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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Oriental Arborvitae

Today we planted 25 Oriental Arborvitae seedlings along 100 feet of the south fence line. The seedlings were shipped from West Texas Nursery in Idalou Texas, part of the Texas A & M Forest Service.  Home | West Texas Nursery

The following information is from The Morton Arboretum - The Morton Arboretum

Oriental arborvitae

Foliage of oriental arborvitae.

Oriental arborvitae is similar in appearance to other species of arborvitae. Nurseries usually sell the cultivars of this plant rather than the actual species and those cultivars can vary greatly in appearance. Winter protection may be needed for this plant. Because it is typically short in stature, oriental arborvitae may be planted under utility lines. Also known as Thuja orientalis.

Botanical name: 

Platycladus orientalis

All common names: 

oriental arborvitae

Family (English): 


Family (Botanic): 


Planting Site: 

  • Residential and parks, 
  • Under utility lines

Tree or Plant Type: 



    Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale: 


Landscape Uses: 

  • Foundation, 
  • Hedge, 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Patio/sidewalk, 
  • Screen, 
  • Specimen, 
  • Utility

Size Range: 

  • Small tree (15-25 feet), 
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet), 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet), 
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet), 
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)

Mature Height: 

18-25 feet

Mature Width: 

10-15 feet

Light Exposure: 

    Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones: 

  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9, 
  • Zone 10, 
  • Zone 11

Soil Preference: 

    Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites, 
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils: 


Alkaline Soils: 


Salt Spray: 

    Moderately Tolerant

Soil Salt: 


Drought Conditions: 


Poor Drainage: 


A few days  later I realized we found some poison ivy. Itch, itch, itch....yuck!

Update on May 7

These plants have not been doing very well where they are planted. I decided to put them in pots and put the pots around the vegetable garden. They seem to be doing better but just not thriving.....

This tree was given to us by our sister-in-law, Dorothy. She got it as a cutting from my brother, Louis and his wife Donna. 

This is not the actual picture of the tree.

Here it is on March 20, 2021

May 7 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Chain Piecing

Chain piecing is a method of speed piecing where segments of fabric are fed into the sewing machine one after the other without stopping to cut the threads. This produces a chain of sewn segments that are then cut apart and pressed.

Chain Piecing Steps

Here are the steps to accomplish the chain piecing technique:

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Needle Plate

The needle plate, sometimes called the throat plate, covers the area near the needle. There are 2 commonly used needle plates: the zig zag plate, shown above, and the straight stitch plate shown below. In this article you will learn about the differences in these plates and why you might want to have both of them on hand.

Using Scraps From Pre-Cut Strips

NOTE: In October 2017 I posted this one minute video on using scraps from pre-cut strips. Since that time I have probably made 5 or 6 more of these. That's a lot of scraps.

Here is the finished quilt!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Strip Piecing: Free Pattern and Tutorial

If you need a quilt that's easy, fast and fun to make, the Strip Pieced Diagonal Beginner quilt is for you. I found this easy strip piecing pattern a few years back when I was looking for easy quilts to make for Veterans.

Using just three fabrics and strip piecing, you will love how quickly this quilt comes together.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Paper Piecing Floating Points - Free Pattern and Tutorial

I have seen plenty of paper piecing patterns with spikes and star points. Paper piecing makes these points nice and sharp at the seam allowance. Even with the precision of paper piecing, we can sometimes end up with cut off points when piecing the units together.

What can we do to prevent ever cutting off our points? The answer is paper piecing floating points. Floating points mean the points do not end at the seam allowance. Instead, the points end in the interior of the unit.

The floating points for these spikes will never be cut off because the points don't end at the seam lines for the unit.

Amazon Star, The Biggest Quilt I Ever Made!

Here it is guys. Amazon Star designed by It finishes at 104" x 104". I have never made a quilt this big. My daughter, Diane, wanted a duvet cover for a king size bed. So I offered to make one for her. This is a picture of the finished quilt top taken by China at Sew Special Quilts in Katy Texas, where I purchased the fabrics.

Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial

Quilters use paper or fabric as a foundation for piecing quilt tops. this tutorial shows how to use the foundation paper piecing method. Quilters use paper foundation to quickly and easily piece designs with strong, sharp points. Other paper pieced designs include very detailed flowers, faces, animals and lots more. 

There are many ways to obtain designs for foundation paper piecing.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Color Block Quilt

The Color Block Quilt is pieced using strips of fabric. Choose 13 coordinating or contrasting fabrics. Cut each fabric into strips then piece the strips together into rows. Fabric from one row flows into the next. You’ll be amazed how fast this top goes together. The Color Block quilt finishes about 60″ x 72″.

Strip Piecing Tutorial

Strip piecing is a technique using strips of fabric sewn together in parallel rows. The parallel rows are called strip sets. Cut the strip set into segments called units. Sew the units into the quilt top. This strip piecing tutorial shows you how.

