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A Cut Above

Yesterday I bought myself a new pair of scissors. It isn’t because I don’t own any  😀 !

I have paper scissors, kitchen sheers, tiny appliquĂŠ scissors, pinking sheers… you name it, I probably own it!

I have my first pair of Ginghers that I still keep in their original box, and use on special occasions. Like when I needed an artsy self-portrait for our Threadbender’s blog (Click here to meet the members of this very creative group!)

A little corny, but I bet it made you smile!

I have serrated scissors that are great for trimming layers without shifting (I tried to get a pic of the serrated edge in the close up to the right).

I have duck-billed appliquĂŠ scissors that protect the fabric under the blade.

And I was even given a pair of scissors made to cut batting.

But the ones I use the most, and are by far my favorites, are my Fiskars™  “micro tip, easy-action” scissors.

They have been used A LOT!!! They have a spring feature that causes them to open automatically after you make a cut, which is really easy on the hands. The slide lock broke within the first year, so they are always open, but I don’t mind, because they are oh-so sharp. Or at least they were  😥

So it was time to treat myself to a new pair!

I can’t wait to tear them open. I will be saving them for close trim work – like when I do my RepliquĂŠ technique. But the old ones are dear friends and will live next to my machine for cutting threads and other simple tasks.

And one last thing – actually a warning:

Don’t use them while sitting on an exercise ball. I used to sew on one because it was good for my balance, but I had the misfortune of bumping my favorite scissors off the table and – you guessed it – that very sharp point punctured the ball and I ended up on the floor – LOL!

What scissors are your favorites! Please respond and tell us why!


And one more thing! I received an email from the National Quilters Circle website. You can learn all about them on their website: . Their email said that I had been nominated for their “Best Overall Quilting Blog Award”.

I’m surprised and honored. They said in their email to me that I could share this info on my blog to continue to be nominated. If you like my blog, and are interested in participating, please go to: Thanks!

August 26, 2018, Notions
Glue Basting to Miter a Border

Before I get to my topic of the week, I’d like to share a few helpful hints for using a blog such as mine. Some posts (like this one) contain instructions for techniques you may want to save. There are a number of ways to do this:

• When you click on the link to open my blog the first thing you’ll see is my most recent post and, if you scroll down  through it, you’ll find my previous posts. Because I put a lot of pictures in my posts, my site may load slowly on your computer or other device. That’s why I always send you a link to just my most recent post also.

• If you are on my full site and want to open just one of my posts, simply click on the title of that particular post:

The post title is in the red circle.

• When you’re in the page that contains only one post, the title will turn black as in the example below. You can “bookmark” that post to save it for future reference. On my computer I can add a bookmark by clicking on the star in the upper right, typing in a name for it and clicking on “done”. This process may be different on your computer, but it should be similar.

Once again – look for the red circle above :-).

• If you’d rather print that post and save a hard copy of the information, click on “print me” under the post title (and be sure you’re connected to a printer):

I hope this was helpful. Now for my topic of the week:


I’ve recently been using Elmer’s School Glue™ to match fabric patterns when sewing strips together. This week we’ll use the same glue technique to miter a border.

• Sew the border strips onto 2 adjacent sides of the quilt top, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, and backstitching 1/4″ from the corner on each strip:

• Lay the vertical strip flat against the ironing surface:

• Fold the end of the horizontal strip under at a 45 degree angle, forming a miter.  If your fabric happens to be a stripe – the miter will be much easier to see  :-). Press:

• Pull this newly pressed crease back

• and squeeze a thin line of glue along the edge of the crease:

• Lay the glued crease back in place on the vertical strip and press again to dry the glue:

• Once the glue is dry, fold the quilt top in half diagonally to expose the glued crease and stitch in the crease. Trim off the excess strips,  1/4″ from the stitching, and you’re done.


And one last thing!

Last week I shared information about the Sun Prairie Quilt Show. There will be two other shows in the Southeast Wisconsin area that same weekend:

West Suburban Quilters Guild will be holding their show at the Waukesha Expo Center. For more info go to:

The Crazy Quilters in Mukwonago will also be holding their annual quilt show at the Mukwonago Middle School. For more info go to:

February 11, 2018, finishing Notions
School Glue – a Quilter’s New Best Friend

Last week I shared how to match striped fabric strips, using “Elmer’s School Glue”™, with a straight seam. This time I’ll demo matching with a bias/mitered seam. Its the same basic maneuver – glue basting, plus a pressing tip for creating the miter:

• Begin with 2 strips you want to sew together end-to-end, and find a matching pattern on both.

• Turn over one strip and fold back the corner of the end. Press.

• Run a thin line of glue along the pressed crease.

• Lay the “pressed/glued” strip on top of the second strip, glue side down, and carefully match the pattern. Iron in place to dry the glue.

• Then fold the strip you just added on the right, down to expose the inside of the crease and stitch in the crease.

The great thing about using the glue is – if it doesn’t match exactly, even after pressing, simply pull it apart and glue again!

And …

The above technique works great for finishing a “no-end” binding!

• Sew your binding to the quilt, leaving about 8″ open between the beginning and ending tails.

• Fold back the end of the tail on the left at a 45 degree angle and press.

• Run a thin line of glue along this crease.

• Place the tail on the right back evenly on top of the glued crease. Press to dry the glue.

• When the glue is dry, pick up the strip tails, open them to reveal the inside of the crease and stitch in the crease.

Trim the excess tails 1/4″ from the seam and continue sewing the binding to the quilt.

If you prefer to use a double or “French” binding, simply leave yourself a wider opening between the beginning and ending stitches (perhaps 12″), open the strips flat, and connect them as above, folding the strip back in half after it is stitched, and sewing it to the quilt.

I do hope you’ll try this technique. I’ve found it extremely quick and accurate!

An FYI for local quilters

The Sun Prairie Quilt Show is fast approaching. To enter a quilt in the competition and/or read all about the show click here!

February 4, 2018, finishing Notions
Visually Impaired Quilting

I have three friends who make wonderful quilts in spite of the fact they are visually impaired.

Maria suffers from Psuedo Tumor Crebri which is internal hypertension of the brain, and she has had three brain surgeries. In Maria’s own words her vision has become “very dark”. She attends my Open Labs at WCTC and we are all inspired by the beautiful quilts she makes.

Maria’s Sampler

You may remember a post I featured her in previously called “Quilting Time”. In it I shared her quilts and her unique ideas about time (click here to read that post).

During the past year her vision has not been improving and she’s had to face the fact it may never get better. She’s started a support group for visually impaired, low vision and blind individuals in southeastern Wisconsin (see below for more information) and she’s discovering ways to continue quilting in spite of her disability. Recently she was given a pack of “Quick Threading” sewing machine needles.

She brought them to class and asked me to try them out. I was delighted!

I tried both piecing and machine guided machine quilting with them and I think they’re great. The needles have an opening on the right side of the eye

for the thread to pop through:

To thread them you simply put the needle into the machine, hold the thread behind and in front, placing the thread along the right side of the needle,

and run the thread down the needle until it pops into place.

