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Added Shadows

A few years ago I made a quilt using an orange/yellow pointillism fabric, silhouetted with black.

I loved the way the pointillism fabric added depth. I loved the color, I loved the silhouette of the tree. I was pleased with the moon. It was exhibited in a number of shows and I shared it in many lectures.  It hangs in our home every Autumn. But something never seemed quite right.

Recently I pulled it off the shelf as I was packing up for a lecture in a nearby town. I got the feeling I should hang it on the design wall and stare at it for a bit (which was impractical – as Trey was napping and I really needed to use the time to prepare for the talk). All of a sudden it hit me –

Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Why hadn’t anyone mentioned it to me?

I threaded the machine with black and began rapidly free motion stitching horizontal “wavy” lines on the lake. A few moments later – SHADOWS!

Here’s the before and after, side-by-side pictures, for comparison:

I’m so glad that when a quilt is finished, one can always change their mind and add a bit more quilting!

Now I love it even more   😀 .

Have you ever added to a quilt long after it was “finished”? I’d love to hear your story. Please comment to this post or email me at


And here’s a little extra about last week’s post :-). You may remember I shared pictures and stories about Bears Paw quilts. I asked for readers to send me pictures of their bears paw quilts and Donna responded with this email:

“After reading your last blog entry about the bears paw quilt, I thought I’d send you a picture of my quilt.  It’s not really a bears paw quilt, it’s what I started in your “Scrap Happy” class at WCTC a while back, but it does sort of have giant bears paws in it.”

It definitely has bears paws on it and it’s wonderful! Thanks Donna!

To see the original post about the Scrap Happy class I taught at a retreat go to:


And one last item for anyone who lives in the Milwaukee/Madison area. This coming week is a special one and my church, Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, WI, will be presenting a “Walk Through Jerusalem” on the evening of Good Friday. It’s a wonderful family event! Come anytime between 5:30 and 8pm. The address is 792 Milford Street.

If you’d like more information, please watch this invitation from our Pastor!

Join us Good Friday from 5:30pm-8:00pm for a Walk Through Jerusalem!

Posted by Calvary Baptist Church on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Maybe I’ll see you there  🙂

March 25, 2018, free motion
Visually Impaired Quilting 2

I met Mary years ago. She had broken her wrist and wasn’t able to cook for herself. At that time I was delivering Meals on Wheels and was blessed to have her added to my list. We both share a strong faith and became quick friends and prayer partners. I soon learned she also sewed and when she discovered I taught quilting she signed up for a class.

Mary does wonderful work, but over the years her macular degeneration has made sewing increasingly difficult. She perseveres, piecing by machine and quilting by hand. Recently she asked me to help her to quilt a lap sized, scrappy rail fence quilt and I was happy to do it. She already had it layered when I got there and she told me to do whatever I wanted, so I brought it home and chose to spiral quilt in the blocks (of course – it’s my favorite free motion pattern).

Then I chose to straight line “piano key” quilt the wide border. I had an ulterior motive – I wanted to play with my “Line Tamer” ruler from “Four Paws Quilting” (click here for their website). It makes straight line quilting on a free motion machine almost fool proof. It works well on a domestic machine with a ruler foot too! Stitching in the ditch between the borders was a breeze because the channel in the ruler keeps things lined up exactly where you want them.

When I’d get to the spot where I wanted to turn perpendicular to the inner border and channel quilt I simply rotated the ruler, lined it up parallel to the last quilting line and continued stitching.

The floral fabric makes the stitching lines a bit difficult to see, but I hope you get the picture.

So here’s the part that made me laugh out loud. Mike didn’t know I was doing this for Mary. During the quilting process I would lay her quilt out on the floor when taking a break.

At one point I ran upstairs to get a cup of tea and when I came down Mike had come in from outside and was looking at the quilt. He said “now that’s a quilt I can relate to, it looks like a real quilt”.

I guess I’ve overwhelmed him with my art quilts lately 😀 ! I think he felt badly when I told him it was Mary’s quilt because he thought he’d hurt my feelings, but I thought it was hilarious. I love traditional quilts as much as I do fiber art, even though I’ve obviously been doing more art quilting lately.

When I returned Mary’s quilt to her I told her the story about Mike and she loved it! Since Maria was kind enough to let me give one of her Quick Threading needles to Mary – I presented it to her with the quilt and she was intrigued. She told me she’d give it a try and let me know what she thinks. Mary has a needle threader built into her sewing machine, but every so often the wire in it bends and then she’s out of luck. I think these needles will be a nice back up for her.

Mary is going to do the squaring up and binding on her quilt and give it to her brother and sister-in-law for their anniversary. I’m sure they’ll love it.

Next week I’m planning one last post in this series. Stay tuned – I know you won’t want to miss it!

Oh – just one more picture. This is Maria’s most recent quilt:

She began it in Open Lab from a picture she found on the internet. She used a gridded fusible interfacing as her base and cut up squares from a bright Jellyroll™ of 2″ strips. She then added some additional batiks Jean brought in for her (the friends in my Open Lab are really good at sharing). I’ve never seen Maria so joyful over a quilt. She really enjoyed the entire process and I think her joy shows in the quilt. Great job Maria!

A Great Quilting Tip

Every so often I just have to share a great idea I’ve learned from another quilter!

This past June Jan Bretzel was the speaker for Patched Lives Quilt Guild. Her quilts were joyful and inspiring. I especially loved one of her clever tips and she gave me permission to share it:

When a quilt has a lot of open white background area to fill with quilting, Jan recommends using a light gray thread instead of white or off-white. It will show off the quilting well on both the light background and the dark areas of the quilt. Here’s the quilt she offered as an example:

Stunning! She also had light gray in the bobbin – one of my favorite tips for getting the tension to look great front and back is to put the same thread in the top and bobbin.

She added a wonderful label too. Thanks for this useful idea Jan!

September 3, 2017, free motion
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
Comfortable Quilting Tips

This past week our son had a few well deserved days off of work – which meant grandpa and I had some time off from child care. Mike decided to make good use of the time, and beautiful weather, making fuel for our wood-burner.


And I was able to finish my current competition quilt! The deadline is this week, so the timing was perfect! I had previously machine quilted about 1/3 of the project, and the time had come to do the free-motion background fillers. I placed the quilt under my HQ Sweet 16 and hooked it up to my “Quilt Float” system (for details on the Quilt Float, click here and then here). That’s my #1 suggestion for making quilting more comfortable!


The clamps hold the bulk of my quilt and carry the weight, so everything moves easily under the needle. This works for domestic sewing machines as well as mid-arms, and it makes the entire process so much less strenuous!

You may have noticed the magnifier arched in front of the machine. It is one of my favorite new tools and my #2 recommendation for making quilting more comfortable. It has a “goose-neck” arm attached to a heavy duty clamp for easy positioning, and it increases my visibility so much now that my eyes are over 60  :-). I purchased mine in Paducah a few years ago, but I did find it on-line at


Don’t you just love my quilting gloves? I got them in the gift shop at the International Rose Gardens in Portland, Oregon last year when Wendy and I took a group of quilters to the Sisters Quilt Show (click here for information on our next adventure). Quilting gloves make moving the quilt so much easier, and are #3 on my list of recommendations for making quilting more comfortable.

