
Finished Size: 66" x 82"
Supplies: Figgy Pudding Quilt Kit
Available at Dakota Cabin Quilts for $120, Plus Optional Backing discounted by 10% (+40.50)
Click here to purchase a fabric kit.
Pattern: Available as a free download from Moda. Click here.

Skill Level: advanced beginner

Introduction: Folded fabric trees in two sizes are combined with scrappy geometric courthouse blocks to create a stunning holiday throw.

Let's Get Started!

Small Tree Block Assembly
You'll need (1) 12 1/2" x 11" of printed tree fabric & (2) 3" x 11 rectangles of background fabric.
Fold the printed fabric in half, wrong sides together, to create a rectangle measuring 6 1/4" x 11".
Lay a ruler across your folded rectangle, carefully aligning along the diagonal.

Cut from corner to corner, away from the fold.

The side with the fold becomes a tree. The other side goes in your "scrap pile" (for a future project).

Align the raw edge of your "tree" with the long edge of the long edge of the background rectangle (Right sides together).
Then, add another background rectangle to top of the stack, and carefully pin. The top of the tree is flush with the background, and the bottom of the tree hangs out the bottom.
Pin, carefully aligning all raw edges. Stitch, using an accurate 1/4" seam.

Working from the right side, fold the tree into position, and finger press a crisp point at the tree top.

Press the central seam open on the back.

Then, finish pressing from the front, carefully aligning the folded tree edges at the bottom corners.

Align the ruler 1/4" from the tree top tip, and cut the extra fabric off.
Then, measure 10" from the top, and trim the bottom of the tree away, creating a block that measures 5 1/2" x 10"

Hooray! The first tree top is finished. Repeat, making a total of 16 small trees.

Okay, now for the tree trunk. My fabric pieces are cut smaller than those in the pattern, as I was using up scraps. Using an accurate 1/4" seam, stitch a 1 1/2" wide strip of blue or green to a 2 1/2" strip of background fabric. Press the seam toward the brown.

Add a second 2 1/2 " strip of background fabric, again pressing the seam toward the brown.

Subcut the strips into rectangles measuring 2 1/2" x 5 1/2". Make a total of (16) tree trunks, in both blue & green (8 of each).
Align each tree trunk with a tree, right sides together. Pin, then stitch. Press the seam toward the trunk. Repeat, until all (16) small trees are assembled.

Finished small tree block measures 5 1/2" x 12".

The large tree block (finished size 10 1/2" x 23 1/2") is created in the same fashion as the smaller trees, but of course the fabric pieces are a larger dimension. Only 8 large tree blocks are needed. Refer to pattern instructions for details.

Sort small tree blocks into pairs, in a pleasing fashion (a plain tree looks nice with patterned tree). Right sides together, join two small tree blocks using an accurate 1/4" seam. Press the seam away from the tree top, toward the trunk. Repeat, making (8) pairs of small tree blocks.

Lay our the large tree blocks in combination with the small tree pairs. Right sides together, pin a small tree pair to the left side of a large tree block, and stitch.

Press the long seam toward the large tree. Repeat, making (8) trio blocks. Each unit measures 15 1/2" x 23 1/2":

Coming next time: we'll make the courthouse squares, then assemble the quilt top.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Gourmet Textiles: Wool & Silk

Good evening.
Happy Father's Day Eve! We have a big day planned for Wesley, starting with a yummy Blueberry French Toast breakfast, a few special gifts, and about a dozen handmade cards carefully colored by Matthew. In anticipation of the "Dad's big day", I'm sending the newsletter out early.

New arrivals continue to pour through the door,including many of the items we purchased at last month's Market. Our shop has a fresh look for summer, with dozens of lovely quilt samples adorning the walls and hanging from the ceiling.

With all of the pretty cotton fabrics to pick from, you'd think I'd be busy stitching cotton quilts. Instead, I'm preoccupied with a pair of new fibers: wool & silk.

We've dabbled in wool for a couple of years now, and I often use wool applique on cotton quilts. I like the extra texture and dimension it adds, and it is really nice to work with. When felted (essentially, "pre-shrunk"), the fibers snuggle up tightly, and the raw-edges can be neatly blanket-stitched by hand or machine.