Strips are cut in various widths from selvage to selvage. Using this method cuts down on the time it takes to cut and sew units together.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

String Quilts

Traditionally string quilts are pieced using a foundation of lightweight muslin or newspapers. In old quilts you often see the newspapers still inside. A string quilt uses long scraps of fabric. You can use scraps of any color or use coordinating colors for your quilt.

For my Quilts of Valor I use scraps of blue and red with a single white or tan fabric on the diagonal. I place the blue fabrics on one side of the diagonal and the red fabrics on the other side. This creates a look that is similar to the log cabin block. Where log cabin blocks have a light and a dark side, this block has a red and a blue side.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Lone Star Block Mini Workshop

Lone star block workshop

The Lone Star block is a classic design. It is traditionally made by piecing rows and rows of diamond shaped fabrics into larger diamond shapes. Piecing these diamond shapes, with all the bias edges, is often difficult to do, especially for beginner quilters. Instead of cutting fabric into diamonds, this workshop shows you how to use fabric strips. This free mini workshop shows you step by step how to make a Lone Star block. The following techniques will be demonstrated and explained:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Understanding Quiltworx Papers

This set of 8 videos were the first videos I ever made and shared on YouTube in March of 2017. I had just become a Certified Instructor for Quiltworx, Judy Niemeyer Quilting. If you are a fan of Quiltworx patterns, I hope these videos help you!

This tutorial will help you understand how to use the paper piecing patterns published by Quiltworx.  It demonstrates how to cut fabric and paper piece the flying geese units shown here. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

How To Fold And Store A Quilt

My friend, Jackie Theriot, owner of Black Cat Creations, suggested an article on how to fold and store a quilt without getting creases in it over time. This is something that has always concerned me. Generally, most of my quilts are given away or donated to causes. But the ones I will always keep are simply folded and placed on a shelf. They do have creases in them but Jackie has inspired me to look into this problem and find a solution. Here is what I found.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Download Free Quilt Pattern - Shaded Nine Patch Scrap Quilt

The Shaded Nine Patch block consists of three light squares, three dark squares and three half square triangles made from both light and dark fabrics. When you look at the completed block it resembles a half square triangle. This means you can set these blocks in a multitude of ways. All the log cabin settings will work, all the pinwheel settings work and any setting that uses half square triangles works. In this download there are seven example layouts. What I like most about this block is that you can piece lots of them and decide later how to set them.

The finished block in this quilt is 9" so each of the squares and half square triangles finish at 3".
  • The squares are cut at 3-1/2".
  • For the half square triangles normally the squares are cut at 3-7/8" but we will cut them 4" and square up the half square triangle later.
Here are a few setting for the Shaded Nine Patch block.

All facing the same way.

Streak of Lightning

Zig Zag


Barn Raising

Happy quilting!


Five Steps To Mitered Corners

This article was originally posted in July of 2018 on my old website.

Mitered corners look great on quilts. Many quilters shy away from sewing them because it seems complicated. Break it down to these 5 simple steps and get the results you want every time.

Step 1: Cut Border Strips

In this example we use a quilt top that measures 11" x 14".

The borders are cut at 3-1/2" and finish at 3".

Friday, February 12, 2021

From Squares to Star

A star block with perfect points made from squares

I saw this technique at a retreat sometime in 2015. These star blocks are easy to cut, easy to piece and make beautiful quilts. The block is made from 2-1/2" squares and 3-1/2" squares.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Progress On Scrap Garden

Revised February 17, 2021

Changed number of units needed to complete quilt.

Last weekend I cut the fabrics for this quilt block. This is the sample I made before cutting all the fabric pieces with my AccuQuilt.

I started with the half square triangles. I stitched all 124 HSTs. Then pressed them all to the dark fabric.

Churn Dash Block Using Fat Quarters

The churn dash quilt block is an old favorite. It's a 9-patch block, meaning there are 9 units of construction. There are four half square triangle units, four rail fence units and one plain block unit. In this article you will learn how to piece a 12" finished churn dash quilt block. Look at the end of this article for other finished block sizes. There is a link to instructions to make a Churn Dash Quilt approximately 66" x 80" finished. For these instructions you can use scraps or two fat quarters of contrasting fabrics. Two fat quarters will make two blocks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How A Lockstitch Is Made

This article describes how a lockstitch is made. Most standard sewing machines produce the lockstitch.

Lockstitch - a sewing machine stitch formed by the looping together of two threads one on each side of the material being sewn. -- Merriam-Webster

This video was produced by Threads Magazine and published to YouTube on March 11, 2015.

Texas Edition: Yellow Rose

This block is part of the Texas Edition Block of the Month program.