So, I began to quilt, but I still couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I tried adjusting my chair height (elbows should be even with the table top), but that didn’t help. I scooted the foot pedal around, but that too wasn’t working. What was wrong??? I finally stopped long enough to analyze the situation and realized the chair was cutting into the back of my legs. I’m not sure why I hadn’t had this problem before (could it have something to do with that age thing again?), but it was bugging me now – and I needed to do something about it – fast!

It occurred to me that I needed to raise my feet off the floor. I found a sturdy, 3″ tall cardboard box in the attic and it did the trick! It was especially nice to have both of my feet on the platform. I felt much more balanced and a whole lot more comfortable. Thus, “raising the floor” is tip #4.


You might have noticed there are small blocks of wood under the feet of my sewing machine table. This is my husband’s method for protecting the carpet, and it did raise the table about 1″, exacerbating my problem. Since I’m 5′ 6″ tall and this worked for me, I bet “raising the floor” could really be helpful for quilters with shorter legs.

Do you have any additional quilting comfort ideas to share?


Last week Marla responded to my post about Slow Stitching with a picture. This is what she said:

“I love this slow stitching movement.  I started slowing down the process almost a year ago.  Sometimes life gets in the way of our quilting, and we become frustrated by not producing all the quilts we’ve designed in our minds.  I have started doing more handwork and improvisational piecing with minimal planning.  It’s very satisfying and quite beautiful.  I’ve attached a piece of embroidery on felted wool, all improvisational except for the leaf shape.”

Marla Morris-Kennedy slow stitching

It’s lovely, Marla. Thanks for sharing.

I’m hoping to try my hand at “slow stitching”, but it may need to wait until I’m past my “fast chasing after grandchildren” phase of life.

October 30, 2016, free motion
A Lunch Bunch Quilt – Part 2

This past weekend was the Madison Quilt Expo. It was a great show! I’m inspired, and exhausted 🙂 . I’ll post about that soon, but this week I want to continue the lunch bunch quilt story:

Last week I introduced you to my Lunch Bunch blocks and the idea for using them in a bed-sized “Log Cabin Quilt With Attitude” (if you’re new to the blog this week, please click here for the original post). Once I made all the wonky log cabin blocks, I stitched them into columns, and decided it would be a great idea to layer and quilt these columns individually, rather than make and quilt the entire top.  It was so enjoyable quilting the long skinny pieces!

Lunch Bunch Quilt column

Once all the columns were quilted, I connected them with the “Reversible Quilt as You Go” technique I used in my grandkid’s quilts. (click here to read that post).

I decided to use 2 different backing fabrics on the columns, this made the back of my quilt quite interesting.

Lunch Bunch backYou may remember that the blocks were all squared up to 10 ½” in width, so that they’d fit together into the columns, but the lengths were all different. As you can see, this left me with a very unusual lower edge. Sharon showed this bottom edge effect in her book, and I like it! But how does one bind such a quilt? That will be the “topic of the week” next time. I’ll show you the finished front then too.

Don’t Forget the Block Stack Challenge!

I’ve had 2 pictures of exhange blocks sent in. Others emailed that they didn’t know if they’d have time. There is no time limit and no one seems to have an abundance of time. So, if you are at all inclined, please send a picture of your blocks. It may be a ways off into the future, but you just might get yours together and win. Here is the challenge once again:

Do you have a stack of exchange blocks just waiting to become a quilt? I’d like to challenge you to send me a picture of your stack of blocks (feel free to arrange them any way you like – thrown all over the room, or in one tall stack, or artistically draped, or… ???). I’ll then post the pictures (without naming names) and challenge each participant to put them in a quilt. The first one to actually make their blocks into a quilt will get their name and photo in the blog, along with a wonderful prize of my choosing!!!

September 13, 2015, free motion
Quilting a Sommer Quilt

As most of you know, Mike and I watch our granddaughter, Sommer, full time. She is a joy, and next year we’ll be doubly blessed because daddy and mommy are expecting her baby brother in February. During breakfast a few weeks ago, I asked her what we should name her baby brother and she responded “Minnie Mouse sticker”. We smile a lot around here  🙂 !

Sommer will be moving into a big girl bed after Christmas, so grandma Chris needed to make her a quilt – of course. Her bedroom colors are pink, gray, black, white and teal – and the decor is very modern. A “modern” quilt would be ideal, but Sommer really loved the I Spy quilts she helped me make for her cousins. What to do? Back the modern quilt with an I Spy quilt!

Once both sides were finished, the sandwich was layered and it was time to quilt. The modern side has one wide, vertical band of a pink gradation fabric, and 6 different, wide, horizontal bands. I quilted around each of these areas with a walking foot first, and then the fun began. I made a curved template from card-stock to mark lines in the vertical band.

curvy template

I originally thought I would keep the curves lined up, but after a bit of experimenting, an hourglass shape seemed best. I marked the lines with a sliver of soap and continued to use the walking foot:

marking curvy quilting lines

This design simply hollered for circles to be added. I cut a bunch out of freezer paper, keeping the circles and the holes they were cut from, and ironed them to the quilt top.

freezer paper templates

I free motion quilted around the outside of the paper circles, and filled the empty holes with posies.

quilted flowers fill the freezer paper holes

And here’s the quilted vertical band:

vertical quilting full

You may have noticed that I personalized the simple “modern quilt” pattern. The owl is from a canvas Sommer’s Mommy painted for her room.

Sommers owl

and her doggies, Nirshey and Mosely, just had to be a part of the fun!

Next, I’m quilting around a variety of freezer paper circles and filling in around them with spiral designs. Stay tuned for a photo of the finished quilt.


Thread Portraits

This week I’d like to introduce you to a very talented fiber artist and dear friend. When Sandy Hendricks joined the Milwaukee Art Quilters a number of years ago, she brought with her a portfolio of some of her work, and we were blown away. She’d devised a free motion machine embroidery technique to do portraits in thread of residents in a senior living facility. Sandy was kind enough to allow me to photograph some of these works. Even though I took these pictures rather quickly, and with my phone, I think you will still be amazed at Sandy’s ability to capture the essence of these dear people.

thread portraits sandy 2 sandy 3 sandy 4 sandy 6

When my Mother-in-law passed away, I asked Sandy if I could hire her to do a thread portrait of Johanna and her response was “you should do it”. I remember that I chuckled and repeated my question. That time she said she would show me how. Well, life got busy and I didn’t bring it up again for over a year.

Sandy and her husband Jon have traveled to both Italy and the Baltic Sea with Wendy and me. Here’s a photo of them with Wendy having breakfast at our villa in Sienna.

Sandy, Jon and Wendy

While on this last cruise I brought up the subject again. Sandy said she was serious and she’d be happy to teach me how she does her portraits. So, last week I finally took her up on her generous offer!

