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
Find a Fabric, Find a Blog

Blogging was something I feared for quite awhile, but since being encouraged by my friend Di, I’ve discovered that blogs are a wonderful teaching and sharing tool. Recently Laura shared a few quilt blog directories with me that I have now linked to. I’m hoping we’ll get more quilters reading this blog, so the sharing and learning can increase!

I was especially excited about a site I found through Quilter Blogs.  Many of my students have asked about sites for finding fabric that they’ve run short of. This one is great! You simply click on:, upload a picture of your fabric (they make this step easy) and they’ll send you information on shops that carry your fabric or something similar to it!

Quilt Qua not only has a directory for blogs, but a listing of quilting teachers also

Quilting Blogger is a directory that finds bloggers, shops and guilds by location. An excellent resource if you are doing a bit of traveling!

I hope you find these sites helpful :-).

June 20, 2011, Computers and Quilting
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
Tear Away

I’m not a huge fan of paper (foundation) piecing, but for some projects its a must. I typically choose it when I want great accuracy in my piecing.

Most often this is when I’m working on a Mariner’s Compass quilt, because I’ve discovered a way to draft compasses any shape and any size with simple paper folding techniques.

For this I use newsprint. “Roll ends” of newsprint can be found at most newspaper offices for very little expense (yielding a good amount of large paper!).

I find the newsprint tears off easily after stitching.

While I was in Paducah I purchased a pack of EQ Printables. The sheets can go through a printer and are supposed to be easy to tear away. Have you tried it? What do you think?

There are currently so many options I haven’t tried: other tear aways, wash aways, heat aways. I don’t have the time (or inclination 🙂 to try them all, so help me please!

What’s your favorite?

Any you would avoid?

June 6, 2011, Piecing
Do Your Blocks End Up Too Small?

Recently I’ve been working on a project that requires very accurate piecing. It got me thinking about the best way to get an accurate scant 1/4″ seam allowance (sa). The reason quilters strive for a scant 1/4″ sa is because we often press our seams to the side and this pressing takes up a thread or two (about 1/16″) to accomplish. When using an exact 1/4″  sa this small amount may not seem like much until it’s mulitiplied by 8 seams across the block. Now the block is 1/2″ too small and that is a problem.

The trick is to use an index card with 1/4″ lines. Cut the bottom of the card on the last line. Place it under the machine and lower the needle into the card so that the left side of the needle just “kisses”  the next line.

Now you simply need to place a piece of tape along the edge of the card, being careful not to tape over the feed dogs.

Remove the card and use the edge of the tape as your guide.

An added benefit is that this technique can yield identical seam allowances on different machines! Let me explain. There are times when I stitch on the same project on 2 different machines (like when taking a class). I can take the card with me, place the needle on the school’s  machine in the hole and tape next to it.

Voila – it works no matter what foot is on the machines. 

This is also a very handy way to keep group projects accurate. If you’re having a “sew in” at guild and many people are making blocks for the same quilt, use the same card to tape everyone’s machine and the blocks will fit together!

Do you have a different way you like? Is the foot for your machine a scant 1/4″? Please share any thoughts :-)!

May 30, 2011, Piecing
The Big Picture

 Thanks for the positive response to my method for creating a Celtic quilting design. If my ideas inspire you to create a design of your own, please send me pictures. One of the comments mentioned using green thread. Actually – I did, the picture just didn’t show it. Here’s a new one:

And a view of the entire quilt (please ignore the binding clips :-):

Now for something completely different :-). This week’s topic concerns making pictures or patterns larger and then printing them easily. I often need to do this. For example, when recreating a picture in appliqué using my Repliqué technique, an enlargement of a photograph is needed to make the pattern. Another instance where this is necessary is when I draft Mariner’s Compass patterns using my paper folding techniques. Sometimes I draft them the size of a sheet of paper and then need to make them bigger (for descriptions of both of these techniques, scroll down to the Architectural Repliqué and Mariner’s Compass Simplified descriptions on my website at You can probably think of instances in your quilt life when this would be helpful too.

In the past I’ve enlarged pictures at my local print shop; and I’ve made patterns bigger with the help of an overhead projector. Since the enlargements cost money and the overhead has to be used while I’m at work, neither is a particularly convenient option.

A while back I read an article in The Quilt Life magazine which recommended doing these enlargements using Microsoft Excel, along with a home computer and printer. It really works, so I just have to share! Here’s the step by steps:

1.  Open Microsoft Excel

2.  In the File Menu select Page Set Up; select Margins; set footer and header to “O” and set the margins to .5 on all 4 sides; select “OK

3.  In the View Menu select Zoom; change the magnification to 25%; select “OK

4.  In the Insert Menu select Picture; select From File and then find the drawing or picture you want to enlarge from your computer, click on it and then select Insert

5.  Your picture/drawing will now be in the upper left corner of the Excel document. Click on it and then place your cursor on the bottom right corner square; click and drag your picture/drawing to the desired size. Each rectangle in the Excel program represents an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper and when you press “print” it does …… and all the sheets fit together!

If you’re printing a photo onto printer fabric, the margins we left will provide enough space around each portion for seam allowance.

If you’re printing a drawing or pattern, the margins can be overlapped when the parts are taped together.

I hope this is helpful. If it seemed a bit confusing, open Excel and give it a whirl. You may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is!

May 23, 2011, Computers and Quilting
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
Post Tripping

It took me most of Monday and Tuesday last week to unpack all the stuff I had taken to Paducah, do some laundry and catch up on mail, etc.. At that point I was left with the pile of new stuff I bought at the AQS show. It got me to thinking about quilters and shopping. I’m not sure if this will sound familiar, but there have been many years when I start packing for my annual pilgrimage to Paducah and unearth the complete, and untouched, pile of stuff I had bought there the previous year (a bit embarassing to admit to, but I bet I’m not alone :-).

This is rather guilt inducing and I truly dislike feeling guilty, so I’ve come up with a plan. Actually, my friend Laura and I brainstormed this idea 2 summers ago when we attended the Milwaukee Bead and Button Show. We walked out embracing our treasures and decided we couldn’t go back the next year unless we did something with 3 of our purchases! It ended up being a good challenge and we both were up to it. We used our 3 items in a short amount of time and felt quite virtuous.

So, here’s a photo of my Paducah 2011 “had to haves”:

You might notice a bit of fabric. Who can resist? There’s a few books and a bunch of embellishments, along with 1 tool I’ve already used. I’ll tell you about it in a future blog.

I believe this type of personal challenge will help you to not only alleviate the guilt, but inspire you to use that great stuff. One additional recommendation is to assimilate the stuff you don’t use into the stash so you avoid finding those pesky piles next year.

So………………..have you ever? What do you think of the 3 item challenge? Any additional suggestions?

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?

Another Sunny Day

Wendy and I had the day open for fun and did some serious Vendor supporting. So many wonderful things that we didn’t own and really needed :-).

We were able to do our annual lunch at Grace Episcopal Church. This year it was a variety of “slider” sandwiches and salad with cupcakes for dessert – DELICIOUS!

The sweet lady on the right is Molly. She’s a Paducah native who truly loves her hometown and we enjoyed hearing her stories.

This evening Wendy had a class, so after dropping her off I headed downtown. The fiber art exhibit at the Yeiser Art Center was very good. This was the site I viewed upon exiting. The park across the street is where the carriage rides begin and a dixie land band was playing in the gazebo.

 The unique part was the angel “statue” right up front – she was dancing to the music, in between stiking various poses. What fun.

From there I walked to the Four Rivers Performing Arts Center to climb the outside stairs to the second story deck and see a bit of the flood over the wall.

One of the local shop owners said that the water was only up 1 1/2 feet on the downtown flood gate. It’s supposed to crest early next week and shouldn’t be as bad as they first expected here.

There was a large crowd lined up to see Ricky Timm’s performance tonight and as I walked by I ran into some quilting friends from Watertown. We agreed we were all having a great time.

Tomorrow’s the last day. We have some fun planned, including tear down of the show. This week has flown by and, praise the Lord, everything worked out quite well. Looking on the bright side – a lot of memories were made :-). I’ll get back to my “regular”  sharing posts on Monday. Until than I’d like to leave you with these pictures of where the Executive Inn used to be. They were taken Monday before the flood wall was closed off.


April 29, 2011, Uncategorized
Having a wonderful time!

Today the sun was shining, the birds were singing and thousands of quilters were enjoying a great event. Wendy and I have been busy doing all the normal Paducah things – praise the Lord! It really came together. The wall quilts and classes are all at First Baptist Church. It has a beautiful lobby:

And the wall quilts are displayed very nicely    (if I do say so myself 🙂 in the Great Room:

I took an excellent class from RaNae Merrill on Spiral Mandalas. She shared many good tips and techniques:

The problem with taking a class is that you don’t get to go out and enjoy the sunshine. We’ll make up for that tomorrow. We have nothing to do but hit the vendors, wander the artist district in Lo Town and have lunch at Grace Episcopal church. We are so blessed.

So tomorrow I’ll post some pics with sunshine, but in parting I’ll leave you with this picture of me with Quiltman at the National Quilt Museum reception (his sidekick, Bobbin Boy, didn’t make it into the picture).

Only in Paducah :-)!!!

April 28, 2011, Travel
The Quilts are up!

Hi again from Paducah!

Wendy and I are exhausted. We were at the Pavillion (marshmallow) at 8am and spent the morning hanging the Bed Quilts and placing the miniatures in their cases. At the same time many vendors were setting up their booths. We got that all together by early afternoon and headed to First Baptist Church to hang the Wall Quilts. That took us until around 7:30pm at which time we did run out for a quick dinner. We ended the evening helping to hang the Lancaster winners  and a few quilt challenges at the vendors malls located in the old Circuit City and Office Max buildings out by the Mall. Got “home” at 9:15!

It took so long because we were “reinventing the wheel” with each venue. All the spaces were different from usual and the hanging periphenalia had to find it’s way there too. AQS did an amazing job of making it all come together. We were so impressed by the way the Schroeders and their staff kept their cool under very stressful circumstances.  It’s a great show and the quilts are breathtaking!!!

The flood walls are up now and it was dry all day (with a huge cloud burst about 1 hour ago). The waters are rising, but shouldn’t crest until the show is over. Paducah is not under water and is really ready for the quilters.

Tomorrow Wendy is taking an all day class and I’m going to go back and actually see the show :-). Hopefully I’ll have some pics for tomorrow’s post.

PS Happy Birthday to Wendy! It was a unique way to celebrate a birthday and we both had a wonderful day!

April 26, 2011, Travel
Paducah News: the Show Will Go On!

After 27 years of a wonderful show, something very different is happening at the beginning of quilt week in Paducah. The rains have been unprecedented and the Ohio River continues to rise. This morning the city decided to install the gates in the flood wall. The problem is that the Convention Center, which was to hold the show, is on the wrong side of the wall!

This photo was taken Downtown. The next one is shot towards the convention center. If you’ve been to the show, the first thing you’ll notice is that the Executive Inn is missing. The Convention Center is in the distance (next to the lower man in orange) and the white dome on the left, through the wall, is the Pavillion (lovingly called the marshmallow).

