Archives by category

Evelyn’s Latest Crossings Quilt

When my friend, Evelyn, sent me the 4-patch block she’d made for my birthday, she also sent a picture of her most recent project. It’s a “Crossings” quilt she calls “Market Day”. I love it. The uneven chunks and asymmetry are so appealing!

Batik Quilt Evelyn Link

I asked her the story and here it is 🙂 :

“This quilt started with no plan. A friend and I bought a group of colorful African prints. I decided to make a bargello piece with mine, but didn’t know what to do with it.

I found one of my Bali batik pictures that had colors that looked good with it. 

I put two borders on the picture, then I centered it on the bargello, but it was too large and covered up too much of it.

I belong to an art quilt guild called the Mavericks and occasionally they have a meeting called “What Can I Do with This Mess?” I took the two pieces to see what they could come up with. The first suggestion was to take one border off the picture, then to place it off center. Another person suggested I “do that bead thing”—I had done a demo of Chris’ bead crossings technique at our Round Table program.

I stiffened the batik picture by putting Timtex™ in it, finished it off with black piping, but felt I needed a couple more pieces to put the beads around to balance it. After I cut out two more pieces, I realized my hanging sleeve would show through behind the beads on the top one, so I added another piece at the top and put it on with beads.

This gave me a place to repeat the fish motif, so it grew and changed some more.

I often start with a definite plan for a quilt that may change some as I go. This one is an example of having no idea how it would evolve, but adjusting to make it work as I progressed.

It will go into the Arizona Quilt Guild show in March.  Thank you, thank you for sharing your techniques.”

Thanks Evelyn, for sharing the story of your fascinating quilt! I’m sure it was a hit in Tucson!

That last part was very interesting, because many of my fiber art pieces begin and progress in just this way. I always like to say “the quilt tells me what to do next”! And having a meeting entitled “What Can I Do With This Mess” sounds like a wonderful idea for a guild program!

If anyone would like to try my beaded “Crossings” technique, the instructions, along with lots of step-by-step pictures, can be found in my book “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art”. Click here to order your own copy  🙂 !

March 26, 2017, Embellishing
A Great Binding Tip!

A number of years ago my friend Jean  showed our Open Lab class a clever way to control binding while attaching it to a quilt (to read a previous post about some lovely placemats Jean made, click here!). I thought I had posted about it, but can’t seem to find that post (after 6 years of blogging I’ve covered a lot of topics!)

The concept is quite simple and it requires 2 easily obtained supplies: an empty toilet paper roll and a piece of ribbon. After making enough binding to go around her quilt, Jean rolls it onto the toilet paper roll, threads the roll onto a length of ribbon, ties the ribbon around her neck, and stitches the binding to her quilt. The binding feeds evenly off the roll in an extremely organized fashion. Brilliant!

Fast forward to this past Christmas. Connie, another Open Lab friend, was making tree skirts (I posted about them in December – click here for that post). She chose to couch silver cording onto one of the tree skirts (for couching instructions click here). Jean just happened to have one of her special rolls with her and it made the couching oh so much easier:

Connie added the cording with Jean’s binding roller.

couching roll

Here’s a close up of the couching. It really added some extra zip to the tree skirt!

Thanks Jean, and Connie 🙂 !

I don’t know why I haven’t tried this yet, but I know what I’ll be doing with my next empty toilet paper roll.

Let me know if you try this. A picture of your project would be fun too!

January 22, 2017, Embellishing finishing
Silly Goose

So here’s a fun way to begin the new year – sharing pictures of my latest quilt! A few weeks ago I mentioned that my most recent contest quilt had been accepted into the New Quilts From an Old Favorite contest at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. The judging is completed and I’m now free to share my quilt with you. The traditional block the museum chose this year was Flying Geese. While at the AQS show in Paducah this past Spring I got my idea. It’s called Silly Goose, and the label reads: “There’s one in every crowd. She just can’t follow the leader or the rules. What a silly goose!”

flying geese variation

It was great fun creating the crazy, silly-ness in the solo silly goose.

I used stretchy metallic fabric once again. You may remember my first experience with that in “40 Wonderful Years” (click here for that post). It was a challenge to sew on, but the stretchiness gave the trapunto a shine I loved. The only color I couldn’t find in a Spandex™ type fabric was orange, so I tried polar fleece. Another non-traditional quilting fabric. It is a little fuzzy, but I was pleased with the results.

Next, came the quilting. That was even more fun! I chose to free motion embroider designs on the background fabric in neon thread, before I layered and trapunto’d the top. This allowed the embroidery to lay on top of the poofy areas.

machine embroidered trapunto

The effect was just what I was looking for.

Once begun, the quilting took on a life of it’s own, and it was a joy.

This was followed by fused crystals in the small amount of space that wasn’t yet stitched.