I brought an 8″ x 10″ photo of my Mother-in-law to Sandy’s home

Mom V small

and we began by tracing some of the details of the picture onto tracing paper. Then she helped me pick out a variety of threads from her substantial collection and encouraged me to do a bit of practicing with the threads to decide which ones would work (after posting this picture I realized that the practice piece on the right looks like some sort of weird modern art).

sketch and practice

Sandy does her portraits on a product called Lutradur. It’s a stiff material that seemed to me to be a cross between paper and fabric, that comes in different weights. I did my practicing above on a medium weight sheet.


Next I traced Mom onto the Lutradur – and began stitching in the lines. Sandy’s advice was not to overdo, and my first attempt was a bit heavy handed. At that point I thanked her and headed to Ben Franklin in Oconomowoc for some Lutradur. I went home, began again, and I was fairly happy with the results this time.

Johanna in thread

I think the piece needs to have some areas shaded in more, but I don’t seem to have the right variety of flesh toned thread – at least thats my excuse!

God has truly blessed Sandy with a wonderful talent and she is very humble about it and so generous to share. Thanks Sandy, for a fun morning!

I’ll leave you with something Jon told me that just might make you smile. He came home while I was stitching and when I asked him where he’d been he said he was having breakfast with the Romeo’s. When I questioned him about it he responded that it stands for “real old men eating out”. Too funny!

One more thing I just need to share :-)!

When we had dinner at the quilt shop near Copenhagen, a Danish quilter named Kirsten, dined at our table with us. Here’s the picture from a previous post (Kirsten is in the center).

dinner shot1During our conversation she told us she was very excited because she was planning on attending the IQA Quilt Show in Rosemont near Chicago this month. This past Thursday Nancy (next to Wendy on the left) sent me this email:

“Hi Ladies, I just had to tell you the neat thing that happened today.  I was at Rosemont for the day.  I knew that Kirsten from the quilt shop in Denmark was going to be there, so I was watching for her–and I found her!  Had a nice chat with her, and then we found Kristi and Pam.  Since Pam drove down, they were able to have dinner tonight with Kirsten. Isn’t that great?  Just had to share.”

What a delightful continuation to our Sew We Go adventure, but it gets better! Saturday morning Kristi called everyone who had been at that table, to tell us that Kirsten was taking the bus from Chicago to Milwaukee. Kristi was going to pick her up and take her to Patched Works Quilt Shop and out for lunch. She invited us along. None of us was able to make it, but we were able to meet up with them a little later at Kristi’s home for a lovely time of conversation, snacks and eventually – pizza! (all except Lisa, who had to work 🙁 )


This was a special, and unexpected, treat for us all. Kirsten took the bus back to Chicago that night, and Monday morning she flies to LA to meet up with her 3 daughters. The plan is for them to rent a car,  and tour California, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota (I may have missed a few). We wish her safe travels and count ourselves very blessed to have had the chance to get to know this sweet quilter from Denmark, just a  little better :-)!


June 22, 2014, free motion
Free Motion Fun

I recently completed a challenge quilt I’d been working on since the beginning of the year and it was time to do something easy. Months ago I’d picked up a kit to make a charity kid’s quilt while at my quilt guild – Patched Lives. This is a very generous guild and I’m proud to be a part of it. Our wonderful charity quilt committee recently wrote in the newsletter that since they began working on the committee, the guild has donated 207 quilts! The fabric in the kits is donated, and the kit I picked up was especially cute. It contained a pre-printed panel, borders and backing. This proved to be the perfect simple project for my mood. I added the borders and safety pinned the layers together. As I began to think about the quilting, I thought it might be fun to share my process on the blog.

First, I like to do a bit of machine guided quilting to hold things together. Since I hate to stitch in the ditch, I chose to quilt 1/4″ from the seam using the walking foot and my “3 pin technique“. When quilting long straight lines it’s not uncommon to have the top layer shift a bit by the end of the line, resulting in puckers, even with a walking foot. To prevent this I sink the needle into the quilt at the beginning of the line, then place 3 straight pins, about 1 1/2” apart, in front of the needle.

walking foot quiltingI pull the pins out as I sew up to them, and when I reach the third pin, I re-pin once again. It may seem a bit tedious, but I get great results!

Next, it was time to free motion quilt. I moved to my Sweet 16 and positioned the quilt in my Quilt Float. When I was teaching Beyond Meandering at the FVTC Quilt Expo recently, I explained the quilt float to the students and told them I’d put a photo on the blog. Here it is:

free motion quilting made easy

If you’d like to know how to make your own (and it works great with a domestic machine too!), just click here.

I recently received a delightful email from Sheila about the Quilt Float. She gave me permission to share it here:

“A little late for starting to use a Christmas present.  A busy schedule and a knee replacement didn’t help me start using my Christmas gift from my husband.  I had shared with  him the description in one of your blogs showing a plan for hanging a quilt sandwich in a way that made the quilting easier to do on my “regular”  Viking machine (floating with the poles and clamps).  So he purchased the needed supplies for the project as my Christmas gift.  Was I ever surprised that he remembered my sharing your blog with him so long ago.
Today we set up the equipment and I started quilting a sandwich that I plan to give to his grand-nephew and bride at their June wedding.   I had a wonderful afternoon with the floating process.  The system made it so much easier to move the quilt sandwich through my machine.”

When I asked Sheila if I could quote her she said “I hope others enjoy the system like I do”.  Thanks so much Sheila, I’m really glad it’s worked so well for you!

As I had stated previously, the kit was made up of a panel, so how should I quilt it? Well, if I stitch on the lines of the design, I will need to stay on the lines – ugh! It would be much more fun to stitch 1/8″ away (or there abouts – notice how I used thread to match the background so it wasn’t obvious if my 1/8″ wasn’t consistant?).

free motion funIt was fun, and I had the center quilted in no time. Then I got to the plain, peach borders and, without much thought, decided to “spiral”. This is my “default”, because I love to “spiral”. I put in a matching thread and got the machine humming. After a while, Mike walked by and I stopped and said “have I thanked you recently for buying me this wonderful machine?” (that was a story from last year  called “Sweet 16” – click here to read about it :-))

He walked over, looked at my quilting and said: “how do you keep the spacing between your lines of stitching so even?”

free motion fun

I jumped up and gave him a big kiss! Sometimes he says just the right thing. And the answer is… practice! And aren’t charity quilts the perfect place to get that practicing done?

I have one more trick that came in handy on this quilt, but this has gone a bit long, so I think I’ll save it for next week. Stay tuned for a slick way to cut your bobbin thread from the top!

And just one more thing! I continue to be very busy traveling and teaching. I had the privilege of judging the Evergreen Quilters Show in Green Bay, WI this weekend. It’s a wonderful guild and the show was great. I’d like to share a picture of the Best of Show award winner, Toni Bergeon, and her quilt: “Reverie”. It was spectacular!


Wool Batt and Border Quilting

In our last episode :-):Brianne Scott

Brianne and Scott were married, the wedding quilt was given as a gift and they are now on their honeymoon (no word as to their response about the quilt).

