mandalei quilts

Quilts & Longarm Services

Slow and Steady Scrap Quilt

Slow and Steady Scrap Quilt

Posted By on Mar 31, 2015

Don't worry, promise.  There's a ton more I didn't include in this picture.

Don’t worry, promise. There’s a ton more I didn’t include in this picture.

If there’s a 12 step program for quilting, I would have to introduce myself by saying, “My name is Mandy Leins, and I have been buying fabric for 15 years.” The truth is, though, I haven’t bought (very much) fabric for the last couple because I have so much that I don’t even have places to put it. I did a huge cull of my stuff when I moved the longarm upstairs about 6 months ago, and from that I donated a couple hundred yards to my local guild for comfort quilts.  Since then, I’ve been trying to think of a scrappy quilt or six to make that uses up a chunk of my fat quarters, but which also requires the least amount of planning on my part, and which I can make while I work on my other projects.  Last night, I think I came upon just the right solution.

A few years ago,  my mom got me a little Accuquilt GO! and it came with this die I didn’t think I’d get much use out of.


At the time, I played around with it a bit using solids, and all the different sized blocks nested, which was nice.  Now, several years later, I’m thinking this little die will be the answer to my scrap quilt prayers Here’s my plan:

1) select a more or less coordinated selection of fat quarters.  Or–what the heck–just use them all!  No planning!

2) Crank a couple through whenever I come down to my sewing room: it’s on the way to the laundry room, and we do a *lot* of laundry.  This should be cake, right?  Riiiiiight.

3) Dump the same-sized bits in separate bags to grab from, so it is randomly scrappy.

4) piece some stuff, either on purpose for this project or a few bits and pieces here and there as leaders while I’m working on other things

5) do that a lot.

6) eventually put the quilt top together.

Think it’ll work?  I have high hopes. They key part will be, though, to do the next,

7) post about it once a week to show my progress, because the stars know I won’t keep grinding away at a quilt for myself if I don’t have some accountability.

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As my mom would say: “Oh honey, it was so sad.” I was on my way to teach a quilting class at my LQS last week, and had a big plastic bin of things to share with me.  It’s been a long, gross winter, and that day it was raining and foggy. All the parking lots around us are covered in a thick layer of sand and salt, car grease and exhaust, and it was just plain yucky out.

Unloading my car, I was so grateful I got a spot by the door long enough to unload my quilts… and that’s when it happened.  My hand slipped, and the box of quilts tumbled onto the ground and flipped over, spilling the top quits out on to the nasty pavement.  I picked them up as quickly as I could, but still was not quick enough to keep some of them from getting very dirty.  Oh honey, it was so sad.

One of them, a little pillow slip from my book, Wanderlust Quilts, was also in that fall.  I had brought is as an example of my quilting choices, and also to show that I often use pillows for testing out ideas.  For upcoming book talks and things like that, though, that was not good because it still needs to be pretty! I washed it out with handsoap in the sink, and was deeply grateful the black and gunk came off of it… and soon after had a horrible sinking feeling that the hand dyed fabric I had prewashed was actually bleeding all over the lovely white background.

Before.  The whole thing was like this, and the blue on the other side bled as well.

Before. The whole thing was like this, and the blue on the other side bled as well.

So after pulling myself together, I wrung it out, laid it over the back of a chair, and taught my class.  Then I refused to look at it for 4 days, and in that time, it had dried out and I was sure that stuff was permanent, but it turns out, my method took it right out.  I hope this method helps you, if you’re ever in this kind of a bind.

1) Wet the section (or the whole darn thing) by hand under warm water, then add a couple of drops of Dawn dish soap on that area.  Not the fancy stuff, the old school, basic, cheapest of cheap Dawn dish detergents.  (some of you may recall this is how I prewash batiks and hand dyes, usually).  Gently work it in, because you don’t want to raise the nap on your fabric by scratching at it.

2) Rinse thoroughly, then toss in the wash with a bit of detergent (I use Charlie’s Soap, which is an environmentally safe, non-toxic detergent that was formulated for use in the garment industry.  It’s really great at removing excess dye. And cleaning baby diapers.) and a Color Catcher if you’re paranoid.  Which I was. By the way, no affiliation, just have been using it for the last 8 years, and love it.

3) At this point, my project was stray-dye free, so I felt comfortable drying it as I normally would.

All better!

All better! It’s still a little damp in this picture, so that blue shadow will go away as it dries.

I’m telling you, Dawn, or Dawn + Charlie’s Soap and a color catcher are AWESOME.  They also remove red dye from bleeding batiks (ask me how I know).  I hope this helps you out, if you ever are in a bind!



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Sewing tips and tricks the hard way

Posted By on Mar 19, 2015

Here are a few amazing sewing tips and tricks I’ve learned over the last few years, followed by a scream then a good laugh:

  • Glue basting is AMAZING, as long as you sew the edge you basted (did this today).
  • Don’t put your spray starch and spray glue side by side.
  • Never square up your quilt on the floor while wearing a maxi dress or skirt. That is, unless you want to make a mini skirt your next project.
  • Make sure that pretty, glossy, white thread for your amazing quilting design is not actually the pretty, glossy, wash-away thread.

What are your hard-won sewing tips and tricks you want to (or are willing to) share?