WooHoo! I hope you can see the joy I have in playing with fabric, color and design. The Flying Goose exhibit will be hanging in the National Quilt Museum during Quilt Week this Spring. Then it will travel for two years to many shows across the country. All the quilts will also be featured in a book, published by the museum. It’s always fun to have a quilt travel and visit places I have yet to see.

I praise God for the opportunities and joy He’s given me through quilting!


January 8, 2017, Embellishing free motion
Buildings, Strawberries, and Couching

I’ve written before about the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg, WI, and that’s where the second completed UFO I spoke of last week is right now.

WMQFA had it’s beginnings in the Wisconsin Quilt History Project – documenting quilts in Wisconsin. Then a farm was acquired and the fundraising was begun to turn an old barn into a museum! Before the barn was renovated, I was at a fund raising event there, and took pictures of some of the buildings. While on a teaching trip to Alaska (click here to read that post), I stayed with quilting friends and had time to RepliquĂ© two of the “building” blocks.

Each Spring Cedarburg has a Strawberry Festival, and each year the WMQFA has a strawberry challenge. When I got the entry form for this year’s Strawberry challenge, I knew the time to finish those blocks had arrived. I completed the third “building” block, added patches from a “fruit” fabric, bordered, quilted and bound it all in time to drop it off at the Museum – 4 hours before the deadline.


Sew, what does this have to do with couching? Well, when I’d completed the quilt top, the black fabric was overwhelming.

couching yarn on quilts

I didn’t have much time to come up with a fix, so I did a bit of quick noodling, and decided to couch red yarn inside the black border. This is a “go to” technique I’ve used before and it’s a goodie.

To begin, I thread the machine with a color thread to match the yarn, and set it for a zig-zag stitch wide enough to cover the yarn. I leave a 3″ tail of yarn at a corner, lay the yarn in the ditch of the border seam, make one stitch in the yarn at the corner to anchor it, and zig-zag it in place – pivoting at the corners.

couching yarn on quilts

Strawberries, Buildings and Fiber Art

When I reach the end, I thread the yarn tails into a large needle and bury them in between the quilt layers. I had a great time quilting the border with words. Then I needed a name. When nothing clever came to mind, I asked Sommer who said, in matter of fact 4 year old fashion, “Buildings and Strawberries”.

My friend Sonja created a fascinating piece of fiber art for the contest also.


My quilt, Sonja’s, and all of the entries, will be on display at the museum in Cedarburg the weekend of Strawberry Festival – June 25 and 26! Please let me know if you see it there 🙂 !


June 18, 2016, Challenges Embellishing
A Dairy Queen Surprise

Last week I mentioned that Wendy and I set up a quilting studio in the kitchen of the guest house we stay in, like we do every year. This year we spent many hours stitching with the warm Kentucky breeze blowing in the door – it was lovely. My plan was to create samples for some new WCTC classes. I also took 2 workshops while at AQS: Linda Poole’s “Hoot” – working with Inktense pencils, and Kathy McNeil’s “Summer Seascape”, learning her way to appliquĂ©. Both were excellent and I have plans for the samples. Here are the pieces I worked on in Paducah:



While stitching one day, my friend Kathy sent me an invite to an annual “party” they host during Quilt Week, at the Dairy Queen on Friday night. Wendy was taking a class, so I decided it would be something fun to do. Boy, was I right! I arrived, said my hellos to everyone, and then purchased my peanut butter cup blizzard. While we were enjoying the ice cream a bearded man came up to our group (which numbered about a dozen) and welcomed us to Paducah. He said that he’d been looking for a group of quilters and had something in his trunk he wanted to show us.

A few moments later his wife and daughter came in with a large garbage bag, and began to pull a quilt from it. Melissa explained that it was made by her grandmother in 1979. The back was a very bright yellow solid fabric with a red border. I had no idea what to expect – and then she unfolded one of the most beautiful crazy quilts I’ve seen!


The embroidery was spectacular and we spent a lot of time admiring all the wonderful details.

CQ-Paducah-16-racoon CQ-Paducah-16-spider CQ-Paducah-16-qal CQ-Paducah-16-pixie CQ-Paducah-16-basket

And look at the beautiful way Melissa’s grandmother signed her quilt:


Some of the most amazing things happen when you least expect them.


Thank you to the Shaws’ for sharing their lovely quilt.

And thanks for the invite Kathy! Same time next year?

May 1, 2016, Embellishing
From Thread Tails to Gnome Home

Last year the small challenge at the Milwaukee Art Quilters was entitled: “3-D Abodes”. As I noodled on what to create, I glanced at a bag of thread tails given to be by a long arm quilter. It was a wonderful mix of colors, and I had been adding to it for a year or so. So here come the “what ifs”!