I had written about a portion of my quilting journey on their quilt in last week’s blog and will now continue …

Once the center of the quilt was done, it was time to quilt the borders. The border fabric is quite busy and I was sure any design would end up being seen as mainly texture. I have found “writing” in borders to be a delightful and fun way to finish this process. So I put in a dark green thread and began by writing “Scott and Brianne Trevorrow” across the bottom border.

(here is where I have to apologize and add a “learn from my mistake” portion to the blog. While working with the pictures I took of the border quilting in Photoshop Elements, I neglected to save them while in progress and the program closed down unexpectedly. Photoshop doesn’t do regular saves – and I should have – and the pictures were lost :-(. Since I no longer have the quilt, I couldn’t just snap a few more pics, so I’m hoping your imagination will fill in the blanks)

Next, starting at the lower left corner of the side border. I quoted Matthew 19:5-6 up the left side, across the top, down the right side, and ended with their wedding date in the lower right hand corner of the side border. The words were rather inconspicuous, and it was easier to see them from the back of the quilt, but they are there and I’m hoping it will be a special surprise to them some time in the future.

Once the quilting was done it was time to bind. I did this in the same flannel I used on the back – in keeping with the snuggly theme. I attached the binding first by machine to the back of the quilt, then I folded the binding to the front and secured it on the front with a zig-zag stitch in a matching thread. I typically sew the binding to the front and then hand-stitch it to the back because I find the quilt edge lays best this way, but again, since the quilt was meant for cuddling, I went with this quick way and then attached the label (did I mention I finished attaching the  label the morning of the wedding???)



I made the label on the computer and printed it on a colorfast printer fabric. This was the first time I included washing instructions on a label, because I felt the wool batt required it.

Next was the scariest part of the adventure. Since the majority of my quilts are made to hang on a wall, I strive for smooth and flat results. I have used washable wool batts in some of my wallhangings for the faux trapunto effect – with very good results, but the difference is I never planned to wash those quilts. This time I’d marked the circles and hearts with a water soluble marker that needed to be removed, and I wanted to see how the “washable” wool batt would react to washing, so I threw it in the washer (front loader) and washed with cool water on a gentle cycle. Then it went into the dryer on very low heat. I had not washed the fabrics in the quilt top or back, because I knew the batt was going to do a bit of shrinking and puckering (even with the cool temperatures), but when I pulled it out of the dryer I noticed immediately that it did shrink up even more than I expected.

So, I took a breath, wrapped myself up in it, and it was VERY SNUGGLY! I then laid it across a chair and got used to the  new effect.


I like it! Different can be good! I would do it again! I feel this was a good experience and hope it was helpful for some of you.

I can’t wait to hear from the newlyweds … and you too! Do you have any wool batt stories to share?

August 31, 2013, Batting free motion
Wedding Quilt

First of all, I must begin with a huge thank you to everyone who responded with opinions concerning the cover for my new book. I was blown away by the number of responses and grateful for all of the thoughtful comments. I did not take that decision lightly and feel good arguments were presented for both covers. That being said, I’m not telling which way I went yet :-)! “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art?” is now at the printers and should be ready for my classes at Expo in Madison next month. It will be available on my website shortly after that.

Now for this week’s topic. My August 11th post began with a picture of me basting a quilt in the driveway. I was making it for my niece’s wedding and Brianne and Scott were married this past Friday. They are a very sweet and special couple and their day was beautiful! It was such a blessing to celebrate this joy filled time with family and friends.

Brianne and Scott

Quilting and finishing their quilt was an adventure for me and I’d like to share some of the things I tried and the results. It was actually made for a class sample last semester and as soon as I got the top together and decided on a border (click here for that story :-)) I knew it was the one I wanted to finish for Brianne and Scott. The colors are bright and modern, and I could just picture them cuddled up under it.

When it came time to layer and quilt it, I chose to use a washable wool batt to make it extra snuggly and, while basting it in the frame, I had a thought: I’m always telling my students that quilting the quilt should be as much fun as making the top. So, how should I quilt it?

Sparingly was the answer. No tight and tiny filler designs this time! I didn’t want to flatten the nice poofy wool. I also didn’t want to drive myself crazy with a lot of marking and planning. This quilt wasn’t going to competition, it was meant to keep 2 people I love warm. Here’s what I did:

1. Gridded the quilt on the diagonals, through the dark squares, with a walking foot.

grid quilting

2. Prepared to make fast and fun feathered wreaths by marking a circle around an embroidery hoop,  straight pinning up to the circle and removing any safety pins that were in the way.

quilting simple feathered wreath

3. I began by free motion quilting the marked circle and then “feathering” around the outside. I’ve found feathers to be much easier since I took a class with Diane Gaudynski and she taught that a feather is half of a heart. I doodled loads of hearts when I was a young girl, so I had the shape down. She also showed us how it was easier to “draw” a half heart from the indent at the top, around to the point at the bottom. Here is my first “outside the circle” feather. I’ve come back up from the point and am at the top of the bump which will be the second feather.

quilt simple feathers4. As you can see – my feathers are big. Once I made all of the feathers around the outside, I stitched a second circle inside the first to create a “spine” and then I feathered the inside.

quilt simple feathers

5. They were a joy to make and the wreath was done so quickly I couldn’t wait to start the next one. Here’s a view of a wreath from the top:

quilt simple feathers

and from the back:


Notice how the feathers are not consistent in size or shape and yet they look good when all were done? Don’t agonize over each little stitch – revel in the finished effect!

quilting a large quilt

I did the free motion quilting on my HQ Sweet 16 and I used my “Quilt Float” system to lift the quilt and keep the weight of it from dragging me down. Quilts can be floated with a domestic machine also. For info on the “Quilt Float” from 2 previous posts, click here and then here :-).


When all the wreaths were made it was time to fill in the open areas. I did this with free motion hearts.

The adventure didn’t stop there, but the post is getting a bit long. Next week I’ll share my thoughts on border quilting and working with a wool batt.

Oh – just one more thing. I’ll be presenting a program at the library in McHenry, IL in September and I wanted to share their flyer in case you can make it!

Screen Shot 2013-08-24 at 8.59.56 AM


Threaded Borders

Sometimes a single, solid or tone-on-tone border is all that’s needed on a quilt, but when it comes to the quilting it might be nice to add a little pizazz. By using a contrasting color thread, simple shapes and a bit of stippling, an interesting border can be fairly easy to do. This quilt is one example. It was made from friendship blocks Wendy and I exchanged with the travelers who joined us on our Danube Cruise a few years back.

Threaded-border1I first drew the “leaf” shapes in a chain around the quilt (you’ll notice I didn’t even try to make them meet in the corners :-)). I stitched on these lines and then stippled inside in a high contrast thread. Next I marked a scalloped line 1/2″ from the outside of the stippled shapes and free motioned lines that were somewhat perpendicular to the outside edge.

quilt borders in threadI didn’t actually mark each of the “perpendicular” lines, but used my favorite marking tool – a sliver of soap – and marked a line perpendicular to the outside edge about every 3″ along the edge. This was just enough to keep me from tipping while free mo-ing. I angled the lines in the corner so that they continued smoothly. It was fun to do and it gave me the opportunity to play with those neon threads I just had to own.

