Maria’s Penguin Quilt Story

Check out this super fun quilt and the story behind it, which is well worth the read. By the end you’ll know Maria, her daughter and her quilting goals in addition to the saga of the Penguins Quilt.


Our friendship started with an email – Maria had questions about the joining process. She bought our quilting e-books on her Nook and she needed just a bit of encouragement to clarify the quilted block joining process. I sent a few tips, but I replied about 24 hours after receiving her email because I’ve been traveling so much and not always able to reply right away. By the time she received my message she had already figured everything out!! A day later (one day!) she emailed again to say she was taking her new knowledge to a treasured project. Here’s her story:

Hiya Marguerita!

Girl I have watched every last one of your videos and love them all! I’m anxious to see what you and your daughter come out with next. I’ve also read all three books that I purchased on my Nook. Below are photos (yes I would be flattered if you posted my photos! ) of my daughter, Alexa’s (who is now 21 yrs old LOL!) applique penguin quilt.

When I finished it last night I asked her if she still wanted it and her reply was “Mom! I’ve waited years for this quilt! No one is getting it!”. I had to laugh! Like I told you in earlier emails, this quilt has been waiting to be finished for 11 years?!

Appliqueing the penguins gave me no problems when I first started this quilt. But after that it was nothing but a disaster in the making! I had originally put white sashing around the blocks and added 3 borders BUT when I went to sandwich it I found not only was the sashing wonky but so were all of my borders and it was extremely heavy. There was NO way to get this top smooth enough for me to even try to quilt it. Soooo it ended up in my UFO cabinet hidden for many years.

Every once in awhile Alexa would ask me when I would finish her quilt. I found excuse after excuse because I had NO clue as to how I would finish it. Then 3-4 days ago for some reason I went to YouTube and was just watching random quilting videos and that’s when I came across your QAYG videos. Let me tell you, I was blown away! I couldn’t get enough and after watching all of them I came up to my quilting room and cut the penguin applique blocks out of their sashing, cut backing and batting…spray basted them and had all 12 quilted within an hour and a half!

I did get stuck on how to add the sashing like you do but again like I told you I made a scrap block and had that major AHA moment!! From there I got busy and cut my strips and even cut border fabric, sandwiched the border fabric, quilted those and added them to the quilt.

There’s one thing I did different and you may or may not have tried this but it sure cut down on time and saved me from stressing too much (it was a FACE PALM moment! LOL). While adding the long strips of fabric to the rows of blocks (the back 1 1/4″ x width strips) to the first set of blocks I had a little trouble making sure it stayed straight. While putting the first strip on the wheels in my head started turning again and I remembered I had a bottle of temporary basting glue that came with a metal adapter and a very small hole. So after finding it, I decided to try it on my 2nd row of blocks and it saved me not only time but worry!! Once I had basted the back strip with the glue, mainly all I had to worry about was making sure the front 2″ strip was straight. I didn’t glue the top strip down but pinned just to make sure neither piece moved while I sewed them down.

There is no way I can Thank you enough for sharing your wonderful videos and books that have allowed me to complete a quilt that I thought would literally rot in my UFO cabinet!

My next project is going to be a king size quilt for myself and my husband using layer cakes and I can’t wait to get started because I plan to use decorative stitches which is something else I’ve never done and your QAYG technique to get it finished!! This was also my first time to sew a binding to the back of a quilt and machine sew it down to the front. Can I say I am in LOVE again? I do know that at all cost…I will probably never make a quilt the “traditional” way again.

We will be grandparents in August so you can imagine the baby quilts I will be making from now on lol! One last thing I’d like to share with you is in the 15 years that I’ve been quilting, I have never used my walking foot. For some reason it scared the life out of me. But now, I’m happy to say I do believe it’s become my favorite foot to use! There’s only two things that I will invest in very soon and that’s a 16 1/2″ square ruler and a 20 1/2″ square ruler or I may just invest in the 20 1/2″ square… do you prefer both? or would just the 20 1/2″ suffice? Ok I will quit rattling on for now! Again thank you thank you THANK YOU!

Sincerely and always a follower of your videos and books…. a fellow quilter and a friend!!


P.S. A couple of my favorite sayings: 1. I’m not perfect so don’t look to close and hard at my stitching. The imperfections in each quilt is what makes them unique in themselves! 2. If it can’t be made using QAYG then I probably won’t make it! 3. Love who you’re with, what you are doing and mainly life’s too short to stress over a wonky stitch! LOL
Quilters, receiving Maria’s email was so rewarding! I was thinking the other day “I can’t believe people read the books I write” and now to know that what I’ve written has made such a big difference for Maria and her daughter that I’m just speechless, and endlessly grateful for her kindness in sharing the story of her quilt.