We found so many nice wool items at Market that we couldn't resist expanding our wool merchandise.

We're especially excited about our new Wool Pincushion of the Month program (click here for details). Our first shipment of wool from Mary Flanagan for the pincushions arrived this week (see photo left), so we should be ready to start soon. Everyone was amazed by the soft, pliable, rich feeling of this wool... you can really tell that is is top-quality.

And, some vibrant new wool pillow kits just arrived from Woolylady. I started working on "Pop Art Posies" (top photo), and decided to stitch the applique by hand rather than machine. I'm using two strands of a variegated embroidery floss, and my blanket stitch is getting better with practice.

Also new: silk fat quarters, and quilt kits by della Q. We met Della Quimby at Quilt Market, and we were inspired by her beautiful taffeta silks. Her company "della Q" is very well known in the knitting world, as she designs and sells exquisite silk knitting needle bags.
Her company also has a strong connection to an amazing charitable cause: "When you purchase a della Q product, a portion of your proceeds are donated to Vietnam Quilts, a non-profit organization that trains low-income and rural Vietnamese women in the art of quilting, and provides them with a means to a steady income."

Della recently traveled to Vietnam with Sue Spargo and Wendy Morris to teach applique skills to seventeen women, and is already making plans for the next trip.

Sewing with silk is surprisingly easy. The washable silk is backed with a lightweight, fusible interfacing, and Della recommends a smaller needle size such as 75-11 or 70-10. You do need to be careful to pin only within the seam allowances, as taffeta silk holds pin holes. Accordingly, the silk quilts tend to be simple geometric designs to perfectly highlight the exquisite beauty of the taffeta.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to try something new? Cotton fabrics are staples in every quilter's creative pantry... wool & silk sit on the spicy side... a delicious medley of fibers at your fingertips!

This photo shows the Woolylady finished "Pop Art Posies" pillow. Click here for the rest of the Woolylady patterns & kits. I decided to stitch this pillow by hand, because I love relaxing feeling of the silky floss as it slides through the soft wool. But, Lisa explained that she stitches all of her projects on the machine with Aurifil Lana Wool thread. Click here for our current selection of the thread. We'll be expanding our selection soon... as we need more "brights" to compliment these vibrant wools.

Della kindly let us borrow some of her beautiful quilts. This stunning quilt called "Pina Colada", and the Green version of "Mai Tai" can be viewed at the shop for only a few more days. Click here for information about the kits, and to view our silk fat quarter assortment. We also ordered some stunning specialty ribbon at market, and it just arrived. We're planning on making some pretty silk runners using the ribbon as a focal point. I'll feature these in a future newsletter. Della also had a beautiful little silk bag made using the black, black & white check, and just a hint of silver as an accent. Click here to see the bag.

Have a great week! ~ Laura, Wesley & the Staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bloom Where You're Planted

Good morning.

Another week has flown by, and we're settling into our summer routine. Matthew has T-ball at 8am, swimming lessons at 9am, and went to Vacation Bible School during the evenings last week. The sun is finally shining, although the mornings and evenings are quite cool.

Wesley has been hard at work in our front yard, watering & mowing the grass that is finally getting established after 3 years of effort. And, we continue to plant trees, in our attempt to transform our prairie hilltop into a nice yard.

Before we bought our land, the previous owner had thankfully hired the soil conservation service to plant a number of tree rows (shown in the top photo). But, once planted, the trees were left to their own devices, with no extra water, and nobody to pull the weeds. They had a tough time, only the hearty ones survived. This year, with all the moisture, many of them are finally thriving.

Every year since we built our home, we've planted more trees, with variable success. We tried the bare-root trees from SCS, but without a weed barrier, they just don't survive. We've also planted small potted trees from the garden center, and those seem to do better.

This year, we graduated to the "big time". A few weeks ago, we took a trip to Taylor Nursery (a wonderful store in Taylor, ND), and carefully chose a couple of bigger trees: two crabapple and two pear.