Speaking of free motion quilting (what a segue!) I’m going to be doing a lecture and 2 workshops for the Darting Needles Guild in Appleton, WI in February. There are a few spots available in my workshops and they’ve decided to open it up to quilters outside of the guild. Here’s the information:

Beyond Meandering & Threaded Borders: Monday, February 18; 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.;  First Methodist of Appleton located at 325 East Franklin St, Appleton

free motion quilting

Quilting the quilt should be as much fun as making the top! If you’ve been free motion quilting for a while and wonder if there is life after stippling and meandering, the answer is YES! This class is for stitchers who are already comfortable with the free motion technique. This 6 hour class will be filled with loads of “no mark” designs to learn and practice along with time for students to bring in unfinished tops and have the group brainstorm design ideas. This free motion quilting class has a twist for the machine quilter who has been honing her free motion skills. By combining our imaginations with contrasting threads, wonderful borders and illusions will take ordinary quilts to a new level of excitement! Supply list available upon request.

Compass Capers: Sunday, February 17; 9:30-4pm; classroom TBD

Mariner's Compass

Traditional mariner’s compass quilts are beautiful, but can be difficult and time consuming to piece. This class will change that! Learn to draft a traditional compass using only a pencil, ruler and paper folding techniques. Then sew directly on the pattern using paper piecing – no math or templates! Once the technique is learned, compasses can be made any shape and any size.  Supply list available upon request.

Here is the lecture information too!

Quilt Tales: Darting Needles Guild Meeting; Monday, February 18; 7:00 p.m; First Methodist of Appleton located at 325 East Franklin St, Appleton

A quilter’s life is full of creative exploration, experiences and mishaps! Here’s a lighthearted look at one quilter’s journey as her love affair with fiber continues to evolve. Chris will be “formally” attired when she pulls quilts and other intriguing items from her overflowing suitcase. Listen on, as she spins tales of the quilts and what she’s learned from each of them.

Details: Classes are $40.00; if a quilter takes both classes they get a $5.00 discount on the 2nd class making it $35.00; Monday night lecture is $5.00 if a non-member. Contact Marie at: for more information!

January 27, 2013, Classes free motion
Feel Good Quilting

It’s Tuesday and I’m adding a short extra bit of information before you read about Feel Good Quilting. I have the great honor to be this month’s Featured Quilter on the National Quilting Association website. The NQA is a wonderful quilting organization. They put on a great quilt show each year and do much charitable and educational work in the quilt world. Please go to: to read all about it, then return here for the rest of the post :-)!

So now for “Feel Good Quilting”

Last summer I was very excited about purchasing my new HQ Sweet Sixteen mid-arm machine. I’ve since found that watching an infant 5 days a week really decreases time for quilting. This weekend I decided I just needed to make time …. and I did! Prior to our trip to Italy Wendy and I held a class for making a “Tuscan Sun” block and everyone was given instructions for autograph blocks to be exchanged on the trip. Well, I bordered my sun with the blocks, pinned the layers together and was ready to go. I really was in the mood for free motion fun, so I looked at the top and asked myself “what do I feel like stitching today?”

My first urge was to stitch some feathers, which I chose to place in the rays of the sun.

Then I was in the mood to “bubble” the sun’s interior.

So now how to quilt the background behind the sun? Add more rays! I took a ruler and a sliver of soap (my favorite marking tool) and I drew lines on the background that radiated from the center of the sun and then I used those lines as a guide to keep the rays shining. It was even more of a good time than I imagined it would be and because I was enjoying the process it was done almost too soon.

For the first border I decided to play with a design I hadn’t tried before. Laura Wasilowski refers to it as ME ME quilting (because it sort of looks like M’s and E’s) and it was a blast! Once again I marked some boundaries with the soap and I was off and running.

The MEME’s went through the center of the inside border, so what to do around it? I decided straight lines in yellow would work (remember I don’t need a good reason, it’s all about what feels like fun at the moment :-)). Now my Babylok with a  walking foot does a much better job of straight lines then I do in free motion, so I changed the feet and jumped in using my “3 pin technique” to prevent puckers. I’ve covered this in a past post. Click here to read about it.

All that’s left now is the outer border. How would you quilt it?

I’m not sure what I’ll do and the Packer game is about to begin, so this post will remain a cliff hanger until next week. Go Pack Go!!!

Sweet 16

I’d like to share a short story about my dear husband, Mike. We met in High School and were dating when I was “sweet 16”.

This past Tuesday we celebrated our 36th anniversary! The time has flown by.

Well, a few months back Mike came home from work rather excited because he had received a bonus for the first time in 4 years (the economy and a brief trial run at retirement were the reasons). The next thing he said was “what do you want to buy?” – What a nice guy!!!

I thought for a moment and actually responded that I really had everything I needed and he came back with “don’t you want one of those long-arm things?” – That took me by surprise. After a few seconds of contemplating this I explained to him that the bonus was not big enough and he’d have to empty all his stuff out of the barn so I’d have room for it. That took him by surprise and he replied that that was not an option. Then he asked if there was something somewhere in between…and I immediately thought about a mid-arm. My concern was where to put it and he said if I could figure that out – I should get one. It didn’t take me long to decide the “where” part and I made plans to test drive all the mid-arms I could find at the quilt show in Paducah.

The Quilting Connection is a shop not far from me in Elkhorn, WI that carries long and mid-arm machines. I usually try to buy local, so I visited them prior to my Paducah trip and did a test drive. I was very pleased to realize that, after looking over the competition in Paducah, the Handi Quilter Sweet 16 from the shop in Elkhorn was the one for me. It was delivered on our anniversary and I quilted a small quilt on it by the time I went to bed that night. What a joy and a blessing!

I’ve positioned the new machine just to the left of my regular sewing machine so I just have to swivel my chair to use it.

I’m very pleased with the way the head is situated, the bright lights and the stitch quality.

It is easy to set up and easy to use and I’m hoping my quilting will really improve :-).

I’m especially pleased that I could buy locally. Not only does it help the economy, but I have a technician nearby and that is worth a lot!

Do you quilt on a home sewing machine or do you have something bigger? If you have a quilting machine, would you recommend it to others? What do you love about it? Any complaints?

PS I guess I now have to admit to owning 8 machines. This was a topic of discussion in my July 31st post entitled “Howe Many Machines do You Own?”. It was inspired by the purchase of an 1867 Elias Howe sewing machine. To read all about it go to: and scroll down.

May 27, 2012, free motion
Quilt Floating 2

Last week’s post explained what quilt floating is and the supplies required. This week’s post is about putting it all together so quilting the quilt can be as much fun as making the top! (for those who missed last week’s post, just scroll down to read all about it)

There are 2 different ways to construct the frame, depending upon your machine/table set up. Both are described here.

Side Mount: If your table/cabinet is less than 6’ wide and more than 1½’ deep you’ll want to place the clamps on the sides. To do this clamp the Slide Clamps to the table/cabinet on each side about 1½’ behind the sewing machine.

Attach the aluminum slat to the holes in the clamps with bolts and wing nuts.