The quilt pattern that Maria adapted is called “Penguin Paradise” and is by Amy Bradley.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has sent me their quilting questions, stories and photos!

Quilt Question from Carol Crites

I received a question from Carol and have tried everything I know to get back in touch with her, but emails bounce and Google searches are just not helping, so I’m posting both her question and my reply here in the hopes that she’ll see it. If you have any ideas on her quilt dilemma please chime in!


I just finished your quilt as you go re- imagined, LOVED IT!!! This top is one of three similar quilts I’ve been working on. Obviously, I’m nearly done with this one, have you got a suggestion for converting the other two? This top is a variation of one called Any Which Way developed by Vicki Thomas in To Stitch A Child’s Quilt. She used a single set of arrows, I’ve used a bi- directional set of arrows. It was a challenge adjusting the amount of fabric I needed. I feel like I should finish these before I moved on to the next so the boys can get some use out of them. My next project is a king size square patch that I think lends itself nicely to your method. My husband has no imagination, he wants just red, blue and neon green squares joined with black joining strips, all solid colors. As I understand your method, you quilt the blocks and then use the joining strips to butt the quilted blocks together, using the strips to make the edges pretty. I would welcome your advice on the quilts for the boys. They range in age from 9 to 7, and the oldest is trying to be more mature than other boys his age. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks in advance for your advice and wisdom. Carol Crites.

Here’s my reply: Hi Carol,

Thanks for your note and your quilt pic. I’ve been thinking about it and the best that I can think of is to unstitch it into 3 or 4 rows and add white fabric to the long sides of those rows, so that you won’t lose your arrow points when you join the quilted rows. Layer and quilt the rows with the added fabric and then trim them to about 1″ wider than the points. Join with white fabric. Your arrows won’t touch like they do in the top, but it will be much easier to quilt. The quilt process would be a lot like the Aloha Strips in the book, which is a row quilt. You should only have to add about 2-3 inches of fabric onto each row edge to allow for the quilting and joining. I’d love to see your other quilt projects to see what the blocks look like.

Let me know what you think, okay?


Keeping Up With Kim W

Well, the truth is, I just can’t keep up with Kim! She’s made two more queen sized quilts and I’m just about speechless.

About a year ago I received an email from Kim telling me about her first queen sized quilt (quilt-as-you-go) and her own special ergonomic sewing table. I just treasure messages like that, especially when the author takes the time to photograph their creations and attach the photos so that I can see them. I consider it a wonderful gift from a new friend.

So when I recently received another email from Kim, I thought “Oh, how nice, a new pic of a little quilt!” No, four pics of TWO *large* quilts!! How does she do it?

Here’s Kim’s first quilt and her custom sewing table. Below are her newest creations and her note:

I just completed my second & third ‘quilt as you go’ queen size quilts!
I just wanted to thank you again for your technique!
Sincerely , Kim from NC


Her First Quilt

My friend Rena taught her friends how to make a Crazy Shortcut Quilt. Here’s the note she sent me:

I showed it to a couple of ladies at work & they tried it too! Better news- neither one of them had ever quilted!!!!
Here is her creation. She is Russian and never did anything like this before. She loved it! She plans to make more! I’m thinking about getting her the Quilt As You Go {reimagined} to help encourage her. Thanks for teaching this in Valdez!

Isn’t it just lovely? Thanks, Rena, for teaching her and for sharing her success with me.


A Happy Quilt and Happy Quilter!

What better way to start the new year than with a huge smile! Rena took a class with me and oh, did we have some laughs. She decided, like so many quilters who use our techniques, to add her own spin to her quilt. She chose to use Minke brand fabric, which is a super soft polyester fabric that is just perfect for baby blankets. Unfortunately the very softness that makes it so delightful to hold also makes it a nightmare to cut straight, especially if you’re trying to cut multiple layers, as our techniques call for.

Rena was up to the challenge though, with a great attitude and staunch determination to succeed. She did, just beautifully! Here’s her note to me and photo of her quilt. I hope you enjoy both just as much as I did. My next blog post, in about a week, will have a pic of the quilt her protege made. Thank you Rena!

You will remember me, I tried to do the quilt in all minky…
Well, I finished.
My first mistake was to use all minky, my second was to keep working on it instead of throwing it in the scrap pile. It looks great from a distance, but don’t get too close. Trying again.
Good news! I showed it to a couple of ladies at work & they tried it too! Better news- neither one of them had ever quilted!!!!
I’ll send a picture in the next email.


