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

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

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

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

You may sign up by calling 262.691.5578

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

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

August 26, 2012, Embellishing

As quilters we often make quilts inspired by the creativity of others ….. we do so love all our patterns and books! This is a great system because designers have ideas to share and many quilters are not into making up their own designs.

My daughter-in-law, Betsy, is a professional graphic artist and Sommer’s mommy. In 2009 I was in a creative rut and I began asking her about her work. After an exciting discussion she agreed to loan me some of her pieces. My hope was to create fiber art that didn’t reproduce her work, but was inspired by it. This became an adventure we call KirschArt.

We’ve had our work shown in a number of different venues. Our first joint exhibit was at a restaurant in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. We shared exhibit space with my talented friend, Laura Krasinski.

We currently have pieces hanging at the Brickhaus Café in Jefferson, Wisconsin, and this is one example of our collaboration – Betsy’s photography and my fiber art.

The Brickhaus Cafe has a beautiful garden area for outside dining and great food. Tea and Textiles, a wonderful quilt shop, is just a block away. I’d love to have you stop in if you live nearby.

Since then Betsy and I have collaborated on a completely different project: Compass Capers! She did all of the illustrations in my book and then taught me how to use Adobe InDesign while putting it all together. She is a very talented young woman and such a blessing to me.

So – have you ever created a quilt which was inspired by someone else’s art? If so, I’d really enjoy hearing about it. Please comment to this post or, if you’re so inclined, email me a picture :-)!

PS I really enjoyed reading all the comments about your favorite notions. Thanks to everyone who responded. Most of them I already have on my “fav” list, but I hadn’t heard of the “touch n brow”, so I stopped at Sally’s Beauty Supply the other day and …WOW… this is a great tool! Thank you Cindy!


August 19, 2012, Inspiration
Favorite New Notions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You may order your own roll on line at:

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

August 12, 2012, Notions
Fishbowl Quilts & Pet Beds

A while back I posted about fabric storage and I shared a picture of the fishbowl I keep my smallest scraps in:

I’m currently in the midst of designing a project for the Spring semester at WCTC and it is in part a “fishbowl quilt”. The quilt is called Black, White and Bright and there are going to be numerous brightly colored, paper pieced, flying geese (perhaps I should call them flying fish) strips in it. I pulled all the bright hunks out of the bowl and have actually used some of them up!!!

As I cut off pieces too small to save I put them in a bag under my sewing table

and when I’ve filled enough bags, these schnibbles will all be sewn into an old pillowcase and donated to the local animal shelter as a pet bed. No waste!

I shared another fun use for the fishbowl scraps in a post over a year ago. If you need a smile, please click here :-).

Do you keep your schnibbles in a fishbowl? Do you have a better option?


August 5, 2012, Uncategorized
Feeding Needy Children

A few weeks ago I asked if anyone had a vintage Burgoyne Surrounded or Pineapple Log Cabin quilt they might be interested in selling because I’m in need of those patterns for a new quilt lecture I’m putting together. I already had a sample of Mariner’s Compass and Rose of Sharon, but I was thinking I’d like a better example of those too – if I could find them.

Well, I decided to do a bit of searching on-line and I found a gorgeous Rose of Sharon top on a site called Buckboard Quilts, and it was in my price range! I contacted the owner, Judy Howard, purchased that top and conversed about the other quilts I needed. During those emails, she said she would send me information about a project that is dear to her heart. It’s a quilt contest to raise funds to feed children.  I decided I wanted in and I completed a small “Parallelisms” quilt I had in my UFO pile. It’s called Chasing Butterflies and the idea was that children should be concerned with childish things like chasing butterflies and not about hungry tummies. Here’s a picture of my quilt:

As a thank you for donating the quilt to the contest, Judy sent me a copy of her wonderful cookbook and I just knew I needed to share this information with you. I asked Judy to send me something to put on the blog and here it is. Enjoy!

22”Quilt Contest/Exhibit Feeds Needy Children

The overwhelming need to feed needy children inspired Buckboard Quilts to sponsor the “Food for Body and Soul Touring Quilts Contest and Exhibits.” The exhibits are touring the U.S. for three years with all proceeds from the $100/week-end exhibit rental and accompanying 1905 Cookbook—Food for Body and Soul going to local soup kitchens and food pantries.

     See for quilt photos, entry and rental forms, calendar of shows and sample recipes and stories.

   These two hundred-fifty 22×22” and larger touring quilts capture the essence of pioneer cooking, ethnic customs, vintage kitchen collectibles, passion for food, family, celebrations and holiday traditions, food stories from the Bible, fighting hunger; feeding hope–anything and everything food or anything that feeds your soul like quilting, grandkids, music, art, gardening, etc.


 It’s not too late for you and your children to enter your 22” quilts to receive a free copy of the 1905 Cookbook–Food for Body and Soul with each entry, free advertising on the story label and a chance to win $2500 in prizes and 33 rosette ribbons.


     Please mail your 22” quilts ASAP to 12101 N. MacArthur, #137, Oklahoma City, OK 73162. Reserve your exhibit today by emailing  or calling 405-751-3885. Displayed in as little as 20 feet, sixty 22” quilts can be hung in 40 minutes displayed 3 up, back to back, or spread out for maximum effect. Drop-down labels feature heart-warming stories.

     Judy Howard’s new cookbook for cooks, foodies and historians is based on recipes from pioneer days in central Oklahoma. 1905 Cookbook: Food for Body and Soul will inspire today’s cooks regardless of age or sophistication. Recipes like Molasses Drop Cake and Delightful Biscuits or Delicious Chicken Pie and Roast Beef with Oyster Dressing entice the taste buds and make you want to keep this book within easy reach to satisfy your body and soul. In addition to this amazing and often amusing collection of 300 epicurean delights, Howard’s book is flavored with 200 turn-of-the-century photographs, 1905 merchant ads and stories of the 89er/pioneers who compiled the original cookbook found at a flea market. This cookbook will complement any cook’s recipe collection and is the perfect gift at discounted price of $12.95 if ordered on

     Enter your 22” Food Quilt today to help feed needy children. And reserve the $100 exhibit for your next show.


If you’re looking for some quilting fun this week. I’ll be teaching at the UW Platteville Sewing and Quilting Expo. For all the information go to:

July 29, 2012, Challenges
Parallelisms in England


One of my favorite workshops to teach is called Parallelisms. The above quilt is entitled “Joy” and it’s just a small sample of this fun technique. Parallelisms is an art quilt class for traditional quilters who would like to try creating a piece of fiber art, but aren’t sure they can. My answer is absolutely “yes” and I’ve had a lot of fun proving it. A few years ago I taught this class at the AQS show in Paducah and one of my students, Doreen Davis, had traveled all the way from England for the show (not just to take my class :-)). After returning home she emailed me to ask if she could teach my technique to her quilting friends and I was honored to be asked. She recently sent me pictures of a class with this message:

“Hi Chris, We had a wonderful day yesterday at the class, the ladies had the most fab time, they were all a bit hesitant at first cos I think they were all used to being told you must do it this way and that but after I had stressed onto them that this is a fun workshop and not to be stressed over, they all let their hair down and thoroughly enjoyed every minute as I hope you can tell.”

Doreen procured permission for me to share a few photos on the blog, so here they are. First a few of Doreen’s quilts (I’m so impressed that she has had such fun with the technique!):

And now WIP’s (works in progress) by Linda, Carol, Ruth, Eve and Liz:

It certainly looks like they were having a bit of fun. Thanks ladies!

I will be teaching Parallelisms for Quilter’s Plus quilt guild in Illinois on August 30th. If you think your guild would be interested in a “let your hair down” kind of art quilt class, please let me know!

July 22, 2012, Design Travel
No End

I believe a good binding can really make a quilt. There are so many ways to bind and I’m quite sure I’ve tried them all. The best way I’ve discovered to connect the beginning and end tails is really quite easy. I often demonstrate this in my classes and workshops, but a number of students have asked me to post a step by step demo with pictures ……. so here it is!

Depending on the size of the quilt, it is quite common to have to join a number of binding strips together to make a strip long enough to go around the entire quilt. I like to join these strips in a diagonal or mitered seam (trimming off the extra triangles after the seam is sewn).

This results in a relatively unobtrusive seam in the finished binding.

So here are the steps for a no end finish that looks just like the above:

1.  When you begin to stitch your binding to the quilt, leave an 8″ tail that is not stitched to the quilt and do a back stitch to secure. Bind all the way around the quilt and then end your stitching with a back stitch 10 -12 inches from the beginning back stitches. Leave at least 8″ of ending tail unattached to the quilt.

3. With a single binding (as above) the strips are a flat, single layer. If you are doing a double binding, the next steps need to be done with the binding opened to a single layer, as in the sample below.

Mark a 45 degree line towards the end of one of the tails and cut it off.

4. Pull back this end and lay the opposite end against the quilt. Then lay the diagonally cut end back on top of the other strip and mark the diagonal cut.

5. Pull away the cut tail and mark a 45 degree line 1/2″ away from this line. This is the way to add the seam allowance, so be sure you add it to the side of the line that makes the strip longer. Cut on this second line.

You should now have a 1/2″ overlap of the 2 tails.

6.  Pick these ends up and place them right sides together as in the picture for joining binding strips at the beginning of this post. The bulk of the quilt will need to be pulled inwards to create a bit of play in the strips.7.  Stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

8. Lay the quilt flat so the binding strip lies back against it and finish sewing the binding strip to the quilt.

Once the binding is turned to the back and stitched down you will not be able to tell this ending spot from any of the other strip joinings as in the picture above step 1. So it is truly “no end”!

Is this something you already are doing? Did you find it helpful? Do you have a way you like better? I love to hear from you, so please let me know.

PS I’ve learned a neat trick to see a close-up detail of any of the pictures above on my PC. While you are looking at the chosen picture, hold down “ctrl” and click the “+” sign. This will zoom in on the picture. You may do it repeatedly for more zoom. “ctrl” and the “-” sign will zoom the picture back out, and holding down “ctrl” while clicking “0” (zero) will cause the page to go back to normal :-).

July 15, 2012, finishing
Labeling Vintage Quilts

JoLynn recently wrote me with an antique quilt story:

“I found this old quilt this last month in the middle of the hwy in Texas. It is a grandmothers fan quilt pattern. It needed a lot of repairs so I washed it and I am taking it apart and restoring all of the damaged fan blades. I love how you would not think to add such non matching colors together. I went to the store and bought some of the same colors to replace the ones that were damaged. I have no clue how old this quilt is but it was all hand done. I myself make quilts but I use the sewing machine. :) I am wanting to come up with some type of lable for the quilt but dont have any ideas. If you have any ideas please let me know. Thanks……. Oklahoma Self”

I did a blog post last October with instructions for creating simple labels for vintage quilts. You can click here to read all about it (be sure to read Lucy’s excellent instructions for making labels with the computer). JoLynn’s request made me realize that often we don’t know the quilt’s previous history – so does it really need a label? And if so, what should be on it? My answer would be yes because every quilt has a story we do know: who currently owns it and how they acquired it. JoLynn’s quilt has a wonderful story of adoption and caring and it should be on the label, along with her name, place and date.

