A Goodbye Quilt


Since last summer, my husband and I have opened our home to students visiting from other countries who are here to improve their English and learn about life in the United States. As a home-stay family for Pacific International Academy, we have had one or two students at a time living with us for intervals of 3 weeks up to 4-1/2 months. What started out as way to help pay for our son’s college, filling our “empty nest” has turned into a rewarding experience on many levels. Because our son was home this summer when we started, we have had young male students, usually about 20-21 years old. Two were from Taiwan, one from Qatar (near Saudi Arabia) and the rest from Japan. When we have two students, they are from different countries so they have to speak English with each other as well as with us.

We have learned a lot about the cultures of their home countries and even some things about the Portland area we didn’t know. My husband and I cook “American food” for them. As an avid home cook, I also enjoy going to the local Asian or Mideastern supermarkets with the students, experimenting with unusual ingredients, and making their favorite dishes.

Shin, a Japanese student from Hiroshima, who lived with us for 4-1/2 months – our longest-staying student – left in February. I decided to make him a quilt. His favorite color is blue so I planned to make a scrappy (of course!) quilt using the Year of the Ninja fabrics, coordinating Quilter’s Candy Basic fabrics, and several other, mostly Japanese-themed, fabrics.



I planned it, cut it out, put it up on the design wall, and sewed some of the rows together weeks ahead of his leaving – but managed to procrastinate (as usual!) so that I had to finish it the week before he left. I thought I had enough time because a friend was going to quilt it for me with her Juki and frame. Unfortunately, her machine broke and had to be serviced. I ended up doing the quilting, and adding the binding and label the day and night before he left.

The quilt is my own design called Life’s a Puzzle. It is constructed of 4-1/2″ rows of squares and rectangle that form plus or addition signs when the rows are sewn together.

To facilitate handling a  60″ x 80″ quilt while machine quilting with my domestic sewing machine, I decided to do a quilt-as-you-go technique. The quilt top, batting, and backing were divided into approximate thirds. Quilting a diagonal grid with a light grey polyester thread was fast and went well with the cross-shaped design. I stopping quilting the grid one row short on the edges where the sections needed to be joined; the quilting continued to the edges on the other sides.


Quilting in sections was more manageable. The tricky part was, that while I understood the method of joining the sections in theory, I had never actually tried it. Perhaps this was not the best time to be experimenting – oh well!

First, I squared up all four sides of the three sections leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance… like you would prepare the edges of a quilt before adding binding. Then I carefully folded back the quilt top and backing and trimmed 1/4″ off the edges where the three sections would be joined – the bottom edge of the top section, the top and bottom edges of the middle section, and the top edge of the bottom section.


Second, I joined the quilt top layer of the top and middle sections, right sides together, and sewed a 1/4″ seam allowance. On the front, all you can see is a regular seam that I pressed in the same direction as the other seams. Contemplating my next step, I was confused, tired, and bit disheartened … it looked like a mess! But it really wasn’t so bad.


Third, the batting needed to be joined. The picture below shows the back side of the quilt.  I secured the edges of the batting with some Heat Press Batting Together and gentle pressing.

Heat Press Batting Together


Fourth, the backing needed to be joined. I do not have pictures of this step so you will have to visualize the following:

  • A strip of backing fabric, 1″ x the width of the quilt, was sewn on to the edge of the backing of the top quilt section with a 1/4″ seam allowance
  • The strip was pressed downward over the opening
  • The raw edge of the middle section was smoothed upwards to meet the top seam
  • The strip’s edge was folded under 1/4″
  • The folded edge was hand-sewn in place to cover the edges of the backing
  • The result was a 1/2″ wide strip covering the seam – looking like sashing would on the front.

Fifth, I finished quilting the diagonal grid in the unquilted spaces, thereby covering and securing the areas where the sections were joined.  Yes, pictures would help a lot, but unfortunately that was not my priority as I rushed to to complete the quilt in time.