Be sure to thread from front to back (it’s easy to get confused when threading differently from what we’re used to).

This is a size 80 needle and I tested it with different weight threads. Thin threads popped out quite easily and were frustrating, but medium weight threads worked fine. It would be best to try each thread on a sample to see if it will work before using it in a project.

I did a quick check on availability and JoAnn’s, Walmart and Amazon all have them on-line.

Maria told me there were no support groups for the visually impaired nearby and so she decided to start one. The group is called “Insight Resilience” and all are welcome. She said it is for people who’s life has been changed because of their vision issues or the vision problems of a friend or loved one. The meetings are held the fourth Friday of each month from 11:30 am to 1 pm in room 110 of Waukesha County Technical College, 327 E. Broadway, Waukesha. Their motto is “just because you’ve lost your sight doesn’t mean you’ve lost your vision”. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from this group feel free to drop in. You may call Maria at (262)547-6670 for more information.

I can’t wait to share these needles with my dear friend Mary who suffers from Macular Degeneration. I recently helped her with a project and I’ll share her story in next week’s post!

November 5, 2017, Notions
Paper Backed Fusibles – A Side by Side Comparison

If you’re a quilter, at some point you will probably find a need for a paper backed fusible. At one time I was a traditional quilter who thought using fusibles on my quilts was in some way “cheating”. I still prefer my Repliqué method for machine appliqué because it requires no fusibles and avoids the stiffness that heat activated glue yields. But, there are times when I do succumb to fusing.

For my comparison I used the four commercial paper backed fusibles that are readily available in my area: Wonder Under™, Heat n Bond Lite™, Steam a Seam II™, and EZ Steam™. The first two have tracing/release paper on only one side of the web, and the glue isn’t activated until heat is applied. The remaining two have tracing/release paper on one or both sides of the web, and have a pressure sensitive adhesive on at least one side, in addition to the heat activated glue.

There are two advantages to the pressure sensitive adhesive: they can be used to fuse sheers (tulle, organza, etc.), and any appliquÊ pieces made with them are re-positionable, which is helpful when arranging a design on a background fabric.

The one obvious note that I’d like to make at this point is that the products containing only a heat activated glue will not cause a “glue ball” to build up on your needle when sewing through the appliquĂŠs. The ones with the pressure sensitive adhesive will form that “glue ball” on the needle. I used to clean off the needle with an alcohol soaked cotton ball when needed, but I’ve learned a new trick: if you wipe your needle with Sewer’s Aid on a cotton ball prior to sewing through the appliquĂŠ the “glue ball” will not form.

My method for comparison – I chose a shape and created three appliquĂŠ hearts from each product according to packaging directions. I made the shapes from muslin and wrote which product it was made with on the appliquĂŠ.

I then cut three strips of a background fabric and fused one of each of my hearts onto each strip. On one set I top-stitched the edges down, on another I satin stitched (using scrap paper as my stabilizer on the back), and on the third I did a blind hem stitch, to mimic a blanket stitch because I didn’t have that stitch on the machine I was using.

Here are my findings:

* All four products fused the appliquĂŠs well.

* The release paper came off easily, with a gentle separating pressure along an edge, from all but the Wonder Under™. For that I had to score the release paper in an “X” with a needle in the center back of the appliqué, and pull it off from the created corners.

* The Heat n Bond Lite™ was the only one with a pattern in the glue. I found it does show through on light color appliqués.

* From what I could tell, they all added about the same amount of stiffness, no matter what the stitch.

One last hint: fusibles may age poorly, especially in very humid areas. They will last longer if stored in an air-tight container or bag.

April 2, 2017, AppliquĂŠ Notions
Spool Pin Doilies

In the “Pieceful Star” class I taught a few weeks ago, Bonnie brought along her Singer Featherweight™ to sew on. She had a hand-made notion I’d never seen before and it was not only clever, but lovely. Instead of placing a felt circle under her spool of thread on the thread pin, she had a “Spool Pin Doily”.

Bonnie said she had taken a class on Featherweights™ at Frank’s Sewing Center in Waukesha, and one of the other students had made them and brought them to sell. I love it! I’d like one for every machine I own!

Sew, I did a little internet search and found many sites that have them for sale. Prices ran around $5. One site had a pattern for crocheting your own: I think I need to share this with my mom. She’s a great crocheter and I bet she wouldn’t charge me too much. Usually she’ll do anything for me if I invite them over to play with Sommer and Trey. Great grandparents are such pushovers 😀 !

The Pieceful Star class was a lot of fun. It has the beauty and appeal of a Lone Star without having to match up all the diamonds. All of these 31″ square quilt tops were made by students in that class!

Pieceful Star by Suzi Banks

Pieceful Star by Mary Miller

Pieceful Star by Joyce Egle

Pieceful Star by Sue Ehlen

Pieceful Star by Bonnie Morris

Pieceful Star by Jane Wettstein (don’t you love the fun way she used her scraps in the border?)

Pieceful Star by Cathy Bornemann

I’m offering the Pieceful Star class again at Waukesha County Technical College on Saturday, March 18th, from 9 to 2:30. We need a few more students for this workshop to run, so please sign up at!

February 12, 2017, Classes Notions
Shape Cut a Quarter

Before we get to this week’s topic, I’d like to do a quick update on my quilt: “How Beautiful – Liberty”. It’s striking me as quite funny – I’ve enjoyed making my accordion door quilts, but never imagined anyone else would want to do it! Since sharing my last two blog posts, and winning the ribbons in Sun Prairie, I’ve had oodles of requests. My mind is just buzzing over the prospect of writing another book with all the techniques from “Liberty” in it. Please stay tuned!


A few weeks ago the grandkids were entertaining themselves very nicely with their toys in the living room. So I decided it would be a good time to take some pictures for this week’s blog. I brought up my cutting tools, put them on the counter, laid the mat on the floor (the lighting is best in the middle of the kitchen floor)

and went to find my camera. When I returned, this was what I found:

SC kids mat

Good thing I had my camera. Trey found sitting on my cutting mat so fascinating, I ended up having to move it to the kitchen table for the photo-shoot  🙂 . Now on to the topic at hand!

shape cutA number of years ago I shared my top three favorite rulers, and included in the list was the Shape Cut™ ruler by June Tailor. This past Christmas I did a post using it to fringe fleece scarves (click here for that post) and recently I shared a similar ruler for marking (click here for the Grid Marker post).

The Shape Cut™ is a great tool for rotary cutting multiple, accurate strips. When it came out it was well received, but it was limited to ½” increments. Back then I was doing freelance work for June Tailor (we’re talking the 1990’s). They asked me to come up with a way to cut Ÿ” increments with the ½” ruler and I was happy to take on the challenge (they did come out with a Quarter Cut™ ruler, but it had to be made shorter for stability, which made it less useful).