Planting them was a family affair. We carefully followed the guidance of the expert who helped us pick them out. Matthew enthusiastically helped us dig deep holes in the rocky soil, with his kid-sized shovel. Sox even got in on the action, climbing down into the holes, sniffing the fresh damp dirt, wagging his tail with excitement. I asked him to start digging, as he happily digs holes elsewhere in the yard, but he wouldn't dig on command. Finally, we gently set the trees into their new home, adding plenty of peat moss & mulch.

Since then, we've watered them faithfully, and three of the four have rewarded our efforts by budding & blossoming. The fourth one? ...nothing has happened yet... but we're hoping it will start to grow soon.

Investing in our special trees was a good decision. It reminded me that we are solidly committed to building a long life here, we're not just passing through. This will be our home for many years, and we need to put down more roots.

I asked the nursery expert how long we'd have to wait for our trees to produce apples or pears. She replied "Oh, three to five years." Strangely enough, that didn't strike me as very long at all. I'm willing to be patient, to watch the trees evolve from season to season, until they are strong enough to bear fruit.

I've been reflecting upon the history of trees on the prairie. Very few trees are native. Many were carefully planted by the settlers, to serve various utilitarian purposes. Trees provided shelter, shade, and prevented erosion of the soil. Fruit trees (especially apple) were a welcome food source, and resulted in many delicious pies, jams, and jellies. For many settlers, trees were a pleasant reminder of their European homelands.

As we travel across the Dakotas, we'll often see a little patch of trees and shrubs on the corner of a pasture or field. The tree grove is all remains of an early homestead. The trees outlasted the people, yet remain as a solid reminder of the life a family carved out on the desolate, often unforgiving prairie. Someday, our trees will bear fruit.

Someday, Sox will lie in their shade as an old dog, for a peaceful afternoon nap; chasing rabbits, pheasants, and deer in his dreams.

But, in the meantime our trees will need to be nurtured, fenced off from the deer and rabbits in the wintertime, and provided with plenty of water & sun. The day we pick our first pear, or make our first batch of crabapple jelly will be quite a momentous occasion!

I wish I could tell you about all the sewing I've accomplished this week. Sadly, I can't. With all the new arrivals, maintaining the website is a full time job. I spent most of the day yesterday preparing the "Frosted Memories" page: Click here to check it out. In addition to the complete collection of new Holly Taylor fabrics and beautiful cut goods, we're offering numerous kits from the book "Frosted Memories" by This & That. The pattern designer, Sherri K. Falls, has really outdone herself this time, as her new book includes a delightful assortment of quilts, runners, and home decor items. My favorites are the "Festive & Fringy" bag, the "Silent Night" pillow, and the "Just For You" pincushion. It took a lot of willpower for me to stay on task with my website work, as I really wanted to tear open a fat quarter bundle and piece some of these wonderful small projects.

It's probably a good thing I didn't sew yesterday, because I also planned to start work on the new "Figgy Pudding" quilt. I probably would have started two projects at once! Click here for "Figgy Pudding". These fabrics were unpacked last week to a chorus of "Ooohs & Ahhhs." Fresh, contemporary, and unique... we're inspired to make beautiful quilts with these beautiful fabrics. Click here for a photo of the collection on display at the shop... they blend beautifully with the Iced Mocha collection by Buggy Barn (Click here for Iced Mocha). The display will look even nicer when we get a quilt done (hopefully combining the two fabric collections).

Peppermint Cottage is also new... Click here for details. In the days before we left for the Rapid City Quilt show, Rose finished store samples galore. One of the many projects she made was the Peppermint Cottage Hanging Christmas Card holder. Both decorative and useful, this small quilt was loved by everyone who saw it!

I created a new category for the Sheri Berry fabric collections, found here. Sheri Berry designs fabric for Lyndhurst Studios, as well as greeting cards, toys, home decor items, and more. Her designs are colorful, whimsical, and a little bit "retro". After the amazing popularity of her "Emma Louise & Ethan Michael" baby flannels, we decided to add two more of her collections. "Have a Sheri Berry Holiday" and "Trick or Treat Street" are now in stock, and I hope you'll find these fabrics as fun, colorful and creative as we do!

Have a great week! ~ Laura, Wesley & the Staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts

"Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare, and look forward to the time when we may pick the fruit. "

~Anton Chekhov

Sunday, June 7, 2009

News & Photos from the Rapid City Quilt Show

Good morning.

