Isabella's Whimsy

handmade with love

Just stopping by…

young elephant 3

I wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you :0)

Will be back in a couple of days with a new baby quilt to show you.

In the meantime maybe you would like to see a young elephant’s first experience with the ocean and share his joy –

Here is the Facebook link



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PQ Season 7, Challenge 3 – Thread

The challenge for Project Quilting hosted by Persimon Dreams is to make a quilt of any size, in any manner, so long as it is a finished project completed within the week and contains one or more of these:

  1. Include patchwork.
  2. Include appliqué.
  3. Have 3 layers stitched together by hand or machine.

The 3rd Challenge topic for this week is Thread.

As soon as I read ‘Thread’ I knew I wanted to make some Spool Blocks.  The spool block is an old-fashioned blocked that is pieced.  I also knew I wanted to make a mug rug because, well, because it’s small; I was confident I could complete a mug rug in a week.

Here is the thread mug rug.  Titled: Spools. Size 8.5″ X 6.5″. Made by me in my home in San Antonio, TX.

IsabellasWhimsy Thread 1

First I made the two larger spool blocks in the traditional way, but I used my own dimensions to cut the pieces.  I quilted the mug rug and added the binding, but there was too much white space left, so I made three little spools and appliqued them.  I like their wonkiness. I think they add some motion to the mat.


IsabellasWhimsy Thread 2.JPG

If you are interested in how to make the spools, just let me know and I’ll share what I used and what I have access to.

You can vote on the Thread entries starting tomorrow afternoon/evening by going here: Viewer’s Choice Voting from February 7th – 12th  You will need to scroll down a ways to find it, but it’s worth the effort!

Is there a quilt block that you like a lot? Don’t be shy…just tell us which one!




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and the Winner Is ___


The winner of the first ever Isabella’s Whimsy contest is

*Drum Roll*

Sharon Andersen

(and the crowd roars with triumph!)

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I asked that people leave a comment guessing how many copies of the Millennium Falcon Mug Rug Pattern I will sell, and Sharon has guessed 8.

Sharon’s prize is a 40% off coupon code for any 1 item from IsabellasWhimsy.

Sharon and her sister Susan have an Etsy shop that sells their original-design patterns; some of the patterns are applique and some are paper pieced-they are all so cute and fun!  Plus they offer their own complete quilt patterns and bundles.  It would be great if you could pop in to see their shop at MsPDesignsUSA.   I purchased their caribou (or is it a reindeer, they ask) pattern.  It is a very good product with clear pattern pieces, instructions and suggestions for projects.

Thank you all!



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Whimsy Quilts…Then and Now

While finishing up a lap quilt for my uncle I was thinking back to when I started making Whimsy Quilts, for real.  The first one (not counting the monkey blanket) was for a young friend of mine who was expecting her first baby. She showed some of us in the office the comforter she liked online, and I said, “I can make one like that for  you.”

That started it all.

Here is the picture of the online comforter she liked; she really only wanted sea turtles, not land turtles; following that is a picture of the one I made, the first of all to come.

Online Picture

Online Picture

Polly's Baby's Quilt - Sea Turtles 012I sure didn’t know about quilting back then! I’ve made several quilts since and learned tons of techniques, skills, and perspectives.  I have tried out all kinds of new quilty-related projects.

So here is where I am today with probably the most complicated quilt yet.

Sept. 3, 2015Each block represents something from my uncle’s life. I designed the black and white referee-shirt stripes along with his favored University of Oregon Duck for the countless high school games he refereed over a span of many years. I used the Fat Cat Patterns applique Eagle for my uncle’s deep patriotism also knowing that the local school in Yoncalla has the eagle for their mascot. My sister had made our uncle an autumn themed patchwork quilt a few years ago, but when he saw the quilts I made in memory of my brother-in-law he turned to Sis and said, with a twinkle in his eye, “Why didn’t my quilt have a flag?”  That comment struck the original spark of making him a quilt, so he got a whimsical flag from my scrap bag!  After retiring from his regular job in and around Yoncalla, Oregon, my uncle and aunt went to Stanley, Idaho to manage a tourist motel as seasonal work for several years. During that time, Uncle became an amateur photographer, made reclaimed wood frames and had a nice little side business going on. Row 2 of the quilt has my interpretation of 2 of his most popular and favorite photographs: “Idaho Mountains” and “Birch Trees”. 