What if I sandwiched the mass of threads between black tulle and free motion quilted it into a new “fabric”?

create fabric from thread tails

What if I embellished it with beads, and I got out that thread spinner I purchased and never used, and made more embellishments?

spin threads into ropes

What if I combined it all into a “gnome home”?

So I jumped in, layered, quilted and shaped the mass of threads into an abode by sewing a bunch of darts and pleats into the created “fabric”. Once embellished it looked like this:

I admit it’s weird, and I had to sew many arcs of plastic tubing to the inside to get it to stand up – and that was rather temporary. So, once the challenge was unveiled and photographed, I took it home and thought seriously about just throwing it away. Instead I tossed it on a shelf, and ignored it for months. Then one day Sommer asked me about it. I put it on the floor and she had a blast putting daddy’s old Star Wars figures in it. Problem is – it kept collapsing.

gh play

Once I realized it was a new favorite toy, I needed a fix, and it came in the form of a plastic jug. With a little glue and stapling it is now stable, and Princess Leia loves it!

gh jug save

So does Princess Sommer!

gh princess Sommer

If you know of a venue to exhibit the 3-D Abode challenge pieces, please let me know. It is a fascinating group of fiber art structures and we’d love to have them seen and enjoyed!

January 31, 2016, Embellishing Kids
Multimedia Creations

This past week I had the joyful opportunity to share my quilts, and my quilting journey, as part of the morning worship service at a church in Wales, WI. Pastor Petterson was a joy to work with. He even built stands for my quilts to hang from.

Sanctuary quilts

Once we had the quilts hung, he invited me to see a collection of fiber art hanging in the lower level, made by church secretary Heidi Schueller. To get there we needed to go down the cinder block staircase – and the decorations there made me smile:

Stairway umbrellas

Pastor Peterson called Heidi’s fiber art “Creation Panels”. She used many different media and techniques to create them. Then she hung signs next to each panel with the Scripture verse for that day on one side and a simple poem about each day for the children to read, on the flip side. They are fascinating!

Day 1 - Let there be light!

Day 1 – Let there be light!

Day 2 - Heaven in the midst of the waters.

Day 2 – Heaven in the midst of the waters.

Day 3 - every green thing that grows.

Day 3 – The land and things that grow.

Day 4 - the sun, the moon and the stars.

Day 4 – The sun, moon and stars.

Day 5 - Sea creatures and flying things.

Day 5 – Sea creatures and flying things.

Day 6 - Animals and man.

Day 6 – Animals and man.

Day 7 - Everything was very good!

Day 7 – Everything was very good!

They hang around a corner in a hallway, and really cheer up the hall!

Creation hallway

Here are a couple of close-ups, so you can enjoy the details, from yarns to buttons, and fabric to paper. There’s a little bit of everything put together in a delightful way!

Creation details Creation detail 2 Creation detail 4 Creation detail 3

I hope you found Heidi’s creations as appealing and interesting as I did!

It was a wonderful morning of worshipping the Lord, and fellowship! Thanks Pastor Petterson, Bonnie Morris and Jerusalem Presbyterian!

August 23, 2015, Embellishing
Foiling Fun!

Before we get to the “fun” topic, Lynn emailed me a sad, quilting problem: “Hi Chris, I used a black fabric sharpie on my quilt and it ran.  Has this happened to any of your readers?  Thanks, Lynn”

I haven’t had this experience. Has anyone else? Do you have any suggestions for removing the marker? This certainly makes me hesitant to use Sharpie™ markers on any future quilts. I usually use Pigma Micron™ markers and have had no problems with them. What type of permanent markers do you prefer to use when needing to mark on your quilts? Thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions you have to share.

Now, on to our topic of the week!

I’m currently working on a challenge quilt and one of the rules is: “there has to be some piece or pieces of metal on it, or it it has to have fabric that could represent metal”. I’ve used some woven cotton/metallic fabric from my stash, but I wanted to create the brightness of sunshine and was stumped on how to do this for a while. Then I remembered I had purchased a “foiling” kit years ago. I’d played with it a little, using the thick adhesive glue that came with it, only to knock the jar on the floor and splatter the glue on everything. As you might guess, I haven’t had the urge to foil anything since. But time has passed, and I saw a foiling demonstration by Laura Murray in which she used fusible web as her adhesive. That’s a lot less messy – and I have it on hand. So, I went to Laura’s website and found the information I was looking for: You can purchase the supplies through the on-line store on her website.