Eileen’s Crazy Shortcut Quilt

I love opening up my email file and finding a message like this, from Eileen. What a gorgeous quilt and a kind heart to share her quilt with me!

Dear Marguerita,

I have been working on my son’s quilt for some time. I finally finished today and thought I would send you a copy of the photo of it.

It is for his birthday. He has Irish heritage hence the greens on the front. He is a journalist and loves music, which explains the checkerboard pattern in the back.

Thank you for writing the Book. I have thoroughly enjoyed making this quilt for my son.

Kindest regards,
Eileen K


Jean’s Modern Quilt-As-You-Go

Jean sent me a pic of her quilt, made from our book Quilt As You Go {reimagined} and I just LOVE it! The quilt is made from 9 fat quarters, cut along the length of the FQ and the quilted blocks are joined with the same fabrics as the top, making the joining strips nearly invisible.

It’s taken me a while to get her photo posted but oh, boy, was it worth the wait. From the day that I received her pic I’ve been excited because hers is the first photo I’ve received of anyone else’s quilt made using that pattern. Jean did a beautiful job on her quilt and she took the process one step further, doing something I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet done, and made her binding from scraps of the top fabrics – it looks AWESOME!! Jean added this note with her pics “Did this one from strips The back is done with yellow flannel because it will go to chemo patients.” What a kindness to give quilts to those going through a frightening time of their lives. Thank you so very much Jean.


Pat’s Simply Charming Quilt

Pat Minich is a professional quilt designer and purse designer and she helped me with the text of one of my books and then gave me the treat of sharing a photo of her beautiful finished quilt! Called Simply Charming, from our book Quilt As You Go {reimagined} this quilt is made from just two fabrics, one framing center squares of the other. The joining strips are hidden in the framing fabric. I am deeply grateful to Pat for helping me with the text of the book and for our fun conversations. I’m really looking forward to seeing her next quilt! Here’s Pat and a portion of her quilt, and below the whole quilt. It really is simply charming :)



Sarah’s Quilty Bit

When I teach my quilt classes, and write a new quilt-as-you-go book, I start with a little helper that I call a “Quilty Bit”. I make them from several 5″ squares of fabric and batting. I make two “crazy cuts” similar to those in our book Crazy Shortcut Quilts, and then layer those squares with batting and backing, and quilt them with decorative stitches and pretty rayon threads. Then I join two squares, leaving out only the last seam, so that my students can see how the squares are joined. In my books I suggest making one of these Quilty Bits if a reader feels unsure of how to do the joining and wants to have a small sample to play with before starting a big quilt.

My friend Sarah (Sadie_J on YouTube) sent me pics of her “Quilty Bit” and I wanted to share them with you. The purples are her squares and the center pink strip is the joining strip of fabric. Doesn’t the gold thread look gorgeous against her fabrics? Thank you Sarah!


Blue Alaska!

I love living in Alaska! I’ve lived here 35 years and traveled the state quite a bit, but I’m not done yet. There’s just too much to see, from the islands of the Aleutian Chain (next year’s trip, I’ve promised myself!) to the northern Arctic Wildlife Refuge to the islands of the south east panhandle. I’ve gone ocean kayaking in Prince William Sound, commercial fishing in the Gulf of Alaska and driven the Alaska-Canada Highway, many times. I’ve flown in jets, small planes, taken the ferry to many towns and driven many roads to explore this great state. Below, courtesy of Google, is Russia, Alaska and Canada, with a tiny bit of the Pacific Northwest USA in the lower right hand corner. The two pink dots are Anchorage and Seward and the yellow path is roughly the path I drove my RV this past year, heading toward Arizona and back north, to Alaska just a month ago.


This is one of my favorite photos of Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage, along a road I’ve taken hundreds of times to get to Seward, Kenai, Soldotna, Homer or Seldovia. The Arm, like so many things in Alaska, is gorgeous to look at but can be deadly to the unwary.


As I get older I think more and more about sustainability for our world and our global economy and I love the fact that Clothworks, a company whose fabrics I’ve loved and used for years, is focused on creating their fabric here in the USA. When I traveled through Arizona I saw cotton fields and I often wondered if that cotton would someday be in fabric that I use to make a quilt. Clothworks is introducing their American Made Brand (AMB) cotton, which is from Arkansas (and possibly other locations), spun and woven in South Carolina (I really want to visit there!) and sold out of Seattle (I love Seattle too). I was invited by Candice at Clothworks to join in on her American Made Brand Debut Blog Tour of the United States. AMB_blog-tourShe asked 50 quilters and bloggers to participate and to create a quilt block based on their state license plate – what a cute idea!