But the show will go on! We were to hang it today, but plans changed, as all the new set up needed to be done. We will be hanging it all tomorrow and here’s the plan:

The bed quilts, large wall quilts and miniatures will be hung in the Pavillion (on the correct side of the flood wall), downtown. The other wall quilts and all classes will be at the First Baptist Church on 28th and Broadway. All remaining vendors will be in the vacant Circuit City and Office Max buildings behind the Kentucky Oaks Mall. The buses will be running, as usual, so that everyone can get where they want to go. Everything else should be normal. AQS has done an amazing job of reorganizing and we’re all hopeful it will go smoothly.

So, if you’re planning on coming to Quilt Week in Paducah – come! But bring your umbrella :-).

April 25, 2011, Travel
My Favorite Part of Spring

As I write this blog, I’m sitting in Paducah with my dear friend Wendy Rieves. We drove down on Saturday during patches of sunshine and areas of rain. The flowers in Athur, Il were beautiful:

We’ve converted our motel room into a temporary studio with 2 sewing stations, a cutting table and a pressing area.


We’ll find time this week to help hang the show, take classes, giggle, stitch, eat; catch up with old friends and make new ones. What a magical place during the AQS show!

Over the years I’ve been blessed to room with many wonderful friends, but for the past 13 Wendy and I have been a team. Whether leading Sew We Go adventures in Europe or heading here each Spring, She and I just travel well together. What a blessing!

It’s difficult to believe that this is my 22nd trip to Quilt City USA. In 1989; a year after I learned to quilt; Sharon Grieve  and Carol Carr invited me to travel to Paducah and help hang a quilt show. I responded “Where’s Paducah?” They explained and I kindly thanked them for asking while explaining that I couldn’t go away for 5 days and leave my family to fend for themselves. Then I went home and told my husband about their crazy idea and he said “have fun”. I don’t think he anticipated it becoming a yearly pilgrimage!

Up until last year I’ve been fortunate to have stayed at the Executive Inn each time. I have so many fond memories of staying there: the convenience of being attached to the convention center, the large rooms (big enough for 2 full beds and 2 roll aways during the “the more the merrier” years and for 3 quilters with machines and a passion to stitch in recent times). That all was torn down last year with the demolition of the Executive Inn. Things change, but thanks to Bill and Meredith Schroeder and so many dear, hard working people in Paducah, the fun continues.

I’ve been to many of the big quilt shows in the US and, in my opinion, this one is the best because the entire city rolls out the red carpet and makes us feel so welcome. I hope to show you a bit of why I’m crazy about Paducah each day. I’ll share a few current photos and throw in a few past pics just for fun. So, if you’re so inclined, please read along!

April 25, 2011, Travel
A Pressing Issue

Many years ago my quilting teacher, Sharon, taught me the ABC’s of quilting:

A is for accurate

B is for be accurate

C is for continue to be accurate

And then know how to fudge when things don’t work :-)!

Many quilters think that pressing is a relatively unimportant topic, but I disagree. We have wonderful tools for cutting extremely accurate pieces; then we strive to sew a perfect “scant quarter inch seam allowance” on our fantastic sewing machines; only to “iron” them with steam while stretching and smashing them all out of whack. So much for accuracy.

I’ve found that if I press (not iron) my seams – to the side – with a dry iron I can virtually eliminate the need to “square up”. In my opinion, if I rotary cut 100 squares and sew 50 pairs from them, then I carefully press each pair flat; I’ve handled them enough and I don’t feel like wasting more time recutting every one to the size I need. Life is just too short for the extra step if it’s easy to avoid. So how do I press without distorting?

1.  After sewing the seam, lay it down unopened and press the dry iron down at one end of the seam, lift, move and press again without sliding the iron. Continue until the entire seam is pressed. This sets the stitches and gives a crisper result.

2. Fold the top fabric down over the seam and finger press. Once it’s flat, place the hot, dry iron on top of it. Move your fingers down to the next portion, followed by the iron again and repeat for the entire seam.

It’s been working well for me. So………do you agree? If you haven’t tried it, please do and let me know what you think.

PS In my original posting of this blog message, my wording gave the idea that I press the seams open. I almost always press to the side and have made the correction above. Thanks to those who spotted it :-).

PPS I do use steam when the quilt top is done and I want to encourage it to be as perfect as possible :o).

April 17, 2011, Piecing
Ewe! Batts!

I couldn’t resist the word play for this week’s topic. It is, of course, wool batting :-)! I’ve heard the pun is the lowest form of humor, but I’m still chuckling (my Dad always said I was my own best audience).

Moving forward – thanks for all the feedback on batts last week. Sharon seems to be liking Fusiboo™ (fusible bamboo batting) and gives her thoughts about it on her blog:  Another friend told me it’s great in totes and bags. The bamboo batt I mentioned is not fusible, but it feels wonderfully soft. I think I’ll try it in a crib quilt and let you know the results.

Nancy commented that she likes the Hobb’s wool because of the warmth. I would agree. There are so many benefits to the new wool batts. Wool has always been warm and snuggly, but until recently it couldn’t be washed in a quilt without a lot of shrinking problems. Technology has overcome that problem and washable wool batts are delightful. The other attribute is that they give the poofiness of poly batts when quilted sparingly, the flatness of cotton batts when quilted more closely and, best of all, a trapunto like look when the quilting density is mixed.

What a blessing this attribute is when making fiber art. The texture is wonderful! And here are some examples to back it up:


This small wall quilt was free motion quilted using wool batt and 100 weight silk thread. Here’s a detail shot of how the wool gives a trapunto look:

The next quilt is one of my Parallelisms series and was created during our Alaskan cruise. It’s free motion quilted with poly neon thread:

And here’s a detail of the trapunto effect:

So far I haven’t found any negatives, so if ewe haven’t tried wool batts I highly recommend them!

PS I’ll be teaching a class I call “Beginning Fast Patch” at the Hustisford High School on May 7, 14 & 21 from 8:30 to 12:30 each day. Here’s the description: 
Make a lovely wall quilt while learning basic quiltmaking skills. There will be an emphasis on rotary cutting and machine piecing. The project is a sampler of different blocks and techniques with a hearts and flowers theme that even a more experienced quilter would enjoy making while brushing up on his/her skills.

Contact Cindy at  for more information. 

April 11, 2011, Batting Uncategorized
Going Batt-y

I’ve just returned from a wonderful quilt teaching adventure in Alabama! The sun was shining and the flowers were blooming, but the best part was the friendly quilters I met there. What a blessing.

While flying home and daydreaming, I began thinking about a project I just layered with the new Dream Green™ batt from Quilter’s Dream. I’ve used it in a number of quilts and have been very happy. It’s a 100% polyester batt made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s soft and has a wonderful drape. I give it a thumbs up.

So this week’s topic is batting. I’ve done quite a bit of research and have discovered that there is no perfect batt because we make quilts for so many purposes. Here are some of my favorites:

Typically I use Hobb’s Thermore™ for handquilting because it is very thin and easy to needle (I need all the help I can get to create small even stitches).

For table runners and some wall hangings I like Warm & Natural™ because it’s dense and lies really flat.

For quilts made to keep loved ones warm I usually use a 80% cotton/20% poly blend batt such as Hobb’s Heirloom™ because it has a nice drape and snuggles well.

If I want the look of trapunto – the new washable wool batts are wonderful. They poof where not quilted and flatten nicely in quilted areas.

I tend to find something I like and not look further, but there are so many great new batts out there I thought I’d ask for your input.

I have purchased the new Legacy™ Bamboo Blend from Pellon and it is incredibly soft to the touch, but I haven’t used it in a quilt yet. Have you?

I’d really like your opinion.

What batt is your favorite? Why?

 Please let me know which ones I have to try :-)!

April 4, 2011, Batting Uncategorized
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:

Setting Blocks

Thanks to a number of quilting friends I’ve recently been enjoying a video of dancing quilt blocks: I especially liked the music since it reminded me of our last Sew We Go adventure in Ireland. The way the sampler all came together in the end was  delightful and, even though the set of the blocks was simple, it got me thinking about block setting.

I put together a sampler top recently and wanted to do more with the blocks than just sash them in horizontal rows. After a bit of playing I determined that alternating them with hour-glass (quarter square triangle) blocks made the quilt much more interesting.

So here’s the topic: whether you’ve made a stack of the same star block or a sampler of stars (or anything else), how do you decide the best setting? I have a number of suggestions.

1. If you already have the blocks made, just lay them out! I like to start with a horizontal set and snap a digital picture. Then I move them around (on point, leave gaps to represent sashing, etc.) and snap another picture. After I’ve photographed a few options, I download them to my computer and put all of them on one page so I can compare. It’s much easier than just moving the blocks around while trying to remember which way you liked the best.

2.Use a computer program like Electric Quilt. It’s amazing how quick and easy this step becomes. You simply choose a block (or blocks) from the program library, choose a setting (horizontal, on point, sashed, etc.) and with the click of a mouse you get a great visual of what the quilt could look like. Then, with a few more clicks, the blocks can be rotated or the colors changed. It’s amazing, but there are disadvantages: you need to own the program, you need to know how to use the program and it can “eat” time out of your day.

3. If the block is still just a PIMM (project in my mind) or you’ve just made one block and want to see if you like it in a whole quilt without buying a computer quilt program, make copies of the block on a printer and lay the copies out as in step one.

Any other ideas???

March 21, 2011, Uncategorized
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
Friendship Exchanges II

Thanks to everyone who responded! I appreciate all the great suggestions. Now Wendy and I need to do a bit of brainstorming and share our ideas with the Irish quilters. We’ll let you know what we come up with :-).

February 25, 2011, Challenges
Friendship Exchanges

I’ve recently begun a delightful email relationship with one of the quilters I met in Ireland on our Sew We Go trip last October. Sandlin and I have been sharing stories about our families, faith and quilting. She’s currently making a quilt using Replique for her grandson. It’s delightful and really makes me smile.

You can visit her guild’s blog at:

Wendy and I are hoping to put together some sort of friendship exchange/challenge with our Irish travelers and the Galway branch of the Irish Patchwork Society. We haven’t come up with the details yet and I was wondering if any of you have done long distance exchanges that were successful.

I did one in the early 1990’s that was great fun. I was living in Madison, WI and belonged to Mad City Quilters. A group of quilters in Freiburg, Germany contacted us for a challenge and also invited a group from Bern, Switzerland. The German quilters chose 3 fabrics (1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green print) and sent 20 packets of the 3 fabrics to us and 20 to the Swiss quilters also. We, along with 20 German quilters, were to each make a small wall quilt using the fabrics. That was it! The resulting quilts were delightful! Here’s mine:

The most exciting part was that we were able to send them all to Freiburg and have all 60 hung in their town hall. Then all 60 came here and were displayed at the Civic Center on State Street in Madison. Lastly the quilts were exhibited in Bern before we each got ours back. This quilt has been many places I haven’t.

The added fun of this Irish exchange is that we’ve met the quilters from Galway. Now to come up with the perfect challenge (perfect is a relative term :-). Any suggestions? I’m really hoping for some helpful input from all you talented folk! Ta ta til Thursday!