I spent quite a bit of time coming up with the answer, and I think you’ll find it works well. It’s really quite simple, and I devised a chart which does the math for you, that I’ll include in this post. I discovered the trick is to have a dashed line marked between the “0” and ½” slots on the Shape Cut™. The newer ones come with this marking,

SC orig dashed line

but if you have an older ruler, you can add it with a fine line permanent marker.

SC dashed ruler

SC drawn dashed line

Now for the step-by-steps. I’ve given you all the info, but remember there will be a chart at the end of this post that does the math for you!

Step 1: Choose a Ÿ” increment (i.e. 2 Ÿ”), double it (i.e. 4 ½”) and cut strips at this size. for 2 Ÿ” strips your cuts will be at 4 ½”, and 9″, and if you have the larger Shape Cut™, you can continue to cut at 13 ½” and 18″.

Step 2: Lift the Shape Cut™, remove the excess fabric from squaring up on the left cut, and reposition the ruler with the “dashed” Âź” line, along the left edge of the fabric.

We will now, in essence, cut these double strips in half!

Step 3: Cut in the 2 ½” slot (since the fabric is lined up Ÿ” from the zero slot, this strip will be 2 Ÿ”).

Step 4: Add the double cut amount – for our example – 2½” + 4½” = 7″. Cut in this slot, add 4 ½” again, and cut in the 11 ½” slot. If you have the larger ruler, continue by adding 4 ½” for each cut.

SC paper strips

Here’s a chart with all the math done. To open a printable pdf version – click here, then click on the purple lettering with the word attachment in it (I’m not sure why the extra step, but it works).

Shape Cut quarter cut chart

SC Trey matI’d like to close by sharing a short video I took when I couldn’t break Trey’s fascination with the cutting mat. Click here to view it. Grandchildren are such a blessing!

March 19, 2016, Notions
Grid Marking

Last week’s Gnome Home blog post was total silliness and fluff. This week’s has information that I hope you will find helpful in your quilting!

I recently surprised myself when I realized I’d never posted about a very helpful tool called the Grid Marker™.

GM mine

Years ago I did freelance work for June Tailor™: demonstrating for them at trade shows, testing their products, designing patterns and stitching samples. It was a delightful learning experience to work on that side of the industry. During my time with them I came up with the idea for the Grid Marker. I am a huge fan of their Shape Cut™ ruler, and felt there was a need for the same type of tool to mark accurate parallel lines. The slots in the ruler are wide enough to accommodate a pencil or marker – and it’s really easy to use!

To make vertical lines, set the bottom horizontal line of the Grid Marker™ along the bottom of the area to be quilted. Choose your favorite marking tool and draw in the slots at your desired increment:

GM verticals

Drawing with the ruler on the left. Accurate lines drawn on the right.

I hope you can see that horizontal lines would need the bottom line of the ruler set along the side of the block. Doing both results in cross-hatching.

To do diagonal lines, choose 45Âş or 60Âş, and place that line (I used 60Âş) along the bottom of the quilt block. Once again, draw in the slots at your desired increment:

GM angles

To do “hanging diamonds” (diagonal cross-hatching), place the other 60Âş line along the bottom of the block and draw the opposite angled lines:

GM crosshatching

This tool makes quick work out of drawing parallel lines, and it keeps them parallel!

When the Grid Marker™ was introduced, it was chosen as one of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine’s top 3 tools of the year! June Tailor™ continues to sell the Grid Marker™, but the newer version isn’t quite as long as my ancient and well used one.

Grid Marker

You can find them on the June Tailor™ website, at JoAnn’s, and hopefully at your local quilt shop.


February 7, 2016, Notions
No More Ruler Slipping!

Just when I think I have every ruler I could ever need, a new one becomes available that I can’t resist!!!

slidelock pic

A few month’s ago I put out a request on this blog from my friend Barb who was having problems rotary cutting. I didn’t get any responses – until this email from Barb herself 🙂 :

“A while back I asked you if you had any great ideas for cutting fabric since my vision has deteriorated. I know you were asking around, but since I hadn’t heard anything from you, figured that you were having about as much luck as I was in trying to find something that would help.

       Yesterday, while at our Tuesday morning quilting group, one of my ladies shared a gift she had received for Christmas–it may well be the answer. I am sending you the link (it has a great video demonstrating the tool and how it works). I tried it at quilting yesterday and it is amazing!  If you know anyone else who is having problems with vision and cutting their fabric, you might want to share the link with them.”

I went to the site, watched the video, and was very impressed! I have many students who struggle with the ruler slipping while cutting. If you fit into that category – you’ll want to know more about the Quilter’s Slidelock™. It’s a very clever tool. It has rubber snubbers and springs:

slidelock springs

The rubber snubbers are retracted in the normal ruler position, so the tool can slide easily across the fabric.

slidelock up

But when gentle pressure is applied to the handle, the rubber snubbers go down, touch the fabric and hold everything in place so there is no ruler slipping while cutting the entire length of the Slidelock™!

slidelock down

I’ve tried it and it really works! The video on their website is very good and you can order your own Slidelock™ from their site:

Since this is my blog 😉 , I want to share some thoughts of mine about rotary cutting, along with my preferred way to use this wonderful tool.

Many quilters like to line their fabric up with the lines on the cutting mat, then line the ruler up with these lines also.

slidelock mat line

I find I’m not as accurate with this method because there are three entities to keep track of: mat, fabric and ruler, and if the fabric moves without my notice, it’s easy to get “V” strips. This is the way the Slidelock™ is used in their instructions. When I rotary cut, I prefer not using the lines on the cutting mat, instead I simply align the ruler with the fold of the fabric. In this way I only have to watch the ruler and the fabric, and if I cut perpendicular to the fabric fold, I always get straight strips.

Now be aware that there are no measurements on the Slidelock™ – making it more of a tool than a ruler. With just a little bit of noodling, I came up with a technique I’m really liking. Please remember, this is just my opinion, everyone needs to try it out and decide which method they prefer 😀 .

I started by marking a line at the bottom of my Slidelock™ perpendicular to the cutting edge.

slidelock line

I then aligned this mark with the fold of my fabric to square the fabric up (I’m demonstrating in a right hand fashion, but it is easy to reverse this technique for lefties).

Slidelock fold line

Push down on the handle to engage the rubber bumpers,

slidelock square 1

and cut.

slidelock square2

Don’t you love the way the edge of the Slidelock™ glows? This makes it very easy to see what you’re cutting! Now that the fabric is squared, it’s time to cut strips. There’s no need to turn the cutting mat, or walk around the table. Simply grab a 6″ x 24″ ruler and line it up on the right side of the fabric (this is different then we’re used to, but stick with me 🙂 ). I’ve decided to cut a 2 Âź” strip.

slidelock strip1

Butt the Slidelock™ up to the ruler, then press down on the Slidelock™,

slidelock strip2

slide the ruler away,

slidelock strip3

and cut!

slidelock strip4

It is helpful to continue to align the perpendicular mark at the bottom of the Slidelock™ with the fold of the fabric to make sure you’re always cutting perpendicular to the fold (even though I neglected to do so in the pictures above – sorry).