I decided to make a sample piece, to learn the technique – and it was just what I needed! Here’s how easy it is:

1. Draw your design on the dull side of paper backed fusible web (Wonder Under™, Steam-a-Seam™, etc.). Here’s a treat – – – your design does not have to be reversed! Cut out the fusible web on the drawn line.

foiling on fabric

2. Place it on your fabric, cover with parchment paper or a Teflon™ pressing sheet, and fuse the web to your fabric following the manufacturer’s directions.

foiling on fabric

3. Cool and remove the paper.

foiling on fabric

4. Place the foil over the entire web design, shiny side up. Using a dry iron on the cotton setting, place the edge of the iron on the portion of the foil nearest you and “burnish” the foil onto the web by dragging the iron edge, away from you, across the surface of the foil, over the web. Make sure you burnish over the entire area to be foiled. Then let it cool. (My foil is silver, but it looks odd because it is reflecting the wooden shelf above)

foiling on fabric

5. Carefully remove the foil sheet.

foiling on fabric

That’s it! Once again, the foiling on the fabric looks dark, because it is reflecting the shelf above. It is actually a bright silver, but before I realized how the picture turned out, I was off doing something else to the “sun” in my quilt. Here’s a little sample I did   so you can see how truly reflective it is!


This was so much more fun than using the adhesive. Although, Laura does achieve some pretty cool effects by using the adhesive glue with rubber stamps.

One more note, the foil comes in many different colors and even some patterns.


Oh, so many different techniques to play with and explore!

I hope you’re curious about my challenge quilt. Stay tuned for more about it in future posts.

January 26, 2014, Embellishing
Handwork – Lacy Hearts

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you probably can sense that I’m quite sentimental. This was most obvious in my November 24th post about the jewelry wreath I made from family treasures. I have a quilting class coming up this month, at Waukesha County Technical College, that also includes bits of family history and it’s sort of a rarity in my classes, because it’s all about handwork – even the quilting!

Lacy Hearts quilt handworkThe hearts are made from a variety of fabrics: satins, cotton prints, tone-on-tones, laces and … parts of old hankies! In the heart below, the purple and white embroidery was on a well worn hankie of my grandmother’s. I was able to strategically cut this portion from it.

lacy hearts quiltThese hearts were hand blanket stitched to muslin using embroidery floss. Then the fun of embellishing began. The next one was overlaid with lace, and pearls from a broken necklace filled the lace’s openings (The silver clasp from this necklace embellishes the purple embroidery heart above!)

Lacy hearts quilt

A locket from my other grandmother adorns yet another heart.

lacy hearts quilt

Many of the hearts feature buttons, but the piece that may put a smile on your face is the dangling heart in the lower right square:

lacy hearts quilt

It is an earring of mine that lost it’s mate. And here’s how I fastened it from the back:

lacy-hearts-earring-backQuilting is just such fun!

There is still room in this class, so if you live nearby and would like to learn a few new techniques while doing handwork and chatting with other quilters, please sign up at

What a wonderful season for handwork. I certainly don’t want to be outdoors in 20 below zero! Do you have a winter handwork project in progress?

January 5, 2014, Embellishing Hand Quilting
A New Bead Adventure

Last month I had the opportunity to take a class with Betty Pillsbury. She is a crazy quilter from Albany, NY. Oddly enough, this particular workshop was not about quilting, but in it Betty taught the peyote stitch to attach a cabochon to a cuff bracelet. A cabochon is a flat backed stone or bead that has no hole to attach it with. I’ve always wanted to learn how to attach a stone in this way, hoping to use it in embellishing my quilts. I didn’t think I’d get hooked on this type of bead work. But I did! I’m now on my second bracelet with visions of #3 dancing in my head. I think I will use it in future quilts, but for now I’m dabbling just a bit in jewelry. Wanna see :-)?

Here is a front view with the cabochon attached. For a first effort, I’m pretty pleased.

beaded cuff bracelet

Once the cabochon was placed in the center, Betty encouraged us to just fill in the rest of the space. She had many samples and I had a blast choosing beads and filling around them. The bracelet was done in just over a week.

Here’s one side view:

beaded cuff bracelet

and the other:

beaded cuff bracelet

The base of the bracelet is called an aluminum blank. These come flat, are bent to shape and then the inside is covered with fabric. The original blanks from class had 90 degree corners and were a bit wider, the ones I just purchased are rounded.


The beading is done on a thick interfacing. Here’s my second bracelet in progress. Instead of one cabochon, there are 5 (chosen to match a new holiday outfit!).


And here’s the back:


Once the entire piece of interfacing is beaded, it’s glued to the cuff and then it’s all stitched together around the outer edge with more beads.

I’m not sure I needed one more addiction, but beads are such fun to collect and I’m really excited to see how this will meld into my future quilting projects. Do you bead?


One additional note. Back in April/May I wrote a number of posts about the Jenning’s Quilt. This was a group quilt made by the Milwaukee Art Quilters that has won many awards. It was a winner in this year’s AQS show in Paducah, KY. While at the show Judy Levine, Toni Mitt and I were part of an interview and it has just been posted by AQS.

Click on the picture below and you’ll be taken to the AQS website with the interview. Scroll down and simply click on the arrow in the center of the video box to watch it.


Judy did the lion’s share of the work on the quilt and I think she did a great job of speaking for the group in the interview.