I used the quick flange binding technique I discussed in prior blogs – Binding by Machine Part 1 and Part 2.


The label was made hastily – and it shows – but the basic information is there for future reference.


I finished the quilt at 2:00 a.m., my husband and and the student woke up at 3:00 a.m., and they left at 4:00 a.m. for the airport!


Life’s a Puzzle

Here is Shin with his quilt… at about 3:30 a.m. 🙂 I hope he will think of us over the years when he sees the quilt. We will miss him!


P.S. I do realize there is an obvious life lesson about procrastination to be learned in this story. On one hand it seems life is so busy, there are always so many other projects to sew, and I have always worked well under pressure. But, it make life more stressful, so I do try to learn from my experience, but I just can’t promise myself it won’t happen again!

Is there anyone else out there like me?


  1. Amanda Best - April 3, 2015

    What a lovely gift! I am sure Shin will really treasure it.
    And yes, I do the same thing, I stayed up all night to finish my niece’s 8th grade graduation quilt and was so tired I barely remember the ceremony. We do like to put our selves through lots of time related stress, don’t we?

    • Ann - April 6, 2015

      Thanks Amanda! It is good to know I am not the only quilter to get herself in this situation. I do hope he enjoys the quilt and remembers us when he uses it.

  2. Debbie Gibbs - April 3, 2015

    I too am a “Host” Mom for foreign exchange students. I also work for International Student Exchange. We have had a young Lady from Brazil since August 2014. She has stolen our hearts and it makes me tear up thinking of her leaving in about 10 weeks. I started a Quilts of Valor quilt for her from the most recent Fon’s and Porter magazine called Flags of Freedom. I am having another friend get the sashing signed by friends. I’d better get moving!!

    • Ann - April 6, 2015

      Debbie, what a good idea to have friends sign the sashing! I may not make another student quilt because he had to sell some clothes to get it to fit in his suitcase. I do make travel pillows for each student with a cover of Oregon and Washington themed fabric, our 16″ x 20″ pillow inserts, and the Pillow-to-Go pattern.

      We have really enjoyed the students and learned so much. Our student for the current semester fell through, so we have a true empty nest for the first time. I made a double batch of Japanese curry for dinner, and my husband grinned and said “You know it’s just the two of us.” Guess we will be having lots of leftovers!

  3. Judy P - April 3, 2015

    Ann, there is a quilter on Youtube called The GourmetQuilter. She has a great video on how to do and join QAYG blocks.

    • Ann - April 6, 2015

      Thanks Judy! I do like the Gourmet Quilters method because it can be done all by machine, allows you to quilt blocks individually, and creates an interesting grid on the back which makes the quilt sort of reversible. For a child’s quilt, I don’t mind the row of stitching along the edge of the “sashing” on the front, but I think it would bother me on other quilts. There is always sewing down the strip by hand….

      Another good video is by Rose Smith from the UK. Here is the link:
      I am okay quilting several blocks at a time and then joining them. I have a quilt with lots of rows of 2-1/2″ strips. This method may work for that.

      I have learned about five different methods; each has pros & cons. I guess I will have to try them all and see which one works best in different situations.

      Thanks for your reply and the video link.

  4. Susie Rose - April 11, 2015


  5. pauline - April 13, 2015

    Is there a pattern for this cute mini quilt? Love it.
    Thanks, Pauline

    • Ann - April 20, 2015

      No, there is not a pattern for this quilt at this time. I will talk to our fearless leader Teri to see if it can be available in the future. Thanks for your interest.

  6. Sarah - April 16, 2015

    Oh my goodness yes! It seems that’s the way most of mine get finished haha :0) I’ve really not sure why? Be sure to let us know if you figure out how to get out of that habit lol…

  7. Ann - April 20, 2015

    Sarah, since procrastination has been a lifelong pattern for me, I am not sure I will ever change 100%. I do realize pulling an “all-nighter” is much harder on me now as I am older, so maybe I will remember that when I have a deadline looming…or not.