Whichever method is used for the Slidelock™, the original, or mine, I feel it is a great tool that fixes a very common cutting problem.

I’d like to send a big thank-you to Barb for telling me about the Slidelock™.

Thoughts or opinions??? I’d love to read them in a comment to this post. Thanks!

January 23, 2016, Notions
Tips, Tools and Techniques

Over the past few months, I’ve discovered a number of small items I wanted to share. None of them were meaty enough for a “topic of the week”, but as a compilation, I hope you find some of them helpful.

scissor buddy

Scissors Buddy™ – at the AQS show in Phoenix my friend Joan spun the wheel of fortune at the Scissor Buddy booth and won. She shared her good fortune by giving both Evelyn and I our very own Scissor Buddy™. I love it! You simply attach a small pair of scissors to the rescissor buddytractable clip and stick it onto your machine in a convenient place.

I appreciate not having to fumble around for my scissors while sewing any more. You can get your own at their website:

AQS Hanging Sleeve Instructions I’ve been placing hanging sleeves on my quilts for years and I always try to add a bit of extra “pooch” so the quilt won’t curve around the rod at the top of the quilt. My method was not very precise. The past few years I’ve been using the method the American Quilter’s Society recommends for quilts entered in their shows – and I think it’s great! For a You Tube video of this technique go to:

Starch vs Sizing – and how to prevent starch flaking!

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 3.10.07 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 3.10.51 PM

I’m a member of the National Quilting Association. There are many benefits to belonging to this great organization and one of them is their magazine – The Quilting Quarterly. In the most recent issue there’s an article by Tom Russell comparing Starch to Sizing. I found it very informative. In essence, both products preshrink the fabric and lock the grain and biases into position, but sizing doesn’t prevent fraying and only has a temporary effect for stabilizing the fabric. Tom was definitely a starch guy, but he admitted that flaking is a problem with starch. His cure for this was an “aha” moment for me. He suggested laying the fabric on an ironing surface with a natural fiber cover (cotton). Spray the starch onto the fabric, turn it over and press from the back!

I tried it and it works – no flaking or build up on the iron! Thanks Tom!

Fabric Bleeding

I’ve seen many sad experiences of fabric bleeding on a finished quilt. It can be heart breaking. In the past, the best advice I’d been given was to not allow the quilt to dry, and then soaking it in room temperature water with Biz™. This has had mixed results.

In the most recent issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited (one of my favorite magazines!), Margaret Solomon Gunn wrote an excellent article on Blocking Your Quilt. I especially liked her hint about using a Laser Level to make sure things stay straight. But the portion I wanted to share was a side bar about bleeding fabric. Margaret quoted blogger and hand-dyer, Vicki Welsh’s advice. She recommended soaking the quilt overnight with Dawn™ Pure Essentials Soap and hot water! Yes – hot water! This is something I would never have thought of, but knowledgable artists are recommending it. So – if you’ve had trouble with bleeding fabric – you may want to visit Vicki’s blog:

That was rather a mixed bag of information. I hope there was something for everyone  🙂 !

Happy Mother’s Day to all!


May 10, 2015, Notions
New Products

I gave my threads lecture at the Ben Franklin Quilt Fest in Oconomowoc last fall. I’ve been giving this talk for quite a few years, and am always learning and updating the information I share. While speaking, I was made aware of two new products I wanted to try.

Product #1 – Aurifil Nylon Monofilament Thread

Over the years I’ve done quite a bit of testing and researching the different threads on the market. When I first began quilting with invisible thread, the only option on the market was nylon and I didn’t have much success (in fact, I had one disaster that took me 5 nights to rip out!). I must admit that invisible thread is not my favorite choice for quilting because it’s meant not to show. With all the gorgeous threads on the market, and my love for thread, I like to see the thread in most of my projects.

But, sometimes I truly don’t want the thread to show. So when the polyester invisibles came out, I gave them a try. I liked them better because they didn’t seem to stretch as much as the nylon. One of the companies that makes a polyester version stated on their website that “nylon gets brittle and yellows with age” – and I took them at their word. Well, Aurifil has come out with a new nylon invisible thread.

At Ben Franklin quilt fest, when Terrie told us all about Aurifil nylon, I was surprised because I thought everyone knew that “polyester invisible was better”. I was a bit skeptical because of my past experiences. But I really like Aurifil cotton threads, so I’m thinking they must have a good reason for choosing to make their version of invisible thread in nylon. They don’t say much about it on their website. In fact this was their description: “Aurifil Monofilament is 100% nylon and made in Italy. It is a zero thread breakage product with a smoother finish. Available in both Clear and Smoke shades”.  (

I couldn’t find any internet sites that did unbiased comparison testing of these products, but I recently stumbled upon an Australian blog that gave the Aurifil monofilament rave reviews: This site recommended another blogger who had tested it under high heat with an iron. She stated it survived the test with flying colors. Read about her test and comments here:

I decided to do some stitching tests of my own. I tried two different nylon invisibles, and two different polyester invisibles. Here they each are – taped to a piece of paper:

invisible threads

The thicknesses were quite different, but to my surprise, they all performed about the same. Each of them needed to have the tension lowered, even for machine guided stitching. When free motion quilting, the Aurifil needed to have the tension lowered the most. I felt the look and feel was comparable between all of them. I used them to do free motion quilting on a large wallhanging I was working on and, I felt they all sewed well and gave me a look I was pleased with, once the tension was adjusted. This was eye opening. Now I’m not sure which is best. Perhaps they’re all good (please note, I did not do intense, conclusive testing – just a bit of playing  🙂  ).

At this point I decided to contact an expert. Diane Guadynski is an amazing, prizewinning quilter and also a dear friend. She was the first free motion quilter I ever took a class from (and one of the best!), and at that time she was using nylon invisible. So, I recently emailed her with my questions and here are some of her thoughts (used with her permission):

“I used it (nylon) in all my work for years, and I did heat set things, used quilts on beds, washed and dried them and it stayed clear and flexible, not brittle or yellow and didn’t break.” … “I haven’t used invisible thread for a long time, just here and there as needed.” She said that after a while she began “using silk thread top and bobbin, with a new set of things to worry about!”

“Truly I think a majority of the problems that came about from nylon thread were due to incorrect use in the machine – wrong tension primarily, threading problems, and wrong bobbin thread, wrong bobbin tension.

Another interesting thing about invisible threads, all types, is that some machines like one brand or nylon v. poly, and it’s good to try another type if your machine doesn’t work well with it.  Getting that perfect combo of bobbin thread and invisible is tricky but once you find what your machine likes you can relax and it should work fine.”

Her final comment: “I hope people realize that it’s more demanding than any opaque threads (well, except metallic, eeeeek).”

Thank you so much Diane!

If you like to use invisible thread in your quilts with good results, or you have tried this new thread from Aurifil, please share you thoughts with a comment at the end of this post.