Fabric and Special Instructions for Yellow Rose

For those of you in the Texas Edition BOM program, this video shows the fabric and special instructions for the Yellow Rose block.

Texas Edition: Welcome 2 Texas

This block is part of the Texas Edition Block of the Month program.

Trace The Pieces

NOTE: The Bluebonnet flowers at the bottom of the block will be a little challenging….but you can do it! I suggest you leave those till the end. Don’t even trace the pieces just yet. There is a video at the end that will help you through assembling the Bluebonnets.

Texas Edition: Windmills and Sunflowers

This block is part of the Texas Edition Block of the Month program.

Raw Edge Applique Process

The process of completing a raw edge applique project are illustrated in the Ol’ Texan Pick Up Truck Tutorial. The same process us is used for Windmill and Sunflowers.

Texas Edition: Ol' Texan Pick Up

This block is part of the Texas Edition Block of the Month program.

Trace The Pieces

You will need a light box for tracing. If you are making the small size you can begin tracing now. If you are making the large size, you will need to tape the large pages together to make the complete design. Once the paper is ready you can begin tracing the applique pieces. The video below shows how to prepare the drawing and trace the pieces.

Texas Edition Block of the Month Quilt

This block of the month program was done in 2019. The pictures are for inspiration. The patterns can be purchased from the designer, Tana Mueller, on her website Designs By Tana.

The first four blocks have lessons on how to make the raw edge applique blocks. There are links to them in this article.

This short video introduces the program.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Color Junction Quilt Video Tutorial

Here is a video I made in January 2020 showing how to make this quilt. It's just equilateral triangles!

Monday, February 8, 2021

This Week At Five Oaks

This weekend I started cutting my next scrap quilt I'm calling Scrap Garden. I've never been good at coming up with clever names for quilts but it's a scrap quilt and I'm making plans for a garden so Scrap Garden works for me.

The quilt is made from two classic blocks: 

Shoo Fly
Consists of half square triangles and squares.

Fifty Four Forty Or Fight
Consists of a square, 4-patches and tri-rec units.

How to Make a Mondo Bag

These bags are really fun to make. I first posted this tutorial in January of 2018. For Christmas the month before, I made 14 of these bags, one for each of the women in my family. They were a big hit.

In July of 2019, after a subscriber asked me about the lining, I added a video I found that explained the lining a little better. It is included later in the tutorial.

In This Tutorial

Here are the steps for making a Mondo Bag:
  1. Gather your supplies and fabric
  2. Sew outer fabric panels
  3. Assemble outer shell
  4. Assemble lining shell
  5. Attach handles
  6. Stitch outer shell to lining shell
  7. Turn and topstitch

Before you start preparations for making your Mondo Bag, take about 10 minutes to watch this video from Quiltsmart. It’s a very good overview of the process.

A few things about the video:

The interfacing used in the video is By Annie’s Soft and Stable. As you saw in the video, it stands up on its own. You can choose that product if you like your bag to stand up. I used Fusible Fleece which is available in various thicknesses. Be sure you are purchasing a fleece or interfacing that is fusible. Choose the thickness that you like best. I use Pellon Fusible Fleece in a mid-weight loft. For more information about fusible fleece see the article --> Product Review: Fusible Fleece for Quilting and Sewing Projects.

The instructions include options for adding pockets to the lining and adding a key holder. These are not addressed in this tutorial. Follow the printed instructions if you wish to add these to your Mondo Bag.

For information on fusible fleece read the article, Fusible Fleece for Sewing and Quilting Projects .

Gather Supplies

You will need instructions and interfacing panels to make a Mondo bag.

Mondo Bag Project Kit

The Mondo Bag Fun Pack includes instructions along with enough panels to make one Mondo Bag.

The Mondo Bag Interfacing Set includes just the panels.

What You Need

Refer to the instructions that came with your Mondo Bag Kit for fabric and fleece requirements. In addition you will need the following:

Applique Pressing Sheet
Sewing Machine with 1/4″ foot and regular foot
Iron and ironing surface
Thread: Coordinating thread for sewing. Contrasting thread for top stitching.

Sew Outer Fabric Panels

The next video describes all the information printed on the gridded interfacing.

Cut the fabric squares according to the Quiltsmart instructions. For each of the four panels you will do the following steps.

The gridded interfacing has two sides. The side with the bumps is the adhesive side. Lay the panel on your ironing board with the bumpy side up. With right sides up, center a fabric square inside each square in the grid.

Arrange the Fabric Squares

Place the fabric squares so they don’t touch each other or overlap the printed dots. Later you will fold on these dotted lines. Keeping clear of the lines makes the folding easier and neater.

Fuse Fabric to Interfacing

Next use the iron to fuse the fabric to the interfacing. The instructions tell you to use steam and press for 5 – 10 seconds. Instead of using steam, I use a spray bottle of starch alternative or plain water.

