Welcome to my blog

For quilting demonstrations, trunk shows, or quilting retreats, please email me at jaci@backriverbags.com

Thanks for stopping by – I hope you enjoy my entries and check out my website at backriverbags.com.  You can find links to my current magazine articles, find out where to buy my patterns, or view a photo gallery of my quilts – you can also find pictures of my garden and some of my ideas on green living.

Our 2021 Season is on for Star Island! I cannot tell you how excited I am to be planning our conference again with Jean Kearney and seeing the names as quilters are signing up! We will be back – will you?

Quilter’s Conference: Treasure Island

September 6 to 10 or September 13 to September 17


Any questions, you can contact me here or email me at jaci@backriverbags.com

Be well and quilt on!

Something Fishy

Some of the first art quilts I made – courtesy of a class by Susan Carlson – were fish. Some how, my fish always looked like they swam out of a Dr. Seuss book, wild colors and fins galore. I always started to make a trout or a pike, but I ended up with a Liberace fish full of flair and exuberance. Recently, I have been writing articles for a local over 50 paper, The Senior Beacon, and my articles take that same turn…my intention is to write a serious article on quilting and then I end up confessing my tendencies to hoard fabric or discussing how my garden distracts me from sewing at all.

My most recent “quilting article” ended up being about fishing with my husband and I got an email from the publisher asking if they could also use it in the Hawkeye Hunting and Fishing News, the local sportsmen’s paper that is distributed free at the local marine store and other specialty stores. I said sure, great. Little did I know that while a wife who writes for a local over 50 paper is okay and somewhat interesting, a wife – of a hunter and fisherman – who writes an article for the local hunting and fishing paper is “wicked cool!” I am now a trophy wife! Who knew I had to get old to get cool?

Creative Genius

Why do quilters spend 10 to 14 dollars a yard to cut up fabric, sew it together again, and then pay a long-arm quilter another hundred or so to turn it into a quilt when you can buy one at Target for fifty bucks? It may not be exactly a quilt, but it’s a blanket. Because making something yourself, a quilt, a piece of furniture, a wreath, is always going to cost more than buying one mass produced at a big box store. That’s why you don’t see many people selling hand-made quilts – because you can’t make any money on them. You can hardly recoup your costs let alone pay for your time. Unless you are a famous, uber-talented textile artist, you are making expensive, heirloom, family treasures and you give them away. It’s an act of love and of trust – sometimes misplaced. When you see your lovingly pieced and matched blocks of fabric that have been custom quilted hanging over a fence after a trip to the beach, you can get a little indignant. When the new owner tells you that they take it everywhere and they love it…well, that helps a little. You are not ever going to give them another quilt but you don’t want to start trolling the dark web for someone to steal it back for you.

Crooked Man Quilt – Redwork

So, why do we devote so much time, energy and money creating a quilt? Because it’s not just the gift we give to others when it’s finished, creativity is a gift we give to ourselves. The design process is taking something lovely and rich and tactile and making it into something meaningful. And it doesn’t matter if you are working with fabric, or wood, or flowers, or even food. Just touching the raw materials is a treat…watch a woodworker run a hand over a piece of oak or a quilter lay hands on a smooth bolt of fabric – there is joy in the handling of them.

But the real buzz is in your head. The ideas and the choices you make at every step – block style, color palette, technique, size, and function – is it for a bed or for a wall…bright or neutrals…modern or traditional….each of us starts with the same blank slate but there are a million destinations and all the choices are yours. It is the dream of the quilt that is the prize because the dream itself is always perfect, never marred by error or restrained by your inexperience. Every dream quilt is like a new baby, the most beautiful, talented child you have ever seen and destined for greatness. You never see a new baby and think, “This one is going to be so average…”

For many creative people with more ideas than time, the quilts they design live in their heads for years before they ever actually get made. I had one friend with a quilt shop who made beautiful quilt blocks but never had time to finish a quilt until the shop was sold and she retired. She loved every quilt she started and she had plans for each and every one of them. Just thinking about them brought her joy. They were not jobs left undone, they were her bucket list. Starting them was a promise to herself that they would be created. When a quilter buys the fabric for a quilt, it is a declaration of intent. I have a plan and it will come to be.