February 21, 2011, Challenges
Well Behaved Beads II

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun beading!

February 18, 2011, Embellishing
Well Behaved Beads


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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 14, 2011, Embellishing

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
Effort or Blessing

We all have talents as well as struggles, but I watched something recently that made me realize how minor my current struggles seem to be when it comes to quilting. I’ve never shared a You Tube video with you before, but this one was so inspiring I thought you’d all enjoy it. Thanks to Barb J. for sending it to me. 


As I watched the beginning I was inspired by Diane Rose’s sense of humor, positive attitude and perseverance in the face of what appears to be a great handicap, but as the video continued it was obvious that she has a special joy and quilting is a big part of that. Her quilting is not an effort, but a blessing.

My thoughts meandered from her story to some of my friends who create beautiful quilts in spite of a variety of handicaps: arthritis, fibromyalgia, back surgeries and the list goes on. Most of these quilters are not complainers, but rejoicers. Many have a strong faith, which I believe we all need to face life’s challenges, and they use their passion for quilting to take their focus off of their troubles. In so doing they can overcome them, at least for a while. I’ve also noticed that these friends often tend to be involved in quilting for others. Doing for others is such a blessed way to take our minds off of our problems.

After all this deep thinking and reflecting, what I really realized is how blessed I am to have this gift for quilting, the ability to create brings me such joy and the friendship of other quilters is so special. I’m grateful for my blessings as well as my struggles. They are all a part of my journey through this life. One of the reasons we’re here is to encourage each other. Thanks to so many of you for being an encouragement to me!

January 30, 2011, Inspiration
Simple Cable

Nancy was right. I’ve practiced to the point where I really enjoy free motion quilting and so I’d rather do some fancy quilting in a border than fancy piecing:

But, as I’ve been told, not everyone feels about free mo as I do. So, what do you do if you want to add a little more zip than straight line quilting? Years ago I learned a slick way to do simple cable borders. The marking is easy. The machine guided stitching is easy. The cables will fit your border. And, since you’re along the outside edge, it can easily be done on a large, bed quilt!

1. Cut out a piece of freezer paper the size of the border area you want to fill along one side and without including the corners. This strip will work for all 4 sides on a square quilt. For a rectangular quilt you’ll need to cut 2 freezer paper strips, one for the width and one for the length.

2. Fold a strip in half, quarters, etc. until you get to a size that would make a nice single cable (my sample was folded quite a few times and will make a chubby cable). If you’re doing a length and a width, try to get both to about the same folded up size (close is good enough). You may need to do thirds instead of halves when folding one of the strips to get them even.

3. Make a mark 1/2″ from the bottom on the left of the front fold and 1/2″ from the top on the right. Draw an “S” to attach them.

4. Cut along the line through all the folded layers.

5. Open and press the shiny side of one of the strips onto one border along the inside edge (set the matching strip aside).

6. Stitch along the curved edge of the paper, being careful not to stitch through it. Remove the paper.

7. Press the same freezer paper strip over the stitched border, but along the raw edge this time (be sure to leave space for the binding).

8. Stitch once again, remove the paper, repeat for remaining borders and then use your imagination to connect the lines in the corners.

Please give it a try and let me know what you think :).

Border Quilting

Often after piecing/appliquéing the blocks of a quilt I lose steam and want to get the border on simply and quickly. Then, while  layering and quilting I’m so busy dreaming about the next PIMM (“project in my mind”) that I miss the “fun” of borders! Actually, I’m trying to talk myself into thinking of this as fun because I often fizzle out at this point.

Sometimes I can get excited about doing a bit of appliqué out there on the edge, and maybe a prairie point or 2, but seldom do I do a lot of border piecing. I once read that it takes about as many blocks to border a bed sized quilt as there are in the center. Whoa! Once I realized that was true it made the task even more daunting.

We all need to know ourselves and go from there. I enjoy piecing, but must admit I’m a bit odd in that I reallllllllly enjoy machine quilting. So……….. I’ve discovered I’d rather add simple borders which are plain enough to be able to be made extra special with stitching. We’ll get to more of that on Thursday :-).

When students reach the point of just wanting to get some borders on, my simplest advice is to add 1, 2 or 3 borders of different widths, making sure the widest is made from one of the interesting fabrics from the inside of the quilt. Typically it looks best if the widest border is the last one (these are generalities and don’t always work on every quilt).

Here’s a simple little Christmas quilt with 3 borders:

Now for the quilting. I still contend stitching in the ditch is the most difficult way to quilt because if you don’t stay in the ditch it looks lousy and if you stitch a set distance from the ditch, and parallel to it,  it’s easier to do and adds interest to the overall design. 

But I have a warning. If your outside edge is the least bit wobbly, quilting straight lines, parallel to the borders, can cause stretching and more wobble. By quilting “piano key” style lines perpendicular to the border some wobbles can actually be calmed down. These lines can be evenly spaced, but uneven spacing can add some interest too. They don’t need to be rigid either (please ignore the spiral quilting in the corner):

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I have a few ideas for adding some extra punch to simple border quilting and plan to share them on Thursday. Until then: do you love to piece intricate borders? Is there anyone out there who likes creating borders as much as making the center? Do you have a favorite plan of attack for quilting borders?

What’s a Land Cruise?

In previous posts you’ve read about the Sew We Go cruises Wendy and I have led in the US and Europe, but you may not have heard about the Land Cruises (click for web site) we’ve been involved in.

Barbara Vallone and her crew put on a delightful and imaginative “trip” in Racine, Wisconsin every March.

2011 will mark their 15th year of great classes, fun events, delicious food and much more at the Radisson Inn, Racine, on March 4, 5,  & 6! The philosophy behind a Land Cruise is that some quilters can’t take a traditional cruise, but would still like to participate in a “cruise-like” getaway. Barb’s group provides a fun conference where quilters are pampered while having fun and learning new things.

The theme this year is “Landscape Quilts” and Natalie Sewell, Wendy Rieves and I are just some of the teachers involved. I’ll be teaching my Repliqué technique for turning favorite photos into quilt blocks as well as a child’s version (with a Repliquéd playground scene) of the backpack made from placemats and men’s neckties which was our project on the Irish adventure.

You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced Barb’s chocolate salad, so please make plans to attend!

Visit the website: or contact Barb at: 262-639-8185/  for more information.

January 16, 2011, Travel
Project Creep

After posting the pictures on Monday I pulled everything off the shelves/counters and decided to really clean and organize. In class yesterday at WCTC, Cindy shared the expression “Project Creep” (referred to as PC from now on :-). She said this is when you begin doing something small (fix sewing table) and it escalates step by step into lots of work and, usually, a fair amount of unplanned expense. BINGO! She hit the nail on the head. Then Jean added that the good part is we feel so virtuous once it’s done. I’m almost there :-)!

Mike did a wonderful job repairing my table. We took the old tv to the recylcing center and in it’s place I now have a 19″ flat screen that weighs almost nothing and has a great picture, but it needed to be elevated. So Mike and I had to go antiquing (one of our favorite pastimes) and we found a great “explosives” crate with dovetail joints. It was only $25. Do I hear “project creep”? Its a handy place to keep all the essentials close at hand and provides space under the tv I didn’t have before.

But the tv was still too low, so I raised it up on an old wood case my dad (a retired dentist) inherited with his first practice. It was meant to hold the plastic teeth used to make dentures, but I discovered its a perfect place to keep my button collection! Now the tv is at the right level and I’m much more organized!


My threads had been in “Matchbox Car” cases and I used to love the organization they provided, but I found I was always opening, closing and flipping boxes to find what I needed. Thus, I had to hit the store for a plastic drawer unit that went where the microwave had been. I love the ease of finding threads now! More “PC” expense, but that virtuous feeling is making it all worthwhile.

The microwave is now at the end of the counter, the counter and shelves are dusted and organized and I’ve only got that small (relative term) pile of stuff left in the middle of the room I really don’t know what to do with.

I plan to have that gone by lunch. I wonder if it’s going to cost me any more “PC” cash??? 

Thanks to Cindy and Jean for their input. Anyone else have a great organizing/storage tip they’d like to share?

(a 2pm addition to the original post)

Eureeka!!! The pile’s gone, the carpet’s vacuumed and it’s only 2 hours past lunch. Talk about feeling virtuous. I think I need a cup of tea and a piece of dark chocolate :-)!

January 14, 2011, sewing space/studio

While taking the photograph of my “3 Pin” technique for last week’s blog, I broke the gate leg on my sewing machine cabinet. My dear husband was kind enough to attempt a repair, but that required pulling everything out and flipping it over in the middle of the room.

This allowed me to view all the dust bunnies that were hiding behind the machine and a new adventure began. Here’s the way my studio looks now:

And another angle with Mike hard at work :-)!

Now don’t you feel better about the condition of your space?

The problem with projects like this is that one thing leads to another and there are some cleaning/reorganizing things that just need to be done. Like…………….


The tv that sits next to my machine is old, big and still has a dial that clicks when you change channels. It has to go! So now I need a new, small flat screen tv and I’ll have to find some sort of extra storage to go beneath it (reorganizing always seems to have a price tag attached). While purchasing the tv I was informed that the microwave (just to the right of the tv) shouldn’t sit next to it, so I’m pulling everything off the counters and shelves and hope to come up with some great new studio set up ideas. Hopefully Thursday’s post will prove quite interesting.

Any suggestions while I’m at it???

 PS This really isn’t helping the fact that the latest Milwaukee Art Quilter’s challenge deadline was moved up and I’m only at the designing stage. That’s what keeps life interesting :-)!

January 9, 2011, sewing space/studio
Pucker Less

I hope the puckers in my last post made you smile. But, I must admit, puckers in my quilts never make me smile.

Even if you safety pin baste your quilt sandwich together well (every 3 or 4 inches) and use a walking foot, those pesky puckers still tend to sneak in. So what’s my favorite tip for avoiding this frustration? I call it my “3 Pin Technique” and it’s actually quite simple.

1.  Put the needle down at the beginning of the line you wish to quilt (I plan to quilt between the light and dark purple areas on my fabric).

2. Place a straight quilting pin (mine have yellow heads in the picture) perpendicular to the quilting line and about 1  1/2″ from the needle. Place the second straight pin 1 1/2″ further down the line and repeat for the third pin.


3.  Stitch along the line to the first pin, and then remove it. Continue this way to the second and third pins.

4.  Repin ahead of the needle as in step 2 and continue along the entire line.

Although this may seem a bit tedious, you can really get into a rhythm and the “easing” action of the pins will make pucker problems a thing of the past. The feedback from my students has been great!



Happy New Year! The tradition of kissing your sweetie at midnight on New Years gave me the idea for my topic of the week :-).

A kiss involves puckering and that can be a good thing:

But sometimes its better to pucker less:

This is especially true when machine quilting! Even if you use a walking foot those pesky puckers have a way of sneaking in on the top and on the back too.

Puckers appear when the 3 layers of the quilt sandwich shift under the pressure of the presser foot. Free motion quilting is one way to avoid some of the problem as the foot is not pressing down and thus things aren’t as apt to shift. But free motion quilting is not the answer for everone. So what can be done?