Product #2 – Chrome Needles 

When the titanium coated sewing machine needles first came out, I had to try them. I liked them, but didn’t notice a huge difference between them and the old fashioned needles I was use to. Plus, they are more expensive. At Quilt Fest, Terrie (I’m learning a lot from her!) shared that Floriani has come out with a chrome plated needle made by Schmetz.

Chrome plated needles

You can read all about them and watch a video here:

I’ve purchased them and I’m anxious to give them a try. I’ll share my thoughts in a future post. Have you used them? What is your opinion? Please let us know by commenting on this post!

One thing to note: even though these needles are made by Schmetz, they are available exclusively through Floriani.

Upcoming Event – for your information!

NQA Quilt Show 2015

I’ll be teaching at the National Quilting Association Show this Summer in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’ve been a member of NQA for years, and have had many quilts in their shows, but never was able to attend myself. So, I’m really looking forward to being a part of this year’s show. For all the information click here, and for a listing of all the classes click here!

January 25, 2015, Notions Travel
A Hera on My Quilt

One of the things I’ll remember about 2014 is this was the year I made bed sized quilts for three of my grandchildren. During this “quilt-making fest” I found a use for an old notion that I’d like to share.

A Hera is a traditional Japanese tool for marking and creasing fabric. They’re typically used for marking sashiko designs onto indigo fabric and the high-end models are made of bone. I’ve had a plastic one in my notions stash for years, and I mention it in my “Make Your Mark” lecture.

hera marking

It makes a crease in straight or gently curving lines, and the creases eventually flatten out and disappear. I usually prefer to mark straight lines with masking tape. So, I don’t tend to use my hera too often. But recently I found it to be very helpful!

It was time to quilt the borders on Sommer’s quilt and, as in Hanna and Willy’s quilts, I wanted to quilt a hand written message around the border. I only needed to mark a baseline to write on. I wasn’t planning on washing the quilt, so I didn’t want to use a washout marker. And the border was white, so soap wouldn’t show. Hmm. Tape would get in the way when I wanted to write below the baseline. That’s when I pulled out the hera. Because of the batting in the quilt sandwich, I was able to make a deep crease, along each border on the quilt.

marking with a hera

I marked one border at a time and each line lasted until that side’s quilting was done. Because I was quilting white on white, its difficult to see the quilting in the picture. There is quilted writing to the left of the needle and the arrow makes the crease easier to find on the right side of the needle (it was actually quite easy for me to see while I was quilting):

hera crease with arrow

I wrote the message tone on tone, and in cursive, so it will be something my grandkids will have to search for. The special message from Grandpa and me for each of them to have in their quilt is a slight variation on the following (depending on the child):

“We love you; not because you’re pretty, smart or kind (even though you are), but because God made you unique. There is no one else like you and we are so grateful you are our grandchild”. Then I signed and dated it right in the border – no label required!

Using writing as your quilting design truly personalizes your quilt – and the hera can help to make the task easier!

l Sommers quiltPS Sommer’s response when she opened her quilt was to wrap it around herself and exclaim “I love it!”


Upcoming Class Corner

Every so often I like to share information on my blog about classes you may be interested in. The following are the workshops I have scheduled for the Spring semester at WCTC. Wendy Rieves is also offering some wonderful workshops. Please go to, or call 262-691-5578, and sign up today!

304-621E Quilting – Spin Star

Saturday, January 17; 9 – 2:30

By combining a large, multicolor print fabric with creative cutting techniques you get star blocks that visually appear to “spin”. Create a four block wall hanging or table runner.

Example of project to be made in this class

304-621M Quilting Workshop: Quilt, Slash, Create

Friday, January 30; 9 – 2:30

Come for a day of fiber play. We’ll make 2 small quilts, stack them, cut geometric shapes through both, swap the pieces and sew them back together. Enjoy exploring your creative side!

Example of project to be made in this class

304-602I Quilting Workshop: Lone Star

Saturday, March 7; 9 – 2:30

Create this ever popular traditional star pattern with all the diamond points aligning perfectly. The secret is to piece them on a QuiltsmartŠ foundation. Everyone can have great results!

Example of project to be made in this class

Quilting – French Braid Runner

Friday, March 27; 9 – 2:30

Use a gradation of color or value to create a stunning table runner. The best part is the piecing is done “quilt as you go”. Once the top is done, the quilting is too! This technique can be used to create a bed sized quilt, and instructions for doing so will be included in the class.

Example of project to be made in this class

A happy and blessed New Year to you all!!!

December 28, 2014, Notions
Needle Wars

I’d like to begin this week’s post with a big THANK YOU to everyone who responded to last week’s Floss Frenzy post. There were so many great suggestions, and there is so much floss, that I’ve decided I’m going to divide it up to use it in a number of different ways in order to benefit as many as possible. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve recently been made aware of what sounds like a change for the better in the sewing machine needle industry: color coding of needles. When a student mentioned this to me I did an internet search and discovered this information on the Schmetz site:

Schmetz color coded needles

Used with permission from Schmetz –

My reaction: what a great idea!!! Even with a magnifying glass, I find it difficult to read the print on a needle.

According to the Schmetz website:, they are just beginning to faze in this new improvement. So I’m going to watch for the Top Stitch, Quilting and Jeans needles (my favorties) to come out with color coding.

At this time I am using a method for identifying needles that has worked well for me most of the time. I have a divided pin cushion that I’ve marked with the needle sizes I use. When I’m changing needles, and the used one still has life in it, I stick it in the appropriate place in the cushion. I then put a fancy headed pin in the section that represents the needle I’ve just placed in the machine. That way I always know which type and size is being used.

sewing machine needle organization

While getting ready to share this blog, I received my most recent e-newsletter from Superior Threads. I enjoy getting their newsletter and highly recommend it (you can sign up at Well, the newsletter began with an article about color coding needles, and this is what it said:

Superior Threads on color coded needles

Used with permission from Bob Purcell,

Elizabeth’s suggestion for color coding needles is another clever idea.

I must admit, I’ve used Schmetz needles for years and find them to be very good quality needles. Superior Threads has great titanium needles and I use those too. It’s a personal preference which you prefer, and I think we need to be aware of what’s out there and try them all until we find what works best for each us.

By the way – there is a hilarious video on the Superior site called Quilters Anonymous. Watch it if you need a smile!



August 24, 2014, Notions
Floss Frenzy

In my blog post from August 3, I mentioned staying at the Quill Haven B & B in Somerset, PA. Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.48.41 PMRowland and Carol were wonderful hosts, and during one of our many conversations, I mentioned I was a quilter. Rowland said to me, in a rather excited tone: “do you know about floss?” I answered “yes, I’m also a dental hygienist” (groan). He did laugh politely, but then told us about a very large box he had in the attic of his barn. His sister-in-law had passed away a few years previous and she had at one time owned a needlework shop. They were still trying to find homes for some of her things and they hadn’t yet figured out what to do with this box full of embroidery floss! Then he asked if I wanted it. I of course said “yes”!

