BB's Blog

Inspiration Secret! (but it's not really a secret. LOL!) May 27 2016

How do you get inspired when you are trying to create something?

Different kinds of music have been used for inspiration
with great success since people first learned to create music.
It's my favorite way of stimulating my creative processes.

If you've ever played soothing music to help put a baby to sleep, or upbeat music to get you up and moving when you work out or clean up, you are already doing it, too! 


Simply put, music is a great inspiration for activities, especially creative ones. Even my quilting gets better with the right music to accompany my efforts. 

I listen to whatever strikes my fancy and my tastes vary greatly. I've used music for inspiration for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until college art classes that it made more sense to me than ever before. 

One of my professors suggested listening to music that matched the colors I used in painting. Soft and soothing for blue, loud and brassy for red and yellow, nature sounds for green, soft flowing spiritual music for white and purple, and downbeat for dull or dark colors, etc. (It also helps to match the music to the mood you're trying to capture, but that's another subject we won't cover at this time.)

Guess what - it worked! The watercolor painting I entered into the senior art exhibit actually took top prize, much to my surprise. It was simply flowing shapes in bright purple, green and gold, which are Mardi Gras colors. 

Mardi Gras Colors

Another professor admired my painting and said, "The shapes and colors all flow together in tune. It just sings!"   The college even bought the painting from me for $475, a huge amount of money to an 80's college kid (and it still is). Sad to say, I let the painting go without getting a photograph of it. Oh well .....

It still works like a charm!

Today I apply this same technique to my quilting. The embroidered quilt on my frame at present has wispy and feminine curliques with a lot of movement.

My music of choice for this quilt is softly flowing and sparkling Tschaikovski pieces like Swan Lake, Nutcracker Suite and Violin Concerto in D major.

The hard part is to stick to the quilting and resist dancing my hands and arms through the air like twinkling fairies and butterflies. But if I do, I hope no one sees me or they'll think I'm totally off my rocker!

How about you - what do you use for inspiration? Leave a comment below and tell us what you find most helpful to stimulate your own sewing and quilting. We want to know!



When all else fails ... Update October 19 2015

The key to success is asking questions and following instructions!

Determination! May 11 2015

Sometimes you just have to admire the tenacity of something to reach higher and be more than it was intended to be. Such is the case with my elderberry bush planted in the back yard at the corner of the house in an old wooden cask. Until I could decide where to plant it in my yard, I just stuck it in the peck-sized cask half full of dirt so the roots wouldn't die before it found its permanent home. 

Last year, it made a feeble attempt to grow and actually had about three heads of tiny purple berries on it, but it was still in its temporary home awaiting the fence I'm trying to get put around the back yard to keep my furbabies home. 

This year, the 'bush' has decided to take matters into her own hands and expand. Just look at that brown trunk from last year and all those new green stems from this year! Heck, it hasn't even been fertilized and it's already twice as tall and wide as it was last year!

Every single branch has new blooms at the tips that will develop into delicious purple berries that I plan to make into jelly if the birds don't get to them first. The first picture below is bloom on my bush, the other two are what will appear later this year as the blooms develop first into masses of blooms, then a cluster of tiny berries.


Here's what I think she did and the evidence to help prove my case.

See that stem coming up from the ground outside the cask? I think the roots went down into the ground through the hole in the bottom of the cask or through openings in the side of it. In any event, the elderberry has escaped her 'temporary' housing and the roots are now growing in the ground underneath. You have to admire her determination in making herself perfectly at home where she sits. 

I'm hoping a name will pop up for her, but nothing suitable has presented itself yet. Any ideas? A living thing that has overcome its surroundings and thrived like this needs a really good one. 

Happy Sewing!


Lost in Quiltland April 20 2015

Today, Kaye Wood is still going strong and is even sponsoring a cruise to Hawaii in December 2015. Wish I could go. Sigh.....


We recently ran across many vintage quilting magazines and books, most out of print and very old.

I remember seeing many of these great quilting books in years gone by, but none grabbed me like a Kaye Wood self-published book in particular, dated 1969. 





1969. Oh my!  How I remember those days and my mind took me back there again.

Back in 1969 I was still a new bride and the kiddies didn't start coming for another few years. Having quilted off and on most of my life, I was still doing everything the way I was taught: cut patterns from cereal boxes to mark the fabric and then cut with scissors. I pieced with a treadle sewing machine, and the quilt was mounted on a home made quilting frame and quilted by hand.

Our one local PBS station got it's start a few years prior but with only an antennae (before cable), it was hard to pick up their programs very often. When I was lucky enough, there were one or two sewing and quilting programs I could catch on Saturday morning. Kaye Wood's program was one of them. 


Oh my! How great it was to learn about tools & techniques we now take for granted: rotary cutters & mats, cutting rulers, chain sewing & strip piecing techniques, etc.