December 15, 2013, Embellishing Uncategorized
Flower Pounding

It seems I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately and this past week was no exception. A year ago, while in Paducah, I met a dear quilter named Patti. She invited me to teach for her guild in North Carolina. I just returned from that wonderful trip. The Western North Carolina Quilters were delightful! They were so welcoming and the students in my “Parallelisms” class were very creative :-)! I so enjoyed getting to know Patti and Ed, and when I wasn’t teaching, we visited some very interesting sites – like Looking Glass Falls –

NC-LG-falls-with-PattiIt’s fun to spend time in someone else’s studio, and Patti’s is amazing. Ed has built most of the cupboards and tables, and her studio is a perfect place for this very creative quilter to play.


Thank you Patti, Ed and all my new friends in North Carolina!

Now on to this week’s topic:

The Fiberistas (our new Watertown, fiber art group) were at it again last month. This time Kay had suggested we play with flower pounding. What a hoot! (actually we sounded much more like woodpeckers than owls :-)).We decided to do it here – in Mike’s shed (the one with the quilt block hanging on it), because everyone else has neighbors nearby and we didn’t want to be annoying. We all gathered flowers, leaves, branches and ferns still left in our yards, Kay brought the wide masking tape and everyone was armed with a hammer. The process is quite simple – and very noisy!

1. Choose an item to pound (ferns, arbor vitae, coleus, geraniums and pansies were some of my favorites).


2. Place it on your pre-washed muslin, spreading out the thicker, denser areas to make them thinner, and cover completely with masking tape.

flower pounding3. Choose either the tape or the fabric side and let the pounding begin:

flower pounding

Liane was really getting into it here:

flower poundingIt seems we did as much selecting and taping as hammering!

flower pounding

And Mike had a good time taking pictures!

flower pounding

And here’s my finished piece.

flower pounding

I’m not sure what will become of it, but it certainly was fun to create. Kay said she and her daughter had done this on t-shirts!

Have you ever done any flower/leaf pounding? I’d love to see pictures of the results!

Speaking of pictures, over the past few weeks I’ve posted pictures of Mariner’s Compass quilts which were finished after I taught a class in Janesville. Many in that group have finished their compasses and I so appreciate receiving these pictures (I hope you enjoy seeing them too). Nancy Acker just sent me a photograph of hers and here’s what she said:

“This little quilt came about because I joined the guild in Monroe and they had a project underway.  The project was called “flat ostrich”.  You picked 5 elements from a jar and had to use 3 of them in a quilt.  My elements included paper piecing, flying geese and a 1″ border.  Perfect for my mariner’s compass.  I also included 3 other elements, 4 patch (my background), embellishment (rick rack) and appliquĂ© (goose).  It was fun.  Monroe is a much smaller group than Janesville and now I will enjoy both of them.  It’s wonderful to be retired and have so much time to devote to quilting.  Thanks for that great class, Nancy”

mariner's compass quiltShe really took this piece to another level. I especially like the rick-rack around the compass and the 4-patch background. WOW!

October 20, 2013, Embellishing
Sheer Illusions

Happy Labor Day! We had houseguests all weekend, so I’m a little behind, but I hope you’ll find this week’s topic interesting. Tina emailed me this past week asking how I attach sheer fabrics to my fiber art and it struck me as a great blog topic.

I enjoy incorporating sheer fabrics into my quilts because they add an interesting level of transparency without a lot of effort. Plus, these shiny, shimmery, specialty fabrics are fun to buy! Netting, tulle, organza…. so many choices – and around Halloween and Prom time the selection gets really exciting. Sometimes, to get the right effect, I just sew the sheers in place, but most often I fuse! This became an option with the introduction of Steam-a-Seam™. Prior to that the paper backed fusibles that were available had to be ironed twice – once to the appliquĂ© fabric and the second time when ironing the appliquĂ© to the background. Trying to iron the fusible to the sheer was a real exercise in frustration.

There are 4 types of Steam a Seam™ and my preference when working with sheers is Lite Steam a Seam (with no #2 after the name). It is made with a thin weight glue and has the pressure sensitive adhesive on just one side (thus there is paper on just one side). Here’s how it works with sheers:

You’ll need a piece of a sheer fabric, a piece of Lite Steam a Seam™, and a Teflon™ pressing sheet or parchment paper (or the release paper from the fusible).

Peel the fusible web from the release paper. The side that was against the paper will be “sticky”.

Place the sticky side of the fusible to the wrong side of the sheer (some sheers have a right side and others don’t) and finger press to the sheer. It may be helpful to place a quilting ruler on it and apply even pressure so it will stick evenly.

Cut out your desired shape.

Position on your quilt top.