Taking the time to label vintage quilts, especially if you have a collection, may be the difficult part. I was guilty of this for years and than a dear friend, Maggi Gordon, wrote a book entitled Vintage Quilts. She was interested in including a number of my quilts. Before I could give them to her for photography they needed to be labeled and now I’m so grateful to have them in the book and the labels done!

This is a wonderful guide for identifying and pricing old quilts and can be obtained through Maggi at:

And now for a plea. I’m currently putting together a new lecture called “Tradition with a Twist”. It will include vintage quilts and modern interpretations. I’ve been collecting the older quilts for a while and find there are still 2 patterns I don’t have. I’m looking for an old (30 years or older) Pineapple Log Cabin and a Burgoyne Surrounded. It you have either of these you would be willing to part with, please let me know and we can talk about it :-). Thanks!

PS I had a wonderful visit with my daughter and grandkids in Washington. I can’t resist sharing a few pictures. Here is Rainee Lynn at 2 weeks old:

and her sister and brother, Hanna and Willy:

Short Intermission!

Thanks for stopping by my blog this week. I will not be doing a quilting post as my daughter in Washington just had a little girl and I’m heading west to do a lot of hugging. I’ll be posting something quilty next week (and maybe a picture or 2 of Rainee Lynn- she and cousin Sommer are only 3 months apart :-)).


June 29, 2012, Uncategorized
Creativity Showcase

As I’ve stated before, I love all aspects of quilting. From the antique bed covers that kept our ancestors warm, to traditional versions of those designs right up to modern or artsy projects, I’m always on the lookout for new and fun ideas in the quilt world.

A few months ago I received an interesting email from Joanne Grimes. She is a self taught quilter with a very unique approach to quiltmaking. She purchases her fabric at thrift stores (this includes all sorts of garments and the fiber content is unimportant). She then creates her own designs from the inside out, using her own common sense, color sense and piecing techniques. Here are two of her quilts:

I think the intricacy of her designs is truly amazing and I told her so. She then sent me a picture of her most recent work in progress:

 Here’s what she said about it:

“I just finished the piecing part. I stopped counting pieces after the total of the stars went over a 1000 pieces.Thrift store for the fabric which includes a Packer t-shirt, some hospital scrubs, skirts, shorts,  shirts, pants and other t-shirts, but I did have the colors mostly decided before I went shopping.”

AMAZING! Atta girl Joanne. Keep innovating and thanks for the pictures.

I also want to share a quilt begun by Barb Setzer in a recent Compass Capers class I taught at Ben Franklin in Oconomowoc. She took the round class project to a whole new level and just sent me a picture of her compass creation. I so enjoy sharing what others are doing with my technique :-):

She never put the 4 quarters of that compass together, but instead she made 4 additional oval compasses and used the original quarters at the sides. Very creative! The class was last month and it’s quilted and bound! Quite impressive.

Thanks Barb and Joanne!

PS you may email Joanne at:

Quilters are Ubiquitous

U-biq-ui-tous (adjective) – existing or being everywhere.

As many of you know, our upcoming Sew We Go adventure will be to Italy in October. We’ve been searching for quilty things to do while we’re there and Wendy suggested checking out Quilting Bloggers to find Italian quilters. I thought it was a wonderful idea. There were 62 Italian quilt blogs listed so I decided to surf through them and glean the ones that would be of the most interest to our travelers. Here’s the best part of the story:

After going through 6 pages of potential blogs for our list I was getting a little punchy and just randomly picked one on the last page. It was This quilter’s name is Rossana, her blog is in English and 3 posts in I discovered that her daughter, Anna, is going to be a foreign exchange student this August in Waukesha, WI.  Wendy and I teach in Waukesha and a number of our travelers are part of the Crazy Quilter’s Guild which holds a quilt show in Mukwonago where Anna will be attending High School. I found this a pretty amazing coincidence :-) ! Rossana and I have been emailing back and forth ever since and I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to meet at some point.

So, if you’re planning a trip to another State or another Country, you might just want to go to Quilting and check out what the quilters are doing and saying in that area. You never know what might come of it!

Oldies But Goodies 2

As promised in my last post, here are a few more links to past posts.

I had the delightful opportunity to lecture and teach for 2 guilds in Illinois this past week and I promised the students I’d share the link to a recent post on my Quilt Float system for free motion quilting. It’s done in 2 parts: supplies and set up.



July 18, 2011 – Making a Quilt Sandwich – Another older blog that many quilters seemed to find helpful contained step by step directions for basting the layers of a large quilt together. My frame is made from simple materials, sets up wherever there’s room (garage, outside, ???) and will get you off your knees!



January 9 and 16, 2011 were a pair of posts about reorganizing my studio. I came up with some storage strategies you might find helpful. Part 1 was called Housekeeping and Part 2 was called Project Creep.




Oldies But Goodies

I just realized that I began blogging 2 years ago! The time has flown by. Since the beginning I’ve covered a lot of topics. There were quite a few that received great feedback and I got to thinking that some of you who joined my list recently may never have read about these topics, while others may want to refer back to some of that information. Navigating to just the topic you’re looking for might be a challenge, especially since my blog address has changed, so here’s a list of some of those lessons along with a link to get there. Just click on the colored words and the magic of the internet will take you to just the right spot – and in a new tab so you can get back to this post easily. Isn’t technology amazing?!?



June 2, 2010 my initial topic was about Stash Storage and showed what works for me.




June 23, 2010 was about Photographing Quilts with a simple “point and shoot” camera.



September 20, 2010 was entitled Which Rulers Rule. I gave my opinions and there were many other ideas in the comments section.



January 2, 2011 – for a good laugh you need to go to this post! It was entitled Pucker Less and in it I shared my favorite tip for avoiding puckers when you’re machine quilting with feed dogs. It was written in 2 parts the first was the chuckle and the second,  Pucker Less II , had my favorite tip with pictures. Please be sure to visit both.


April 17, 2011 was entitled A Pressing Issue and in it I shared a simple way to accurately press seams.




There were a few more I’d like to revisit, but I think this will keep you busy enough for this week. Next week I’ll provide links for a couple more of my favorites.

Your feedback is very helpful to me. Is there a past post that was particularly interesting to you. If so, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks!



June 10, 2012, Computers and Quilting
And the Capers Continue

I recently received an email from Cindy Frese and here’s what she had to say:

“Hi Chris, I was searching for patterns to piece flowers for the border of a quilt I’m currently working on. I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for so I used your folding method from Compass Capers to create what I wanted. It worked great for all of them including the tulips. Thought I’d let you see how they turned out. Thanks, Cindy”.

Here’s the picture of her blocks:

My response to her email was: “WOW”! It is such a thrill for me as  a teacher to see students take something from my class and make it truly their own.

I asked her for a few more pictures to see what she was doing with the blocks. Within a day she had the blocks on the quilt and sent the pictures my way, saying that this is a queen size quilt and the blocks were meant to anchor each corner of the quilt because they looked a little plain. Here’s the whole quilt top:

And a close up of a corner:

A very clever border idea!

Another example of this was sent my way a few months ago by Michelle Costen.

This is a very creative piece. What a blessing it is to me to know that I played a part in these wonderful quilts. Praise the Lord – and thanks so much Cindy and Michelle.

When Wendy Rieves and I made our quilt, “Welcoming the Son Into Our Garden”, for the National Quilt Museum’s New Quilts From an Old Favorite contest, I wanted to piece a variety of “sunflowers” into the background to compliment her wonderful raw edge flowers. Some of the background “sunflowers” were made like traditional Dresden Plates, but others were compass variations – including the Sun!

If you have made a unique compass using my technique, please let me know…or better yet – email me a picture please :-).

If you would like to learn how to draft your own compass blocks, you may purchase my book, Compass Capers, by clicking on it in the sidebar at the right or email me at



June 3, 2012, Design Piecing
Sweet 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 27, 2012, free motion
Scraps, Value and “Beautiful Buts”

Thanks to everyone who responded to my survey about quilt classes a few weeks ago. It was interesting to see how many of you like scrap quilts and it got me thinking about a technique I developed for sorting my scraps by value. Value is the relative darkness/lightness of a fabric and it can make or break many quilt patterns. I came up with a value  sorting technique when I was making a quilt I called Almost Charming.

I had been in my guild’s 6″ square exchange and decided to use those squares  in the Friendship Star pattern and this ended up becoming a very popular class. A true charm quilt has only one piece of each fabric used. Because I cut each square into triangles, there are two pieces of each fabric and thus it is “Almost Charming”.

When sorting scraps for a quilt, some patterns require just lights and darks, with the mediums needing to be removed for the pattern to work. Other patterns need lights, darks and mediums, but if there isn’t a clear delineation between the values, the pattern can get lost. The Friendship Star uses darks in the stars, lights in the background (which becomes the diagonal lattice when the blocks are set together) and mediums in the remaining “on point squares at the corners of each 9 patch star block.

I grabbed a bunch of 6″ squares (even after making this quilt I still have a box full – I think they multiply in the dark like bunnies)

Step 1 – quickly and without any deep thinking, divide the fabrics into 2 piles: lights and darks (there are no wrong answers, so just do it)

2. Using the same quick method, take the dark pile and divide it into 2 piles: light and dark (remember value is relative to what’s being sorted)

3. Now do this for the original light pile.

4. Here’s the tricky part (remember not to overthink anything) – of the four piles before you, set the dark/darks and the light/lights aside. Now sort the medium/dark pile from step 2 into 2 piles: dark and light; and sort the medium/light pile from step 3 into 2 piles: dark and light. This will give you 4 medium piles.

5. By removing two of these piles there will be a definite difference between the darks, the mediums and the lights. The pile on the far left and the pile on the far right above need to be removed. The two center piles will be combined to form the “mediums”.

So here you have it all. The 3 piles along the bottom of the picture are the dark, medium and light piles. The 2 piles at the top of the picture are the ones set aside for use in a future quilt.

So what are “Beautiful Buts”?

I wish I remembered where I learned this expression, but the concept has stuck with me. There are some fabrics printed with an equal amount of dark and light in them. They are usually “beautiful – but” they are not dark, light or medium. They are Beautiful Buts and they often don’t work well in scrap quilts and will need to be set aside. Here are just a few:

I hope you found this helpful. Do you have any helpful tips for sorting by value?



May 20, 2012, Fabric
Evelyn’s Quilt

Evelyn finished her Window View Challenge quilt and it’s a delight! Last January I spent 2 weeks with her in Arizona and wrote a few posts from her lovely home. You may remember the story about storing her UFO’s in the bathtub??? If not, click here to read all about it. I slept on the day-bed in her studio and this is the view from her studio window. She sent this picture as her inspiration for the challenge:

And here’s the quilt that view inspired:

She said she challenged herself to play with some new techniques. The window is actually a wholecloth quilt with oodles of stitching. I was particularly intrigued by the attached sewing machine. Too clever! Thanks so much Evelyn for sharing your view and your quilt!

This got me to thinking about how photographs can inspire us. That train of thought led me to think about some photo play I’ve been doing lately. My friend Di invited me to join a photography blog she runs for a group of friends. The idea is to take a picture every day and strive to improve your camera skills. She posts a calendar each month with a theme for each day (yes, we try to post a photo a day!). I’m really enjoying the challenge and I feel my skills are improving. I’d like to share my three favorite photos from the past few months to see if they might inspire you to do a little photo play of your own.

