Crafting a Better Fire

by Bill, eco-craft, free patterns, general crafts, sewing

After all the activity around the holidays, we’re ushering in the New Year with a day of rest. And that means a family game in front of a cozy fire.

Carrying armfuls of weathered firewood from our log pile outside one too many times, I finally made a simple log tote from materials we already had on hand: some scrap canvas and an old dowel. In 30 minutes I’d made this carrier, which I should have sewn years ago. While off-white canvas will certainly get dirty over time, I had pieces left over from a project and always prefer to use up what I have. The dowel was left over from a hanging rod from a trade show (though I also eyed an old broomstick which I could have just as easily cut down.) The image below takes you through the four simple steps. You might be tempted to make the carrier a bit larger, but if you do then it gets heavier when full and more cumbersome to use.



On a related note, we keep our firewood in metal hoop.


It came with a poorly made plastic snow and rain cover. The cold weather made the cover brittle and the sharp edges of the logs tore it within a few weeks. I purchased a heavy-duty tarp at Home Depot, took a few measurements and sewed together a far better replacement. The tarp stays fairly rigid and should last years and years. Here’s a photo of Weeks lifting the cover using the handle I sewed on top:



Not all stores carry the brown tarps, but it sure looks better than the standard bright blue ones, especially against the brick wall. If you want to make one, here are a couple tips:

  • make it at least 4″ wider than you think necessary to prevent it from catching on the logs
  • use polyester, not cotton thread so the stitching won’t rot outdoors
  • sew the handle to the middle section before sewing the sides and middle together (something I didn’t think to do since the handle was an afterthought.)

For those of you in enjoying summer in the Southern Hemisphere right now, you’ve got lots of time to sew your totes and covers for the coming winter…

Happy New Year to all!



From Angela


Many of you who know Angela Walters may have heard that her brother-in-law, a Kansas City police officer was in a serious accident recently. Angela is conducting a fundraiser to raise money for his long-term care beyond what insurance will cover. Please read her post and donate as generously as you are able. Angela has contributed mightily to our industry. It’s time to return the favor. Thanks!



Our YouTube Channel is Up!


For years our students have asked for tutorials and tips on various topics. We’ve begun making and uploading videos on the new Modern Quilt Studio YouTube Channel. We’re making videos based on the techniques and advice that we’re most frequently asked about.

The absolute first tutorial had to be our binding method. Although we’ve detailed it in books, it’s so much easier to watch someone do it with explanations about what’s tricky and advice on getting the perfect miter. If you love the tutorial and have trouble finding the Clover bias tape maker, we sell them in our online store.

circle video still

We’ve also added a tutorial for insetting circles. You can’t imagine how many thousands of times we’ve been asked about this. No special ruler. No special gizmo. No sewing machine attachment is needed. Just careful cutting and methodical pinning. Bill will show you that it requires care and consistency but you can master it in 10 minutes.

On YouTube there are Playlists on various topics so we’re starting a series of tutorials on color that we hope you’ll find useful. The first is on Desert Island Solids. Desert Island Solids is a name we’ve given to a group of solids that we find are most frequently the answer to the question: what color should I use with these prints? If you were on a desert island and could only take a handful of the most useful solids, these are the ones you’d want.


With the hundreds of classes we’ve taught we’ve discovered that some fabrics act as neutrals, even though they may have gold, green or blue in them. Each video on the playlist will feature one of the Desert Island Solids so you can see how it looks with prints in a variety of colors and fabric styles. Our Desert Island Solids are also sold as Fat Quarter bundles on our website so you can use a fat quarter to audition before you purchase the amount you’ll need for your project. You’ll find on the tag on the Desert Island Solids bundles, the names and manufacturers of each fabric in the bundle. If your local quilt shop doesn’t carry one you’re looking for, we sell them as well on our site and ship free to US addresses. Remember, even with brights, sometimes a neutral will help them glow. Regardless of the style of quilt or the fabrics used, one of the fabrics in this bundle will work with any project you’re working on. Take a look at the videos. We hope you find them helpful.

We have a list of topics and techniques for future videos but would love to hear which tutorials or topics you’ll most want to see on our channel. Let us know in the comment section!