So Mike made room for it in the trunk of the car and I didn’t allow myself to open it until we were home and unpacked. What an adventure opening that box was! It contained 237 boxes of DMC floss!!

DMC Embroidery Floss

The back of each box is stamped “Made in France”, and they look to be quite a few years old. I did an internet search to learn about DMC. The company got it’s start in 1746, and you can read the history at: . There is more information about the company today on the “about” page of that same website.

So, I pulled out all the boxes and arranged them by number.

Vintage DMC Floss

237 is a lot of boxes of floss. Each box originally contained 24 skeins of the same color floss. There were only about 7 colors that had multiple boxes and a majority of the boxes were full! I thought I’d open a few so you could get a better feel for the amount of floss I had been generously given.

Vintage Embroidery FlossThe problem is – I don’t do that much embroidery. So what to do with all this floss?!? The first thing I decided I would do is keep one skein of every color for myself, so I pulled these from their boxes and laid them out in numerical order.

Lots of Embroidery FlossWOW (an understatement)! What a feast for the eyes! I was amazed at how often colors switched in this line up.

So here’s where you come in. I’m looking for suggestions on what to do with the rest of the floss.

Should I keep the collection together? If so, who would want it?

Should I take it to my quilt guild and have a give-away floss frenzy? (after you get first dibs – Barb J 🙂 )

Should I have some sort of a “winner take all” contest on the blog?

What would you do with it?

Perhaps everyone who comments to this post should win a box :-)!

Please let me know. I look forward to your input!

And a quick reminder

Saturday, August 23rd is rapidly approaching and there are still a few spots left in my free motion quilting workshops at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Art. Click here for the descriptions and a link to sign up!

Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Art

August 17, 2014, Notions
Heat Away?

After I posted last week about Flower Pounding, I received many questions concerning the color fastness of the poundings. I too was concerned about this and a number of the comments had some good suggestions (please scroll down to last week’s post and click on “comments” to read them). Then I did an internet search and the answers tended to all be the same – flower pounding is not colorfast. This site: seemed to me to have the best insight into what to do!

This week’s post is about the Frixion™ pen I used when marking my quilting designs in my Memorial Quilt post from a few weeks ago. I did a posting about my favorite marking tools in 2010. To read that article click here. The Frixion™ pen is fairly new to the market. My biggest concern with marking my quilts is getting the markings off and making sure there is no residual effect. I have had 2 different quilts damaged because the marking method wouldn’t go away as promised.

The Frixion™ pen is supposed to come out with heat, so I drew a heart on a sample of the fabric in the quilt:

Frixion-1and ironed it with a cotton setting. The mark came out beautifully:

Frixion-2But was it really gone? I had heard that the mark comes back if you put the quilt in the freezer. So I put the sample in the freezer for 1 minute and …


there it was :-(. I am quite uncomfortable with marks that remain in the fabric because they could actually cause the fabric to deteriorate. So I decided to washed the sample and see what would happen. After washing it, I ironed it dry – so far so good – and then put it in the freezer again.

frixion-4There was the slightest hint of the line at the left side of the point, but it’s barely there. I’m pretty sure that if I washed it again and used Orvus soap, it wouldn’t return. But I’m not positive. Then Joanne sent this comment to the “Memorial Quilt” post:

“Nice job with the memories. On a side note though. The last quilt meeting I attended (some months back) here in Appleton, WI the speaker told us a horror story about that frixion pen. A quilt was made using the frixion pen, lines were ironed out, quilt looked beautiful, sent north in winter to a quilt show, quilt arrives at show with all lines visible, quilt rejected, quilter devastated. So…the pen works but temps must remain above freezing or above whatever temp causes the lines to reappear. I guess I wouldn’t be so harsh as to completely get rid of the frixion pen, but I certainly wouldn’t use it anywhere that won’t be covered completely.”

Thanks Joanne. That was really some food for thought! Especially if you’re making fiber art with no intention of washing it.

Have you tried the Frixion™ pen? What are your thoughts?

What is your favorite marking tool? (mine is still the sliver of soap :-))




October 27, 2013, Notions
The Strip Stick and Quiltilly Saga part 3

I’m always on the lookout for new notions, gizmos or gadgets that work – and I’ve found a new one. Last year while in Paducah I watched a vendor demonstrate a pressing tool called the Strip Stick. It looked intriguing, but I had that ever popular thought: “I bet I can make myself one for less”. So I went home and forgot all about it. This year I watched the same demo, thought the same thought and the next day walked right back to the Strip Stick booth and bought one! I’m so glad I did! First of all – it works. Secondly – it is a great idea and I need to support those who developed it. Thirdly – it is well made, the price is fair and now I don’t need to try to make one :-).

The Strip Stick

Here’s the scoop: the Strip Stick is a narrow padded pressing stick used to crisply press seams open or to the side without distortion to adjacent seams. This is especially helpful when sewing many strips together into “strata”.

To press seams open they need to be ironed from the back.

Strip StickWhen pressing seams to one side, it can be done from either the the front or the back of the block.

Strip Stick to the sideWhat I really like about this tool is that when I press the seams to the side the edge of the seam allowance underneath is “over the hump and out of the way” and therefore I don’t get shiny lines on the right side of the fabric (a problem I have struggled with in the past).

To order your own Strip Stick go to

and now:

The Saga of Quiltilly, Part 3

In this week’s installment, Tilly is feeling better and settling into life in her temporary home.

Quiltilly and Quiltanna are enjoying this extra bit of time together. They are quite a mischievous team and Annabelle doesn’t seem to be enjoying their antics quite as much as they are:

Quilt dolls and dogAfter teasing the dog they decided to chill in the birdbath and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather:

Quilt dolls in bird bathThey even snuck in a slide down the banister:

MM P13q-bannister

Later that day Quiltilly went missing. Quiltanna and I looked all over the house to no avail and then I spied her out the window, sitting on the bird feeder:

J P13q-scaring-birds


By the time I got out the door she had disappeared. She didn’t return until morning and what a shock – she had a nose ring (a Swarovski crystal no less)!


I wasn’t sure what to do and sent a message to Evelyn:

“You may want to come up with that ransom soon. QuilTilly snuck out last night and got her nose pierced. I’m afraid she’s a bad influence on my little QuiltAnna! Ps she’s also started wearing makeup!”

to which she responded:

“I’m gathering up the diamonds.  Can’t schedule the exchange until next week.  She will be grounded forever for the nose piercing.  I’m sure it was Quilt Anna who put her up to it.”

Please return next week for the conclusion of this high flying adventure :-)!


May 19, 2013, Notions
I’ve Got a Notion to Chain Piece

Every so often I need to do a gadget post because I’ve found a new one I want to share. This one was a Christmas gift from Judy Rosynek, a friend of mine who’s a regular student in my Thursday Open Labs at WCTC. Judy is talented, prolific and very generous. You can usually find her working on charity quilts for children and these strip pieced projects typically require a lot of chain piecing. The tool she shared is called a Chain Ripper. It is an ingenious device that is made up of simple components and acts as a third hand.