The first one is a winter scene from the beginning of March. We had 2 geese take up residence in our pond.

As the snow began to melt, I got this up close shot of the ice melting on the creek.

This next one was taken more recently. Mike and I went for a canoe ride just before sunset and the temperatures dropped enough to cause a mist to rise off the water. It was beautiful!

I can’t resist just one more – my most recent picture of Sommer Elizabeth (Grandpa and I are not only surviving daycare, but loving it!).


Have you taken any shots you’d like to share? Please email them to me and I might just share them in a future post!

PS Just a note on our Sew We Go Italy adventure. We have 21 people signed up and one of our quilters is looking for a roommate to share the fun. If you were thinking about joining us, but didn’t have someone to travel with, please let me know.


May 13, 2012, Challenges Photography
A New Look For My Blog & a Quick Miter Tutorial

Welcome to my new blog look!

Diahann Lohr, of Adunate Word and Design, inspired me to create my blog over a year ago. I then hired her to design my website, now she has integrated the two. I’m thrilled and I hope you enjoy the change!

The address for my new blog is: It’s shorter and simpler than my previous blog address, and the good news is that if you usually access my site by clicking on the link in my emails, you can continue to get here the same way. Please feel free to offer feedback by clicking on the word “comment” at the end of this post.

This week’s topic is about my favorite way to miter a border. Once you have sewn on the border strips, stopping both seams 1/4″ away from the corner to be mitered, it’s as easy as:

1. Fold diagonally through the quilt while aligning the border strips on t0p of each other (right sides together), and lay a ruler along the fold with the 45° line along the stitching.

2. Draw along the edge of the ruler on the border strip, remove the ruler and pin.

3. Sew on the line!

I’ve been doing a bit of mitering lately because I was designing a new Attic Window project for a Summer class at WCTC in Waukesha. If you live in southeastern Wisconsin I’d love to have you sign up for a class or 2. Here are my upcoming Summer classes:

Attic Windows – Use this three-dimensional style block to showcase your favorite “too-beautiful-to-cut” fabrics. Learn how to make the windows different sizes to accommodate whatever you choose to set in them. It’s also a great pattern for setting a printed panel scene “through the window”, finishing up a collection of  embroidered blocks, or even showcasing leftover blocks from previous quilt projects. Thursday, July 12, 9 – 2:30.

Threaded Borders – In this advanced machine quilting class you’ll create delightful borders and illusions using only free motion quilting techniques and contrasting thread. This class is for those comfortable with free-motion quilting who want to advance their skills. Thursday, July 26, 9 – 2:30

Compass Capers – Using the steps from my new book, learn easy paper folding techniques to draft a Mariner’s compass block. Begin with a traditional round compass, then learn to create compasses of different shapes and sizes. From there, select a favorite design and and learn how to paper piece it. Thursday, June 21, 9 -2:30

Great Finishes – Bindings are nice, but there are so many exciting variations and options for finishing the edge of a quilt: piped, ric rac, bias, curved, couched, faced, and even continuous prairie points. Make samples of each in class to keep for future reference.

To register on line go to:; click on “Class Search”; check Summer semester and fill in “quilting” in the Course Title/Subject Box; Click “Submit” and all the summer quilt classes will appear. Then follow the site directions to register.

Quilting Fun in Paducah

Wendy and I have just returned from a wonderful time at the AQS show in Paducah, KY.

The quilts were amazing, the vendors exciting, and the weather beautiful with no floods in sight. I have a few thoughts, a great tip, and a good laugh I’d like to share.

We used to stay at the Executive Inn, but that is gone now and, after last year’s show Wendy and I decided we wanted to find a way to stay downtown once again (instead of at the Baymont by the Interstate). I did a bit of checking and we ended up at the 1857’s Bed &Breakfast on the second floor of a downtown building. It was delightful! Here’s our front door.

Our suite included a living room (which we turned into a quilt studio),

kitchen, sitting room and 2 bedrooms. All across the brick street from the Yeiser Art Gallery. What a blessing! We certainly had some fun nights of sewing here.

Hanging the show as part of the Prairie Heritage Quilters from Sun Prairie, WI, is always a joy. After the quilts were up we had the rest of the week to be inspired, shop, eat, take classes and………I was blessed with the opportunity to teach too!!! My first teaching assignment was to do a demonstration at the All Star Review on Tuesday afternoon. In the past the teachers each had a table and repeated their demo numerous times as the students moved from table to table. This year they had the teachers do their demo on a stage just once for everyone. This was especially nice for the teachers as we each got to see what the other was showing. The crowd seemed to really enjoy all the learning and after my time I was interviewed by a reporter from the Paducah Sun. It was so exciting to get the paper – complete with picture – ta da!

I hope you got as good a chuckle from it as I did. The camera that is filming my hands is not in the best of spots, but at least you can see Wendy’s face as she gracefully holds up a quilt :-).

So what was one of our favorite tips??? In a class Wendy took with Libby Lehman she learned that it is a good idea to begin attaching your binding at the top of a wallhanging because the bottom edge is usually closer to the viewer (or judge) and will be the area seen first. I’d never thought about it like that. Makes sense.

To see a You Tube video of the winning quilts go to:

The Quilt Show set up video is quite interesting also (with a cameo appearance by Wendy).

The AQS show in Paducah is my favorite show every year and if you haven’t been there I highly recommend putting it on your calendar for next year!

April 30, 2012, Uncategorized
My View Quilt

Greetings from Paducah! Wendy and I arrived this evening and we’ll be helping to  hang the show tomorrow. God is good :-)!

I decided I needed to do a bit of follow up on my window view challenge. I haven’t received any pictures of quilts from those who sent me view pictures, but I did get my snowman quilt done. We haven’t had a flake of snow since 3 days after this picture was taken.

So, I decided I’d better share it now before summer is upon us.

I decided to try a number of new techniques. To begin with I chose a vintage damask napkin for the background with the idea of creating the scene as a wholecloth on it.

Step 1 – I reversed the image on the computer and then enlarged it on the computer using the instructions in my May 23rd post.

Step 2 – I ironed Decorbond ™ stabilizer to the back of the napkin and pinned the enlarged picture to the center of the stabilizer.

Step 3 – On the paper pattern side I free motion stitched around all the trees, the snowman and the snow drifts using bobbin thread to match each area.

Step 4 – I turned to the napkin side and colored in the trees and shadows with watercolor pencils. Then I took a damp q-tip and blended the colors.

Step 5 – I thread painted everything from the napkin side (this is how the paper side looked after the thread painting).

Step 6 – I removed all the paper and layered the napkin with batting and backing.

Step 7 – I quilted around the main objects and the border (frame of the picture) and then bound the edges.

Step 8 – I couched yarn over the picture frame and inside the binding

and Voila! A fun experiment and a unique quilt!

Stay tuned – next week I’ll bring you the inside scoop on Paducah!

April 22, 2012, Challenges Design
Compass Capers

I’d like to send a big thank-you to everyone who commented on last week’s blog post with opinions on classes. I was very pleased with all the suggestions and will really take them into consideration when planning new projects!

Now for my exciting news:

Compass Capers – Create Your Own Unique Mariner’s Compass Quilt is now in print and available on my website!!!

Thanks to all who sent suggestions for the book name or voted for their favorite in the previous post. This title was the winner that made the front cover with a good majority of the votes:

Compass Capers - Create Your Own Unique Mariner's Compass Quilt

The runner up book name was one of my husband’s suggestions and it made the back cover:

Compass Capers book, back cover

Inside you’ll find instructions for drafting compasses any shape or any size. It’s not difficult because it’s done with paper folding techniques and there are pictures every step of the way. Then learn to paper piece your creation with clear step by step instructions and loads of pictures once again.

There are also photographs of many of the Mariner’s Compass quilts I’ve created over the years.

Most Mariner’s Compass books limit the pattern options. Compass Capers is different. By letting you decide on the shape and size of your blocks, the pattern options are endless. Your imagination is your only limitation!

To order your own autographed copy, click here!

April 15, 2012, Inspiration Piecing
What’s Your Opinion?

In teaching at WCTC, I’m always interested in which classes are popular and why. I enjoy all aspects of quilting and especially like to teach new twists on traditional patterns.

One thing I’ve noticed is that if a class includes “log cabin”, in just about any form, it will fill quickly. I guess we all love that traditional standard.

I tend to prefer teaching technique classes rather than specific projects, but I’m really interested in your feedback. What are you looking for in a class:

Traditional patterns?

Variations on traditional?

New techniques?


Sampler blocks?



Fiber Art and exploring creativity?

Modern Quilts?


Machine Quilting?

Do you like to be challenged to try something new?

Is there a pattern or technique you’ve wanted to learn in a class, but haven’t found it available?

I really appreciate your opinions and feedback.

Now for a little housekeeping:

My website is under construction and should be up and running again very soon. If you tried visiting it for information on our Sew We Go to Italy adventure, I have all the details on a page on this blog. Click here to read all about it!

The deadline for our window view challenge is coming soon (April 15th). I need to get myself motivated back into it and thought some of you might need a reminder too :-)!

And, just in case you were hoping for a new picture of Grandma and Sommer, here it is:

Thanks in advance for your quilt class opinions!

April 8, 2012, Challenges Inspiration
Quilt Floating 2

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quilt Floating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week we’ll put it all together!

Window View Challenge Deadline Extension!

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

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

Welcome Sommer!

Last week’s “snowman in the window” picture is but a chilly memory, considering we’ve had temperatures in the 70’s here for over a week. That is not just odd – it’s unbelievable for March in Wisconsin. Many are speculating as to the reason, but I have my own theory – my granddaughter was born this past Monday and her name is Sommer Elizabeth. So Sommer is here  :-)!

6 lbs 15 oz and 21″ long, with lots of dark hair ……. we’re all thrilled! Thanks for letting me share our joy.

So what does the view from my window look like today?

Quite a change, but I am still excited about making a small quilt from the picture with the snowman. I’m thinking of thread painting the entire scene on a vintage white damask napkin. I’ve never thread painted an entire scene and I think it will be quite challenging. I think this challenge should be  about trying something new.

A number of you responded to the challenge, and  so far 3 have sent me pictures which have been posted to the Window View Challenge page on this blog. Click here to see them.

I’m looking forward to  receiving more pictures and there is still time to get in on the fun. The quilts can be any size, from  a post card on up.  The prize will be an autographed copy of my new book: Compass Capers (which should be available for purchase through my website very, very soon). So send me a picture of your view at, and join in on the challenging fun!


March 18, 2012, Challenges
Are You In?

The weather in Wisconsin has been unique this year. A week ago Friday we had a very wet snowstorm that left 8″ of beauty all over the woods. After clearing the driveway Mike invited me out to build a snowman. It was dusk and the scene was lovely!

By Sunday the temps were heading up into the 60’s and I discovered snowmen can’t do backbends.




So what does this have to do with quilting? Well, this was the view I enjoyed through the window above my sewing machine while quilting on Saturday.

I had an overwhelming urge to create a quilt about it. Then I got to thinking that many of you probably have inspiring views from windows in your home too. This led to the idea of holding my first blog challenge! I hope many of you are up for this. It’s quite simple.