Back Mount: If your table/cabinet is more than 60” wide and less than 2 feet deep, you’ll want to place the clamps along the back. To do this clamp the Slide Clamps to the table/cabinet along the back – about   3 1/2’ apart.

Then slide the metal rod through the holes in the clamps (this is shown 2 pictures down).

Attach one chain to each Spring Clamp by opening an end link, inserting it through the hole in the clamp and closing the link.

Place the end of one chain over the top bar and Bull Nose clip the chain to itself so the Spring Clamp is at a good height (this can be easily adjusted depending on the size of the project). Repeat for the other chain/clamp.

Place the quilt under the sewing machine needle in the area you want to begin quilting.  Be sure that you have the bulk of the quilt behind the machine.

Grab a bunch of the quilt even with the right side of the machine and about 3’ back on the quilt, raise it up and grab it with the right clamp.

Repeat behind the left side of the machine with the left clamp and you’re ready to begin quilting. As you progress across your quilt simply unclamp and reclamp as seems necessary.

I hope many of you will find this helpful and will let me know how it works for you. Please feel free to share this information and/or forward my blog to your quilting friends!

Quilt Floating

Free Motion machine quilting a large quilt on a home sewing machine can be a bit daunting. A few years ago I developed a system that makes free motioning a bit easier. I’ve been sharing it with my classes, but decided now to share it on my blog so that more quilters might benefit. I call the process Quilt Floating and it’s my way of suspending the weight of the quilt instead of fighting it!

There’s quite a bit of information to share, so I’d like to do it in two installments. This week I’ll be sharing the concept, supplies and basic information. Next week’s post will include the specific set up instructions for all who are interested.

Here’s a picture to give you an idea of what Quilt Floating looks like:

Before we get to the actual frame, there’s a few tips I’d like to share. If your sewing machine is in a cabinet – great. It is also helpful to have some support to the left of the machine. If you don’t have any, placing an adjustable ironing board there is a good solution.

If you don’t have a cabinet you will want to find a way to avoid “sewing on a mountain”, ie: with the machine perched on top of a table or desk. Even table extenders don’t solve this problem with a large quilt because pins and folds of quilt get caught on the edges. My best suggestion is to place a card table in an “L” against your kitchen table or a banquet table. Then set the machine on a tv tray in the inside corner with enough magazines to make the bed of the machine flush with the tables.

Now you’re ready to float the quilt. All of the supplies can be purchased at your local hardware store *.

2 Lengths of Chain (approximately 18” long – links should be 1 ½” long)

2 Bull Nose Clips (3/4”)  These can be found with office supplies. They are inexpensive and will clip and unclip the chain together very easily (not in the picture).

2 Slide Clamps (36” long)  Both the old fashioned “C” clamps that screw to tighten or the deluxe new ones that pump tight will work. Choose the best quality clamps you can afford. I took my husband shopping and thus I own the Cadillac of clamps, but at least I waited until they were on sale. They are very easy to use! It’s important to have a hole in the bar at the non-clamp end for a rod or bolt to go through.

2 Spring Clamps (6” long) These are plastic, fairly inexpensive and have holes in the handle ends. They squeeze to open.

1 Top bar 6’ long or long enough to fit the width of your table/cabinet. You’ll want the “Quilt Float” positioned about 1 ½ feet behind the sewing machine. Depending upon your space, you’ll need to choose a “top bar” option:

1. If your table/cabinet is less than 6’ wide and more than 1½’ deep you’ll want to place the clamps on the sides. For this arrangement you’ll need: 2 bolts and 2 wing nuts that will fit through the holes at the ends of the Slide Clamps and a 6’ piece of aluminum slat with holes at even intervals along the length.

2. If your table/cabinet is more than 60” wide and less than 2 feet deep, you’ll want to place the clamps along the back. For this arrangement you’ll need to buy a ¼” diameter Steel Rod (4’ long)

*If you quilt in a basement with exposed rafters you will only need the chains,  bull nose clips, spring clamps and a couple of nails!

Next week we’ll put it all together!

Window View Challenge Deadline Extension!

On another note – I’m having a lot of fun playing with new techniques on my “Window View” challenge. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to have an extra week or 2 to “get ‘er done” and so I’m changing the deadline from April 1st to  April 15th. I’d appreciate getting a picture of your finished project by then for posting on that week’s blog.

If you haven’t checked out the pictures of the current views, please click here. If you were thinking of participating, but needed more time, send me a picture of your view and jump on in!

Good Poof

Happy New Year!

After a relaxing vacation, a family wedding and bringing in the new year – I’m ready to get back to blogging!

The past few days I’ve been busy free motion quilting and discovered a technique I’m anxious to share. Typically when I look at a freshly pinned, appliquéd quilt sandwich and begin brainstorming how to quilt it, I start with what I used to think was the “no-brainer” part: outline stitching around each appliqué. Then I quilt in the background with some fun filler design. The problem I often run into is little pockets of puckers that seem to develop near the appliqué.

This time I remembered reading an excellent article in the July 2011 issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine by Sandra Leichner entitled “Sophisticated Backgrounds for Appliqué Quilts”. 

In it she recommended doing the background quilting first (I hope you can see the large meander, in matching thread, around the printed dragonflies). This allows any pucker pockets to be pushed under the appliqué, resulting in extra poof where you want it. I tried it and was so pleased to find the outline stitching was easy to do after the meandering and the poof made the appliqué pop.

I highly recommend both Machine Quilting Unlimited and Sandra’s article.

One more tip: when your background fabric has unconnected motifs (like the dragonflies), challenging yourself to meander around the motifs without touching them is a simple and fun way to free mo these areas.

For the scoop on this “K” quilt, stay tuned for next week’s blog!


All of the details for our Sew We Go adventure in Italy are now available on my website: . If you haven’t been there yet, please visit soon! 

January 8, 2012, free motion
Tying Up Loose Threads, Pulling Up Bobbin Threads

I was blown away by all the interesting comments concerning our sewing machine collections. I learned a bit of history and discovered that I don’t win the ribbon for having the most machines :-). If you haven’t been reading the comments on any of my previous posts, it’s really quite simple: go to the bottom of that post,  and click on “comments”  (the word will be in blue)!

Also, if you want to comment on my post directly to me, you can just send me an email (and I thank those of you who do). I enjoy reading these, but I often wish they had been posted as a comment to that post so others could read them too. It’s easy to make a comment to a post: once again click on the word “comment” at the bottom of that post and scroll down until you see the “comment box”, type your comment and submit.

Now for the bobbin thread tip!

When I’m quilting on a large quilt and reach the end of a stitching line, I find it awkward and difficult to reach under the quilt and cut the bobbin thread. I do have a machine with a “cut” feature, but it leaves 1″ tails. I don’t like to have them hanging around and I really don’t want to go back and trim them all off later. If you struggle with this frustration too – here’s the answer:

1. Raise the needle at the end of your stitching line.

2. Raise the presser foot.

3. Grab the thread between the needle and the quilt and pull out a loop.

4. While holding the loop of thread, reinsert the needle in the hole the thread came out of (or close to it),

and then bring the needle back out. This works great if you can just press “needle up/needle down” on your machine to make one complete stitch.