I don’t have great pics of his photos on hand, but these will give you an idea of what I worked from.  Btw, the little white square may be recognized by some as the flash/lens from my old flip phone when I took the pic of the photo of the mountains.

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Row 3 came into being when I wanted some more length.  I modified a design that I had purchased in a Row by Row Experience shop by making huge flying geese from half-square triangles (HSTs). I’m thinking he must have seen many flocks of geese flying overhead while in Idaho.

completed backI pieced the back of the 45″ square lap quilt with the remaining dark green fabric (given to me by my sister), the remaining Oregon Ducks fabric I brought home from Oregon a couple of summers ago, some more huge geese, and a bit of red from the flag scraps.

Now that I know something about quilting it was fun to decide how to quilt this project.  I used straight lines and gently curving lines depending on the section of the quilt. Some areas are lightly quilted, others are more dense.

DSCF1371 (2)I made the quilt label by using my ink jet to print on fabric, then added an inch wide frame from some mountain gray fabric. I washed and dried it once, so it is beginning to get all soft and crinkly.

I think Uncle will be happy with his surprise next week.  After all, it passed the first test here.


From the beginning until now, I love Isabella’s Whimsy. I love the opportunities to learn, the creative flow, the people I meet – everything.

In joy,

Janie / Isabella

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As the Phoenix Rises from the Ashes…response to disappointment

In thinking about quilt patterns to make  for the reopening of Isabella’s Whimsy on Etsy my memory kept returning to the mid-1990s when I had made an amazing quilt design.  I was so proud of it – my first original design.  I couldn’t quite recall the exact pattern, but I was fully confident that if I could only see one of my quilts made with the pattern I could analyze it and write it up as a pattern. I kept this idea simmering in the back of my head when what do you know,  I stumbled across a quilt from that long-ago time that I had not finished (not too surprising).  My hands nearly trembled in anticipation as I unfolded that gem-of-potential only to drop in confusion when I saw the pattern was a simple tweak of a typical patchwork, not the amazing quilt design I remembered.

Oh well.


But I did not give up.  I talked to my understanding big sister who said she still has the throw I made for her husband and that she would take a picture and send it by email.  Ah, the gladness in my heart! Now I could write up the amazing quilt design and use it to make new quilts and to make a pattern to offer people, either in Isabella’s Whimsy on Etsy or as a freebie!  Then the picture arrived.  I was confused. dismayed. baffled. How could my memory be so wrong? so very wrong? This was indeed the design, but with only two colors, not the three colors I vividly remembered, so it really wasn’t all that amazing. ooohh.Jack's throwAs a last attempt I contacted my friend to ask for a picture of the baby I blanket I had made for her daughter who is now in college.  She was able to send a couple of pics, and again I was confused and even mildly shocked.  This was not my amazing design either!  She said she hoped I wasn’t disappointed, but I was and a little worried about my brain.

IMG_2686 But then just as the phoenix rose from the ashes full of life and strength, I rose from my despair, determined and motivated to re-create what I had apparently never created in the first place, my amazing quilt design!

So I set to work and used a sweet butterfly fabric with purples and other lovely little girl colors, some pink and purple, some old-fashioned delicate white print, and for a pop some lime green with white dots.  I measured and cut and sewed up a storm.  Of course in my “original” (mental) design I had only used three fabrics, but if three is good, four must be better.  So I improvised my way to a finished quilt top.  I started to write out the pattern and got to the part where I change things up…kind of tricky to explain improvisation.  So after more measuring and scribbling, I decided this is not going to be my amazing first original design, this is going to be a cute and happy quilt that I put in the shop, but that’s all. This time. For now, here is a sneak peak.




Would you like to read the folktale about the Phoenix Rising from the Ashes? click here

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An Honor and Some Progress

I was just checking email and was surprised and delighted to see that I am featured as most viewed on The Quilting Room with Mel for this week! How very nice!  Because of that I get to use this…

The Quilting Room with Mel

What was viewed? you may ask. Well, a Lap Quilt for My Uncle. When I posted I had one block left to make, so the progress I want to show is where I am with that last block.
Idaho Mountains for Uncle HarveyIt’s not quite finished; needs clouds and buildings, and stitching then it will be ready to sash for his lap quilt.  I used a photo that he took and sold to tourists as the inspiration for this block.  Maybe this week…



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The Very, Very, Very, Very First Whimsy Quilt

The very, very, very, very first Whimsy Quilt, aka The Monkey Blanket, is about 34 years old, two years younger than my son.  It was the forerunner of all Whimsy-Quilts-to-come and didn’t even know it.