I’ve come up with a number of ways to minimize this problem. The first comes in on the pinning step. When layering your quilt, be sure the back is taut but not stretched. I’ve found the best way to do this on a small quilt is to use masking tape to secure the back to the table or floor (clamps along the edge of a table work well too). Once the back is taut, the batting and top may be smoothed on top and the pinning may begin. I’ve found this very helpful, but be careful not to stretch the back since this can cause the quilt to shrink up when the tape is removed and will lead to puckers on the front.

When pinning a larger quilt I prefer to use a simple frame made of 2 x 2’s, 4 chairs and 4 clamps. The frame is a great back saver. I may have to share pictures and directions for that in a future post, but if you’ve been in my open lab classes you already know how well this works :-).

Using a walking foot (sometimes called an even feed foot) for machine guided quilting is a must. This foot moves the top of the quilt along while the feed dogs move the bottom and this prevents a lot of the shifting, but it’s not always the complete cure.

I’ll share my favorite pucker prevention technique in my Thursday post. Until then do you have any suggestions to share?

PS Thanks to my family for humoring me in my pucker contest. I’m not telling whose pictured above, but it did provide a few giggles on Christmas Eve.

Gallery Opening

You’re invited to the following event! I’m very excited to have a collection of my quilts (and 2 pieces which I made in collaboration with Sharon Rotz) on display at this prestigious Milwaukee Gallery. I would be honored to see you at the opening!


Quilts: Story Material

January 8-February 19

Quilts, hangings and other quilted pieces by artists including: Juleen Jaeger, Chris Lynn Kirsch and Judy Zoelzer Levine.

Artists’ Reception  

Saturday, January 8, 1-4 

Artists’ Talk at 2 pm

St. Johns on the Lake

Uihlein Peters Gallery:

Monday-Saturday: 10-5

1840 N. Prospect Ave. 


December 31, 2010, Uncategorized
Quilting, Kids and Giggles

Thanks to everyone who sent me advice concerning picture quality on my blog. The general concensus was that I need to get a better program to work on my photos and so I’m asking Santa for Photo Shop. Jan’s suggestion about visiting: was especially interesting.

I have a number of quilting technique topics I’ve been wanting to share, but will wait until I’m able to send clearer pictures. That being said, I would like to share a delightful moment in pictures. I think they’re clear enough to make you smile.

One day when Hanna and Willy were here I needed a bit of quilting time and they, of course, wanted to help. I took down my fish bowl full of scraps and put it in the middle of the floor in the hope that it would entertain them. Hanna began picking out 1 piece at a time and sorting them into piles while Willy just watched.


I told him he could take things out too and that led to a joyous explosion of fabric.


Then they got a little carried away :-)!

Even the dog got into the act! And grandpa couldn’t resist grabbing the camera once the commotion started.

These kids loved rolling in fabric! Their grandma must be a quilter.

Admit it – you’d love to roll around in fabric too :-)!

I’ve decided I’m going to take a break over the holidays and my blog will hopefully return new and improved in 2011. Have a blessed Christmas everyone.

December 16, 2010, Uncategorized
Christmas Quilts and Photography Questions

This was the post I intended to upload last Thursday:

To keep with the theme of quilting for Christmas, I’d like to share some of my students projects. In my Open Lab class at WCTC this past week Marie brought in a very cheery tree skirt.


The past few weeks I’ve been sharing some Christmas project patterns with the students in this class. Here are the coasters Judy brought in for show and tell:


Last week in class we printed favorite photos onto fabric and made ornaments. Here are just a few of the ornaments made by this talented group:

Making Christmas gifts for family and friends can bring us such joy. Since it’s snowing again here, I plan on staying home and doing just that for the next 2 days. What a blessing to have the time to do what we enjoy. I hope you’re finding some joyful stitching time too!

But I didn’t post it then because I’m so disappointed with the quality of the pictures I upload to my blog. I’m hoping some of you technologically savvy quilters might have a suggestion or two.

When I download pictures from my digital camera to the computer – they look great and I can print them out with very good results. In the beginning of my blogging I just uploaded them, was disappointed, and let it go because I’d rather quilt than deal with techy stuff, but recently it’s really been bugging me. Since then I discovered that I can save the photos in a web ready format using Microsoft Picture It Publishing. It allows me to save a picture at 320, 440 and 600 pixels. I’ve tried all three, plus the way they come from my camera and the results are crummy every time. Any suggestions??? I think I may need to break down and take a class.

December 12, 2010, Photography
Christmas and Quilts

What a beautiful season! Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I so enjoy all the lovely quilted projects made to decorate our homes at this time. My favorite Christmas quilt is a lone star I made as a class sample, with fabrics from my stash, many years ago. I ended up liking it so much that I hand quilted it with the names of each family member in the corners and I can’t wait to hang it up every year

A while back I designed a small Holy Family quilt using Clover Quilt Bias™ for a stained glass look. I taught it as a class many times and it was quite popular :-).

Recently I saw a lovely photo that I just had to recreate in fabric. I contacted the owner for permission and made one of these small quilts for many in my family:

Do you have a picture of a favorite Christmas quilt you’d like to share? I would be happy to add it to my blog so others can enjoy it too. Please send it to me via email: .

December 7, 2010, Uncategorized
Quilting Kid

Thanks to everyone who gave suggestions for quilting with kids. I decided the best way to start with Hanna was to open up my box of 6″ squares (from various exchanges) and watch her reaction. She had to feel every square. She’s really grandma’s girl :-).  She chose her favorite 12 and they were mostly Christmas prints.

I then set my featherweight up on a bench, with Hanna on a stool and she was off. She listened carefully and did just as I instructed. I was very pleased and impressed. It was hard for her to step on the pedal with the ball of her foot, but her heel worked great! She drove and grandma helped guide (along with a thick layer of masking tape).

While pressing the seams we both held the iron together (with Hanna’s free hand on her knee – to prevent burns). She stitched the blocks into a doll quilt set 3 x 4 and then we layered it with flannel and stitched almost all the way around. Hanna turned it right side out and helped pin the players together. We did some straight quilting lines and, less than 2 hours later, it was finished!


Her response: “let’s make another one”! She’s definitely grandma’s girl :-).

December 2, 2010, Uncategorized
Quilts and Kids

Snuggle & Learn Quilts for Kids, my most recent Replique book, was all about making colorful, cuddly and educational quilts for kids.  

It was written for adults to create these gifts of love for the special children in their life, but there’s another aspect to quilts and kids – teaching them to sew!

Over the years I’ve taught sewing to a number of different groups of kids. My daughter’s girl scout troop was among the first. They made vests to showcase their merit badges  – and this was before I learned to quilt. After I became addicted to quilting I taught my daughter to quilt, but it wasn’t exactly her thing.

A few years later I decided that my 5th grade Sunday School classes could make charity quilts as a way of doing something for others in need. The boys especially enjoyed the “accelerator” on the sewing machine and all the kids seemed to like stitching. 

This week I’m hoping for some helpful advice. My granddaughter Hanna is almost 5 and I’d like to plant some quilting seeds :-). Do you have any suggestions regarding quilting activities geared toward this age? The kids I’ve taught have always been older and I’d rather not reinvent the wheel. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

November 28, 2010, Uncategorized
Anything Goes

The most unique challenge I’ve participated in is among my favorites. A number of years ago the Milwaukee Art Quilters discussed doing a “round robin” sort of challenge as Sarah explained in her comment (thanks Sarah). The theory being that one person makes a block or row and passes it to another who adds whatever the challenge rules dictate and after 3 or 4 additions the originator gets it back. The problem was that fiber artists seem to really dislike rules. So, we did an “Anything Goes Round Robin”. Each participant put something in a bag (block, piece of fabric, or whatever – no rules) and the next person could do anything they wanted to it! After 4 rounds the originator got it back and could finish as desired. The only real rule was that you couldn’t be upset about what anyone did to your item along the way.

My finished Anything Goes quilt is entitled “Puzzling Spumoni” :

It began as 3 hexagon log cabin blocks from a failed 1995 workshop where the teacher discovered half way through that the blocks wouldn’t fit together and the class ended. The fabrics were dated and I had no need for the blocks, so in the bag they went.

The first person chopped 2 of the blocks up and sewed them back together into a long strip. The second person thread painted a peacock feather on a light pink background and bordered it with the pieced unit. The third chopped again and added a bunch of stuff from her scrap bag. She then cut this new “fabric” into puzzle pieces and threw them in a bag. The fourth artist stacked them into a pile on a black background and put a cherry on top. This is how it was returned to me. I put it in a dish and added the spoon.

It is an odd shaped and humorous piece which I love, even though it really doesn’t go in my living room. I learned a lot working on the other quilts and feel its a good excercise in creativity. I challenge you to try it in your own group!

November 27, 2010, Challenges

I enjoy taking on a quilting challenge! Please understand, I don’t mean that I like it when I’ve sewn an entire seam right side to wrong side and I’m challenged to do 40″ of unsewing! A challenge made by other quilters is what excites me. Whether a fabric is chosen and a variety of stitchers are asked to do something original or an organization comes up with a contest, I can’t resist jumping in.

Last week the program chair at Wandering Foot Quilt Guild (thanks Jody) challenged the members to put a UFO in a brown paper bag, along with all it’s components, and exchange it at their next meeting. Each member was asked to complete the UFO they picked up and it would be their’s to keep. Doesn’t it sound like more fun to finish someone elses project than  one of your own that’s hit a dead end? I’m intrigued. (to read more about UFO’s click on that category in the right hand column)

I’ve also been challenged in other ways by some of you through this blog. I’m still thinking about my Liberty of London fabric thanks to the challenge from Pat. That one is in the “marinating” stage :-).

What’s the most interesting challenge or contest you’ve participated in? I’ll tell you my favorite on Friday!

November 23, 2010, Challenges UFO
But I Still Love You Too

My lecture in Amery was a delight! A fun group of quilters and a lovely visit with my cousin Kathy.

I’d like to welcome some new readers to the blog. I not only shared my antique quilts up north on Monday, but Tuesday night I presented a talk about  my “Sew We Go” adventures with Wendy to a guild in Oak Creek (south of Milwaukee) and Wednesday morning I did the same talk for a guild in Fox Point (north of Milwaukee). Many of the quilters I spoke to gave me their email addresses and I’ve added them to the list. I’d just like to mention to them or any one else who’s new to the blog that by scrolling down through the blog or clicking on the archives you can read about some of our past topics. From photographing your quilts, to UFO’s (ultimately fabulous opportunities) and many topics in between, there’s been a lot of great information shared :-)!

Now to get back to antique quilts. Thanks Barb, for sharing your quilt’s story. I’d like to share a quilt and it’s story from my lecture. I don’t know the history of many of my quilts, but this Sunbonnet Sue quilt has a story I do know and it’s worth telling:


A few years ago I presented “But I Still Love You” to a historical society and one of the women present asked me if we could meet for lunch. Her name was Vivian and at the restaurant she showed me this quilt and told me it’s tale. It was made by a friend of Vivian’s grandparents for her when she was a baby (I have all the names and dates – hooray!). She snuggled with it while she was growing up and then packed it away. When Vivian was married and expecting her first child she unpacked it and showed it to her husband. When she told him the pattern was called Sunbonnet Sue he responded that if they had a girl they should name her Sue – and they did! Sue snuggled with it while she grew up just like her mom.