And it will be beautiful. It will please the eye on the wall or on the bed. It will keep people warm. It will enfold those I love. It will be a hug for those too far away for me to reach and it may even go to the beach and lay on the sand. And quilts are like people – they get more character as they age and they get more interesting. I recently found a bed-sized, cross-stitched, quilt top in a Baltimore album style that was left on the free table at our guild. It was from the seventies and still had the quilt markings printed on it from the manufacturer. It had some stains on it and a few rough spots but when I ironed it and laid it out flat, it was gorgeous. Hours of effort went into cross stitching each basket of flowers and the decorated borders, and while I don’t know who made it or why it was never quilted, I have started dreaming about how it will look when it is done and it will be perfect, and I will have had a part in it. And that is the genius of creativity – you. You are the secret ingredient. In the process of making, you add yourself to the art you create. And that is a beautiful thing.

Quilting Nirvana

I finished the folding marathon and I won! I have folded every piece of cotton quilting fabric that I own and actually like! I have weeded out two crates of fabric that I do not like or will never use and I am going to make rag rugs with it. I turned this….


into this….

left side wall

One shelf of thread, 3 trays of nicely folded and sorted batiks and 1 tray of solids and polka dots. On the other side of the room…

right side shelves

3 containers of Christmas Fabric, 3 trays of prints, one missing tray (which I found was still outside and is now washed and drying), and storage for my project bags and baskets underneath. Once I finished up the folding, it motivated me to finish straightening up the rest of the room which did not take too long as most everything was still sorted from the last time I organized. One thing I learned? I still have two tuffet kits and a big box of tuffet feet taking up half my project storage space…I have plenty of room for all my fabric to fit in my sewing room….or at least I will once I make those two tuffets! 

Coming out of the coma….

comic book cardsThere is nothing to get you back from a funk like friends and fabric….I did some porch visits with my friends and now I am playing with the fabric so hopefully I will be out of my mental covid coma and back to productivity very soon. I have had this project on hold for a while – folding my fabric onto comic book boards – and I had started with my batiks…I mean where else would I start? But I was waiting for David to pressure wash my Coca Cola crates and then the covid funk hit and I closed up my sewing room and kept all covid thoughts away from it – a little mental gymnastics. I am not sure why I thought leaving my happy place was a good idea but that is what stress will do to you…or at least to me.


So today, since it appears my crates are never going to get pressure washed during fishing season, I put them in the tub and scrubbed them down so I can turn this – into this –






The crates are all washed and now they are drying….

washing crates

So, I am going to start folding again. It is a pretty simple technique and there are lots of tutorials online and you can cut the cards in half to store small scraps. Once I get them all folded, I will sort them by color and put the crates up on the shelves. Apparently, you can fold up to 7 yards on a card and since most of my cuts are 1/2 yards, I should have plenty of room.

I look forward to sharing when it is finished and to sewing! Here’s to having the happy place back!


With Friends Like These

DSC00838When times get tough, it is your friends and your family that can make all the difference. And my friends and family are making a difference and I wanted to take this opportunity to say how proud I am of the incredible people in my life! My sister is a school nurse who has gone back to the ER in Exeter, NH to help fill in during this dangerous time when hospitals are short handed. My nephew is a firefighter in NH and my brother is with Homeland Security in Pennsylvania and they are still doing their jobs. My neighbor Eddie is helping keep the local grocery store open. My husband is guarding the gate at a local retirement community, trying to keep everyone inside safe from this virus. To all of you – thank you.

My friends, many of them, are quilters. During this crisis, I have been watching emails flying back and forth as they switched their attention from bed quilts to face masks. They have been sewing and exchanging patterns, digging for elastic which suddenly became a hot commodity. From my neighbor Tammy, to my friends at the BFF and Art Bee, masks began to be churned out for family, friends, and donation as health professionals began to worry that PPE would run out. I am so proud of these ladies!

My friend Carol says: “They go out as fast as I can make them. I have been sewing them carolfor family and friends . The word spreads and it becomes friends of friends and neighbors of friends- lot of people in need. Enjoying using some of my bright colored prints and cheerful fabric designs.” Carol has even made men’s masks with longer elastic and I am picking a couple of those up for Dave tomorrow as his mask has been fighting with his hearing aids – thanks so much Carol! I love the lobster mask!

So, a shout out to all of my friends who have their sewing machines humming and the production lines flying out the door – way to go ladies! And to my family, neighbors, and friends who are on the front lines keeping those of us hunkering down at home safe, fed, and cared for, many, many thanks and God Bless you.


Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

I was going to write a post about how this pandemic has overturned our lives, cancelled our quilt shows, derailed our celebrations and focused our attention on creating masks instead of creating art, but I found this poem by Robert Burns that seems to say it all better than I could, so courtesy of an English translation on Wikipedia….