5. While still holding the original loop, raise the foot again and pull the quilt away from the needle. The bobbin thread will pop up in a small loop.

6. Cut the bobbin thread loop and the top thread close to the quilt.

Voila! It’s almost like magic 🙂.

This also works when you want to pull the threads both to the top and knot them off for burying as was discussed in my “Loose Ends” post from March 27th (click on “Loose Ends” and scroll down for that lesson).

Try it! I think you’ll like it!

August 8, 2011, free motion
Hurry Up or Wait

While reading an issue of Irish Quilting Magazine I came across a comment I spent some time contemplating: “never be in a hurry to finish a quilt”. Now, my first response was that it was good advice, but I soon discovered that there are times the opposite can be true. Let me explain :-).

The article went on to say that “most of the time when we’re in a hurry, mistakes happen”. This can certainly be true and I decided I agreed. A day or so later I realized it was time to do a bit of tidying up in my studio and ended up staring at one of my recent (I use the term loosely) projects. It is my version of a mariner’s compass on drugs. About a year ago I started drafting a bevy of amoeba shaped compasses that interconnected, and I was pleased with the design. I had it enlarged and then agonized over a color scheme. Once that problem was solved the piecing was great fun. It turned out so well I decided I needed a truly wonderful quilting design and began to ponder what I could do that would take the quilt over the top – I didn’t want to rush into anything.

The top has been hanging on my design wall since March :-(. I was telling myself it was marinating, but now its simply frustrating. No amazing quilt design has materialized and I’ve gone way past the stage of rushing into something!

So, while staring at this piece that used to make me smile I realized that there is a happy medium for everything and at that moment my own advice, which I often share in my Beyond Meandering class, resounded in my ear:

When choosing a quilting design don’t say to yourself “a judge would appreciate feathers”, but rather “what would be fun to do today?” I was looking for the perfect design and it wasn’t forthcoming…. so I made the decison at that moment that my favorite free mo design is spirals and they’d be more fun then cleaning so I set up the machine and had a ball! I’m not ready to show the whole thing – and there’s more quilting left to be done – but I’m back to excited again. Here’s a picture of some of the fun.











So, don’t rush, but don’t let the moss grow on your quilt either. The perfect quilting design is the one you are in the mood to do today!

June 28, 2011, finishing free motion
Design Your Own

During our Irish “Sew We Go” adventure many of the quilters signed and exchanged Irish Chain blocks. I pieced mine together into a friendship top shortly after we returned… and then it sat. This past week I decided it was time to quilt it, but how? It was easy to decide to do some straight line quilting through the chains. Then I felt a Celtic Knotwork motif would be nice in the signature blocks, but I didn’t have a stencil. I was pleased with what happened next and thought you might find it interesting and, hopefully, helpful.

I began by pulling out my June Tailor “Mix ‘n Match Templates”™. Each package contains 6 different sizes of a chosen shape. I’ve found them to be a wonderful tool and own all their shapes, but you can also find great templates at the Craft Store. Check out the kid’s foam pieces or wood cutouts there.

A few years ago it was suggested to me that quilts could be marked with Crayola Washable Markers™. I was very hesitant, but decided this would be a good time to try them. I did a test piece first and the marker washed out well. So, I used it to mark the entire quilt and, once the quilting was done, I threw the whole quilt in the washer and it came out great. I’d do it again, but I recommend testing it on every fabric it will be used on.

Sample block, templates and washable marker

Now I was ready to create a design. The packaged “feather” template, shown in the package above, didn’t work, but the small “leaf” template fit into the areas on the center of each side, so I drew them in. I could have connected them, but felt it needed a bit more. I couldn’t find a “tear drop” template, so I drew one of my own and cut it out. Then I traced around both templates until I was pleased with the placement of the shapes.

Celtic Designs usually are not made up of lines, but visual “tubes”, so I needed to “widen” my lines. I drew these free hand about 1/4″ away from the first lines inside each shape.

Next, I needed to connect them and did this free hand too. You’d be surprised how easy this is with only a bit of practice!

Taa Daa!

Drawn and ready to free motion quilt (except this is an extra block and I actually had to draw it in each block on the quilt).  Here it is quilted:

I had so many blocks to quilt that I decided I didn’t need to have the design look like it wove “over and under” at each intersection. Thus the entire block could be done as a continuous line by starting at any crossed line intersection on the pattern.

The best part about creating your own design this way is that you can make it fit your project whenever you’re ready. You never need to have the perfect stencil in your stash.

Have you done any of your own designing? Are there any tools that work well for you? If so, please share :-).

May 14, 2011, free motion Notions
Fancy Threads

Wendy and I made it home last night with loads of great memories of a great show. I still haven’t unpacked the purchases and sewing stuff. Posting to my blog seemed a bit less challenging.

I enjoy using fancy threads while machine or handquilting, and metallics are among my favorites. The problem is they can be difficult to work with. I recently watched an an excellant video on working with flat, hologram threads. To see it for yourself go to:

Superior Threads has an excellent email newsletter that you can sign up for at the above link. They share a lot of helpful information about thread and are more than willing to answer questions.

One more suggestion I’ve found very helpful: if you do everything from the video and you still have some breakage (it happens), try threading a thin polyester thread in a matching color through your machine with the fancy thread. Run them all the way through as if they were one and thread the needle with both together. The poly won’t show, but will lend strength to the more fragile thread.

What are your favorite fancy threads? Do you have any suggestions for dealing with fussy fibers?

Loose Ends

Before we get to the “topic of the week” I’d like to share a smile. In Thursday’s class Jean shared a new quilting acronym: SABLE. It stands for “stash accumulated beyond life expectancy” (I definately fit this one)!

Moving along :-)………..this week’s topic is about stops and starts when machine quilting. Coming from a garment background, my first inclination was to backstitch. This meant that each time I began I’d go a few stitches and then reverse over them. Then I would stitch forward over them one more time and an ugly blob would always result. I decided to stop doing that quite quickly.

Then I decided to try the lock stitch on my sewing machine and discovered in a hurry that it didn’t “lock” as well as I wanted it to.

My next impulse was to begin with a very short stitch length for the first 1/4″ and then to slowly lengthen the stitches until I reached the length I desired. I would end this way too and I still use this technique in most of my quilts. It works well for both machine guided and free motion quilting. The short stitches anchor quite well and are not too visable, but there are times I don’t want to be able to detect the starts and stops at all.

In these cases I use a tip from Sue Nickels for knotting off and burying the tails. The trick is to use “Easy Threading” needles.

When the thread is pressed into the “v” at the top of these needles it will pop into the upper hole. Thus no threading! When you’re doing a lot of tails, this is an incredible help that reduces eye strain


Leave 2″ tails on the top, pop both threads  into the needle, insert needle in end of last stitch and pull through to the back.




Tie a square knot on the back tight against the quilt.

Pop tails into needle once again, enter at end of stitching, run the needle between layers for about 1″ and bring tails back out to the  back.



Clip threads close to the back and repeat for remaining tails.