Cover with the pressing sheet/parchment paper and press using a cool iron (many sheers melt very easily) for about 5 seconds to start. Now comes the difficult part! Wait until the pressing sheet is cooled before removing. If you don’t allow it to cool the melted glue will go through the holes in the sheer, temporarily attach to the pressing sheet and produce long, skinny strands of glue. Once cooled the sheet may be removed and there will be no residual glue wisps. If it didn’t adhere, try again a little longer or with a hotter iron.

Here are a few of my Parallelisms quilts that incorporate sheers:

Concentricities IV: Spheres uses fused circles.

Parallelisms II has a variety of spirals, circles and stars.

Parallelisms IV contains sheer triangles.

I hope this is helpful. Please note that fused sheers will not hold up in a quilt that will get a lot of wear and washing, but for those projects you hang on the wall – they are delightful.

If you would like some hands-on sheer instruction it will be covered in my Beginning Fiber Art class at WCTC this Fall.

Have you used sheers in your projects? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?


September 3, 2012, Embellishing
Making Faces
In my teaching at WCTC it’s necessary for me to come up with class ideas 2 semesters ahead of when they’ll be taught. This can be a bit daunting, so I often make up a class name and description without really knowing what the quilt will look like (it adds excitement and mystery to my job :-)). This Fall I made up a class I called “Snowperson Topper”. When the time came to actually stitch something I decided a scallopped hexagon shaped table topper with snowman faces would be fun.
I used some tried and true techniques and came up with a few innovations too. It was fun giving a unique personality to each of the snowpeople. I got to go through my button collection to find just the right pair of eyes for each face, did some hand stitching on the felt noses and free motion embroidery of the mouths.  Once the faces were made, the sections needed defining and I decided a bit of couching was in order.
Couching means to attach a yarn or other fiber to the top of the quilt by laying it on the surface and stitching it down with an additional thread. This can be done by hand or machine. When it’s done by machine a zig zag or some other decorative machine stitch is usually used. Years ago my dear friend and traveling partner, Wendy, showed me a simple alternative couching technique that’s as easy as:
1.  Wrap the yarn around the needle and backstitch one stitch to secure it –
2.  Stitch forward 5 to 7 stitches (use a matching thread, mine is contrasting so you can see it) –
3. Cross the yarn in front of the needle –
4.  Stitch over the crossed yarns and repeat –
A finished line should look something like this:
The Snowperson Topper is just one of a number of classes I’ll be teaching this Fall. There will be my usual 3 sessions of Thursday afternoon Open Labs. Here’s the information for my 1 day workshops:

304-604T Goose Tricks: Learn to create flying geese blocks that float and swirl across your quilt. Paper piecing and bias strips make this project appealing, easy and fun! Saturday, September 15, 9-2:30

304-604U Railroad Tracks: Choose a lovely large print that is too pretty to cut into small pieces, then cut it into large squares and frame them with colorful, strip-pieced sashing. This quick and easy quilt features a surprise three-dimensional element. Friday, October 5, 9-2:30

304-604V Quilting – Beginning Fiber Art (also known as Parallelisms) Are you a traditional quilter who secretly would like to try a bit of fiber art, but don’t know where to begin? Then this class is for you! Learn simple fusing techniques to play with fabric, color and design. Discover your inner creativity. Saturday, November 10, 9-2:30.
304-604W Quilting – Snowperson Topper: Create an adorable table topper filled with personality, just in time for Christmas. Plus – the snow theme can be enjoyed all winter long! Friday, December 7, 9-2:30

You may sign up by calling 262.691.5578

or on line at Once you’re on the home page click on “Class Search”; choose the Fall semester and type “quilting” in the “Course/Subject” box and click “Submit”. All of the quilting classes Wendy and I are teaching this coming semester will pop up.

And now to end this week’s post with a response to last week’s post in which I asked if any of you have made a quilt inspired by someone else’s art. Gloria emailed me with pictures! When I asked if I could share her pictures on the blog she was more than happy to agree. Here’s the front of her quilt and her email:
“Hi Chris, I would be happy for you to use my quilt – that’s why I sent the pics.  I made the quilt for my college friend going through chemo this spring.  We adopted a purple bean bag frog one evening and “Floyd” has been our mascot ever since.  We are a group of 6 roommates and have continued our friendship over the years.  My inspiration was a ceramic frog climbing a wall in a cute restaurant in St. Pete’s Beach in Florida.  The other side of the quilt is a history of who we are and where we have been:). (We are the Sixth Street Convent Gang because we lived in an apartment with more rules than the dorms had in 1970, it was nearly cloistered!)   Gloria Knipschild”
Here’s the back of the quilt:
I really enjoyed the quilt and the story. Thanks Gloria!