1. Email a picture of your view to me at: by next Sunday, March 18th.

2. I’ll post them to a “Challenging Views” page on this blog for all to see.

3. Then make a quilt inspired by your view, any size, any shape, any technique (small is good). You could repliqué the picture, but there are many other ways to be inspired by it: create a traditional pieced pattern using the colors of your picture, pick any item in the photo as a theme for your quilt or ……..any other direction you care to go.

4. Send me a picture of your finished small quilt by April 1, 2012 to be posted on the blog (that’s the deadline – its not a lot of time, but the project is small – and you’d just put it off until the week before anyways :-).

5. The following week’s blog we’ll have a viewers choice vote and the winner will get a wonderful prize!

Here’s a sample to get you started thinking. This is much more involved than our simple challenge, but it is the only other time a window view has been my inspiration.

When we lived in Sun Prairie my husband and kids built me a wonderful “aviary” post with bird houses and feeders hanging from it.

It stood outside my kitchen window and I delighted in watching the birds each morning. When we had to move I couldn’t take the post with me, so I made this quilt which was inspired by it.

Perhaps you’ll think of this as a chance to try a new technique or just play with fabric. I can’t wait to see what you come up with :-)!

March 11, 2012, Challenges Inspiration
Friendship, Travel and Autograph Quilts

Quilting friends are the greatest and traveling with quilting friends is an absolute joy! When Wendy and I lead our Sew We Go adventures we always have a “pre-trip” project and a “take along” project. The pre-trip projects for the past 5 tours have included autograph blocks that we exchange while traveling. They’re a wonderful way to preserve memories just like the Album Quilts our grandmothers used to make.

Each trip we choose a block and all those who desire to participate make enough blocks to exchange, as well as enough extra blocks to complete the chosen pattern.

Our Danube Cruise block was paper pieced in shades of blue and green to evoke memories of gentle waves. 

This type of piecing guarantees all the blocks will fit together .

On our Holland Cruise we had everyone make “flying geese” that could be put together into a Dutchman’s Puzzle block.

I also had my geese fly between the other portions of my quilt.

While floating through the south of France we exchanged Indian Hatchet blocks (that’s the block’s name, I didn’t make it up).

I chose to make my blocks into a tote bag.

The Irish Chain pattern was an obvious choice for our trip to Ireland. There are 2 blocks in this quilt: each quilter made checkerboard blocks and background blocks out of batiks and we signed and exchanged only the background blocks.

This is such a lovely pattern!

Wendy and I are so excited about our next Sew We Go adventure. We’ll be traveling through Italy this coming October and here’s a preview of the design for our Tuscan Sun friendship quilt. We’ll sign the middle rails in the rail fence blocks:

Rome, Sienna, Florence, the Vatican!

Art, Sights, Food, Wine!

It promises to be a wonderful trip and there are still a few spaces available. Click here for all the information!

Do you have any special autograph quilts? Please send pictures to my email,, and I’ll post them in a future blog!

March 4, 2012, Piecing Travel
Simply Dynamic

Here’s an easy way to have a little design fun. Choose a simple 6″ block that has a strong diagonal, and make it in 2 high contrast fabrics. The possibilities will be even greater if you make positive and negative versions of the block. These are the 2 blocks I started with:

I made 24 blocks – 12 light and 12 dark.
Now the fun begins. Let’s start with the blocks set side by side and in the same orientation. I’ve put all the darker blocks in the arrangement on the left and all the lighter ones on the right.
Sweet, but not very exciting. Let’s try alternating the dark and light blocks while still keeping them in the same orientation:
Now we’re getting somewhere….but what if we divided the darks and lights up once again and butted the 2 halves together….while turning every other block?
Now let’s go a bit crazy!
At this point I think I need to double the number of blocks and try playing a little more with the symmetry:
That’s my favorite so far! Here are a few more I came up with:
Sew many options!
To help in my decision making I took a picture each time I tried something new and then pasted them onto a page on my computer screen to compare them all and glean out the best (I didn’t show the klinkers :-). That’s where I got the idea for this post.
Any block with a strong diagonal can be played with in a similar fashion. Have you used similar blocks in a unique set? If so, please send pictures!

February 26, 2012, Design Piecing
Oh No – No Snow!

I received a number of responses to last week’s post from readers in areas where there is no snow. Then I ran into a friend locally who had the same concern and I realized the problem … I live in the woods and, even though we’ve had a mild, warm, low-snow winter for Wisconsin – our trees are keeping me in plenty of snow to snow dye. I guess I hadn’t really noticed the lack of snow all around (duh). Here’s the current view from our deck:

This is the field across the road and my friend (and website designer) Di’s beautiful farm:

It’s hard to believe the contrast.

If you have no snow, do not despair. There is such a thing as “Freeze Dyeing”. Just go to the Milwaukee Art Quilters blog: and scroll down to the directions in the September 25th post.

Just in case you’re dyeing to see the results from last week’s adventure – here are the burp cloths:

Plus Daddy and Mommy’s shirts and baby-to-be’s onesies and bibs:

The tie dyeing was a hit and the results were such fun!

Now I’d like to share my snow dyeing saga and what I learned along the way.

1. I waited until the snow was almost completely melted:

2. I dumped the bins onto the snowy yard:

3. I removed the bins:

4. and hung everything to drip and dry in the warm shed:

5. Then it was off to the laundromat for 2 cold water washes (with Color Catchers™ to absorb the excess dye) and a ride in the dryer.

And here’s the snow dyed results:

I was really quite pleased, but I didn’t like the way the fabric sat in the “muddy” water at the bottom of the bin while the snow melted. Thanks to Johanna for her comment about elevating the fabric with an old oven rack or cookie rack. Other suggestions were inverted deli containers along the bottom of the bin or even leftover chunks of pvc pipe.

I’m anxious to try this out on some of the leftover hunks of light value fabric in my stash. New life for old fabric! But I’d better get at it before the snow’s all gone!

February 19, 2012, Color Dyeing
Tie Dye Baby

Today I threw a baby shower with a twist for my daughter-in-law Betsy: she invited her girlfriends and we tie-dyed onesies, bibs and burp cloths. We even did t-shirts for Daddy and Mommy. What a blast!

The original idea came from Kathie Boucher with inspiration from Laura Krasinski (both friends from the Milwaukee Art Quilters). I purchased tie-dye kits from Joann Fabrics. Grandpa Mike was kind enough to make room in his barn. We covered the floor and tables with plastic and then the fun began.

Above center is Betsy and my granddaughter to be 🙂

Artists come in all sizes.

The girls did a great job, but they didn’t get to see the finished product yet (it’s all still damp and under plastic).

After everyone left I decided it was time to try my hand at snow dyeing. So I mixed up a few new bottles of dye, removed my old, stained sweatshirt, grabbed a few pair of bamboo socks for the grandkids in Washington State and phase II began.

1.   I misted everything with water and bunched it in the bottom of 2 bins.

2.  Grandpa shoveled the bins full of snow.

3.  I patted down the snow and “made snow cones” (Annabelle is watching and wondering what I’m doing).

Theoretically the dye melts into the fabric and wonderful designs occur. So here’s the before:

Next week I’ll post the pictures of all the “afters”!

Have you had any group dyeing adventures?

February 12, 2012, Color Dyeing

I returned home from Arizona last Monday night and Tuesday the sun shone bright and it reached 47 degrees. Unusual temperatures for Wisconsin in winter – and I’m not complaining!

So, what’s the “WOW” for? Well, “Walls of Wittenberg” of course.  Wittenberg is a lovely, small town in north/central Wisconsin.

Due to my friend Laura Krasinski’s kind suggestion, I was invited to present my “Challenged Mind” program there this past Saturday in conjunction with a quilt show that is going on at the WOWSPACE Gallery.

Not only was I able to share my quilts and their stories with a lovely group, but seeing the Gallery exhibit was a special treat!

From the tin ceiling to the stain glass windows, it is a delightful space for an exhibit of quilts and Fiber Art!

The Best of Show winning quilt was  made by another dear friend, Sharon Rotz (please enjoy the pic of Sharon and her quilt and disregard the beautiful, bright sunshine coming in the window).

Sharon was kind enough to hold up quilts during the talk (and then invite me for a slumber party at her home that night).

After enjoying the quilts we drove around and took in the amazing murals that are painted on many of the buildings in town:

I just had to share a few of my favorites. This fascinating, 3-D mural is on the back of the WOWSPACE Gallery (I think it was my favorite):

With just a 1/4 turn to my left I was able to catch this photo of the back of the bowling alley (quite an interesting shot with the evergreen trees and remaining snow).

Then there was the grocery store:

The Post Office:


and the Middle School:

Many thanks to Susan Hanson and Miriam Nelson (and Elaine too) for all their efforts concerning the exhibit and the presentation.

The quilt show will be hanging for one more week and the murals are always there :-). If you live far from Wittenberg, I hope you enjoyed this short photo-journey and if you live close enough to make a visit, I know you will not be disappointed.

February 6, 2012, Travel
A Touch of Paintstiks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

crescent moon / brushed over / brushed from paper

Here’s the results with the paper removed:

crescent moon / brushed over / brushed from paper

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

and decided the small, speckled pattern worked best.

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

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

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

PS Thanks for everything Evelyn!

January 30, 2012, Challenges Embellishing Notions
Ola from Arizona!

Greetings from warm and sunny Mesa! My dear friend Evelyn Link invited me down south to enjoy the weather, see the sights, spend time with friends, visit quilt shows and shops and do a bit of teaching too. What a blessing!

The past week has been a whirlwind. Joan and Patty (from Wisconsin) and  Evelyn’s sister Hazel all jumped into the car with E and I and headed to Tucson. Our first stop was the Mission San Xavier del Bac.

 I’ve never seen so many cacti and Quiltina had her picture taken with just about every one.

From there we went to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum where we saw even more cacti, plus birds, animals and beautiful scenery.

The Tucson Quilt Fiesta was a wonderful show and the quilts were great! We even found time to do a bit of shopping.

Now we’re back in the Phoenix area and I’ve had the opportunity to meet with a number of quilting groups – dear friends and inspiring show and tell. I was  even invited to present a trunk show for E’s art quilt group – the Mavericks! Their show and tell was incredible.

Evelyn is a fantastic quilter and I’m quite sure you’ll find her studio and stash amazing and inspiring.  So here are a few pictures. The first is of my bedroom. It is the master bedroom and happens to be her studio. It’s almost difficult to fall asleep with all the quilterly fun surrounding me. 

The master closet contains her stash

and the tub is where she keeps her UFO’s!

Considering I like to read in the tub at night, this was a bit disconcerting. Fortunately she has a tub in the second bath too.

For the past week E, Joan and I have had a great time being roommates. Joan will be returning to Wisconsin on Tuesday, but I get to stay for Quilting in the Desert and a lot of other fun adventures. My husband says it’s been snowing back home, so I’m REALLY enjoying every moment.

Sew where do you keep your UFO’s?

January 23, 2012, Inspiration Travel
Word Quilts

Last week I posted about free motion quilting around appliqués and this week I’d like to tell you about that quilt. My niece Kaitlin was married on December 30 and back in November my Mom and I had a shower for her. While planning the event Mom mentioned that it would be nice to hang a banner from the loft (we live in a log home and our bedroom overlooks the living room). I thought about printing one on paper, but then inspiration hit ….