Back in the day, sewists (modern term for seamstresses than do more than sew clothing) could purchase printed panels of animals or dolls, then cut, sew, and stuff them into toys – such was the intended use of the monkey, but whimsyism was lying latent deep within Isabella’s heart and manifested itself in the idea of using the monkey to make a quilt.

The materials demonstrate what I had learned growing up: use what you have. I used a twin-sized sheet, a piece of an old blanket and, of course, the monkey.

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Baby steps of artistry selected the threads and  the built-in decorative machine stitches to highlight The Monkey Blanket.

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We all start somewhere…



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Portland, Oregon

I’m having my annual vacation in Oregon and loving it!  One special event occurred Saturday, July 18 – I met up with a young friend from Texas A&M, in Portland. My heart always catches a little when I think of Portland, place of my birth.  My family moved to California when I was part-way through Kindergarten, but I have many memories of living in Portland.

So my young Aggie friend and I spent the day wandering through Portland taking in many fun sights.  First we rode the Max over Steele Bridge and found our way to VooDoo Doughnuts.

DSCF1270  VooDoo donuts shop DSCF1273



They were yummy, especially the Official Portland Cream – and I don’t usually go for cream-filled.


After VooDoo we strolled over to the Saturday Market which is also open on Sunday. There were many fun stalls with lots of different wares. Even a stall for hats.


And a fountain.


And great old architecture.



We went to Chinatown to look around a bit.


Next we strolled along the Waterfront and took a selfie with an interesting background.


Strolled back through the Saturday Market, picked up smoothies and worked on the remaining VooDoo fare.


We did some more walking while looking for the Portlandia statue, but we didn’t really know where to look… We didn’t find it, but we found (in the park where we thought it was) a pioneer statue and a tall redwood tree. I love how in the statue, the boy is holding a Bible, and even though it doesn’t show here, the mother is wearing a necklace with a cross pendant. Having spent most of my childhood in the San Jose/Santa Cruz areas and having an outdoorsy dad, I am very attached to Redwood trees; this one made me happy.



We saw some Portland city buildings.

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While waiting for the train back to his car I snapped a pic of the drinking fountain.


We then picked up his car and drove out to the Fabric Depot – he’s a good friend, right? To take an old lady to a fabric shop to pick up row patterns and some fabric on his one day in Portland!

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Fabric Depot, Portland, Cascades and Lake Fabric Depot, Portland, Sailboats on the Oregon Trail A Common Thread and Fabric Depot, Portland, Freemont Bridge

Fabric Depot is an acre and a half fabric store! The Row patterns are called: The Cascades and Lake, Sailboats on the Oregon Trail, and The Fremont Bridge.  I hadn’t seen the Bridge associated with the Fabric Depot, just with A Common Thread also in Portland, but there it was.

After the Fabric Depot we picked up some take out Mahi Mahi plates from L&L Hawaiian BarBQue for a picnic.

Then back into the car to find a beach along the river. What a happy park we found! Families were enjoying themselves in so many activities: wading, swimming, paddle boarding, playing with their dogs (none on leashes despite the many signs, oh well – very laid back), laughing, and just plain old having a good time.  Then as we climbed back up to the park from the beach you will not believe what we saw…


After the riverside fun we headed back to pick up my car and head home.  It wasn’t late, but he had to drive back to Seattle and I drove back to my sister’s, a bit south of Eugene. We had tons of fun and are making plans for next year. Maybe we’ll find Portlandia and ride the aerial tram!



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Memory Quilt Tops….Finished!

The two memory quilt tops for my great-niece and -nephew are finished, folded and ready to go.  We are going to add fleece and the quilt stitching after I get there.

Before the final pics, here are two squares from each block that I haven’t shown you before.

Two of Papa Jack’s vintage cars, his 1957 white Thunderbird and the 1956 turquoise and white Fairlane.


I traced a pic of the T-bird onto white cotton, then sketch stitched it; seemed too thin, so I added fusible interfacing to the back.

DSCF1190I made an applique pattern for the Fairlane, fused it, then sketch stitched around all the pieces.