A whole new world of quilting had opened up for me! 


Look at the back page of this book with all these new quilting tools Kaye had for sale in 1969! Most of them are still classics and have a place in nearly every quilting studio. 

Books, video tapes, rulers and other things to make quilting super fast!







Fast forward to 2015.
My three kiddies are now in their 40's and have made me a proud grandma seven times over. After my hubby and I parted ways a few decades ago, I returned to school and got a BS degree in Graphics/Fine Arts. I moved west to work in Seattle for 20 years, then moved back home to West Virginia when I retired.

A few years ago, I got a longarm machine and started a new quilting business, then started designing and producing a line of rotating quilting templates.

So much has changed since 1969!


Today, Kaye Wood is still going strong and is a true inspiration. 

A visit to her website shows that she has definitely not stood still herself and is even sponsoring a quilting cruise to Hawaii in December 2015. Wish I could go. Sigh.....

She has more than 70 books currently listed for sale on her website (but no word on how many are already out of print and not available). Kaye still does classes and speaking tours, and events like the quilting cruise. 

WOW! Is she impressive or what!

(And no, I'm not acquainted or affiliated with her, just a long-time admirer and wish I really did know her!)

WOW! Just WOW!

Happy quilting!


New Product - the WAFER March 29 2015

If you have recently purchased templates from TopAnchor Quilting Tools, you are already aware of our newest improvement. 

This is the first change to the anchor post system since our unique rotating templates were introduced way back in 2012.

 New Product - the WAFERWafer with anchor post


The wafer fits directly underneath the anchor post and overtop of the quilt and pins.

The wafer has three main functions: 

  • It provides a solid platform for the template to rest on, thus steadying the anchor post, 
  • helps keep the anchor post from tilting, and 
  • takes up some of the space between the anchor post and the quilt,making the anchor post more stable and secure. 

A wafer is included with each new template.


Happy Quilting!





Artists and Tools February 03 2015

If you gather together the elements of art (paints, brushes, a canvas, etc.), what do you have? Easy - a pile of artist's tools and materials . But when you add the talent and experience of the artist, the results are something else entirely. The most important element to any artwork is the artist. 

Vincent Van Gogh is a prime example of this. With simple paints and tools he created magic on his canvases. 

Renowned painter Vincent Van Gogh and his Starry Night painting

Think about all the great works of art that are found all over the world - they would not exist without the artists who created them. That art doesn't happen by itself. 

Quilt Artists

The same is true of quilting. Most quilters have many of the elements of quilting: fabric, thread, patterns, needles, cutters, and just about anything anyone could possibly use to make a quilt. But without the quilter to put it all together, it's just a lot of sewing stuff.

One of our favorite and most famous quilters from the past was Jane Stickle. Her Dear Jane quilt hangs in a museum where we can look at and admire her stunning artwork, a creation of her talent. It wasn't her tools and materials that made her quilt, she designed made it herself. 

Renowned quilter Jane Stickle and her Dear Jane quilt

It's possible to create a great quilt even if we only have a needle and thread to sew our pieces of fabric together. Rooms full of the latest products like stabilizers, markers, cutters, rulers, templates, patterns, fabrics, videos, DVDs, books and everything else we quilters use are amazing things but they are only stuff until you - the quilter - add your talents and abilities to the mix.

Even the most sophisticated computer software won't do anything but sit there unless someone with knowledge and expertise starts hitting those keys, inputting the right information to making it work the way it should. The computer artist still has to make creative decisions about thread, patterns, designs, type of stitching, etc. Each new decision will change the end result in some way. Without the quilter and their creative genius, that computerized system is just a chunk of expensive electronics and all those materials are just .... stuff. 

Without YOU - the quilt artist - your work of art won't get made. 

There are so many great tools on the market today to help quilters in our craft, but the real artistry comes from the quilter. There's no doubt that the tools make it easier to make a great quilt, but those tools will do nothing until the artist picks them up and puts them to use. 

We quilters today are blessed with just about anything any quilter could ask for so we can make that next quilt. There's nothing wrong with keeping your sewing room well stocked with sewing and quilting materials and supplies. Taking advantage of all the information sources available to help us learn to quilt better makes good sense. Attend classes, buy books and DVDs, join sewing and quilting groups, shop for machines and tools that do what you want them to do. It's all good!

Great supplies make quilting so much easier than before, but don't get hung up thinking that it's the materials and tools that are the most important because they aren't.

YOU and your talent are the most important part of making a great quilt happen.

Happy Stitching!



Tables for Templates! October 17 2014

Thinking about getting a longarm quilting machine? Congratulations!

Do you wonder what the longarm table extension is used for and why you might need it?

If you use a regular sewing machine for machine quilting it already has a bed to support the item you are working on.