Well, since then Sue had moved to California and Vivian and her husband were struggling with some health issues. They had decided to sell their home in Wisconsin and move to California to be near Sue. Vivian came across the quilt while packing and called Sue. She told her mom she really didn’t want it :-(. Vivian couldn’t talk her into it and so she decided to offer it to me after seeing my talk. I was honored. She said she wanted it to be well cared for and appreciated. So I’m pleased to share it in my lectures and here with you.

If you have a quilt with a story to share, please send it as a comment to this post. Most quilter’s I know have a warm spot in their hearts for antique quilts and the stories that make them special.

November 18, 2010, Vintage Quilts
But I Still Love You

I just finished packing up my collection of antique quilts to take with me tomorrow as I head to Amery, Wisconsin to do a talk for a guild there (its not far from the twin cities). It was a happy coincidence that I have a cousin who also lives in Amery. What a great opportunity to share my love for quilting with a new guild and spend time with Kathy too. Once again I just feel so blessed :-).

The lecture I’ll be doing shares the same name as this post. In it I wear a Civil War era dress and hoop skirt that I made to go with the lecture. Most of my quilts are not museum quality, but I love them and enjoy sharing their stories. I’ve probably presented this talk more than any of my others and it is one of my favorites. The best part is even non-quilt groups (historical societies, Christian women’s groups, etc.) want to hear it and so I’m able to share my passion for quilting with  some people that aren’t yet adicted!

Do you have a quilt that’s a family treasure or just a vintage piece with a delightful story? I feel most quilters enjoy hearing about these bits of our history and I’d be so happy to hear about yours.

November 14, 2010, Vintage Quilts
Beautiful Enough to Use!

What great comments. I especially liked the expression “shopping your stash”. Thanks Cindy. I think many of us could make wonderful quilts without ever making a trip to the quilt shop.

I was very convicted by Pat’s challenge to use my Liberty fabrics and they’re hanging on the design wall now just waiting for the right idea to grab me. (this may happen after the holidays – we’ll see)

While I was writing the “Too Beautiful” post I came to realize that I actually had reached the point a few years ago that when I buy a fabric I really love I allow myself to use it as inspiration for something new right away. The blendable, “tone on tones” go into the stash, but when the new, jaw dropper, makes my fingers start to itch I’ll often just ignore the guilt of that project I’m in the middle of (which isn’t as exciting as when it was first begun) and indulge in playing with the exciting stuff.

Another method I’ve found helpful lately is to put the new gorgeous stuff in the stash just until the next time I’m ready to take a new challenge or I need to come up with a new class project. Then I grab that inticing piece and allow it to be the impetous for this new endeavor. This usually helps to get the ball rolling. Picking out other fabrics to go with the exciting one is always such fun for me.

The only problem with this system is that the great fabrics from my “petting and not using” days are still in the stash. So, thanks to Pat, I’m going to focus on some past loves. Who knows, some of them may look great together.

Perhaps I should step away from the computer and fondle some fabric :-). Blessings, Chris

November 11, 2010, Fabric
Too Beautiful

Mary Beth made a comment last week that inspired this week’s topic. She said she had received a piece of fabric in an exchange with a quilter in Africa and it was too special and unique to cut into. Haven’t we all been there? In 1989 my husband and I vacationed in London. Liberty’s of London was at the top of my list of destinations because I’d heard so much about their fabrics. They were beautiful and had a lovely silky feel. My husband was indulgent and I purchased a meter of 3 different yards and a few scraps from a bin. For years I would take them out and pet them and then put them right back in the purple plastic Liberty bag (duh!). That’s where I found them today.

This reminds me of a quote from Ricky Tims: “If you never use it, you’ll never use it”. I used to love it. Now I don’t. What a waste.

Admit it. You’ve done the same. Please let me know your philosophy on this issue by commenting at the end of this post and I’ll have a few comments on Thursday :-).

November 8, 2010, Fabric
Foreign Exchange

I’d like to share an interesting story concerning quilters in other countries. My first book, Replique Quilts, is out of print, but I have an attic full of them. I offer them for sale through my website and over the years I’ve had a few inquiries from other countries. The problem is I don’t take credit cards or do PayPal. This means both the other quilter and I are disappointed.

Six months ago a dear lady from Kamloops, British Columbia emailed me for a copy of the book and I came up with a rather strange proposition for her. I told her I would send her an autographed copy of Replique Quilts if, in return, she would send me something of equal value from her area that she thought a quilter in the US might enjoy. This idea was very exciting to me …… and she liked it too! A week later I received a lovely book about Kamloops which I devoured page by page.

The following week she emailed me asking for my address again because she wanted to send me an autographed copy of a book about a fiber artist in Nova Scotia! What a blessing.


I’m now awaiting a package from a quilter in New South Wales, Australia :-). This is a lot more fun than cashing a check!

Have you done any interesting exchanges with a quilter in a foriegn land? I highly recommend it.

November 3, 2010, Travel
International Quilting

The top ‘o the morning to you! (to which I now know to respond “and the rest of the day to yourself”)

What a wonderful time we had in Ireland! It is a truly beautiful country! Wendy and I, and a delightful group of quilters, non-quilters and 1 charming (and somewhat brave) husband visited the Emerald Isle by motorcoach. It was our first non-cruise trip and we’ve discovered there are plusses with both types of travel. One of the best parts of traveling by land was the flexibility we had with the schedule.

Peggy Anderson, of Travel Leaders, did an outstanding job of finding quilt related stops. We visited 3 lovely shops and did our fair share of spending, even though there’s no such thing as “Irish” fabric that’s made in Ireland (we’ll have an easier time finding that here around the middle of March).

My favorite part of the entire trip (and that’s saying a lot) was getting to know some Irish quilters! A group of members of the western branch of the Irish Patchwork Society met us for tea at our hotel. We shared show and tell and had time to make many friendships.  

On the last day of our trip we were the guests of honor at the October meeting of the Eastern branch of the Irish Patchwork Society in St. Anthony’s Hall in Dublin. Both groups were warm, friendly and very talented.

A dozen years ago I had the opportunity to meet with a group of quilters in England. It was a blessed time of sharing and the ladies were delightful, but I was surprised at how dated their fabrics and patterns were at the time. This is no longer the case. The shops in Ireland were very up to date in their inventory and the quilts were spectacular. I bet the internet had something to do with this :-)!

Do you have a connection with a quilter from another country? What are your observations about the similarities and differences? I’ll share additional thoughts on Thursday :-). 

October 31, 2010, Travel
Snuggle and Learn Update

Just a quick note as I do my final packing for Ireland.

My current book: Snuggle & Learn Quilts for Kids is available through Martingale & Co. and can be purchased in quilt shops and on line. I have a trunk show of quilts from the book that has traveled for almost 2 years and is coming home for a rest. If you know of someone who owns a shop and would be interested in displaying the show, please pass along my blog address. There is no charge for hosting the show and a fun 4 step demonstration of my Replique technique is also included.


October 16, 2010, Appliqué
Adding Color to My World II

Years ago I made a quilt for a challenge entitled “Name That Tune”. Can you guess the title of my quilt? 


I was a teenager in the 70’s, so if you didn’t get it, you probably weren’t <g>. The name is “Color My World”. It was a slow dance song by Chicago. It may be difficult to see on this photo, but in the void under the world I hand quilted the Creator’s hands in metallic thread so the sub title is “He’s God the Whole World in His Hands!”

I thoroughly enjoy choosing colors/fabrics for my quilts. I’m not much of a cook, but when I start pulling bolts and come up with a good mix I sense that it “tastes good”. This may sound a bit weird (I’ll accept that :-), but I actually begin to salivate when I feel the color combination coming together. It’s the only way I can describe it!

I think “drooling” over fabric is more common than you might think! If this version of quilting excitement has passed you by, here’s a suggestion for getting your taste buds tuned up:

I’m often inspired by color combinations in nature. What a wonderful week to be conversing on this topic! The trees (many maples) in my yard have finally turned. This hasn’t been the most colorful Fall, but I have some pictures from past Autumns and here’s one of my favorites:

My recent trip to Alaska provided some great shots. This mushroom was growing in Hazel’s front yard!

Or how about the phenomonal hues God’s paintbrush created on the Kenai River:


If you have a picture, but aren’t quite sure how to pull the colors from it there is a great website for doing just that. Go to: On the right side under “Welcome to Kuler” click on “Adobe TV” for a short and simple tutorial. They’ll show you how to upload your image and choose a color scheme from it in a way that’s easy, quick and fun 🙂.

PS I will not be posting for the next 2 weeks, as Wendy and I will be taking a group of quilters to Ireland! I’m sure I’ll bring back more photo inspiration and I’ll be anxious to share some with you when I return.

October 13, 2010, Color
Adding Color to My World

Students often tell me they are not good at choosing colors for their quilts. I don’t believe they are truly bad at it, I’m convinced these quilters just need a bit of confidence boosting and encouragement.

When a painter begins a new project he/she has only individual colors to start with, whereas quilters are blessed with many wonderful fabrics that talented designers have already created for us and these fabrics provide a good jumping off point. By picking a multicolor print that is appealing, a good color scheme has already been chosen for us. Pull colors from this print and good results are almost a given!


 A color wheel is another safe way to choose good color combinations. There are many great quilting books available on this subject and they cover the different color wheels much better than I could.

I’ll share my personal ways of choosing colors on Thursday. Until then, please let us know how you deal with this topic. Do you stay within manufacturer’s fabric lines? Do you ask for help at the quilt shop? or do you just buy kits so you don’t need to deal with it :-)?

October 10, 2010, Color
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

Hi! Thanks for checking in for this week’s blog of the week. Due to some difficulties in my “non-quilting/real life”, I’m not going to be able to do a full post this week. Hopefully things will be more manageable by next Monday.



September 28, 2010, Uncategorized
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
Making My Mark

Not many comments. Hmmmm, you must all be anxiously awaiting my response (ha!ha!). I seem to be trying to own every marking tool on the market and I think I’m accomplishing just that. For this post though, I’m going to narrow my collection down to 3 favorites. But, before I name them I want to stress that you should always test your method on the fabric in your quilt before using it. Even if your favorite silver pencil has always come out….don’t count on it (do I sound like I speak from experience?)

For medium to dark value fabrics my marker of choice, hands down, is a sliver of soap. Straight from the shower (don’t let anyone slap it onto the new bar when it reaches sliver stage), it goes on easy in a nice thin line and can easily be removed by gently rubbing with a damp piece of muslin. The line lasts longer than chalk and its incredibly inexpensive. In this age of liquid soap and super sizing, my poor husband has not been allowed to bathe with anything but travel sized bars of soap since I became a quilter. They become the perfect thickness much more quickly than the regular sized bars.

For light fabrics I tend to use the blue, washout marker most often. But be careful! If the line is heated in any way it can become permanent. Also, the ink is a chemical and if you only “spritz” to remove it, it can remain and cause mischief. I’ve had the color of my fabric change permanently where the lines were drawn in 2 different quilts. Therefore I alway submerge the quilt in cool water when the quilting is done. That being said, it is easy to put on, easy to see and usually easy to remove!