I asked each of the kids to draw a picture for me to include in the quilt. The idea was to capture a special memory/connection of theirs to Papa Jack. The plan was to scan and print their pictures on fabric, then stitch in as blocks. Wasn’t quite that simple.  I put the printed fabrics in a vinegar bath, but it took out all or almost all of the color!  So I reprinted them (don’t even ask me how that went, but finally it worked), got out some fabric paint pens and colored over their pictures, heat set, and that worked well.  The great-niece drew Papa Jack’s F100 Ranger, the vehicle she (11 years old) has already claimed for her own. DSCF1189Great-nephew did a crayon rubbing of some coins because Papa Jack was a treasure hunter who found old coins, and an amateur collector.  G-N also loves his money. The fabric pens had two ends, one a brush and one a fine point, so I was able to trace the letters on the large California coin, from where Papa Jack lived most of his life.

DSCF1191So here are the quilt tops and a caption following for each block .

Jonathan's Quilt 2 (2)

Row 1: Two patriotic blocks (Tic Tac Toe block and appliqued eagle block – Fat Cat Patterns) and July Star, for Papa Jack’s birth month.

Row 2: McDonald’s ice cream sundae (cherry, I believe), Treasure Hunters, his hobby of repairing antique clocks, a mason jar of nuts and bolts, etc., a cut out from a patriotic ball cap edged with baseballs representing his sons and grandsons sports.

Row 3: Wonky log cabin house for home and family (my sister says, Well, he was a little wonky, wasn’t he?), a heart block for their 50+ year marriage, great-grandson’s pic, US flag representing his amazing flag collection and all the ways he shared his love for the flag with schools and scouts.

Row 4: Typewriter fabric for the long career he held with the Bank of America as an office machines mechanic, the vintage Fairlane, a t-shirt block showing his great respect for the first Americans, and the boy scout emblem appliqued on blue for the younger aged scouts.

Row 5: Family camping times, and the Balkan puzzle block that I used to represent his keen interest in the Civil War, the blue uniforms surrounding the grays on a battlefield of green.


I will only mention the differences here.

Row 1: Easy Weather vane block in patriotic colors.

Row 2: Last block is a cut out from the Los Banos High School where his two older grandsons played ball.

Row 3: The truck.

Row 4: The Thunderbird.

Making these quilts was very therapeutic for me. Jack married my sister when I was 7 years old.  He was my brother for a long, long time.  He was the most constant man in my family and will always be in my heart.


My Favorite Quilt

Val's Quilting Studio

Val’s Quilting Studio is hosting a Tuesday Linky Party for us to share old posts. Each Tuesday has a duo of themes, this week’s is Farms and Favorites.

Well, I posted one of my favorites on Tuesday, but I also want to post about an old favorite I didn’t write about.  It’s a Character Quilt (not sure if I made up that name or not).  The idea is to reflect someone’s character through color, shapes, and lines, and sometimes photos.  This Character Quilt is what I designed and made for a gentleman at church who was a pretty special fellow.  He led a very colorful and energetic life.  Early on he was passionate about rodeo and did very well at riding bulls, Brahma bulls.  When I got to know him he was a grandpa, still very energetic, rode motorcycles, and was passionate about Bible study.  Together we designed Grandpa’s Hugs Quilts (you can see a tab in Isabella’s Whimsy showing what we made for his grandkids), and in the midst of that work I was so impressed by his energy that inspiration struck to design his character quilt.  What do you think?


Character Quilt

Character Quilt

He really loved his rodeo shirts that we used for the 3 grandchildren’s quilts, so for him to be able to keep a memento of each, I used a piece of them as well as a piece of the backgrounds or backings of the quilts. Then I added other bright energetic colors.  He had some photos printed on t-shirts for us to use and I had an extra one made for this wall quilt.  On the children’s quilts we made one cuff unsnap to reveal a hidden place and Grandpa folded up and inserted a $2 bill, so I copied that idea on his little quilt.  Wish I had a pic of the label!  I hadn’t made more than one or two labels, or it might have been the first, I don’t remember.  Anyway, I hand-embroidered in black, red, blue and orange his name and three characteristics of his: energy, passion, spirituality. He was a very special brother-in-Christ who helped and taught me when I was in need.

~ with a tear of memory,


p.s. He didn’t die, just moved away! If you want to see our Hugs Quilts click here.

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