Here’s a pic of me, with my RV, and the RV license plate, which I used for the colors of my Alaska Quilt Block.


I took this opportunity to play with paper and pen (which I love doing) and then take some long overdue classes on using Adobe Illustrator.

Here’s my first draft, in pen on tracing paper. I use tracing paper a lot so that I can keep design aspects I like (just trace over them with a new sheet of paper) and move, resize or discard the parts I don’t like.

From there I started playing with color, matching the fabrics to the actual license plate and trying to decide on the color of the mountains. One of the things that I love the most about the mountains here is how close they are, and how beautiful they look when lined up against each other, fading gradually into the distance. This photo of the mountains in Seward, taken from the northern boat harbor, shows what I mean as the mountains go from dark in the foreground on the right, to faded on the left. The center has the two boats I worked on in 2003 and 2004, when I went commercial fishing for salmon.


I wanted the Alaska State Flower, the Forget-Me-Not, to be part of this block. It’s a delightful shade between pale blue and periwinkle and it’s a delicate, tiny blossom. I found these just down the street from where I’m parked in my RV this summer. Alaska is definitely a place you will never forget once you visit or live here.


When it came time to do some drafting, I went back to a site I’ve been taking classes on: Skillshare. It’s a site that offers a wide variety of technology and business classes that allow you to learn at your own pace. I’ve taken several classes there. I particularly like the fact that they use a lot of videos in the classes, and a minimum of text. The classes encourage students to use their own projects to learn with which is another aid to learning. By working on my own projects, I accomplish two tasks at one time – learning and finishing something I need done. It’s also a lot more fun to learn while working on something you like rather than a textbook lesson. Here’s what I came up with in Illustrator.

Alaska Block New

After drawing and drafting I was finally able to start playing with fabric – YAY!! What a gorgeous collection Clothworks provided, making it very easy for me to be able to use fabrics in the exact colors I was looking for.


I used the fusible web technique, drawing reverse images onto the paper backing of the Steam-A-Seam and then lightly adhering it to the wrong side of the fabric. After cutting the pieces out, I used a full steam heat setting to permanently set the fabrics. If you are not familiar with the various techniques of applique, I highly recommend Kay Mackenzie at All About Applique and my friend Ruth Blanchet at Academy of Quilting.


I put a little bit of stitching to hold the Aleutian Islands in place and wanted to embellish the Forget Me Nots with some white and yellow thread, but that’s something better done when the block is quilted. If I were quilting this today I would also put some white thread on the tops of the mountains because as late as June this year there was still fresh snow appearing on the mountains around Anchorage. It’s been that cold!

So, why did I call it Blue Alaska? If you look at every photo in this project, your will see multiple shades of blue. Alaska, The Last Frontier, has a big clean blue sky, huge clean blue lakes and is surrounded on the south, west and north by blue ocean. Even the icebergs have a blue tint to them. This land is often green, sometimes (for very loooooong periods of time) it’s white, but always there’s some blue… there’s even a Blue King Crab! Tomorrow brings the summer solstice and on a clear mid-summer night the sky in Anchorage is just a dark blue. On the solstice it never really gets dark like it does in the south, just dusky around 2-4am, and then it’s daylight again.

For quilters who know me, this little block was just a fun side project. I’m still focused on making, writing about and teaching quilt-as-you-go projects and the one I’m working on now ties right into this “Alaska” blog post – check out the T-Shirt I found in, of all places, Las Vegas! I went scrounging the second-hand shops in both Las Vegas (on my way home) and Anchorage for T-Shirts for project testing. I just had to buy this one! Look for more about T-Shirt quilts from me very soon. If you have always wanted to make a T-shirt quilt, gather them up now and sign up for my newsletter on the sidebar here. If you want to take a class with me, check out my schedule on the Classes & Workshops page here.


This was a fun blog tour and I’ve really enjoyed reading about the other states, AMB-Fabric-Bundle-1 and learning more about the quilters – some I know and some are new to me – and I hope you will too. Take a trip around the USA to visit some very creative quilters and learn about their home states. Many thanks to the folks at Clothworks for inviting me to be part of their wonderful tour and for sponsoring this great giveaway: leave a comment here to be entered to win an 8 Fat Quarter Bundle of American Made Brand fabric from Clothworks – YAY!! To qualify you must live in USA (I’m sorry to my Canadian and International friends). I’ll pick a random comment on June 27th and announce the winner then.

Click here for a comment window…..

Download the Alaska License Plate Block Pattern Download

OUR WINNER is Carolyn Boutilier! YAY and Thank you for reading and commenting on my home and my quilt block :) ~Marguerita