My other “favorite” is a product commonly found in the kitchen called Glad Press ‘n Seal™. It’s a transparent film which can be pressed around the rim of a bowl to create a watertight seal. This is very helpful in quilting. If my design is printed, I can tear off a piece of the film, finger press it over the paper and trace the design. The film can then easily be “stuck” onto the quilt. If I need to create my own design, I can finger press the film directly onto the quilt and draw on it to perfectly fit the area needed. I usually use a fine Sharpie™ marker, but a quilter in one of my lectures said she did this on her long arm and the permanent ink wiped onto her quilt. I haven’t had this problem, but will most likely use a removable marker from now on (which I’ll test on my fabric, just in case :-). Once the design is quilted, the film can simply be torn away. I find it tears quite easily from straight, gently curved or single crossed lines. Areas with many crossed lines are a bit more of a challenge. The best part about this method is that you can see the fabric below for placement and the way it sticks to the fabric helps to prevent puckers when quilting .

In my lectures at Nancy’s Notions Sewing Expo there was some wonderful sharing and a number of quilters recommended a few markers I hadn’t tried. So far I’m liking them. Here are a couple for you to experiment with:

Bohin™ white mechanical chalk pencil (rubs or washes off) – a very fine line. One quilter commented that some of the color “leads” were harder to remove than the white.

Clover™ white marker (irons off) be aware that the mark doesn’t show right away and you need to wait for at least 10 seconds. When it does appear it is quite visable and irons off easily.

Graphite (rub off with a damp piece of muslin). I found this in the Morton Hoops™ booth at Expo. It fits in the soap stone stylis and can be sharpened to a fine point.

If I’ve missed your favorite or you have any comments to make about mine, please let me know. Happy marking!

September 17, 2010, finishing
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
Quilting in Alaska
What a wonderful adventure! Quiltina and I met Evelyn at the Madison airport on a Tuesday afternoon and we arrived in Anchorage after 10pm (it was still light out!). Evelyn’s sister, Hazel, met us there and drove us to her home in Soldatna – 3 hours away. Needless to say, it was a late night :-).
 Hazel and Eddie generously opened their beautiful cabin in the woods to us and made me feel like part of the family.  

My residence was in an “apartment” they’ve built over the garage which consisted of my bedroom, bath and the living room which is Hazel’s quilting studio. The three of us actually spent many happy hours there stitching :-). 

During the next 12 days we shared fun, fellowship, good food, beautiful sites and a lot of quilt related activities. It is so wonderful to visit a new area with friends who live there

I had the blessed opportunity to teach 4 different classes. My Mariner’s Compass class, held for a quilting group which meets at a church in Soldatna, went so well that they invited me back the following week to teach Free Motion Quilting. 

I taught 2 Replique classes. One at a friendly quilt shop in Seward called Sew ‘n Bee Cozy. A lovely shop and a great class!

The other Replique class was taught at the Eagle’s Roost Lodge. The owners, Ken and Patty, even treated us to a boat ride up the Kenai River. What fun!

Thanks to everyone who made these classes possible and to the students – who were not only fun, but taught me a lot.

I’m finally unpacked, so that I can begin to repack for 3 days of teaching at Nancy’s Notions Quilting Expo in Madison, WI. I hope to see many of you there!

PS I was able to spend 3 days at the end of the trip visiting my grandchildren in Washington. Hanna, Willy and I had so much fun that I couldn’t resist this final picture of our day at a children’s museum. What a blessing!

September 6, 2010, Travel
On the Road Again

This Tuesday Quiltina and I will be flying to Alaska with my dear friend Evelyn Link. Her sister, Hazel Robinson, has arranged for me to teach a few classes there. What a blessing these 2 quilters are to me! Hazel has graciously invited us to stay with her for almost 2 weeks. There’ll be time for sightseeing, stitching, giggling and really getting to know each other. What a delightful opportunity. I’m very excited :-). 

So, I’ll be unable to blog, but I’m hoping to come up with some good topics to share when I return.

By the way, if you’re wondering who Quiltina is I’d be happy to introduce her. You may have heard about “Flat Stanley”. He’s a cardboard cut out schoolkids take/send all over and then write about his adventures. Well, Wendy Rieves and I lead quilting tours in the US and Europe. Prior to our last trip I mentioned to Wendy that we needed a quilterly version of Flat Stanley to accompany us on our travels and her fruitful imagination created Quiltina:

Here we are beneath an olive tree in the South of France! This fall Quiltina will be joining us in Ireland. God is so good!

August 15, 2010, Travel
Sewing On a Mountain II

Years ago I wanted to quilt a king sized quilt and I didn’t have a large sewing table so I improvised. This works quite well when you only need to set it up occassionally. I used a portable banquet table, a card table and a tv tray. The 2 tables are placed in an “L” with the tv tray in the inside corner. Place the machine on the tv tray with enough magazines under it to bring the bed level with the tables. Voila! It’s that easy!

Beth G shared a website for another slick way to create an inexpensive and  more permanent arrangement at: Thanks Beth!

I hope many of you found this helpful!

I’d like to squeeze  in one last note about my first Open Lab class this semester at Waukesha County Technical College. It’s a four week class that was scheduled to begin on September 9th. I’ll be teaching at Nancy’s Notions Quilting Expo in Madison, WI on that day and so the class has been changed and will begin on September 2nd. We’ll skip the 9th and continue the remaining 3 weeks after that. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do sew soon :-)!

August 12, 2010, sewing space/studio
Sewing On a Mountain

No, I’m not talking about stitching at your cabin in the woods, but a way to make quilting easier :-). My definition of “sewing on a mountain” is when your machine is perched atop a desk or table. This way of quilting is bad for many reasons:

First – its too high, so you need to either raise your chair (which, if you’re vertically challenged, makes it difficult to reach the foot pedal) or just grin and bear it. Ergonomically this is hard on your body. The desired position when machine quilting, is to have the bed of the machine at elbow level so that when your arms are bent at a right angle your forearms are parallel with the work surface.

Second – the flat, usable portion of your machine is small. This makes it hard to piece and even more difficult to quilt.

Third – when working on a larger quilt you are constantly fighting the weight of the quilt as it falls off the machine bed. Plus, it’s easy to get safety pins hooked on the corners of the machine bed when machine quilting.

So, what to do?

Often I’m told that an extension table that fits around the machine is the answer. These do improve conditions when piecing, but many of the same problems persist when machine quilting a larger quilt because there is still an edge where the weight of the quilt drops off and pins can get caught.

A sewing cabinet or custom made table is the ideal option. If you don’t have one, I’m giving you permission to get one, and soon! I own a Tracey’s Table. Mike Spangler, the son of my dear friend Diane, makes them. He is located in Wisconsin, but he sells his cabinets and tables throughout the US. I highly recommend them. The quality is excellent and the price reasonable!

If a table is out of the question at this time, I have some rather clever suggestions to share (if I do say so myself), but I think I’ll save them for my Thursday post. Stay tuned :-)!

August 9, 2010, sewing space/studio
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
Inspiration Time II

Thanks to all who shared their inspirations. It just proves that there’s inspiration all around us. Sometimes it hits us right between the eyes and other times we have to look for it … and what better place to look than in a class? I like to encourage quilters to take classes in techniques that are outside their comfortable box so they can learn and grow. You never know what untried technique or pattern will become a new and exciting direction for you. On that note, my tech school classes will be starting up again in the Fall. If anything sounds interesting, I hope you’ll sign up and see where it takes you :-).

I teach on Monday afternoons from 12:30 – 3:30 at Madison Area Technical College, Watertown Campus. The quilting classes are held in the old gift shop at Bethesda.

The first 6 Mondays of this semester my 2 project workshop will include my 2 most popular classes: Mariner’s Compass Simplified and Replique.

We’ll spend 3 weeks drafting a traditional Mariner’s Compass block using a pencil, a ruler and paper folding techniques. Then the compass will be foundation pieced. It’s so simple anyone can do it!

The second 3 weeks you’ll have the opportunity to recreate a picture of your home in fabric using the Replique technique from my first book. We stitch directly on an enlarged photograph, so there are no templates, fusibles or degree in art required :-). Everyone will begin by making the little sample house on top in the picture above and then move on to their home once they know how its done.

The second 6 weeks in Watertown I teach a class I call Quilting: Open Lab. In this class students work on any project of their choosing and I’m a resource person to help with problems and encourage finishing! I also demonstrate a helpful technique each week.

At Waukesh County Technical College I teach three 4 week long Open Labs on Thursday afternoon.  I also teach a number of 1 day workshops on a variety of projects. This semester they will include:

Spinwheels – Friday, September 17, 9:00 – 2:30

Mini Lanscapes – Friday, October 8, 9:00 – 2:30

Doggie Stockings – Friday, November 12, 9:00 – 2:30

Please comment if you have any questions on how to sign up. I hope to see some of you this Fall!

PS Just click on the names of the schools above to be linked to the registration page on their websites.

July 29, 2010, Uncategorized
Inspiration Time

Quilters can be inspired by so many different things – nature, books, patterns and even blogs. The possibilities are just about limitless. Art quilters have many different sources of inspiration. Much of my fiber art is inspired by my relationship with Jesus. Last year the quilt I made for the Milwaukee Art Quilter’s challenge: “Portals” was an example of my faith being the inspiration for a quilt.

It is entitled “The Narrow Gate” and represents a portal to heaven through the cross. The leaves on the tree are printed with Scripture verses explaining this amazing gift. Portals won first place in the Ultimate Guild Challenge at the AQS show in Knoxville last year!

What inspires you? I believe many of you are often inspired by taking classes because that’s how we met. On Thursday I’ll touch on some of the exciting, new classes I’ve planned for the Fall. Until then I’d enjoy hearing about your inspirations! Please click on “comment” and share.

July 25, 2010, Uncategorized
Time Eater II

This past Spring our local PBS station decided to have a judged quilt contest entitled “Quilting As Art”. Awards were given to the winning quilts and all of the entries were then put in the channel 10 Great TV Auction to raise funds to support the station. My quilt, Strange Brew (made for a “tea” challenge), won 3rd place – praise the Lord! I was thrilled, but so much more than the support of PBS and a bit of prize money came out of it.

My local newspaper did a very nice article about Strange Brew and my quiltmaking. A neighbor, whom I had only met once, saw the article and sent me a lovely letter commenting on the article and my website and adding that she was a beginner quilter. Well, we just had to get together for a cup of tea!

Diahann Lohr is a very talented graphic artist who has her own business, Adunate Word and DesignShe creates blogs and websites for others. This led to a delightful, old fashioned barter. She guided me in the creation of this blog and I helped her make a lone star quilt. To see her beautiful quilt and read more about our successful bartar, please visit her blog at: Adunate Blog.

All this led to this week’s topic and I thank everyone who commented for their input and suggestions. I’m taming the “time eating beast” dilemma the same way Di is, by doing my “social networking” at night when I would otherwise be watching tv or puzzling over Sudoku. This way I feel I’m doing something constructive with my late night time (my husband’s already asleep by then) and I truly do enjoy it. If you need a website or blog and are not a night owl who enjoys being on the computer – you may want to contact my new and dear friend Diahann!