August 26, 2012, Embellishing
A Touch of Paintstiks

I’m once again writing from Mesa, but will return to beautiful, snowy Wisconsin tomorrow! While here Evelyn and I have spent some time working on quilting projects (big surprise) and her inspiration was just the touch I needed to get a great start on my quilt for the current Milwaukee Art Quilter’s challenge: “Bead Inspired”. The idea was to choose a single bead or button to be the inspiration for a quilt and then to attach it in some way to the finished piece. Finding the button was the easy part and the ideas have been percolating for months, but I hadn’t been ready to take that first step until now.

The first day I was in Arizona we went to a quilt shop named “Quiltz” and I found the perfect fabric to get me started, but I knew my background fabric needed some creative work and that’s when Evelyn suggested Shiva Paintstiks™. I’ve played with them just a bit in the past, but Evelyn has taught classes with them and her expertise (and supplies) were just what this project needed. Here is just one example of a project she made using them:

The motifs in the blocks were made using a freezer paper stencil. Here’s a detail:

It worked so well on my piece that I wanted to share a little bit of what I did with them. These are sketchy instructions at best, but my hope is that they’ll be enough to make you want to take a class or buy a book and try them 🙂!

Paintstiks are oil paint and can make a mess, so wear old clothes and cover your work surface. A tarp or garbage bag over a table works as does ironing a piece of freezer paper to your ironing surface. My supply list included the Paintstiks, freezer paper, a small knife, stencil brushes, rubbing plates and paper towels plus Goo Gone™ for clean up. 

First, the Paintstiks have a “skin” of dried paint that forms with time. I chose the color I wanted and removed the skin by scraping it off with a knife. If I had used the Paintstik recently and the “skin” was thin, I could have just rubbed it off with a paper towel.

I wanted circles of shaded color on my background fabric, so I marked a piece of freezer paper with the proper placement of circles and cut them out, thus creating a stencil. I ironed the shiny side of the freezer paper in place on my fabric (practice on a scrap first to be sure you like the color and effect). I wanted to start light, knowing I could always make it darker, so Evelyn suggested I color a circle of paint around a cut circle and brush it into the center with the stencil brush. This proved to be lighter than I wanted, so I drew a “crescent moon” directly on the right side of the fabric circle showing through the stencil and used the brush to drag some paint over the remainder of the “moon”.

crescent moon / brushed over / brushed from paper

Here’s the results with the paper removed:

crescent moon / brushed over / brushed from paper

The center shaded circle was just the effect I was looking for and I proceeded to add an entire ring of them around the center of my quilt. Next I wanted to create bands of irredescent color on my background fabric, so I cut the desired bands in the shape and size I needed out of freezer paper and ironed the shiny side to my fabric. I could have just colored this in with the brush as I did the circles, but I wanted more texture. Evelyn suggested using one of her rubbing plates (she has all the right equipment). Many things can be used for texture, but these plates are so easy and fit the bill. I tried 2 different ones on a sample:

and decided the small, speckled pattern worked best.

Evelyn’s suggestion for clean up was simple – squirt a bit of the Goo-Gone™ in a small dish, swish the brush around and brush on the paper towel. Repeat until no The brush will remain a bit discolored, but it isn’t a problem.

Now for the bad news – I’m not quite ready to show the challenge quilt yet. Isn’t the suspense intense? I promise to post it as soon as it’s fit to be shown.

In the mean time, if you want to do a bit of playing with Paintstiks, you can find loads of information at:, but please do check your local quilt shop for these wonderful products because we need to keep our local merchants in business! Any thoughts from Paintstik users out there?

PS Thanks for everything Evelyn!

January 30, 2012, Challenges Embellishing Notions
Pleasing separation

This past week a student inquired about adding a very narrow border to her quilt to visually separate the quilt center from a wider border. Piecing in a 1/4″ border can be tricky and so I had some alternative ideas to share:

If you’ve ever done counted cross stitch, you are no doubt aware that once the crosses are completed, most patterns have the different color areas outlined with a line of black backstitches. Even though this line is very narrow, it adds a lot of interest and definition. Sometimes this is a good option for separating borders…and even bindings.

One simple way to do this is to sandwich piping (purchased or homemade) into the seam between the quilt center and the border. 

Another idea that has been very popular recently is to fold a 1″ strip of contrasting fabric in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and slip this into the seam. I like to refer to this as a flange and it can add a lot of punch for a small amount of fabric and effort.

One additional idea is really simple and can be done after the quilt is finished and bound – couch a piece of yarn or cording on top of the seam! Couching simply means to lay the yarn/cording in the “ditch” of the seam and stitch on top of it with a zig-zag or serpentine stitch. It can be done in invisible thread or something decorative.

And now for an example to show how helpful this effect can be:

I made the following quilt for a “Tea” challenge through the Milwaukee Art Quilters. All of the fabrics were dyed in tea and I quilted the different areas as a sampler of quilting designs.

For some reason I bound the quilt in a similar color fabric to the rest of the quilt and it seemed to look like the quilt never ended when hung on a light colored wall. So I couched a brown chenille yarn along the binding and was very pleased with the results.