With a longarm quilting machine there is only a small area where all the action takes place. The needle only goes up and down (never sideways), and since the design is created by moving the machine instead of the quilt, there are no feed dogs. 

You can see in the photo below that the needle plate on a longarm has only that one small round hole for the needle to pass through and no feed dogs. (By the way, this is my Innova 22" longarm, which I dearly love!)

This is all the work area you have to pay attention to when doing freehand work like meandering scrolls, loops, pantographs or using a computer program to guide the machine.

This small sample quilt shows just how much area is supported when stitching. (These photos are just to demonstration the amount of support in the area around the hopping foot - a full quilt would be mounted in the frame and not sag like that on the sides.) 

When you use rulers and templates, there is not enough flat area to support them properly and you can run into all sorts of problems. This is where the extended base table becomes an essential part of your machine.

Pop on your extended base table and look at all that support area now for your work! 

And there you are! All ready to stitch-in-the-ditch, sew piano keys, crosshatch areas, and do all sorts of other designs with rulers and templates.

Have fun!

The template shown in the photos above is our rotating Dahlia template. Videos of the  Dahlia and all our other templates and pricing information for them can be found on our website

Happy Stitching!


Ancient UFOs - the Quilty Kind August 04 2014

What's your oldest UFO?

(That's quilting shorthand for UnFinished Object or quilt.)

Without counting, my guess is that I have around thirty or so ranging in age from just started this week to ones I started in the 1960s.

My grandmother ordered the iron-on pattern for the state flower blocks when Alaska and Hawaii were still territories so that tells you how old it is. I've been working on embroidering it and have 27 done, barely more than half of the blocks. These blocks were with me through my teen years, through marriage and three kids (now grown), and have moved with me from one side of the country to the other and back again. I wonder if I will ever see them finished and sewn into a top.

Everything has been kept in a 1950's tin.
It had contained a delicious fruit cake that was a gift from my father's boss in the coal mines.
With all the moves, it's no wonder that poor tin has gotten a bit battered!


The embroidery thread has seldom been exposed to light and is still as bright and strong as when I bought it.  Check out the thread photo; some of it only cost five cents a skein.

 The pattern is crumbling with age and needs to be scanned and preserved as a pdf or at least photocopied. It's amazing that it's still readable. The red ink is stamping ink and a few years ago I tested it to see if it would still stamp. It did. Amazing!

These are just a few of the blocks I embroidered. I have to wonder if I'll ever get another one done or even the whole quilt.

Guess it gives me something to plan to do - sometime.

From time to time we read about a family inheriting such treasures and not knowing what to do with them. Way too often they end up on craigslist or eBay. I'm determined that this won't happen to any of my UFOs or even my fabrics, tools and sewing machines. Everything is in my will so that I know someone will get them who will take care of them and not dump them at a yard sale. I am also making a list of everything to tell my family what to do with it all.

So what is your most ancient UFO? Share your comment below and on our Facebook page where you can include pictures. We want to see them!

Happy quilting!


PS: Your comment might not appear immediately because we've had to start moderating to weed out all the spam. If you are not a spammer, your comment will be posted.

Finding Free Quilting Patterns July 28 2014

So many beautiful blocks and free quilt patterns are available today it's often hard to choose which one to use in our next quilt. One that I especially love is the Lady of the Lake quilt block. It's a very old and popular quilt block and can easily be found among the many free quilting patterns on the internet. I think my next quilt will be one in red and pale pink and I'll call it the Red Lady


Note that in the Lady of the Lake quilt block all of the dark pieces
point in one direction and the light pieces point the opposite direction.
There are many variations and those all have (or should have) different names.

"History has it that the Lady of the Lake Quilt Block was named after a poem by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1810. The pioneer men and women loved the heroic tales of Sir Walter Scott, and the women honored him in their most practiced method of artistic expression by naming a patchwork block after the poem. The Lady of the Lake quilt block appeared shortly after publication of the poem, one showing up in Vermont some time before 1820." QuiltingCoach Penny

For the last 100 years or so I’ve been quilting. Well, maybe not quite a hundred, but let’s just say my grandmothers taught me to cut the patterns out of cardboard, trace them onto the fabric with a pencil, then cut the pieces out with scissors. Yes, we had many of the standard sewing implements like needles, thimbles and sewing machines, but marvels like rotary cutters and cutting mats were years away from being invented.

Folks often passed around to each other their own versions of free quilt patterns with handmade cardboard templates. Sometimes they just looked at a quilt, sketched out the design and made their own patterns. It was a rewarding and creative effort to make a quilt for which there were no printed patterns or directions. Today most sewing and quilt shops (including those on the internet) have a large selection of patterns, kits and instruction books for blocks and quilted items. Such convenience!