I appliquéd each letter of Kaitlin and Marty’s names on a quilt block, using my Repliqué technique (from my second book: Snuggle & Learn Quilts for Kids), and hung them from a clothesline.

Then I made those blocks into a cuddly lap quilt as my wedding gift to them!

So here’s the beautiful new couple:

And here’s the quilt:

It was an enjoyable project and I even found matching flannel for the back!

Waukesha County Technical College – Quilting Classes

The new semester is just underway and I wanted to mention a few of my upcoming classes (Wendy is teaching some great classes too and all the information can be found at ; click on class search; scroll down and type “quilting” in the “Course Title/Subject” box and click on submit)

My “Open Lab” classes are a great place to get quilts finished while spending time with a wonderful group of quilters on Thursday afternoon. There are three sessions this semester and each one is four weeks long.

I’m also offering these one day workshops:

Fabric Silhouettes 

Saturday, Feb. 11

Learn to create silhouettes in fabric with this fun, free motion satin stitch technique. The class project will be a floral design, but we’ll also discuss how any picture – a grandchild at play, a friend’s profile, a cherished pet, etc. — could be created using this simple technique.

Irish Chain – Friday, Feb. 24

Create a charming, traditional double Irish Chain quilt, with simple strip piecing techniques, in plenty of time for St. Patrick’s Day!

Simply Dynamic – Saturday, March 10

By using just two different fabrics and a simple block, create an amazing variety of quilt designs. The only challenge is deciding which arrangement is your favorite! This course is designed for quilters of all levels.

Beyond Meandering Friday, April 13 Students will learn spirals, leaves, stars, snowflakes and so much more! Make quilting the quilt as much fun as stitching the top. Bring along a quilt top and we’ll brainstorm how to quilt it.

January 16, 2012, Appliqué Inspiration
Good Poof

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

January 8, 2012, free motion
Leftovers Revisited

After the previous “Leftovers” post I received an email from Lucy Zeldenrust. Lucy is from Manitowoc, WI and she shared another great idea for using those coordinated leftovers:

Here is what I do with leftovers…after I have ‘overcut’ , I can sometimes get a small lap quilt or crib quilt out of the pieces, possibly with the additions of another fabric.  My favorite, however, is to put the leftover bits, pieces, strips and small amount of fabric from a project into a zip lock bag, and put them into my “leftover box”  When the church, senior center, Nature center, etc. need something for a raffle, it is a pretty quick job to whip out a pillow or two or three from these already matched/coordinated  pieces.  I’m attaching 2 photos of the front and back  of a ‘leftover’ pillow. (I make and quilt two small “quilts” then sew them together to form  the pillow )  I have even occasionally handed them out to my small quilt group (where we do whatever the monthly hostess passes out) and asked them to make a 14 or 16″ square from them(adding whatever they wish) for a future pillow.  Got some interesting and (mostly ) attractive results.

This was just so clever, I had to share it.  Thanks Lucy!

So, how do you use up your leftovers?

Merry Christmas!

I’ve decided to take a short “blog break” during this beautiful season. There is so much to keep me busy while celebrating the birth of the Savior and I know you are all busy too. So, I’ll get right back at it after January 1st. I wish you all a blessed Christmas, Chris

December 11, 2011, Inspiration Piecing
Quilt Exhibit

I am very pleased to announce a quilt exhibit entitled “New Quilts From Old Favorites” is currently hanging at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square in Madison, WI. These quilts are innovative interpretations of a number of traditional blocks. Some of the quilts were made in collaboration with my dear friends Sharon Rotz and Wendy Rieves and others are my own. Samples of the traditional pattern of each are also included in the display.

Welcoming the Son Into Our Garden by Wendy Rieves and Chris Lynn Kirsch

Tumbles the Cat by Sharon Rotz and Chris Lynn Kirsch









This wonderful opportunity came to be because my friend Evelyn Link’s daughter, Gwendolyn Rice, is having the premiere of her play “A Thousand Words” preformed by the Forward Theater Company in Madison. She had the idea of involving a variety of artists in a number of unique exhibits to coincide with the play’s grand opening. I have also been invited to do a lecture at the museum on January 14th. I’m so grateful to have Gwen include me in this exciting collaboration and am including the press release so you can read all about it!

The Art of A Thousand Words –Photos and Fiber Art Inspired by Forward Theater’s World Premiere Play

Madison, WI — Forward Theater Company has partnered with artists throughout Dane County to present a series of art exhibits complementing the world premiere of the play A Thousand Words, by local playwright Gwendolyn Rice. The play, which will be presented in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center, January 19 – February 5, 2012, focuses on many types of art – from the stunning black and white photography of Walker Evans, to crude patchwork quilts from Kansas. It also poignantly explores the relationship between art and commerce, the power of photography, the role of museums in marketing and discovering artists, and the search for authenticity on both personal and artistic levels.

To engage in a broader conversation around these themes, FTC, in close collaboration with David Wells and the Terry Family Foundation, assembled several mixed media exhibits created by local artists, including professional photographers and quilters, and members of the Center for Photography in Madison, the Mad City Quilt Guild, and the Madison Contemporary Fiber Artists.

Author Gwendolyn Rice originally conceived the play A Thousand Words after reading a small article in the newspaper about the discovery of photos in a Key West, Florida, bar. The owner had stumbled upon a treasure trove of books, fishing gear, and personal effects from one of the bar’s most famous patrons – Ernest Hemingway. Among these items were a collection of black and white photos taken by Walker Evans. Rice stated, “This story fascinated me. Unfamiliar with the photographer or his work, I started researching Evans and studying his photos. He eventually became a main character in the play.”

When the play was added to Forward Theater’s third season, the staff began to think about ways to engage additional audiences and artists through visual art. “To me, this project is all about collaboration and being inspired to create something new,” said Jennifer Uphoff Gray, artistic director for Forward Theater Company, and the director of A Thousand Words, a co-production mounted by FTC and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. “Since the genesis of this play was a set of photographs, and evocative, compelling photos and quilts are explicitly discussed in the play, it seemed natural to involve artisans in those media. It’s been an amazing cross-pollination among artists.”

Rice concurred, saying “It’s really interesting to see how creative people in other fields interpret the images that led me to write A Thousand Words. It is my hope that the play – and the exhibits ‑ will encourage viewers to think about the nature of authenticity, the process of art creation, and the power of words and images.”

The collection of photos, quilts, embroidery, weaving, and fabric collages will be on display at several galleries in Madison, through March, 2012. In addition to these exhibits, the Wisconsin Historical Society will host two lectures complementing themes in the play, discussing antique and modern quilts. They will also display a group of original works by noted quilt artist and educator Chris Lynn Kirsch.

October 14, 2011

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Gallery Night, Orange Cone Studios presents Nick Berard’s black and white photos, inspired by the work of Walker Evans.

October 10 – December 1, 2011

Sundance Cinemas Gallery, 430 North Midvale Blvd, in Hilldale Mall
Photos and fiber art, inspired by the work of Walker Evans. Opening reception November 10, 5:30pm – 7:30pm

December 3, 2011 – January 14, 2012

Wisconsin Historical Society,816 State Street

New Quilts from Old Favorites Exhibit – Quilts by Chris Lynn Kirsch that re-imagine traditional patterns such as Mariner’s Compass, Dresden Plate, Sunflower, and Monkey Wrench.

December 8, 2011 – January 25, 2012

UW Madison Continuing Studies Building, 21 North Park St., 7th floor. A collection of black and white photos, inspired by the work of Walker Evans.

December 10, 2011    1:00 – 2:30 pm

Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State Street – Trends in American Quilting with Curator Leslie Bellais; Why did quilting become so popular in America when it languished inEurope?  Why were there powerful national quilting trends, rather than a myriad of regional styles in the history of American quilting?  These are questions Leslie Bellais, Curator of Costume & Textiles at the Wisconsin Historical Society, will address in her presentation on the history of American quilting from the 1770s to the 1970s, with an emphasis on works of the Depression era.  Her talk will be illustrated with images of quilts from the Society’s collection. Suggested donation of $5 per person. Call 264-6555, email, or visit to reserve your space.

December 19, 2011 – March 4, 2012

Overture Gallery II, 201 State Street, 2nd floor. Photos and fiber art in the style of Walker Evans, inspired by the play A Thousand Words. Opening reception January 13, 6pm – 8pm

January 13 – March 4, 2012

Overture Hall Playhouse Gallery,201 State Street, lower level. Mini quilts by the Mad City Quilt Guild, inspired by the play and the theme “A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words.” Opening reception January 13, 6pm – 8pm

January 14, 2012       1:00 – 2:30 pm

Wisconsin Historical Society – Contemporary Takes on Classic Patterns: A Talk with Quilter Chris Lynn Kirsch

Quilter, teacher, and author Chris Lynn Kirsch will discuss her original work in the exhibit New Quilts from Old Favorites. Hear Kirsch explain how the love for historic quilting patterns inspired her creation of vibrant, artful, decidedly modern quilts. Local playwright Gwendolyn Rice will also be on-hand to discuss her play A Thousand Words, which features antique quilts and forgotten women fiber artists in its plot. Cost to attend is $10 per person. Register by Monday, January 9th.  Call 264-6555, email, or visit to reserve your space.

A Thousand Words
For information about the play A Thousand Words, please visit To buy tickets ($35-$37 for adults, $30-$32 for seniors 62+, and $25-$27 for students) please visit or call (608) 258-4141.

A Thousand Words and the play’s complementary art exhibits are generously sponsored by the Madison Arts Commission (with funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board), Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, the John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation, Qual Line Fence, and Wegner CPAs & Consultants. Special thanks to David Wells and the Terry Family Foundation.

Forward Theater season sponsors include the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Distillery Marketing, The Gialamas Company, Isthmus, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Madison Concourse Hotel, and the Pleasant Rowland Great Performance Fund for Theater, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation. 

About Forward Theater Company

Founded in 2009, the mission of FTC is: to create a home base for Wisconsin theater professionals that will expand the economic and cultural life of the greater Madison area.

December 4, 2011, Travel

I’d like to offer a huge “Thank You” to everyone who responded with votes and opinions for my Mariner’s Compass book title dilemma. I was impressed with all the creativity and I must admit the one that made me laugh out loud was “Origama-mama, Folding Your Way to a Mariner’s Compass”. I’ve made my decision, but you’ll have to wait until the book comes out to see which ones will be used :-)!

That being said, let’s get to this week’s topic: Leftovers!

Isn’t it more fun, when a project is completed, to start something new rather than clean up the leftovers? I think this is one of the reasons my studio gets so cluttered …… small, leftover project piles everywhere. Ugh!

When I do finally decide to clean it all up, there are always chunks and strips of coordinating stuff that I don’t know what to do with. If there are just a few portions of a few strips, I shove them into my  “light” and “dark” scrap bags, but sometimes I really overcut and, since I put a lot of effort into coordinating the fabrics, I hate to randomly throw them into the bags. So the piles sit.

Wait until you see what I came up with :-)!