To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785

Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing,
Both bitter and piercing!

You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Getting It Done….

Pretty exciting week! I got an acceptance letter for two of my quilts to be shown at MQX tooth fairy dayin April! They are small wall hangings that I quilted myself which makes it even more of a buzz. I will be making the quilt labels this weekend, seems like my to do list just gets longer!

I also plan to go to Barnes & Nobles tomorrow and look for the March Issue of the Art Quilting Studio magazine as one of my quilts that I made for my Grandson got published and they should be hitting the shelves just about now! So, if you are in Barnes & Nobles, Joann’s, or your local quilt shop, look for this magazine!

blog badge

Also, March is my second quilt column published in the Beacon newspaper –  “Fabric Wars” senior beacon(http://www.seniorbeacon.biz/).  If you are over 50, and live in NH, you might want to consider a subscription! It has lots of articles of interest to the over 50 crowd..and my column! I am really enjoying writing quilting articles and hope to have a couple published in a few other places this year…fingers crossed!

And don’t forget, March is the time to sign up for Star Quilters in September if you want to be in the raffle for a free stay (starisland.org) – so sign up by 3/31/20! It is never too early to start dreaming Star Island dreams!



Bee Happy

DSC03912 (2)Sewing makes me happy, being with my friends and sewing, even happier! What makes me crazy is that even when I want to just whip something together, it makes me nuts if it is not right. And when my sister wanted me to get this bee panel ready for her office, I thought I could just add a small border and done…not exactly. The colors on the panel were very subdued and a plain border did not do anything for it at all. It needed something and it took me a while to figure out what it was but eventually, I came up with this pieced, sub-way tile style border. I think the black also helped add a graphic element to the border. It took me a lot more time than I planned, but my sister really likes it so it was worth it.

DSC03903I also got my January art bee pieces hand quilted which was one more thing off my to do list. We will be making small geometric inspired pieces for the next six months or so and then combining them into one art piece each for the quilt show. I even got some of my mystery quilt done at the retreat and got a binding on a small art quilt.

To top it all off, we got over to Sanford Sewing in time for their superbowl super bolt saleDSC03900 (2) and I got two bolts of fabric for a fabulous price – one of them a bolt of light weight denim that I am going to use to make a pair of Thai fisherman pants. And I found the sunflower fabric that I used to fussy cut the corners of the panel quilt border. Did I mention I hate working with panels? They are always wonky and the lines are never straight…kind of like my art pieces!

Personal Shop Hop

Liz at Bits ‘N Pieces of Pelham, NH

I took a personal shop hop this weekend with a couple of my quilting friends to find some fabric for my Star Island demo this year and drop off some posters for our Star Island Quilt Conference (https://starisland.org/programs/). I was up at Bits ‘n Pieces in Pelham and got a chance to spend a few minutes with the owner, Liz. Bits ‘n Pieces will be at MQX in April with their shop booth and a Handi Quilter booth. Liz has a great selection of rulers for long arms and domestic quilting, but I restrained myself (this time) and stuck to fabric shopping – and only what was on my list. I was tempted by this adorable red and black minkie sofa blanket but knowing that 

Jean and Sue

between the dog, the cat, and my husband, my chances of ever getting to use it would be really slim helped me to stay on track and avoid temptation shopping.

After Bits ‘N Pieces, we headed to Henniker and Quilted Threads. They have the most beautiful Japanese fabrics! The textures on some of them are thick and woven with patterns and I just love them but they were not on the agenda for the day.  I found a Robert Kaufman line called “Chalk and Charcoal” by Jennifer Sampou. I bought solid color red, white, and black – 100% cotton quilting fabric with a

Quilted Threads – Henniker, NH

woven texture graphic and black shading. It was a change from my usual batiks, but I just bought red, white, and blue batiks for my 2020 Mystery Quilt with the guild so I needed something a little different.

If you have never been to Quilted Threads or Bits ‘N Pieces, both shops are worth a trip. They are totally different – Quilted Threads is like a smaller version of Keepsake with better Japanese fabrics and Bernina sewing machines. They actually had a huge Quilters Edition Tula Pink Bernina that is probably the biggest domestic Bernina I have ever seen and they had these metallic sparkly multi-colored scissors and rotary cutter set to match – so cute! Bits ‘N Pieces has long-arm machines and the best selection of Minky anywhere. They are so lush you just want to snuggle up in them and take a nap. They also have lots of kits and a whole line of stuffed animals with samples. So design your own quilt shop hop and who knows where it might take you? Wherever you roam, happy piecing!