PS I belong to a very talented group called the Milwaukee Art Quilters. We just found out that 8 quilts from our latest challenge: “Connecting Thread – a Line of Design”, won first place in the Ultimate Guild Challenge at the AQS Quilt Show in Knoxville. This is the second year in a row we’ve won a blue ribbon there and we’re all very excited.

Briefly, the rules stated that each quilt had to have a red line enter on the left, do something in the middle and exit on the right with enough line left to attach to the next quilt. My quilt, “Risen”, was not one of the 8 that traveled to Knoxville, but is one of 17 in the challenge which we hope to exhibit often in the future. “Risen” is pictured above and the red “line” outlines the Celtic Knotwork. To see all the challenge quilts and read the rules, please visit our brand new blog:

July 21, 2010, Uncategorized
Time Eater

Quilting has been my delight since 1987 and the joy of teaching entered my life shortly thereafter. About 8 years ago I discovered that the internet would be a great way to exchange information about the classes and lectures I offered. I decided I needed to hire someone to teach me how to be the keeper of my own website and, thanks to Peter Queen, was born. It has been a real blessing to me. Besides class/lecture info I have descriptions and supply lists posted that can easily be “copy and pasted”, which saves me time, printing and postage. With the passing of time I realized what an exciting opportunity my website provided in getting the word out about the “Sew We Go” adventures Wendy Rieves and I lead throughout the US and Europe. Thus I felt I was really on top of the quilt/web connection.

Since then a whirlwind of change and uses for the internet has occurred and I was left in its dust. I had no intention of blogging, but the Lord had other plans :-). I’ll share that story in my Thursday post.

The big downside I’ve discovered with the computer is that it quickly eats time out of my life!!! I do enjoy writing my blogs and reading those of others, but that’s time I could be spending with my Babylok! How do you deal with this dilemma??? Keeping them close to each other in the studio helps, but I really need more :-). Help!

July 19, 2010, Uncategorized
Fabric Shortage II – Thanks Jeri!

Thanks for all the great comments!

I came up with this week’s topic because I’ve been dealing with this issue once again. Shortly before my Paducah pilgramage this past Spring I was working on a quilt for an upcoming class at Waukesha County Technical College. I made a bunch of blocks with a beautiful dragonfly fabric and realized I wasn’t going to have enough for a lap sized quilt. I searched for it all over the AQS show in Paducah to no avail. Then I showed the blocks to my students/friends in a class at Madison Area Technical College in Watertown, after which I shoved all the pieces in a pile in the corner of my studio and went on to something else. A few weeks later my dear friend, Jeri, handed me a floral print fabric in the same colors and asked if it would work. Praise the Lord for quilting friends!

It was a great match and actually made the quilt even more interesting! Quite often I don’t need the exact fabric and substituting makes a better quilt.

I remember Jinny Beyer saying that 3 fabrics make a lovely quilt, 10 will be more interesting and 100 will make it spectacular (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea). So don’t be afraid to substitute if you can’t find more and be sure to ask your friends. Quilting friends are priceless :-)! 

July 15, 2010, sewing space/studio
Fabric Shortage

“Oh no! I’m in the middle of a project and I’ve run out of one of the fabrics. I loved it, so I bought a whole yard! I thought it would be enough, but it isn’t.” Has this ever happened to you?

It happens to me quite often. Perhaps because I’m frugal and seldom buy more than a yard of anything when impulse/stash shopping. Then I’m forced to be creative.

I’ll share some of my fixes in Thursday’s post. What about you? Do you just shove the project in a pile and plan to deal with it later? Are you one of those people who knows how to search for a particular fabric on the web? Do you recommend any websites for this? Feel free to comment :-)!

July 12, 2010, sewing space/studio
Hanging Quilts II

Since there were no comments on this topic I assume everyone’s happy with their method for hanging quilts, or you’re just waiting to see what I have to share :-). Either way here are my thoughts:

I usually hang my quilts with a “Split Sleeve” and a 1/2″ wooden dowel:

1. Measure the width of the quilt, subtract an inch, divide this measurement by 2 and cut 2 pieces this length by 4″.

2.  Hem both ends of each strip folding 1/4″ to the wrong side and topstitching. 

3. Prior to binding the quilt, fold each strip lengthwise, wrong sides together, and pin in place with the raw edges even with the top edge of the quilt and a 1/2″ gap between the sleeves.

4. Attach the binding, catching the sleeves in along the top edge (but not on the sides).

5.  Finish binding as usual and then handstitch the bottom edge of the sleeves to the back of the quilt, being careful not to stitch through to the front.

6.  Cut the dowel the width of the quilt and insert.

The split in the sleeve allows a small quilt to hang from a single nail. A larger quilt may be hung with a nail on each end. If the quilt is quite large and heavy, an additional nail may be added for support in the middle or a larger dowel/sleeve may be needed. (tip: it’s easier to see and use the sleeve if it doesn’t match the back!)

In my last post I pictured a quilt hung “on-point”. A simple way to do this is to make a sleeve 2″ shorter than the horizontal width of the quilt and attach it across the widest part (isn’t it hard to see when the fabric matches?). Insert a dowel that length.

Stitch a Plastic ring (I find them with knitting supplies) to the top and hang the quilt with a single nail on this ring. Easy and effective!

Any other quilt hanging tips or suggestions???

July 9, 2010, finishing
Hanging Quilts

In grandma’s day quilts were made to keep people warm. This is still a vital function, but in recent times quilts are often made for other uses and decorating a wall is a very popular one. This leads to the question: “what’s the best way to hang a quilt on the wall?”

I’ve seen many quilts made with “tabs” along the top, curtain style, so the quilt can be hung from a pretty rod. This look often has a “country” feel and isn’t appropriate for all types of quilts.

Some quilts have an unusual orientation or shape and this can be a challenge.

Parallelisms I

 I prefer to hang my fiber art as you would a fine painting – with no visible means of support. This works for more traditional wall quilts too. I’ll detail some of my techniques on Thursday. Until then, please share your favorite methods by submitting a comment.

July 5, 2010, finishing
Quilt Books II

Books are a great source of inspiration. A dear non-quilting friend once told me that people collect many things just for the joy of owning them. Stamps, thimbles, baseball cards, even cars.

They don’t have to “use” them to justify having them. That is how I look at my quilt library. Even if I never make a project from each book, if I’ve enjoyed looking at the pictures, reading about a new technique, or was inspired by color choices,  it was a worthwhile purchase. Being an author I hope you add to your quilting library often :-).

That being said – what great organizational fixes did I come up with? Well, your comments were a big help. I realized that many of the books I own I recognize by title or subject more often than author or publisher, so I decided to make piles by category: piecing, applique, artsy, history, etc. Then I put them on the shelf alphabetically by author’s last name within the category. I also made a list in the same order on my computer. That way I know at a glance what I have. I did go to “” and found it very interesting, but decided having my own list on my computer was sufficient. The amazing thing is the picture looks the same as in my last post(ha!ha!). Changing the order didn’t change the picture much!

I also found a few books that no longer interest me. They are in the “donate to the guild library” pile. This made a little room :-). But the best part was I discovered 2 books that have inspired me on my next project. If I hadn’t gone through the library I wouldn’t have thought of them! Hooray!

Thank you all for your input and the inspiration to do something I’d been putting off for a long time. Hopefully many of you were inspired to organize too.

I’ll try to choose a topic next week that doesn’t require so much effort!

July 1, 2010, sewing space/studio
Quilt books

Last week, after reading my photography post, Claire sent me an email in which she brought up the topic of organizing our quilt book collections. This made me painfully aware that I don’t have all the answers (ha!ha!). My library system up until now is to put each book on the shelf wherever it will fit and then hunt through every title when looking for something I want. Now I have until my Thursday post to get my act together. I’m going to analyze my collection and see what miracle ideas I come up with.

I’m sure some of you have answers to this dilemma. If so, please share them with us by clicking on “comments” at the bottom of this post. I’d really love your insight and I’m sure others would too. Just to get things started, here’s a “before” picture of my bookshelf. Not too terribly messy and yet without organization!

June 27, 2010, sewing space/studio
Photographing Quilts II

I did it! I put bindings on both crib sized UFO and they’re ready to donate! But, before they go I’ve decided I had better take pictures for my records.

Here are my favorite tips using a simple, point & shoot digital camera:

1. The design wall in my studio is made from two 4′ x 6′ pieces of styrofoam insulation.  Many quilters cover their design walls with flannel because the fabric “sticks” to it, but so does every loose thread. Because I want to photograph on these boards as well as design, I covered them with the cheapest charcoal gray polyester I could find on the discount rack at Joann Fabrics. The colors of my quilts read true against the gray and the threads don’t cling to the polyester and show in my pictures. These walls are easy to move outside (my next favorite tip) and when they are next to each other there’s enough surface area to hang a bed sized quilt.

2. Photograph with natural light (outside) if possible. The ideal weather is bright overcast with very little wind. Avoid direct sunlight/high noon. My garage faces north and the doors are recessed about 6″, so I lean the board(s) inside the recess to protect it from wind and the lighting is good in the afternoon even on a sunny day.

3. The camera needs to be steady, so use a tripod or, if you don’t have one, place the camera (safely) on the appropriate height step of a ladder. One extra hint that can make a big difference is to remember that the design wall is leaning and by tipping the camera to match the angle (fairly easy with a tripod), the quilt will remain square in the picture.

4. I usually take a few snaps with the flash and few without. Then I can choose the best result.

This is certainly not a comprehensive coarse in photography and I’m no camera expert, but my quilts have been accepted into some big shows using these techniques. Even if you’re just shooting the quilts for your own inventory, its a blessing to have good quality pictures.

June 23, 2010, Photography
Photographing Quilts

Before I get to my new topic of the week, I have one more UFO comment. Cheryl Anderson and I were recently discussing Pam’s comment that she thinks of UFO as opportunities. Cheryl took this to another level and now calls her UFO – Utterly Fabulous Opportunities! I wish I’d thought of that! Please visit her blog for more of her insights (Cheryl’s Chatelaine in the Blogroll).

Now to something new: years ago my dear friend, Necia Wallace, gave me some excellent instructions for photographing my quilts. She had spent some time as a professional photographer  and her advice has been invaluable.

Some of you may say you don’t need to take pictures of your quilts, but I beg to differ. Taking pictures along the path of your quilting life is a great way to keep track of how many you’ve made and how much you’ve improved. My memory is not what it used to be and scanning through my pictures is a happy trip down memory lane.

Speaking of a trip down memory lane – this is the only picture I have of my very first quilt. It was made in 1987, in a beginner sampler class taught by Sharon Grieve (now Grinyer). I entered it in the Sun Prairie quilt show and, even though it didn’t win anything, I was so proud (can’t you tell). This was way before digital and took a bit of guts to share :-).

I still have this quilt, but it was made to be used and it’s been loved into a much shabbier condition.

Many of us also need to take pictures of our work in order to enter competitions. This is when quality photography is very important, but no matter what the reason, if you’re going to do something, I feel its worth doing it right.