Lightly spray the starch alternative or water over the fabric. Place the applique pressing sheet over the fabric. Press for 5 – 10 seconds over the entire area. BE CAREFUL! The applique pressing sheet holds the heat for a little while, so pick it up by one of the un-ironed edges.

After the pressing, check that the fabrics are fused properly. Fold the panel along the long and short lines and check that the edges stay in place.

Check the long lines.

Check the short lines.

Sew Along Grid Lines

Now it’s time to sew the grid. Start with the short lines.

Fold on the dashed line.

Sew a 1/4″ seam from top to bottom.

Continue folding and sewing all the short lines.

Next, clip on the dots between squares.

Along the seams you just sewed, you will clip on the long lines as shown here.

The clipping allows adjacent seams to interlock when the long seams are sewn.

On the ends of each short end, the arrows tell you which way to position the seams.

Now sew each long seam making sure the short seams lay in the direction of the arrows.

Printing along the bottom tells you which way to press the long seams. Press from the fabric side.

Completed fabric panel. Make 4.

Assemble Outer Shell

In this step you will sew the 4 panels into two “L” shapes.

Next, the two “L” shapes are sewn together to form the outer shell.

Align all 4 of the “Bottom Center” squares. The seams should interlock. Start stitching on the left where you see the two pins. Start at the dot, backstitch then continue to the dot on the right. Press the seam in any direction.

This is what the panels look like after stitching.

Sew the Side Seams

Next the side seams are sewn.

After all 4 side seams are sewn, you will have a square bottom and 4 points at the top.


Fuse a 2-1/2″ strip of fabric to each of the two handle interfacings. I chose to piece a handle using 13 squares for each.

Assemble Lining Shell

Update July 18, 2019 – I found this new video from QuiltSmart. It shows how to prepare the lining and the pocket.

The lining shell is made by fusing the fleece to the lining fabric then assembling as you did for the fabric panels. Please note: these instructions do not include the pocket stitched into the lining. If you wish to include pockets or a key ring holder in your bag, follow the instructions provided by Quiltsmart.

Fuse the Lining Pieces

  1. Following the instructions in Step 5 of the Quiltsmart instructions, cut the following:
    • 4 panel pieces from lining fabric
    • 4 panel pieces from fusible fleece.
  2. Cut 2 pieces of fusible fleece each 2-1/2″ x 24″.
  3. Cut 2 pieces of lining fabric each 2-1/2″ x 24″.
  4. Fuse all the lining pieces to all the fleece pieces.

Assemble the Lining Shell

Following the same process for the outer shell, assemble the 4 lining/fleece panels into the lining shell.

Attach Handles

  1. Place a lining/fleece handle right sides together with a fabric/interfacing handle.
  2. Stitch a 1/4″ seam on each long side.
  3. Turn the handle so the right sides are out.
  4. Top stitch on each long side.
  5. Baste the handles to the outer fabric as shown below.

Be sure to place the right side of the handle to the right side of the outer shell. Baste the other end to an adjacent top point, taking care not to twist the handle.

Stitch Outer Shell to Lining Shell

  1. Turn the lining shell so the fabric is inside and the fleece outside.
  2. Turn the outer fabric shell so the fabric is outside and the interfacing is inside.
  3. Place the outer fabric shell into the lining shell, keeping right sides together. This will make it easier to stitch the two shells together.
  4. Pin along all the top edges as shown.

Next you will stitch on the stitching line. I leave an opening for turning between the corner on the left and the handle on the right. This is also a different process than the Quiltsmart instructions.

Stitching the Inside Corner

Start stitching just before an inside corner. Backstitch.

Stitch until you reach the horizontal stitching line.

Stop with your needle down and position the bag to continue stitching.

Stitching the Top Point

When you reach the top point with the handle, stop with the needle down.

Pivot the bag and stitch across the handle stitching line.

Continue stitching until the last handle is stitched. Backstitch. Leave the last section open for turning.

Trim Corners and Top Points

Before turning the bag, the inner corners and top points are trimmed.

Clip the inner corners in three places: 1/4″ before the corner, 1/4″ after the corner and diagonally into the corner.

Trim out the bulk between the outside clips.

Trim each top point to 1/4″ as shown.


Turn the bag so the right sides of the fabric and lining are facing out. Arrange the bag so the lining is on the outside and the outer fabric is on the inside. This will make it easier to position it in the sewing machine as you top stitch.

Close the Side Opening

The opening you left for turning needs to be closed. For each side of the opening, turn under the raw edge 1/4″. Pin the sides together as shown.

The opening will be stitched closed and topstitched at the same time in the next step. Using contrasting thread and a longer stitch length, start with the opening you just pinned and topstitch right along the edge. Continue until you reach the starting point. Secure the threads.

If desired, add another line of topstitching about 1/4″ from the edge.


Happy quilting!


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