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My free quilt pattern is up!

My free quilt pattern is up!

Posted By on Mar 13, 2015


Hey, y’all!  Over on the BERNINA We All Sew blog I’ve written up a free pattern for my quilt “Star Crossed”!  It uses 2 1/2″ strips, and while it has a complex pattern, it’s only one block to put together.  I also wrote a bit about choosing color schemes, AND there’s a giveaway for my favorite color tool by Joen Wolfrom.  Let me know what you think!

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Learning through play

Learning through play

Posted By on Mar 13, 2015

I talk about this with other parents all the time, how important it is for kids to learn through play. A couple of night sago, I realized I hadn’t learned that valuable lesson for myself!  I have a bunch of deadlines right now, and was feeling overwhelmed and stuck, and then it occurred to me that playing around would be a good way to enjoy myself and the process of creating again.

I used to quilt all of my quilts on my home machine, but haven’t done it in years since I got my longarm.  My playtime was to break out my #24 foot and do some free motion quilting on a 10″ square, getting back into the swing of quilting on a domestic.


I enjoyed the heck out of my time (I gave myself about 30 minutes before I had to get back to work), and just let myself do whatever I felt like.  I didn’t worry about backtracking, I didn’t worry about perfection, I just let myself loose.  Along the way, I learned some things:

  • I like quilting really small on my domestic machine, and I have great control.
  • It’s much more intimate-feeling working on something so close, and while I love my longarm, this has a different feel that I appreciate equally.
  • Once you know the designs and how to make them, it doesn’t matter whether you use a longarm or domestic: it’s a matter of just figuring out body mecanics.

That last one was the most important, I think, for teaching anyone to quilt, on any machine: DRAW DRAW DRAW before you get to the quilting! The less figuring out of stuff you have to do at the machine, the easier your process will be, and then all you have to worry about, really, is how you’re moving your body parts.

What are you going to play with, today?  XOXO, friends!

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I know, I know.  It’s been a while since QuiltCon, and where have I been?  Truth be told, I haven’t felt much like writing recently.  This last week, though, I worked on a top that was way out of my comfort zone, and one which really made me crazily happy.  And while it wasn’t “modern”, I loved the whole process.  It was a challenge to step outside of my usual style, and yet still remain true to what I like to do. After spending three days on it, I came away rejuvenated and energized, and it was just what I needed.

This quilt top, a variation of the Log Cabin, is a shop sample for The Joyful Quilter, and it’s their shop hop quilt pattern.

Here’s the front:

I chose to do ruler work to emphasize the shape of the diamonds in the darker prints, with a leafy/feathery fill in the center to pull in the feathers I knew would be in the border somewhere.

I chose to do ruler work to emphasize the shape of the diamonds in the darker prints, with a leafy/feathery fill in the center to pull in the feathers I knew would be in the border somewhere.


When I was talking with Susan, the owner, she really loved the red squares, and to emphasize them, I left them unquilted and puffy (we used a wool batt)m and I love how they pop out.  I also put some medallions in the center of each big diamond, and you can see that better from the back:

The back shows off that big grid X.  I used a pretty simple swirly feathery fill to offset all those straight lines.

The back shows off that big grid X. I used a pretty simple swirly feathery fill to offset all those straight lines.

When you’re quilting, yo want a balance of quilted and unquilted, so that there aren’t any areas of excess fullness or waviness.  I knew with the denser quilting in the middle and the puffy lines and squares I needed to do something else for the border that still held everything in place and provided enough quilting so it wouldn’t be unbalanced, visually or quilt-ily.  I also wanted to bring in the feathers so that it would have some cohesion.  I did some template work, too, to tie that element in as well, since I had used them for the medallions so extensively.



I really love those feathery corners, since they remind me of temple architectural bits from ancient Greece.

Yeah, I am pretty happy. I love Log Cabin quilts, but they can be a little tricky to work with, since they’re very busy.  When quilting something that will be a kit that Joyful Quilter will be selling, you want your quilting to help sell the quilt, rather than be the sole focus of the show.  Looking at it, I think I managed to balance my quilting with the top, enhancing it without overwhelming it.  Much of that was thread choice, since I chose threads that blended with the background.


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Can’t sleep, so I’m stitchin’

Can’t sleep, so I’m stitchin’

Posted By on Feb 14, 2015

Blanket stitch, when everyone else is in bed.


I have a tutorial all written, but it may have to wait until after QuiltCon.

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Wordless… Wait, what day is it?

Wordless… Wait, what day is it?

Posted By on Feb 12, 2015

It’s been a little busy the last few weeks, with final book edits, shipping and receiving quilts and tops, and quite a few deadlines for various places.  I’ve been remiss in posting and sharing eye candy on my blog (although if you’re looking for that, check out my instagram feed over on the right!)

I just finished a sweet little wall hanging, which was two layers of batting (Quilter’s Dream Select and Quilter’s Dream Green).  It’s a sweet little top, and the request was for simple, quick, and pretty, since it’s for a house going on the market soon.  I used a combo of swirls and McTavishing to give a sense of heat waves, and some simple lines in the suns.  My purpose was not to make it so intricate people would look at it, instead of the house, but not be blah either, you know?

Hand appliqued by Sara L.

Hand appliqued by Sara L.

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