There’s a new “Jelly Roll” technique making the rounds that is a lot of fun. The idea is to sew all the strips in the roll end to end until you have a verrrrrry long strip. Then you grab both ends of this long strip and begin to sew it together lengthwise until you meet at center. Cut the fold so the unit is half the length and double the width. Continue halving the unit in this manner until you have a strippy, scrappy quilt the size you want (this will really depend on how many strips you started with).

I decided to try this new technique on a pile from a bargello quilt I made a few years back. Those strips have been sitting out ever since – probably feeling very unloved and unwanted.

Sew, I laid out the leftover strips in value order. Then, before sewing them end to end, I realized I could take the leftover stripped units from the project and cut them into the same size strips

 and put them in the mix.

Once that was done I sewed them all end to end and the fun began!

I now have a lovely lap quilt, ready for borders and quilting, and no leftover strips! Hooray!!

November 27, 2011, Piecing UFO
Opinions Please!

I’m currently in the throes of writing my third book. This one will be similar to the others in that it’s based on a class I’ve taught many times and students have asked for it in book form. It will differ from the others in that I’m going the route of self-publishing. I’m very blessed in that my daughter-in-law, Betsy, is a talented graphic designer and we’re finding we make a great team.

We’ve reached the point of editing and I’m having a difficult time deciding on a title for the book. While riding in the car the other day I asked my husband to help me do a little brainstorming and he gave me a few good chuckles. Instead of helping me narrow down the options, he just gave me more. So, I thought I would get some feedback from quilters this time.

As many of you know, my technique differs from most of the other books out there in that the drafting is done using only a pencil, ruler and paper folding techniques. Because of this compasses can be made any size and any shape. They can then be accurately paper pieced.

With the other books on the market, the pattern you see is all you get, so there’s no opportunity for creativity.

So…. how do I get this difference across on the cover of the book? That’s where you come in. The following are the titles that have made the cut so far (in no particular order). Please read them over and let me know which one appeals to you. Thanks in advance :-)!

Compass Creations

Compass Capers

Not Your Mama’s Compass (this was one of Mike’s)

Create a Compass Your Way

Journey With a Compass

May the Compass Be With You (Mike’s favorite!)

Compass Capers – Create Your Own Unique Mariner’s Compass Block

Finding Your Way With a Compass  – Who Needs a GPS?

Getting Lost With a Compass (another of Mike’s)


November 20, 2011, Uncategorized
Magic Box

There are many options for storing finished quilts. Wallhangings which contain fusibles can be particularily difficult because folding can leave virtually permanent creases. When I was blessed with the opportunity to have my new studio built, I wanted to come up with a workable solution that wouldn’t take up a lot of space. After a bit of brainstorming my husband came up with the winning idea – the Magic Box! Think “Murphy Bed” hidden behind the design wall.

If you’ve been reading my blogs from the beginning, you may remember an early post about photographing quilts on June 23, 2010. In it I explained that my design wall is portable so I can take it outside for photography. This also frees up that wall space for the Magic Box (this is a narrow side view of design wall/magic box/wall).

The Magic Box is 6′ square and 7″ deep. Here’s how it works. When it is closed two large hooks on both sides at the top, hold the box against the wall. The bottom is held along the wall by a continuous hinge that isn’t visable. The design walls (2 large sheets of styrofoam covered with fabric) lean against it.

To lower the Magic Box I lean one design wall against the actual wall and perpendicular to it, on the right.

The other design wall leans against the closets to the left (and off the picture). Now the Magic Box is exposed and ready to be lowered.

To lower the Magic Box, I unhook the upper corners and let it down slowly until it rests on the floor.

My handy husband added the weights (pvc pipe filled with concrete and covered with free-motion quilting samples :-), ropes and eye bolts to make it easier to raise and lower.

The quilts are secured between two pairs of 1″ x 4″ boards, covered with batting. One pair is at the top of the box and the other half way down. One board of each pair is secured to the back of the box and has a large bolt sticking out at each end. Once the quilts are layered in the box, the other boards are placed over the bolts and screwed semi-tight with “handle-nuts”.

I can now unscrew the handles, remove the top boards, retrieve or add quilts, reattach the boards and then hook the Magic Box back into place against the wall.

It really works and I love it! Now to put a little time into clearing off all the junk hanging on my design wall – ugh – it’s always something :-)! 

November 13, 2011, sewing space/studio
Sew We Go to Italy!

You’re invited to join Wendy Rieves and I on our next quilting adventure:

When: October 19 – 27, 2012

Where: Rome, Florence, Siena, Tuscany

What will we do: delight in the scenery, be amazed by the history, enjoy the cuisine, revel in the shops, do a bit of stitching and ????

Who: you and a quilting buddy, husband or non-quilting friend

This will be our 7th Sew We Go adventure and it promises to be one of the best! Wendy and I, along with our incredible travel leader – Peggy, are loading this trip with many special touches not found in your average tour:

¤ We will be staying in a 4 star Hotel just a stone’s throw away from the Vatican in Rome and

¤ a luxurious Tuscan Villa in the hills outside of Siena.

¤ We will enjoy a cooking class at a private cooking school.

¤ We’re working on a get together  with Italian quilters!

¤ We will have our usual pre-trip party and project along with friendship exchange blocks in a Tuscan Sun theme!

¤ There will be stitching time most every day to create a lovely and useful momento of the trip!

¤ This will be a very unique and memorable adventure you won’t want to miss, so………..

delve into all the current details, pertinent web addresses and pictures on the “Trips” page of my website: .

November 7, 2011, Travel
Label the Old

After enjoying Eileen’s story about her antique quilts last week and having the opportunity to present my antique quilt lecture in Manitowoc, I decided it was a good time to recommend putting labels on our family heirlooms. I’m always encouraging students to label their quilts – and this goes for the vintage ones you own, even if you didn’t make them yourself.

I have some wonderful antique quilts. Some are from my family and others I have collected. No matter how I got them, I always appreciate knowing their story. I truly wish some of them could talk, so I’d know the who, when & where. But alas, very few older quilts are labeled. It’s a shame because it can increase their value immensely. So label them! If you have their entire history – great! If not, put down what you do know, even if it’s just that you own it and how you acquired it.

The easiest way to create the label is to:

1. Cut a piece of freezer paper the size you desire the label to be and draw parallel lines with a Sharpie™ marker,  1/2″ apart,on the dull (paper) side

2.Iron the shiny side of the freezer paper onto a piece of muslin (this view is of the lines showing through to the muslin side).

3. Write the label information on the muslin with a fine line fabric marker (I prefer the Micron Pigma™ marker, size 01), using the freezer paper lines as guides to keep your writing straight.

4. Remove the freezer paper, turn under the edges and appliqué the label to the back of the quilt.

Creating labels on a computer and printing them onto colorfast printer fabric is another good option.

What information should you include? Who made it. When. Where. For whom. Who owns it. When. Where. Anything else you’d like someone to know when you’re no longer around to tell them.

Remember to label your current quilts too. They may not be around 100 years from now, but if they are, someone may want to know about you :-)!

October 30, 2011, Labels Vintage Quilts
Old Frame, New Life

I met my friend, Eileen Rozumialski, when she signed up for our Sew We Go trip to Ireland. She was a fairly new quilter at that time and a delight to get to know. She has recently retired and shared a story with me about her new quilting studio. It was a story and an idea I think you will enjoy.

I often run into quilters who have inherited quilting frames from a relative. They usually are not sure what to do with them. I now have a suggestion and here’s Eileen’s tale in her own words and pictures:

“You might remember I mentioned some time ago having my grandmother’s quilting frame.  I would guess it must be 100 years old.  We finally figured out how to mount it on the wall so I could use it for displaying quilts.  3 of the boards are up and currently holding a quilt my great Aunt Ida hand pieced and quilted around 1940 using flour sacks and the maternity tops my mother wore while carrying my brother and myself.  I was actully unaware of them until my Mother passed some years ago and the quilts were found folded up and “stuffed” in pillowcases!  I learned she (my mother) had always been afraid to use the quilts as they were so precious to her.  Am hoping with hanging some of the creases will disappear.  As you can see on the picture the friend who figured out how to hang the frame figured out new pegs so I can raise or lower the horizontal piece.  We then used the 4th board in my new work studio (also in my basement).  I am thrilled beyond measure to be using the frame (and to now have a studio to sew in).

I know the frames were left unused in the rafters of a garage for probably 50 or 60 years before I figured out what to do with them and had a place to do it!  They were a piece of my family history I wasn’t ready to throw out and am so glad now I hadn’t.”

I’m so pleased Eileen cherishes all these pieces of her family history and thank her for allowing me to share them with you. Has anyone else found a new use for an old quilting frame?

October 23, 2011, Uncategorized
Quilting In the Desert

What could be more appealing than Arizona in January? How about a quilting retreat in Arizona in January? I’ve been blessed with the delightful opportunity to teach at this exciting event with many other inspiring teachers and wanted to let you know all about it!

Quilting in the Desert is held in Phoenix at the InnPlace Hotel Phoenix North.  Check out the website for all the details:

Please consider making the trip for 5 days of quilts, classes, sunshine and fun!

October 16, 2011, Travel Uncategorized
Let’s Face It!

My latest quilt has a very odd outer edge that I wanted to face, rather than bind. After a bit of noodling I came up with a way that worked great! It would work for any quilt with a curved or unusual outer edge (scallops, double wedding ring, grandmother’s flower garden, etc.). I can’t show the front of the quilt because I plan on entering it in a major show and don’t want to have it shown publically yet. So here’s the step by steps along with a full shape picture from the back :-). I hope you enjoy them.

1. Layer and quilt the quilt. Then, with water soluable thread on top and a thread that contrasts the backing fabric in the bottom, stitch through all layers on the exact line that will be the outer edge of the quilt. Cut away all layers 1/4″ from this line.

2. Lay quilt, right sides together, on a piece of  facing fabric which is slightly larger than the quilt itself . Pin all the way around.

3. Stitch through all layers (with regular thread on top now), exactly on the previous stitching line, all the way around.

4. Trim even with quilt and clip all “inny” angles.

5. Trim facing fabric 1″  away from stitching, all the way around.

6. Fold facing to back of quilt and match facing raw edge with quilt raw edge.

7. Fold facing completely to back and pin in place.

8. Hand stitch the facing to the back of the quilt and – Voila – you’re done!

If any of the water soluable thread shows along the edge, just get it wet and the problem will be solved (or disolved :-).

Also – This past week Laura Krasinski and I hung a joint exhibit of our work entitled “Make a Joyful Noise” in the lobby of the Waukesha Civic Theater on Main Street in Waukesha (just 2 doors down from Frank’s Sewing Center). Please stop by if you’re in the area!

October 10, 2011, finishing Uncategorized
Flange in Photos

Natalie commented that she’d like more instructions on inserting the flange from last week’s blog. So here goes…and with pictures 🙂

1. Cut a strip from contrasting fabric 1″ x the length of each side for a ¼” wide flange or 1 ½”  x the length of each side for a ½” flange.

2. Press these strips in half, lengthwise, wrong sides together.

3. Lay a flange along one side of the the quilt top, keeping all raw edges even and pin in place. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Repeat for the remaining 2 sides.