I recently was making a log cabin variation quilt that just happened to be chain pieced:

chain piecing

While sewing all these squares and strips together I remembered Judy’s thoughtful gift. It consists of a seam ripper, a wooden spool and a heart shaped piece of wood which is velcro’d to the spool.

chain ripperTo use it you simply take the protective cap off the ripper, grasp 2 of the chain pieced blocks and pull the threads between them into the sharp area on the ripper, continuing until all the “chains” have been cut:

chain rippingIt really simplifies this tedious step. The Chain Ripper is sold by Tracy at Oak Tree Quilts. You can order one from her by going to her website:

I’ve shared some other favorite notions in previous posts. Click on any of the following to read about them: The Best, The Best II, and Favorite New Notions.

Do you have a new notion or gadget you find helpful? Please tell us about it and where to get it. Thanks!



March 3, 2013, Notions Piecing
Favorite New Notions

It’s time to revisit a previous topic: what’s your favorite notion? The last time this topic came up I shared my favorite and received some really good suggestions from many readers. Click here to read all about it!

Since then I’ve acquired even more quilting notions and I have a new favorite:

I recently received a Current Catalog and I always enjoy looking through the greeting cards, wrapping paper and clever gadgets they feature. This time I was especially glad I picked up the catalog because I found my newest “favorite notion”. It is called Peel and Stick Ruler Tape. The concept is simple: make a “real” measuring “tape” by printing 12″ rulers on yellow adhesive tape. When my order arrived I was thrilled to find it worked as well as I had hoped.

I placed it all the way along the lip of my sewing machine cabinet.

Then I decided I needed it along the edge of my mid-arm machine cabinet too.

I was on a roll (no pun intended) and quickly placed some along the desk in front of my computer keyboard. It is soooo handy!

No matter where I’m working I have a quick and convenient way to measure.

Mike is a bit concerned about where I’ll be placing the next length :-).


You may order your own roll on line at:

Sew………..what’s currently your favorite notion? Please share – I’d really like to know :-)!

August 12, 2012, Notions
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
Easy Threading Needles

Two weeks ago I posted a warning about a set of quick threading needles I had purchased which were a huge disappointment. 

Since then I have learned that the original Spiral Eye Needle™ is a much better product and is made in the USA!

I ordered a set of three needles (one each in sizes 4, 6 and 8) through the website: When they arrived I couldn’t wait to give them a try and I’m pleased to relate that they are quite easy to thread. So I tested them for appliquĂŠ, beading and, most importantly, tail burying. Here’s what I discovered:

As you probably know, hand needles are sized rather illogically, the smaller the number the larger the needle. So the size 4 is quite large and strong. It might be good for mending a tent, but it’s thickness made it drag through cotton fabrics.

The size 6 is still quite thick, but it worked fine for burying the dreaded tails as I demonstrated in my March 27th post entitled “Loose Ends”.

The size 8 worked even better than the size 6 for hiding tails and I found it to be acceptable for stitching down the backs of my bindings with a slightly longer invisible appliquĂŠ stitch. I don’t do a lot of fine hand appliquĂŠ, and  I think it would be a bit clunky for that.

The website did not recommend using these needles for a rocking type quilting stitch because the spiral eye weakens the needle.

When it comes to beading with larger beads, they would work fine, but I couldn’t get the size 8 through a bugle bead or average seed bead.

So my final analogy is that I give the size 8 Spiral Eye Needle a thumbs up for tail burying. If I had it to do over again I would skip the “popular set of 3” and just order three size 8’s.

So, how many of you actually bury the thread tails when you machine quilt :-)? 

PS I posted about my upcoming WCTC classes in my  August 4th blog (scroll down for pictures). There are still a few openings in the Lone Star workshop, the Beginning Quilting class, Doggie Christmas Stockings and the Open Lab that begins October 13th. Please sign up soon!  

September 18, 2011, Notions
Support Your Local Quilt Shop

Happy Labor Day to all!

I’ll be teaching at Nancy’s Notions Quilting Expo this week and have been very busy making up kits for my  classes. When I realized how full the classes are (praise the Lord :-), I did a bit of panicking because kit making can be a bit overwhelming. My first thought was to just rush to my local Joann’s because it’s close and easy.

Then I gave myself a good mental shaking because:

1. I use quilt shop quality fabric in my quilts and should do no less for the projects my students will be making!

2. If we don’t patronize our local shops, we’ll lose them!

So I’d like to get on a soap box and take a stand for quilt shops. One of my favorite shops in the Milwaukee area was Fabric Fusion. It had an artsy personality and was owned by a hard working and creative couple. A friend recently related that quilters would go to Fabric Fusion, choose fabrics they liked, and write down the bolt information so they could go home and order it online for less. How disappointing. And this is a contributing factor to why Fabric Fusion is no longer with us :-(.

So, support your local quilt shop! It requires a lot of hard work and dedication to run a shop and it’s a tough business to keep finiancially profitable. Shops also provide many helpful services. We quilters are very tactile and neeeeeeeeeeed to touch fabric when we buy it.

Now this doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep my local Joann’s in business too. That store provides numerous jobs as well as a good price for non-fabric items that I need regularly. The hours are also quite convenient. Thus I really do like to spread my quilt shopping around.

On that note, I would like to share a recent lesson I’ve learned that would fit into the category “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. On a recent trip to Joann’s I saw a product I found intriguing:

I’ve been doing a lot of “thread tail hiding” on my latest quilts, using the technique I illustrated in my March 27th post called Loose Ends: I’m using the standard self threading needles and they work well, but sometimes they’re a bit tricky to pull the thread into. I decided I needed to try this “side opening design”, even though it was packaged as one of those “as seen on tv” deals. Please don’t waste your money! The needles were thick, dull, expensive and quite difficult to thread.

Well, as of today the kits are together (with help from my dear husband) and I’m anxious to finish packing. Nancy’s Expo is always such fun. Hope to see many of you there! 


I just received a comment from Sarah B. informing us all that the original “Spiral Eye Needle” was designed by a woman named Pam Turner and is made in the USA. Sarah said that these needles are great, so I went to the website and ordered a set. I can’t wait to try them and I’ll be sure to share my thoughts in a future post :-)!

September 5, 2011, Fabric Notions
Foundation Piecing

Thanks to everyone who commented or sent me input on the best tear away stabilizer. I enjoyed reading all about it and still want to try the EQ paper.

While teaching this weekend at the Sewing and Quilting Expo in Platteville, WI, a student in one of my classes said that she recently foundation pieced a pineapple log cabin quilt using a wash away foundation and she was pleased with the results. I asked her to send me the name of the one she liked and I will pass it along to you. Do you have any thoughts on wash aways?