PS Cheryl Anderson sent me a great link for quilters who want to do something to help the people of Japan during this difficult time. The project is entitled: “Hearts and Hands for Sendai” and it involves making just one block. Please visit this blog for all the information:

Test Drive II

I received a comment to Monday’s post from Pat concerning what I had planned to share in today’s update on “Test Drive”. She sent it to me via email and I couldn’t have said it better – so I wanted to share it here:

Chris I use Glad Press-n-Seal™  for auditions. I place it over the area/block that I am interested in. I draw with a washable crayola marker over the block–you get a better idea of whether it will work or not. If it is something  that you want to reproduce accurately just take the Press-n-seal™ off the quilt top and put it over computer paper or card stock and cut the shape out. Now you have your own stencil“.

Thanks Pat. I would like to add, if the design works and it is simple, you can quilt right through the Press-n-Seal™ and then tear it away along the stitching line!

Thanks also to Sarah for commenting about the plexiglas sheet she uses to audition designs. Another great idea!

On another topic……the Milwaukee Art Quilters have just hung an exhibit of our “Common Objects” challenge at the fine art gallery of UW Waukesha (University Drive, next to the Field House). It’s a fascinating collection of fiber art pieces with each one being inspired by a common object. Our opening reception will be this Monday, March 14th at 8:30pm. My common object was a votive candle and I call my quilt “Let You Light So Shine”:

This small piece is part of my “Crossings” series where the beads cross the gap and hold the broken pieces of my quilt together as my faith in Christ holds the broken pieces of my life together. The “candles” are beaded onto the “flames”. One of the rules of the challenge was that the quilt had to have some non-fabric portion, so I used mylar for some of the flames and dripped wax all down the candles. Great fun!

I’m leaving tomorrow to visit my daughter in Washington, so I’ll be taking a week off from posting. Thanks for being part of my blog! Chris

Test Drive

Thanks for all the encouraging words about my “Willy” quilt. It’s good for us to try new things. Who knows where they could lead :-).

While I contemplate that I need to move on to a new topic of the week: trying out quilting designs. This isn’t about the designs themselves (this time), but I’d like to share some of the ways I audition designs.

I believe the big question of “what design will work in this quilt?” keeps many quilters from quilting their tops themselves, and keeps the long armers in business. If they could just preview a few options to see which one looks best, doing the quilting might not seem so intimidating.

Here’s one simple idea: take a picture of the quilt top and print out 3 or 4 copies. This should be done in color, but the lowest quality print setting will use less ink and work just fine. If you are computer savvy enough to put 4 pictures on one page before printing – all the better:

Then you take a pencil and begin to imagine. My basic direction at this point is to ponder what would be fun to quilt at that moment: straight lines, free motion swirls, or ???

Once an idea pops into my brain I begin to draw it on the first print out. For this one I thought I might like to do simple straight lines with the walking foot. Let’s zoom in to see it:

That was a bit boring. How about a mix of straight lines with a template heart?

I don’t really care to do template designs. Would free motion swirls with repeats in the borders be interesting?

Not bad, but maybe it’s a good day for spirals:

I’m not sure if any of these will be the one I’m in the mood for on the day I do the quilting because this is not that day (it’s actually 11pm). I hope you noticed that I didn’t have to draw on the entire quilt to get the feel for how well the design was working. On Thursday I’ll share another way I use to make these often challenging decisions. Do you have any favorites?

Mischievous Blues

The latest Milwaukee Art Quilter’s challenge is entitled “The Blues”. The quilt needed to be 31″ square, at least 1/2 blue and fit the theme. My grandson Willy has the most beautiful blue eyes, so my subject matter was simple. However, creating him in fabric was truly a challenge. I have done very little in the way of faces, so this was a great learning opportunity. I used a mixture of Repliqué  and my version of Caryl Fallert’s Appli-piecing technique, all accented with thread painting.

So here’s the picture of Willy with big sister Hanna:


and here’s the quilt:

As you can see, the real Willy’s a whole lot cuter than the quilt Willy, but overall I’m pretty happy with my first attempt and have learned a lot. We all need to try new things :-).

The one part I was pleased with was his hair and that (along with his eyelashes) was my thread painting adventure.

I used a fabric which contained areas of all the right values of golden red to brown, appli-pieced chunks of it together and then the fun began. I changed thread often and truly scribbled horizontally all over. It was freeing and almost fool proof! A great technique to have in your bag of tricks. I hope you have the chance to try it!

March 3, 2011, Challenges free motion
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

I’m so glad many of you enjoyed “Leah Day’s 365 Days of Free Motion Designs”. She has really inspired me!

I mentioned in Monday’s post that I find the quilting process to be so much more fun if I’m quilting a free mo design I like doing. I have many “favorites” (and there are so many left to try :-), but so far the design I enjoy the most is spirals. The secret to good spirals is:

#1 – Practice!

#2 – Make them fun sized! So often we think everything has to be “stipplelike” tiny. Most normal quilters don’t do projects that need tight and tiny designs and making your designs a bit more open often yields a more pleasing effect.

#3 – Leave yourself an out! Begin by starting a circle the size of a quarter or even a half dollar. As you spiral in make sure you leave the channel opening double the size you want the actual channel to be.

#4 – Circle out down the center of the channel opening and once you reach the “exit”, continue around the outside until you feel like branching off and starting another spiral.

#5 – Be careful. With a little practice these can become addictive!

For those of you in Wisconsin; next Saturday, February19, I’ll be teaching Beyond Meandering for the Hustisford Community Ed Department. Hustisford is a small town on Hwy. 60, north of Watertown. This is a workshop for quilters who have tried a bit of free motion quilting and are already tired of stippling or meandering. There are so many fun designs to try and we’ll play with a bunch! The class will run from 9 – 3 at Hustisford High School. To sign up please contact Cindy Fitzsimmons at 920-349-3261 ext. 228 or . For more information feel free to contact me. Thanks and happy quilting :-)!

February 10, 2011, free motion
Free Motion Fillers

All you need to be a good free motion quilter is practice. With enough of it you may reach the point where quilting the quilt is as much fun as making the top. I’ve reached that point and truly enjoy learning new designs. In case you missed a recent comment from Johanna, I’d like to share the site she recommended. It’s Leah Day is a quilter who has challenged herself to come up with a new free mo design each day for a year. She’s close to completing this challenge and, by going to her site, you can not only see the day’s design, but watch a short video on how she does it. The best part is that all of her designs are at your fingertips with just a click of the mouse. I truly admire Leah’s creativity and have enjoyed playing with some of her designs.

The one that has intriqued me the most so far is called Fiery comet:

and Angles and Circles is a close second:

Angles and Circles by Leah Day

 They are a great leaping off point for me to make a variation of my own. What I find makes quiting fun is choosing a design that I feel like doing that day. I always tell my students that if you choose a design because you think a judge might feel it’s the right one, you probably won’t enjoy the quilting and the end product won’t be your best effort. Instead, decide what you feel in the mood for that day and go at it with abandon. Things turn out better when you want to do them and they actually get done!

On Thursday I’ll share my favorites. What are yours?

PS It’s 3:30 on Super Bowl Sunday – Go Pack!

February 6, 2011, free motion