With another great invention, the internet, finding both new and old quilting patterns has gotten easier than ever. If the name of the block is known, a search often turns up tons of places to find the pattern. I often take a shortcut and check out Marcia Hohn's Quilter's Cache website first because the block I want is probably already there. Another great feature of their website (and there are many!) is the Missing Quilts page.

Use your favorite search engine to find “Lady of the Lake quilt” and hundreds of links will pop up. Of course, you can use any block name in place of Lady of the Lake. Check out the links until you find the block or quilt design you want.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of websites I found when looking for the Lady of the Lake quilt pattern. Check them out!

Quilter's Cache  

McCall's Quilting   

Facebook group from Lake City, Florida:


If you chose to visit any of the websites listed here, please pay attention to their copyrights and other permissions before sharing their patterns and instructions with others. By linking to their pages instead of sharing only the pattern or instructions, we are attributing their work to them and that’s important because creators need to be recognized for their efforts. (Before anyone asks, the Lady of the Lake quilt pattern has been around for a very long time and no one can copyright the pattern itself. However, if a person writes or draws the pattern or quilt, those writings and artwork are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.)

So keep on looking until you find that free quilting pattern you want - it's out there!

Happy quilting!


Disclaimer: Neither TopAnchor Quilting nor Betty Bland is associated with any of the internet sites mentioned above other than for researching and information for personal use.

Hero Veterans May 26 2014

Hero Veterans

Most families had relatives who served in the military to protect this great land and help preserve our freedoms. Today I want to write about two of them, my father and one of my brothers.

Ruth & Arthur Fridley on wedding day 1938
Dad served during World War II in Europe as an Army medic. When asked about his time there he would only say, "I peeled a lot of potatoes."
 Arthur Fridley 1969
After I grew up, I realized that he must have seen and experienced many horrors while in France, Italy and Germany. He paced the floors during thunder and lightning storms and often made us go into rooms in the center of the house for our safety. He was also very much a pacifist who disliked seeing people fight for any reason, especially us kids who seemed to tease and fight each other all the time.

After the war, he worked in the coal mines to keep his huge family (10 kids) clothed and fed. He passed away in 1976 at the too young age of 54 from the complications of black lung, emphysema and bone cancer from being exposed to coal dust in the mines. RIP Dad. You were one of the best.

My oldest brother, Lewis, followed in Dad's footsteps and served two tours of duty in Vietnam during the heaviest of the fighting. He was in the Army's artillery division and lost his hearing because of the constant noise. He is proud of this country and still participates in many veteran activities. We are proud of him.

Lewis Fridley 2006
Lewis posed for sculptor Barry Snyder for this statue of a helicopter gunner. It is part of the Vietnam Memorial in Fairmont, West Virginia.


These two brave men are a small part of the millions who have served our country. I'm very proud of them both and that they are part of my family.

How We've Grown! May 05 2014

From our humble beginning with just one template 17 months ago, we are now awaiting the shipment of our newest templates!

After the Baptist Fan template came the Feather Wreath template, followed by Five-point Star templates in two sizes, an Eight-point Star template, a Multishape template, and now the Dahlia template in two sizes.

 We have videos  posted on our website showing how to use these innovative tools to make great designs on your quilts with the least effort! 

Here are some of the shapes you can make with them:


(The temporary Dahlia template demonstration is currently only posted on our Facebook page and a better one will be posted with the others soon.) 

We owe our continued success to our supporters, many of whom are repeat customers as each new template comes out. Many thanks to you for telling your friends about our templates and helping to spread the word.

God is good!

Happy Stitching!


Dahlia templates! April 23 2014

We're so excited!

The new Dahlia quilting template prototypes arrived yesterday and we are soooooo anxious to try them out!

This new template will be available in sizes 9" & 12" and each makes a six-petal flower. You can even stitch a second pattern over the first to make a perfect 12-petal flower. It's so easy!

Since both templates fit over the same anchor post and rotate for stitching, you can stitch first one size and then the other size over top to create many different combinations. It's so easy you will find yourself using them every chance you get.

Here is a diagram of nine different variations we used on a lap quilt:

Catch TopAnchor Quilting on Facebook where we'll be posting pictures of our progress in testing these out.

When will they be available for purchase? SOON!

Happy Stitching!

We have a new website! April 01 2014

We have a new website!

My how time flies!  

 Look how much has happened since our first template in December 2012!

We now have six templates in our product lineup 


Plus a brand spanking new website!
Click on this link to see it: 
Look around the site and check out all the 
demonstration videos and everything else! 
Sign up for our free newsletter! 

Let us know what you think about the new website.

Many, many thanks for your support as we are continuing to produce more templates and tools, and now we have our very own website. It's hard to believe it was only 16 months ago that our first template (the Baptist Fan template) was introduced to the public. Life is good!

Betty Bland

By the way, if you need someone to build a website for you, let me know and I'll put you in touch with my Rock Star developer, David. He did a great job and was fast to respond to my every concern.