Since we’re on the subject of foundation/paper piecing, I thought I’d share a new gadget I was introduced to in a workshop I took in Paducah with RaNae Merrill. RaNae foundation pieces amazing Spiral Mandala quilts. One of the problems brought on by the flood in Paducah this year was that the church where the classes ended up being held didn’t have the right electric set up for multiple irons. Therefore, when RaNae introduced us to pressing with wall paper rollers, it was a hit.

She said the little, wooden “finger irons” had a tendency to stretch the fabric, but the roller didn’t. I’ve tried the finger iron and I didn’t find it worked that well.


But I really like the roller! Using it at home is sure to save me a bit of money on my electric bill – irons use a lot of juice! I purchased the one in the picture in class. They’re high quality and available on her site:

The picture shows the correct way to hold it to reduce stress on the neck of the roller and the arm of the quilter too :-).


Do you have any favorite foundation piecing tips or tools?

PS Jeanie sent me a fascinating site about a design proposal for the  XXII Winter Olympic Games. Click here for some great quilt designs:

June 12, 2011, Notions Piecing
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?

A Good Read II

I enjoyed reading everyone’s magazine choices and was a bit embarassed that there are so many quilters who are better organized on this topic than I am.

The 3 subscriptions I currently receive are Quilter’s Newsletter (I like the variety of information), American Quilter (high quality photos and I enjoy seeing all the winning quilts from their many shows) and Machine Quilting Unlimited. This last one is fairly new, but I have found many informative and helpful articles in each issue. I truly devour them cover to cover :-)!

Here’s my storage system: I leave many scattered around the house and then put them in boxes with the pages I like dog earred. Then I seldom ever go back through the boxes (I didn’t say it was a good system :-).  A dear friend helped us move into this home 6 years ago and at one point, a lid fell off the box of quilt magazines he was carrying. When he realized what he was lugging, he set the box down and said he was happy to help, but he drew the line at old mags! That should have been a hint, but I’ve continued to pack them in boxes anyways.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to my many old boxes, but I have a new plan for future arrivals:

When I’ve finished with a new issue I’ll copy those articles I’m interested in and donate the entire magazine to my guild or give it away in my classes. That way no quilter will be disappointed by  missing pages (thanks Char!). It sounds good, now to actually put it into practice.

October 8, 2010, Notions
A Good Read

The topic of the week is actually “magazines”.

There are many good ones out there and they’re hard to resist. There’s so much great information available from this wonderful resource and they can be added to the list of something else we love to collect. I know quilter’s who are running out of space in their studios, but can’t bring themselves to part with a single back issue of Quilter’s Newsletter….not one out of all ten boxes! Ok, so they are habit forming.

So here are the questions:

Which one is your favorite and why?

Do you keep them, and if so, how do you store/organize them?

If you don’t keep them, what do you do with them?

I’ll share my thoughts in Thursday’s post and as a bonus today I’ll share my best advice when it comes to quilting magazines:

Don’t read them right before bed. The inspiration will keep you from ever getting to sleep (I speak from experience :-)!

October 3, 2010, Notions
Which Ruler’s Rule II

Thanks to everyone who left a comment! Rulers are definately an important part of our quilting :-). There were a few mentioned I now need to try and Alice touched on my pick for favorite specialty ruler: the Add-a-Quarter™ by CM Designs!

A simple, but very helpful ruler when it comes to paper piecing. It comes in 6″ and 12″ lengths, as well as an Add-an-Eighth™ style for making  miniatures. This ruler has a 1/4″ lip along the bottom which allows you to trim in such a way that knowing where to align the next piece of fabric is easy. Get the 12″, you won’t regret it!

September 23, 2010, Notions
Which Rulers Rule?

Time for another true confession. I not only own every marking tool ever made, but I collect quilting rulers too. Some are essential, some are not worth the money I paid for them, and some are just really nice for special times. My choice for essential? If I could only own one ruler (how awful that would be!) it would be a 6″ x 24″. I’m partial to Omnigrid™, but would take any that don’t include that pesky added 1/2″ (6 1/2″ x 24 1/2″). I like to have the freedom to measure from both sides of the ruler and that extra 1/2″ really drives me crazy.

#2 would have to be a 6″ square. These are my bare bones choices and I’m really grateful I don’t have to stop there. Bigger squares and other rectangles just make quilting easier. What about you? Which is your #1 choice?

 My third choice, hands down, would have to be the June Tailor Shape Cut™. I find this ruler great for beginners as well as seasoned quilters. I use it often! The size of it holds the fabric stable and the slots make cutting multiple strips and shapes a breeze. For a number of years I was blessed with the opportunity to do consulting work for June Tailor™. I would travel around the country demonstrating their products. It always amazed me how many people owned this ruler and didn’t know all it could do….. and with great accuracy! Perhaps that’s a topic for another post.

We haven’t even touched the surface of the specialty ruler domain. These are rulers that are helpful for one particular pattern or technique. I have a favorite here too, but want to save it for my Thursday post. Do you have a favorite specialty ruler? Please share if you do!

September 20, 2010, Notions
Make Your Mark and Erase it Too!

I’ve spent the past 3 days teaching at Nancy’s Notions Sewing Expo in Madison, WI. What a great show and a wonderful teaching experience! Three days in a row I presented a lecture with the same title as this blog. The best part was how much I learned from the quilters attending. It went so well, it just seemed appropriate to share this with all of you.

I dislike the marking step when making my quilts. It takes time to make the marks and then they have to be removed. All necessary, but time consuming non-the-less. When free motion quilting I really enjoy designs that don’t need to be marked, but sometimes it just has to be done. As far as I’m concerned, marks need to be easy to put on and even easier to remove.

So, from the plethora of products available, what is your favorite method of marking your quilting design on both dark and light fabrics? I’ll share my favorites with you on Thursday, along with some of the new things I’ve learned!

September 12, 2010, finishing Notions
The Best II

Welcome to a little corner of my world!

Just of some of my favorite notions.

I enjoyed reading about yours. I own many of the ones recommended, but there were a few I don’t have and I’m anxious to try. Several of them were up there with my choice for favorites. If we were going for most used – I’d have to agree with Kathleen’s suggestion of the seam ripper.

Since I had to pick just one, I’ve chosen my Machingers™.

They are lightweight, breathable machine quilting gloves and I find they really do help to move the quilt more easily. This reduces body stress and makes free motion quilting more fun.

August 5, 2010, Notions
The Best

As quilters, we all have loads of tools and notions. I can’t resist having the latest gadget any more than you can and I’d hate to be missing out on owning your favorite :-). Therefore my topic of the week is more like a question of the week: What’s the best quilting tool you’ve bought for under $10?

After pondering this a while, I found it difficult to narrow it down to the best quilting notion. There are so many! However, my favorite sewing notion came to me quickly:

This “bodkin” is easily available, inexpensive and the best one I’ve found for turning hanging sleeves right side out or filling casings with ties or elastic. The end with teeth grabs whatever you’re trying to move and the ring holds the bite tight. I’ve tried many a bodkin and this one’s a keeper.

I’ll save my quilting favorite for Thursday. Please share the one tool you can’t live without :-)!

August 2, 2010, Notions