Here’s a close up of the “keeping the raw edges even” part:

5. If you’re adventurous, you may leap to step 6. If you’re cautious, you may stitch the flanges in place with a basting stitch, all the way around. Use a seam allowance that is shy of ¼” so these stitches won’t show later.

6. Border quilt as usual.

By basting the flanges in place in this way, the flanges look as if they are just a narrow border.

It is “legal” (remember – there are no quilt police) to just tuck the flanges into each border seam as the borders are sewn on without cutting them to fit and basting them in place, but  then you get a different look as in this tumbling blocks quilt:

This look isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

One warning with flanges – they lay on top of the quilt and extend into it ¼” or ½”If there are triangles pieced to the edge, the flange will lay over them and the points will be lost. So they work best on non-pieced outer edges or between plain borders.

Flanges may also be added just before binding.

If you’ve never tried a flange – I highly recommend you do :-)!

October 2, 2011, finishing Piecing
Pleasing separation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 26, 2011, Embellishing finishing
Easy Threading Needles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 18, 2011, Notions
What a Great Show!

I’ve just returned from teaching at Quilt Expo in Madison, WI and it was a spectacular show. My classes were filled with enthusiastic and eager students. The aisles of the vendor mall were filled with willing shoppers and the overall atmosphere was charged with excitement.

This show has really grown from it’s beginnings and has become a national level event. They even added 30 vendors since last year!

This year I was truly blown away by the quilts in the show. Even though there were entries and prizewinners from all around the country, the number of very talented entries from Wisconsin was amazing. I spent a lot of time admiring the intricate designs and stitching in the handquilted entries and then had to come back the next day to absorb all the inspiring creativity of the fiber art.

Since my latest passion is to make the machine quilting take the quilt to higher and higher levels, I was amazed to see all the new designs and innovative placement in these fascinating quilts.

That being said, I’m sure I’ll be hearing comments from friends and students saying there were too many art quilts and not enough for the average quilter. I’d like to share my perspective on this:

Quilt Expo is a juried show and each piece was chosen from pictures sent in by the maker. Many quilts didn’t make it in and therefore the ones that were accepted had to be a step above average to be chosen. I feel the fun of a juried show such as this is to see the “what ifs” and “I could nevers” so that we may all be inspired to try something new. The quiltmakers who were represented are not your average quilter and, as a viewer, we need to keep this in mind.

This is why we need to attend the smaller, local, non-juried shows and fairs as well as the big events. Most local shows are not juried and normal quilters can go there and see things that they may actually be able to make, as well as a few “jaw-droppers”.

So don’t be too quick to criticize the big shows for the lack of simple or traditional quilts, but enjoy each show for what they are and attend as many varied shows as you are able :-).

Well, that’s my opinion, what’s yours?

September 12, 2011, Inspiration Travel
Support Your Local Quilt Shop

Happy Labor Day to all!

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

Then I gave myself a good mental shaking because:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 5, 2011, Fabric Notions
Birth Announcement

I’m so excited – my new website has just arrived!


Please click on the image of my home page above and enjoy!

The time had come for a change and my friend, Diahann Lohr, did a wonderful job of combining my passion for quilting with the beauty of the woods surrounding my home. Her web design business is called  Adunate Word and Design. Di is very creative, patient and professional and I would highly recommend her to anyone in need of graphic design help!

So, what do you think? Please be sure and visit the Gallery page. Diahann did all the stunning quilt photography.

August 28, 2011, Computers and Quilting
Italy Update

As many of you already know, Wendy and I are planning to take our next Sew-We-Go adventure in Italy.

The good news is that Peggy, our travel expert, has some wonderful ideas to make this trip very special for quilters. The bad news is that she has run into a few road blocks for a May, 2012 departure. We were so pleased with the unique quilterly touches Peggy arranged for us in Ireland (meeting with the Irish Patchwork Society along with numerous quilt shop stops, just to name a few) that we’ve told her we are willing to wait to have her plan the best trip possible in Italy.

We are now looking towards an October 2012 trip. Some of the highlights we’re planning are:

Tours of Rome,


including the Vatican and the Sistene Chapel!



 Tours of Florence & Sienna!


Staying in a villa in Tuscany complete with cooking lessons!

Meeting with Italian quilters!



and of course food, art, history, stitching and making new friends!


We’re hopeful that the wait will also gain us a cost savings. The airlines will not commit to pricing more than a year out, so we have to wait a little longer, but we’ll let you know the details the moment they’re available. We appreciate your patience and look forward to your joining us :-)!

August 21, 2011, Travel
Hand Quilting

I enjoy hand quilting, but this may not be apparent from the content of my blogs… until now :-)!

Even though I’ve been very passionate about machine quilting for quite a few years, I usualy have some type of hand work nearby. My current project is a wall quilt made up of carousel horses which were appliquéd from feed sacks (yes, real vintage feed sacks!)

The blocks were stitched many years ago during quilt week in Paducah. My roommates that year were Ginny Walters (my Mom), Wendy Rieves and Jill Koeppel. Each of us hand buttonhole appliquèd a pony block and now I’m slowly enjoying the process of quilting them. I’m currently cross-hatching by using masking tape as my guide.

I thought it would be fun to hear from the hand quilters out there in blogland. Do you like to handquilt? Do you machine quilt too? Hoop or no hoop? I’m looking forward to the response!

August 14, 2011, Hand Quilting Vintage Quilts
Tying Up Loose Threads, Pulling Up Bobbin Threads

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

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

Now for the bobbin thread tip!

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

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

2. Raise the presser foot.

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

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

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

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

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

Voila! It’s almost like magic 🙂.

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

Try it! I think you’ll like it!

August 8, 2011, free motion
2011 – Fall Classes

It’s registration time for classes at Waukesha County Technical College, Madison College – Watertown and Nancy’s Notions Quilting Expo! Here are the courses I’ll be teaching, along with dates, times, pictures and sign up information. I hope to see many of you this Fall!


I have a quick correction to my first Open Lab class which was to begin on Thursday, September 8th. When I made out the original schedule I didn’t know that I would be blessed with the opportunity to teach at Nancy’s Notions Quilting  Expo once again. Therefore, the Open Lab will actually begin September 15th and run through October 6th. Sorry for any inconvenience, but I’m hoping many of you will attend the show in Madison instead 🙂.

By the way…Wendy’s classes are listed at WCTC too, so don’t forget to check them out :-)!

Quilting – Open Lab – Here’s your chance to finish those workshop projects, complete a UFO or two, or start something completely new! During this 12-hour course, students will learn a different aspect of finishing each week. Topics may include fitting and designing borders, sandwiching the quilt, methods and designs for quilting, binding and labeling. Thursday afternoons; 12:30 to 3:30; for three 4 week sessions:

September 15 to October 6 Offering #304-602A-004, CRN 11835

October 13 to November 3 Offering #304-602A-001, CRN 11690

November 17 to December 15 Offering #304-602A-002, CRN11691 

To register call:  262.691.5578 or Go to:, click on “Class Search”, type “Quilting” in the Subject box at the bottom, click on “Submit” and choose the class you want to take!

Beginning Fast Patch  Offering #304-635H-002, CRN 11698 A class designed to teach basic quilting skills with an emphasis on rotary cutting, machine piecing and having fun! Students will construct a unique “Sampler” wall quilt while learning to strip piece, paper piece and so much more.  This class  will run on 2 Saturdays, September 17 & September 24;    9 – 2:30 each day.

To register call:  262.691.5578 or Go to:, click on “Class Search”, type “Quilting” in the Subject box at the bottom, click on “Submit” and choose the class you want to take!

Lone Star Magic Offering #304-602I-003 CRN 11692 Create this ever popular traditional star pattern with all the diamond points aligning perfectly. The secret is to piece them on a Quiltsmart™ foundation. Everyone can have great results!  Friday, October 14; 9 – 2:30



To register call:  262.691.5578 or Go to:, click on “Class Search”, type “Quilting” in the Subject box at the bottom, click on “Submit” and choose the class you want to take!

Beginning Free Motion Offering #304-603A-001 CRN 11693Learn to drop your feed dogs and machine quilt your projects without fear. We’ll practice template designs, doodling fillers, arcing pieced blocks and more. Saturday, November 12; 9 – 2:30.

To register call:  262.691.5578 or Go to:, click on “Class Search”, type “Quilting” in the Subject box at the bottom, click on “Submit” and choose the class you want to take!


Doggie Stockings Offering #304-655-001, CRN 11696
For the true pet lover – create bone shaped, crazy quilted stockings for the canine kid in your life. Inspired by my daughter-in-law’s love for my granddogs, they’re fun to make and truly unique.

Saturday, December 3; 9 – 2:30



To register call:  262.691.5578 or Go to:, click on “Class Search”, type “Quilting” in the Subject box at the bottom, click on “Submit” and choose the class you want to take!

MATC – Watertown

Beginning Fast Patch (pictured in WCTC classes above) Catalog #60306621, Class #40286

Learn basic quilting with an emphasis on rotary cutting, machine quilting and having fun. This small wall quilt would also be a great project for established quilters who want to improve their skills. Strip piecing, paper piecing, appliqué, quilting and binding will all be covered and a finished quilt will be the result!  (9 hours total) Monday, September 12, 19 & 26; 12:30 – 3:30

To register call: (608) 246-6210 or toll-free at (800) 322-6282, Ext. 6210 or click on

Tropical Breezes Catolog #60306621, Class #40285

Get away from it all on Monday afternoons while you create this lovely lap sized quilt. Made in the colors of sand, sea and palm trees, this simple “slap back triangle” technique is fun to do and makes blocks that seem to sway in the breeze. A great class for all skill levels.  Monday, October 10, 17 & 24; 12:30 – 3:30 (nine hours total).

To register call: (608) 246-6210 or toll-free at (800) 322-6282, Ext. 6210 or click on

Beginning Free Motion Quilting Catolog #60306621, Class #40289

Do you have unfinished quilt tops longing to be snuggled under? Then this class is for you. Learn the basics of dropping the feed dogs and doodling fun designs on your quilt. No degree in art is required and, with a little practice, you can enjoy finishing those tops! Saturday, October 8; 9-11:30 and 12:00 to 2:30.

To register call: (608) 246-6210 or toll-free at (800) 322-6282, Ext. 6210 or click on:

Beyond Meandering  Catolog #60306621, Class #40291   If you’ve been free motion quilting for a while and wonder if there is life after stippling and meandering, the answer is YES!  This class is for those who have done a bit of free motion quilting, but want to know more.  We’ll spend the morning practicing many new free motion “filler” designs. After lunch we’ll brainstorm which quilting designs to use where on quilt tops the students bring along!  Working with large quilts will also be discussed. Saturday, October 22; 9-11:30 and 12:00 to 2:30.

To register call: (608) 246-6210 or toll-free at (800) 322-6282, Ext. 6210 or click on:

Quilt InA one day Open Lab!  Catalog #60306621, Class #40292  Bring in your projects that need to be finished and get them done! Whether your pattern is no longer making sense, you can’t remember how to miter a border or you can’t get the binding right, Chris will help you forge ahead and have success. A perfect day away from the pre-holiday distractions and a Christmas surprise will be part of the fun! Saturday, December 10; 9-11:30 and 12:00 to 2:30.