That simple addition made the quilt a success in my mind :-).

On a completely different note, there is still room in many of my local classes at MATC in Watertown and WCTC in Waukesha. Please scroll down to my August 4th post and simply click to register on line or call the number next to the class to register by phone.

And something new: I will be teaching the following  quilting classes in Hustisford, WI on Saturdays this Fall.

Beginning Fast Patch – Oct 15th & Oct 29th 8:30am  -1:00pm: Learn many quick and fun quilting techniques while making this wall hanging. It may be made in any color scheme you like (Packers fabric is optional :-).

Paper Pieced Project – Nov. 19th – 9:00AM – 1:00PM. Learn to piece “Flying Geese” and “Square in a Square” blocks on a paper foundation while creating this lovely small wallhanging. It’s a fun technique that yeilds accurate results (once again, fabric and color themes are up to you :-). 

For more information, or to sign up, contact Cindy Fitzsimmons at:

September 26, 2011, Embellishing finishing
Thread Painting

Way back in 2000, when I was developing projects for my first book, I stumbled onto a technique called thread painting. I wanted to make the cones on my Coneflower quilt spikey. I decided to try dropping the feed dogs on my machine, threading it with a variegated thread, stitching in a “cone-ish” way and seeing what developed. I was very pleased with my first effort and was excited that it was beginner easy!

A few years later I had the chance to take a class with Nancy Prince. She’s an award winning quilter and  excellant teacher. Her method in her Quilt Savvy book  requires so much thread that she often makes her motifs on a separate fabric with stabilizer and then cuts them out and stitches them to her quilts. I made this tree in class and was pleased with her wonderful technique.


The stabilizer is still under the stitching, waiting to be washed away. I haven’t done any more of it yet, but it’s stored in my bag of tricks, waiting for just the right project :-).

Ann Fahl is another teacher who does great thread painting. In many of her pieces she adds the thread to the quilt top before quilting. She then quilts around these areas allowing them to puff a bit and not have the flat look that occurs when the threadwork is done in the quilting step.

I’ve just finished my latest project and………SUPRISE!……….it contains some thread painting. I’ll share the new quilt along with some detail shots in Thursday’s posts.

Have you any adventures in thread painting to share?


February 27, 2011, Embellishing free motion
Well Behaved Beads II

Trying to pick up tiny beads, with a tiny needle, which is tethered by a thread to your work can be aggravating. A few years back I came up with a way to make those beads behave and the magic tool is clear mailing tape! It’s really quite simple:

1.  Wrap a piece of mailing tape, sticky side out, around the forefinger of your non-dominant hand (left, if you’re right handed).

2.  Pour the beads onto a flat surface and dip your taped finger into them.

3.  Knot your thread and bring it up through the quilt where the bead needs to go, pick a bead off the tape with the tip of the needle, attach the bead and repeat.

Voila! Beading can be done in the doctor’s office, at kid’s sporting events and even in a moving vehicle. One of the best advantages of this technique is that the beads are close to the work area and so, as the thread gets shorter, the beads are easy to reach.

Have fun beading!

February 18, 2011, Embellishing
Well Behaved Beads


Sometimes quilts need a bit of extra sparkle and beads can be just the right touch.  Here is a quilt I call “Confetti” with detail shots of the beads:






Bead shops are almost as much fun to wander through as quilt shops, but how do you make beads work on a quilt? I’ve discovered my own ways and will do a bit of sharing. Even though these pictures don’t do the tiny beads justice, I hope you get the idea :-).

Typically I don’t use beads on bed quilts, but they can really add something on wall hangings and quilted accessories. The first time I attempted to add beads to a project was during a crazy quilting phase. This Christmas stocking has only a few beads, but they were a nice addition:

Years ago Sharon Rotz gave me a crazy quilt pillow which I still treasure. She did a great job of embellishing with beads.

Her latest blog topic is “pillows”. To read all about it go to: 

And speaking of other blogs. Cheryl Anderson takes beading to a whole new level in her crazy quilts. She shares a lovely beaded ornament on her blog:

In 1997 I made a Green Bay Packers quilt to celebrate winning the Super Bowl. It was made as a sample in a Fast Patch Sampler class I was teaching at the local tech college (watch here – it may be taught again :-). Beads added to the festive feel. We’re enjoying this quilt all over again with our recent win!

The beads adorn the streamers along the right panel of the quilt and also attach some of the buttons. In addition, I’ve used beads on small purses:

 My “Crossings” series quilts are where I’ve really gotten into beading, but that’s a topic deserving it’s own post.

In Thursday’s post I’ll share my favorite way to make beads behave while attaching them to your quilt. In the mean time, do you have any quilts with beads you’d like to share, or maybe a favorite technique for attaching them to your quilt??? 

February 14, 2011, Embellishing