I plan to share my tips and tricks for quilt photography with a simple “point and shoot” camera in my Thursday post. Until then I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to share. Do you have questions on how to make your pictures better? Do you have a simple/easy way to get good results? Please comment if you dare :-)!

June 20, 2010, Photography
UFO Musings

FORTY-SIX! That’s how many UFO’s I had in my bins! I figured that would make everyone feel better, but Lois Jarvis beat me with 67! Lois is also a teacher and she has a delightful blog:

While digging through my bins I decided to have my husband take a picture and….notice the smile. I’m adopting Pam’s positive attitude towards UFOs. They are just waiting to be needed :-). The one I’m holding is from 1991. Can anyone beat that? 

Many of my UFO’s are class samples. That’s not an excuse – just the truth.

In looking through my bins I found 2 crib sized class samples that are already quilted and only need binding. I’m stating here that I will finish them and send them off to Project Linus before the end of the month.

I also found a wall sized top in patriotic colors. I’m going to add borders until it’s the right size for Quilts of Valor and get that sent this month too! I’m writing this here so someone will check up on me and make sure I keep my word :-).

I’ve belonged to a number of guilds that have attempted to address the UFO dilemma and here’s a few of their ideas:

Years ago Linda Marcou, a member of Common Threads Quilt Guild, challenged the members to choose one  in January and bring it finished in December. As a reward all those who were successful were given one of her  handmade labels. I still treasure that special addition to my finished quilt. 

I currently belong to Patched Lives Quilt Guild. Last year they offered one entry into a drawing for each UFO finished  in a year with an exciting prize for the winner.  Many took up the challenge.

Evelyn Link is a friend who’s guild in Arizona asks members to bring 3 UFO”S to a meeting and the guild votes for which one should be finished. Let’s take that to another level – you grab 3 to show to a friend, let her pick one to finish for you and you do the same for her! I wonder who I can get to take up that challenge – hmmmmm.

So often UFO’s are just tops. If you

1. can’t afford to send them to a long arm quilter 

2. don’t have time to hand quilt

3. like free motion quilting, but don’t like to meander,

try this: quilt that next project with the design you doodle when you’re bored. You’re probably really good at it, it will flow easily and the quilt will be done without too much effort. Or, take a free motion quilting class and when you return home, practice all the techniques you learned on a UFO you aren’t really attached to. Then donate it to charity. The recipient will love it and they won’t see all the mistakes that jump out at you. By the time the quilt is done your free mo-ing will have improved!

Hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you’ve been inspired to get something done! I’m rather excited about the accountability I’ve forced myself into in this post. If you’d like to gently commit yourself as I have, feel free to write it in a comment here :-).

June 17, 2010, UFO

bins, bins, bins

When a quilter uses the term UFO, it usually refers to Un-Finished Objects (specifically quilts). Now I’m aware there are some unusual quilters out there who don’t have any UFO’s, but I’m quite sure they are the exception, not the norm. In my “stash” post I mentioned I dislike bins, but what else are you going to do with UFO’s?

A year or so ago a friend showed me some UFO’s she had purchased from another quilter. She thought they looked like fun and was planning to practice her free motion quilting on them. I told her I probably had a few I’d give her for free and (can you believe it?) she was excited. This led me to dig through my collection, pick out a few to “donate” to Patricia and then to count those that remained. SCARY! I’ll share the results and some ideas I have for what to do with them in my Thursday post. In the meantime please share your thoughts on UFO’s. How many do you have? Do they cause you guilt? Have you any thoughts on what to do about it? I’d love to hear from you!

PS Wendy Rieves and I teach quite a variety of classes at Waukesha County Technical College and there are still a few openings in our Summer class schedule. My Mariner’s Compass class has been a popular one over the years and I will be offering it again on July 8th. To get the details go to: ; click on Class Search; put a dot in Summer 2010 and type “quilting” in the Course Title/Subject box, then click on Submit. You’ll find this class plus all the others there. I’d love to have you sign up! Blessings, Chris

June 14, 2010, UFO
Satin Stitching Reply

Here are some of my best satin stitching tips:

1.  Machine set up: Set the machine for zig zag. The stitch width will be increased. The amount of increase depends on the look you want, but keep in mind that the wider the zig zag, the bigger the “bite” into the appliqué and the stronger it will be in a quilt that will get used and loved. The stitch length should be decreased to almost zero. The stitches should be close together, but not on top of each other.

2.  Match the thread color to the fabric which is being appliquéd. This way if the fabric shows between the stitches, it won’t be obvious (compare orange to black stitching in “K”). I feel that satin stitching puts a lot of holes in the fabric which can weaken it a bit. By matching the thread color the length can be relaxed a little and still yield good results. If you absolutely must use a contrasting thread you will need to shorten the stitch length.

3.   Use a stabilizer underneath the block. Without stabilizer the stitches tend to pull together and cause what’s called “tunneling” and the result is puckers. Many different stabilizers are available for purchase: wash away, tear away and heat away, just to name a few. I prefer scrap paper from my computer. It’s a good way to recycle misprints and costs nothing. When doing Repliqué the paper which the pattern is printed on is already in place and works great. Satin stitching puts so many holes so close together that paper removal is easy :-).

June 10, 2010, Appliqué
Satin Stitching

I’ve just returned from a very enjoyable weekend teaching at the first annual Sewing and Quilting Expo held at UW-Platteville. There was a nice variety of presenters, great vendors and entertaining evening programs. Next year’s event will be held June 10th & 11th and I highly recommend it! I wish I could post a picture of some of the fun, but alas, I forgot my camera :-(.

Snuggle & Learn Quilts for Kids and Replique Quilts

It’s time for my next “topic of the week” and, since I just did a Saturday lecture on Repliqué and it’s fresh in my mind – satin stitching seemed like a good choice. This machine stitch is made by increasing the stitch width and decreasing the stitch length. It can be used as a design element or to cover the raw edge of an appliqué. Of all the ways to appliqué, this is my favorite. So much so that I’ve written 2 books on the subject!

Do you like to do satin stitch  appliqué? What do you like/dislike about it? Are there questions you have on how to improve your technique? Do you have a tip to share?

I’d love to hear from you. I look forward to any comments and will address them as well as some of the questions I hear most often from students in my Thursday post!

PS Yesterday my son, Brad, graduated from Madison Media Institute with a degree in audio engineering. It was a proud moment. If you happen to know of any job leads in the area of sound production or recording, please let me know :-).

June 6, 2010, Appliqué
Stash Storage
Thanks to everyone who commented about their stash. I found the responses very eye opening and I learned a lot. They helped me to see how different we are. Some collect by fabric line, some by style of fabric (ie: Asian), some by exactly what’s needed for the next project and some just buy what speaks to them in “that” store at “that” time. I would fall into the last category.

My philosophy is to have a well rounded stash with a good variety of colors and values so that I’m able to create my next project without having to go shopping (a good theory, even if it doesn’t always work). The majority of my fabrics are arranged by color and I developed a method of storing them when we moved into our current home 6 years ago. I was able to design my new quilt studio in our walk out basement with lots of light and a good amount of storage. I have quite a bit of space, but it’s not limitless, so I still have to be organized. 

Here’s what I’ve found works for me. I don’t like to dig in bins and I want my fabrics protected from light, so I keep them on wheeled carts. 

The carts have 3 flat shelves each and the shelves measure 15” x 20”. I purchased the carts to fit in a cupboard built under my counter and made the mistake of having the cupboard built first (duh!). Surprisingly, it only took a short bit of internet surfing to find them on a physical therapy supply website (of all places!). I’m sorry I don’t remember the site, but I’m sure the size you need can be located fairly easily.

Most of my fabric pieces are around a yard, but many are as small as a ¼ yard and some are as large as 2 yards. I fold each fabric to approximately 7” x 9” so they can be stacked 2 across and 2 deep on each shelf.  That way I only need to spin the cart to see other colors.
You may notice that I have bungee cords wrapped up the sides and over the top of the carts. This keeps the fabrics on the top shelf from flying off if I spin the cart too quickly :-).

 Now you may not have a cupboard such as mine, but I envision this working very well for the many quilters I know who make their studios in the empty nest rooms of their college age kids. These carts would fit beautifully into those abandoned bedroom closets and if the machine is in a different room, the wheels make it all very mobile. This would also be helpful for those who make their sewing space at the dining room table – the fabrics can easily be in whatever room you need them.

My main fabric stash fits on these carts and there’s still a little room to spare. My multicolor prints, hand dyes and batiks are not grouped by color, but category, and they fit on one of the carts also. I have to admit that the fabrics I use less frequently such as my holiday fabrics, children’s prints and flannels are still in a bin or two. Nothing is perfect. The only down side I’ve found to this system so far is that when I finish a project and there are fabrics left over they don’t magically reshelf themselves. Any suggestions?

           Kathleen’s comment about storing smaller scraps is a whole new topic. I have a large fish bowl on my counter that I fill with these “too small to fold” pieces and strips. When it gets full I dump them in a bin and when the bin gets full I make myself do a scrap quilt. My most recent one was from Sharon Rotz’s book: “Log Cabin Quilts With Attitude”.  That top used up most of my scraps and is awaiting borders. The trouble is I’ve already refilled my fish bowl. So many quilts, so little time. Here’s a true confession: Sometimes when my fishbowl gets full and I can’t deal with the guilt, I’ll dump it in a bag and donate it to my guild’s next white elephant auction. My friend, Laure Reuters, purchased my last “guilt dump bag” and made a delightful quilt with it!

I’ll watch for more comments and come up with a new topic on Monday :-)!



PS Here’s how I fold yardage to fit on the carts:

step 1: lay out fabric length with original fold

step 2: fold left edge over 9" (1/4 yard), repeat as needed

step 3: fold remainder into thirds

June 2, 2010, sewing space/studio

I’m passionate about almost every aspect of quilting and this is obvious if you visit my website: But I love teaching and sharing what I”ve learned almost as much as actually stitching. That’s why I’ve decided to try my hand at a blog. I hope this will be a place where we can exchange ideas and tips for making all the steps in the quilting process enjoyable. I’ll also share techniques I’ve discovered to simplify the road blocks, overcome mental blocks and just make the quilting process more fun!

Here’s the plan (I’m posting it here to keep me on task): Each Monday I plan to pick a topic of the week and ask you for your thoughts, input or questions. I’ll watch anxiously for your comments and happily respond if necessary. On Thursday I’ll post my “lesson” for the week and hopefully you’ll find it helpful and want to return!

So – my first topic is:

what's a quilter to do?

The Stash! How do you store your fabric? What is your system for sorting? By color? Value? Manufacturer? Or do you just throw it in a pile and dig when needed? Please let me know if this is a topic of frustration for you. I can’t wait to show you how I’ve handled this often tricky subject.

Blessings, Chris

Hanna & Grandma

PS    Even though this has nothing to do with my topic, I can’t resist sharing one of my recent quilts. This silhouette was made from a photo taken when Hanna was 2.  I created this little quilt using my Repliqué technique. I’ve written 2 books on Repliqué and share it through lectures and workshops too. All the information is available on my website:

May 30, 2010, Welcome