To register call: (608) 246-6210 or toll-free at (800) 322-6282, Ext. 6210 or click on:

Nancy’s Notions Quilting Expo

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 8-10
Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center, Madison, Wis.

I will be presenting a lecture at 8:30 daily called “Which Design Where?” -The top is done; now how do you quilt it? If you want to do it yourself, but don’t know where to begin, this lecture is for you. Learn simple ways to make your creation useful, beautiful and, above all, finished! Bring a top of your own to be “brainstormed.”

I’ll also be presenting a 3 hour hands on workshop from 1-4 daily
entitled “French Braid – Quilt As You Go”  


Add pizzazz to a traditional braid with chains of high-contrast squares. By stitching the strips together on top of quilt batting and backing fabric, the quilt is done along with the piecing. A table runner will be made in class but instructions for a lap size quilt will be provided.

Register Online: – click on “Advance Registration Guide”

August 4, 2011, Inspiration
Howe Many Machines Do You Own?

If you want to feel better about your sewing machine collection, read on. Up until recently I owned 6 (but one’s a treadle that’s being used as an end table, so I’m not sure it counts). I recently acquired #7…with my husband’s blessing, and I can’t wait to share. We were wandering through an antique store in Fort Atkinson, WI when this machine caught my eye:

For many years I’ve been presenting a quilt lecture about my collection of antique quilts entitled “But I Still Love You”. In it I share some sewing machine history, including information on Elias Howe, the “inventor of the sewing machine” (there were other machines invented in other countries, but his was the most user friendly and marketable, so he’s credited with it). There is actually a plaque on the machine with a bust of Elias Howe and the words “Elias Howe Jr; Inventor and Maker; New York, USA”.

The machine has been mounted in a case with a glass front and a light inside so that the mechanism underneath can be viewed when the crank is turned.

The case has a plaque that reads: “Inventor: Elias Howe; Patent #4750 Granted 9-10-1846; circa 1865-67; Restored by Carmon M. Howe; 1991”. I was able to contact Mr. Howe and he told me he is not related to the inventor. He found the machine on the 3rd floor of an antique store in LaCrosse, WI with about an inch of dust on it. When he saw the name – he had to have it :-). He said it won’t run because the bobbin mechanism was missing. We had a lovely conversation and he told me to enjoy the machine. I am already.

 After a bit of web surfing I found a photo of the same model machine as mine and it is indeed from 1867!  I searched for more details about the machine and found very little. I did find a wealth of information about Elias Howe and am anxious to share it in future lectures.

So, anyone own more than 7 sewing machines???

July 31, 2011, Uncategorized Vintage Quilts
Shrek on Quilting II

I was so pleased with the positive feedback on the quilt basting frame and I have a few more frame related comments:

1. I have 2 comments that would fall under the heading “leave your pins open”. The first is good advice when you take the pins out of your quilt as you’re quilting. I always toss them in a container open and store them this way. The downside is you get poked when pulling them out for the next use, but the upside is you don’t waste energy closing and reopening. It’s much healthier for your hands -ergonomically.

2. Next, leave the pins open as you baste the quilt. I do this whenever I pin a quilt in the frame by myself. It’s easier on the back to leave the pins open, remove the quilt from the frame and then sit in a comfy chair to close them all with a Kwik Clip or grapefruit spoon.

3. Storing the boards – you’ll want to keep the boards in a dry place so they don’t get damp and warp. I’ve found that stacking them in an I-beam in the basement keeps them out of the way, yet easily accessible. Wrapping a bungie cord around the I-beam near each end keeps them from tumbling down!

4. My final recommendation is that it is definitely more fun to “frame a quilt” with friends. Last week Ida was so sweet to come over as soon as I called. What a dear friend! Many years ago I needed to baste a quilt with a deadline and had mentioned it to Sharon and Carol early in the day. Mike was out of town and the kids were in bed when I finally set the frame up in the living room. We lived out in the country at that time too, so when I saw headlights coming up the driveway at 9pm, I was a bit concerned. What a delight to see my wonderful quilting friends walk up to the door – with chocolate! The quilt was quickly basted and a good time was had by all!!

So, how do you store your pins? Do you have a “quilting friends to the rescue” story?

July 25, 2011, Uncategorized
Shrek on quilting

Like ogres (and onions) quilts are made up of layers. Putting the layers together for quilting can be a daunting task…especially if it’s lap sized or bigger. I know many quilters who spread everything out on the floor but, as I age, that is harder and harder on my back and knees. My favorite way to layer a larger quilt sandwich (up to king size) is on a simple frame. I learned how to do this way back when I first learned to quilt and continue to use that original system. So, whether you’re going to baste your quilt together with safety pins or thread, or even if you want to tie it “comforter” style, this frame will work

The first problem we usually encounter is where to set up the frame because of the size. I find it best to set up the frame outdoors if the weather is nice or in the garage (sans cars) if it isn’t.

The supplies are quite easy:

Four 10 foot 2 x 2 boards (these tend to be straighter if you buy two 2 x 4 boards and have the lumber yard rip them lengthwise)

Four “C” clamps or bar clamps (I use to borrow my husband’s “C” clamps, but found the sliding bar clamps to work much better and I splurged on 4, which I now share with him 🙂

Four high back chairs

large head thumb tacks

Place the chairs as 4 corners on a square with the seats facing out and place 2 of the boards parallel across the chairs:

Place the remaining boards on top of the first 2 and parallel to each other:

Quilt Backing – I prefer to tear my quilt back so that the edges are straight and square. Then I mark the center of all 4 sides with safety pins. I have a pencil mark at center on each of the boards so I can line up the center pin with the center mark and thumb tack the backing – WRONG SIDE UP – to the 4 boards (notice that the edge of the backing is even with the outside edge of the board):

Next I tack the backing along each board at 8″ intervals, leaving the corners untacked:


Now comes the tricky part: beginning at any corner, pull the boards into a right angle on top of one of the chairs, keeping the edges of the fabric even with the outer edges of the boards. Clamp both boards and the corner of the backing fabric together (I like to have the long part of the clamp pointing up for easier adjusting):

Repeat for all 4 corners so that the backing is stretched square and taut:

Lay the batt on top of the back and smooth it with your hands. Then lay the quilt top evenly on the batt. For the next step it’s nice to have help, so invite a friend (thanks, Ida!). Stand, centered, at opposite sides of the quilt and “tug” the top so that there are no wrinkles between the 2 of you. Be sure the center of the quilt is lined up with the pencil marks on the frame and pin along the edge:

Work across from each other, placing pins at 8″ intervals (approx.) until those 2 sides are done and then repeat for the remaining 2 sides.

Once the quilt is completely pinned into the frame you may safety pin baste it, thread baste it or tie it! The great thing about this frame is that when you can no longer reach areas comfortably, it can be rolled. To roll the frame:

Along one of the “top” boards remove both corner clamps (while standing inside the “bottom” boards and keeping your hips against them so they don’t move in and lose the side tension). Also remove the first few thumb tacks along the side (bottom) boards only, so they don’t impede the rolling:

Now roll the “top” board so that the quilt edge rolls around the outside of the board, while pulling on the board just a bit to keep the “front to back” tension even. Continue to roll until the unpinned area reaches the board and then reclamp both corners:

Repeat for the opposite side and pin away! On larger quilts you may need to roll more than once. It’s better to roll and pin comfortably than to reach and strain, and possibly knock the whole kaboodle off the chairs!

Once the basting/tying is done: remove the clamps, unroll the quilt and take out the tacks.

It’s just that easy :-).

Next week I’ll have some tips for pinning, storing the frame and enticing others to help.

July 18, 2011, Quilting Preparation
Corner Labels

This past week I came up with a really simple way to label a quilt and I can’t wait to share! It’s a variation of a quilt hanging technique I’ve used for years that works great on small quilts. To simply hang a small quilt: fold 2 squares of fabric in half diagonally and place them in the top corners of the quilt before binding. When the binding is attached, a dowel, cut the width of the quilt, fits inside the corners for easy hanging without a sleeve.

So here’s the exciting label variation:

Cut a 6″ square of a light, solid color fabric and iron the shiny side of a 6″ square of freezer paper to the back. Crease it in half, diagonally, to mark the fold, open it flat and draw a few diagonal lines, on the freezer paper, with a thick black marker (these lines will show through to the front and act as guidelines for your writing)

Turn to the fabric side and write all your information on the bottom half using a fine, permanent fabric marker.

Remove the paper, fold the label wrong sides together and pin into a bottom corner of the quilt before binding. Once you bind the quilt, 2 sides of the triangle will be secured and the folded edge can be left open or handstitched down.

I’ve found a new labeling trick I really like! Hope you like it too!

July 10, 2011, Labels
U Rah Rah Guilds

Thanks for all the positive comments about the spiral quilting on my recent project. It made me want to keep at it. This got me to thinking about how valuable encouragement from others really is, especially in our quilting. It can come in many forms: friends, family, classes and guilds (just to mention a few).

That led me to thinking about the quilt guilds I’ve belonged to and I decided it was a topic I wanted to expound on. So I’ve put on my cheerleader personna to get everyone excited about  guilds (yes, this was scanned straight out of my yearbook and I’m not telling the year!) 

Guilds are a great way to socialize, problem solve, be inspired and encourage each other! I feel that quilt guilds are also a great bargain. I currently belong to 2 guilds, but at one time I was a member of 5! The average yearly dues typically run between $20 and $30 and can include up to 12 meetings a year. Some have sub-groups where quilters can really get to know each other and many do charity projects. Most have at least a few speakers each year and to attend similar lectures at a quilt show would probably cost more than the yearly dues. What a bargain – and that doesn’t begin to cover what I think is the real value! My favorite part of each meeting is Show & Tell. I am always inspired by seeing what others are doing. In the Milwaukee Art Quilters we often use our S & T time to ask for critiques or help on current problem projects. This is something I greatly appreciate and it could be done in a sub group if your main meeting is too large.

Patched Lives (my more traditional guild) has 2 pot luck meetings a year that really focus on sharing ideas and getting to know each other. Good food and good friends, who could ask for more? We also have challenges and exchanges that inspire us to do different things and stretch skillwise as well as creatively.

I could go on and on, but I won’t :-). This brings me to a subject that is dear to my heart. It takes a lot of effort to have a great guild and many hands make light work. So if you belong to a guild, make sure you don’t just sit back and enjoy, but you do your part. I’ve found being on the board of my guilds has extra benefits. As President I found I got to know more members outside of my immediate circle. As program chair, I was able to bring in the teachers I wanted to learn from. When working on committees I experienced the satisfaction of being a part of the good things that were going on.

A number of years ago Wendy Rieves and I got the idea to write a book called Guild Builders. Our hope was that it would give loads of ideas to new boards so that they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel once they were elected and it would encourage everyone to get involved. The subtitle was going to be “How to Get That Quilter in the Second Row Off Her Fat Quarter and Helping”! We haven’t succeeded in having it published yet (actually making quilts is more fun), but it’s still a possibility. Wendy and I are always willing to share our Guild Builders ideas with anyone interested and are always looking to add to our stockpile of helpful ideas.

In conclusion I would recommend that, if you don’t belong to a guild – do it, and if you do….well… just read that “fat quarter” thing (hee!hee!).

Go Guilds!

July 4, 2011, Uncategorized
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