This edition of the newsletter comes to you from Rapid City, SD.

Wesley, Barb, Laurie-Ann, and I have been busy at our vendor's booth since Friday morning. The show is open from 10-4 today, and if you live in the region, please stop in. You'll be amazed by the variety of breathtaking show quilts, beautiful raffle and silent auction items, and useful demonstrations. A great variety of vendors offer sewing machines and cabinets, long-arm quilting machines, embellishments, cutting mats, and scissor sharpening. Some, like us, focus on quilt kits, patterns, cut goods, and yardage.

As visitors to the show walk through the main doors, they are greeted by the sight of Marilyn Hoelscher's "Birds & Blooms" quilt (top photo), professionally long-arm quilted by JoAnn Hoffman. This quilt was awarded "First Place in the Viewer's Choice", and was also awarded "Best of Show".

The photo on the left shows our booth at the show, with quilts hung high above our display. Wesley made us all a little nervous as he perched on a ladder during set-up to hang the five large quilts. But, the effect is certainly eye-catching, and can be seen from across the room.

This quilt show has a special place in our hearts, as we attended the show as spectators before we were quilters or quilt shop owners. I will never forget the way I felt when I walked through my first show. I looked with amazement at the miniature quilts and the challenge quilts. I saw beautifully preserved antique quilts, carefully displayed, their tags telling the story of their history. I saw evidence of the guild's charitable work, including their "Project Warmth" quilts, and the silent auction items for the Rapid City Hospice. I was inspired by the artistry of the show quilts, and tempted by the vendor booth.

As I wandered from place to place, my heart began to sing. By the time I left, "I was hooked!"

Never did I imagine that one day we would be standing in a vendor booth, greeting newcomers and friends. Or, giving a demonstration in the "demo room", answering questions, and explaining our favorite products. (This weekend we did two demos: "Great Grommets" and "Beautiful Bags".)

But, life has a funny way of coming full circle when you follow your heart. Many years ago, the Rapid City quilt show captivated me, introducing me to the world of quilting. And now, we play a small part in doing the same for others.

Stop by. You'll be so glad that you did. Or, if you don't live in our region, please visit a show, join a guild, attend a retreat, or take a class. Open your mind to everything the quilting world has to share.

At dinner last night, Wesley and I tried to "pin down the hot item" at our booth. It was a hard decision. But, I think the Dritz grommets and the "Grids and Grommets" bag pattern by Indygo Junction have created the most excitement. Click here to check them out. I think this is the first time that many people have seen the grommets, and they love our display of handbags. Plus, many plan to use the grommets for their intended purpose (curtains or shower curtains), and love the simplicity of the design (no tools, just trace a circle from the little template, cut it out, and snap the grommet in place.)

Quilters are also captivated by the Bigfork Bay quilts and patterns. Click here to view our full selection of Bigfork Bay product. The company generously sent us a trunk show, and the eye-catching beauty of the quilts draws people in. Once we explain the carefully organized kits, the great instructions, and the fusible raw edge applique technique, many quilters are interested in making an art quilt. They tend to buy kits rather than patterns, as they love the idea of having the perfect batiks pre-packaged for convenience.

The most popular quilt kit at the booth has been "Winter Memories" by Acorn Quilt & Gift Company. Click here for more details. Shoppers are enchanted by the beautiful applique, combined with pretty embroidery. Some love the striking combination of ice blue with chocolate brown, and purchase the kit because of the great fabric. Others plan to reinterpret the design using their own color choices, so they purchase the pattern alone.

We have devoted one area of the booth to our auto-ship programs, including the DCQ Wool Pincushion of the Month. We've had a surprising number of shoppers sign up, and a number of other customers loved the patterns by Cottage Creek Quilts. I finished seven of the twelve pincushions before the show, and shoppers love to feel the softness of the wool, and measure the nice weight of the pincushions in their hands. They can't believe I stuffed them with crushed walnut shells (bird litter, found at a pet store), but they do like the finished result.

Have a great week. We've got a busy day ahead of us, but it should be fun! ~ Laura, Wesley & the Staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts