Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peace and Joy

Christmas Eve, and the lights of the season shine out, bringing hope of peace, joy, and love.  From my house to yours, holiday wishes for everything good, and a bright and happy New Year!

Oliver did NOT like the cat Santa hat, so his expression is less than pleased, but he is a very happy boy with all the holiday activity, packages to unwrap, food to explore, house to clean, acorns from under the couch for fabulous kitty hockey.  I finally got a coffeemaker, his first ever, and he has been stalking its gurgling sound on the counter as I run plain water through it.  He is entranced.  It's the little things that give delight.

May your holidays be filled with "the little things."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quilt Journeys: Three Quilters

The new exhibit featuring work of three quilters is now open at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY.  My quilts are part of this exhibit that shows the journey we all take as we travel through this grand adventure of quiltmaking, shown above.   It will run through March 13, 2012.

When I was invited to participate in this exhibit, although so honored, I was very reluctant to show my early work.  Then I decided the entire point was to allow the viewer to see up close the beginnings, the flickers of inspiration along the way, the development of techniques and skills, which allowed art and ideas to be expressed in cloth by the final quilts that are shown. 

It is a huge honor to have my work showcased at the National Quilt Museum, and I hope many of you can see this exhibit and be inspired in your own quilting journeys, by my work and the quilts of two other quilters.

Included are some of my very first quilts, done mostly with a walking foot and invisible thread.  My early free motion work is there, and the beginnings of the kind of quilting I love to do now show up in all the quilts, but the techniques and machine skills definitely improve as the quilts progress. 

"Through a Glass, Darkly:  An American Memory" is in the exhibit, my NQA Masterpiece quilt, and probably my favorite quilt.  It is a log cabin design, and I made it to work in color exploration, and it showcases my original free motion quilting designs as well.  I never tire of this quilt, and I hope you enjoy seeing it in person.  Below, after winning a Master Award at Houston, 2001.

Other smaller wall quilts are there, "Sixteen Baskets of Mud," "Rabbit in Green," "Mourning Too Soon" from the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. 

October Morning, 2000
Detail, below

"October Morning" was the last quilt I made with trapunto, cotton batt, and invisible thread, many original designs and some stencil designs still, and with a tiny amount of applique (broderie perse) in the center, that I had to do as the quilt needed it.  It is a Delectable Mountains traditional pattern.

Please read about the exhibit on the website of the National Quilt Museum, to get all the details.  The other two quilters are Doreen Speckmann (also from Wisconsin) and Dorris McManis, and I know you will enjoy their quilts as well. 

I've been busy fussing with my quilting with Sparkle thread.  It is going well, but I SO definitely prefer quilting with #100 silk!  Soon the designs will be finished and my background work will be so relaxing, because it will be back to my #60 Sharp needle and #100 silk thread, smooth curves, no crunchy sound as the needle backtracks over stitches (eek), and faster quilting, definitely.  However, it does look pretty nice. 

One night I was having shredding issues, and switched to a new Jersey needle from a different pack and all was well. 

Oliver has sneaked in twice to bite the thread as it comes off the spool while I am quilting.  I did not see him.  He goes behind the cabinet, jumps up on my right, and before I know it, either wet thread is coming through or the thread is chewed in half, the needle breaks, I scream, cat runs off, door is firmly closed. 

Two nights ago a small spring fell out of the machine but I am forging on as it doesn't affect much except the presser foot lever.  It's now a bit wobbly and limp.  Onward!

Oliver has been banished from my room.  How he opened the door twice I do not know.  He is a clever boy.

Relax a bit during this hectic time of year.  For me, that is an hour or so of quilting in my room, door closed, lights on, music playing.  It does wonders for you.

If you learn anything at all from my exhibit at the museum it is that I did keep quilting, and yes, my work did get better!
Happy Holidays,


Monday, November 28, 2011

Small Business Saturday Shopping

I did my patriotic duty this past Saturday during the whole Black Friday shopping mania and supported locally owned business by going to my LQS, Bigsby's Sewing Center in Elm Grove, WI, and then out to lunch at a locally owned restaurant. 

I stocked up on a few necessary items:  Fabric!  Thread!  And the gorgeous sateen jacquard print by Lecien above, had to get the last of the bolt.  I had quilted on this the night before and it quilts so wonderfully and I love the colors, so this was not a huge decision to find it on sale and waiting to come home with me.

DH said "but what do you need it for?"  Oh my.

I also got some of the Kaufmann Radiance, the shimmery fabrics that are a cotton and silk blend and also quilt up so beautifully.  The gold fabric is some silk dupioni by Moda that I couldn't resist, so beautiful.  I'm working on a small project on dusty rose sateen and needed more of the YLI gold silk thread I'm using for that, and some of the YLI taupe Sparkle for the motifs, seen peeking out on my prototype, below.

This combo of thread and fabric is new for me, a departure from my more sedate ways, but it gives a very rich, vintage look to this little quilt, a Delectable Mountains pieced design.  I am considering it an experiment, and am loving working on the smaller scale, although I have to say, larger designs and quilting are easiser, this is quite demanding.  But fun, of course. 

And you might wonder how Oliver fared over the turkey weekend.  He loved the holiday, the lights on, the house cozy and all the cooking prep, the Packers game and all the yelling, more food prep, more veggies, delicious odors from delicious food. 

We did get him to lick a bit of turkey gravy from a small cat-sized plate with a pink design on it that went with his pink nose nicely, but mostly he loved the veggies.

For dessert he tackled the bananas while we were snoozing in the other room.......

I hope you support your local quilt shop and other locally owned businesses all the time.  The owners work so hard to find treasures and basics for us so we can be creative and have the tools and supplies available for our quilting.  They also find what's new and fabulous, keep our machines purring, and give advice and information.  I always learn something when visiting a quilt shop.

Hope your Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful, and now you can have a bit of time for quilting. 

Keep quilting - your work gets better every day!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Soon it will be the big day!  Oliver helped prepare veggies for supper last week, getting in the mood for the feast this Thursday.  He is an odd cat.  Of all the cats I've had he is the only Vegan.  He loves his veggies.  He'd kill for carrot tops, Brussels sprouts, corn on the cob.  He chomps down raw green beans with gusto. 

If I have water-packed tuna and drain off a bit of the juice for him, he backs away as if affronted and horrified.  Tuna!  Our former cats would be aghast at his passing this up.

However, one of his funniest activities is wrestling a banana off the counter and throwing it to the floor, where he will continue to play with it and kill it for a long time.  We've learned the sacrifice of one banana is worth the joy he has, and the smiles we have.  Sometimes we hear the thuds from the other room, and knowingly say "dead banana."

Recently he has decided to try the bottom-of-the-bowl milk from cereal.  Just a lick of it left in the bottom, and he is on my lap ready to try it.  I think it took well over a year for him to believe the world has more excitement than veggies. 

But, no meat so far, no cheese or butter or peanut butter.  No fast food chicken nuggets or burger bites.  He is interested in any food that comes into the house, but maintains his dignity at his bowl of official chow, and stays a trim weight and is healthy as can be. 

Last Thanksgiving he ignored the meal.  I wonder if this year the tempting odors will lure him into trying....just a bite?? 

Hope your holiday will be wonderful with delicious food and many blessings.

Monday, November 7, 2011

YLI Sparkle Metallic Thread

I've been playing with YLI Sparkle thread, a twist of #100 silk, in this case ecru silk, and metallic thread, here in gold.  It also comes in silver colorways from pale to dark. 

The feather above is quilted on a very lightweight soft silk from an old blouse, washed and pressed.  In real life it is shimmery and elegant, really lovely with the slight sparkle or "fairy dust" from the thread.  It is a much lighter and more heirloom look, with a twinkle in the stitches, not heavy like a straight metallic.

Background quilting is done in pale yellow #100 YLI silk thread.

I used a #70 Jersey needle (YLI recommended Jersey needles for this thread) and had no trouble at all.  I could quilt at my normal speed, change directions smoothly with no fraying or breaking.  It looks really quite wonderful. 

If you are quilting through heavier fabrics, a denser batt or backing fabric, or a top with lots of piecing joins or fused areas, of course you would use a larger Jersey needle or even a Top Stitch needle. 

For every project with specialty threads you must try a stitch-out on the actual materials you will be using in the real quilt, and find the magic combination of thread, needle, tension, and stitch length that works the best, and looks the best.

#100 silk thread was used in the bobbin, and I lowered the top tension from default #4 to 1.75.

Thread spool was on the vertical spindle of the machine.

Many times owners' manuals will give so much info about needles and threads and how to use them on your particular machine, settings, etc.  Mine has pages of info, very nice.

Now I am busy quilting with a deeper shade of Sparkle thread on a medium colored fabric.  The feathers I have tried so far I did in the "old" method where there is no space between each one as in the one here, and I did backtracking or "travelling" to get to the next feather.  Again, it worked perfectly, and the doubling of the thread was not obnoxious or too noticeable.  It looks wonderful.  I'll post photos of that when this small quilt is finished.

If it turns out!  If not, I'll explain the problems.  It's fun to try new things and challenge yourself to improve your own style of quilting or give it a slightly new and fresh look.  I probably won't use metallics that often but I love knowing they are there in my toolbox of techniques for free motion machine quilting, and I know how to use them.

Try something new today, and keep quilting.....your work gets better everyday!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Quilting with Metallic Thread

A simple feather design quilted on soft, washed muslin with wool batt takes on an entirely different look when a metallic thread suddenly makes a surprise appearance!

After reading "Mastering Metallics" by Ann Fahl I decided to try out a few threads I had in my thread drawer.  Here I used Superior's "Glitter" thread, a flat type very sparkly metallic, and a #80 Jersey needle. 

I know it is not the type of needle recommended, but it worked so well for me with my YLI Sparkle thread, a silk and metallic blend, that I wanted to see if it would work on something more challenging.  I much prefer it to the horribly big spear-like #80 Topstitch needle.

It worked beautifully in my machine, a Bernina 730 with a rotary hook.  I used #100 silk thread in the bobbin, but could have used a fine cotton like Aurifil #50.

Top tension was reduced from default #4 to #2.  The thread was on the vertical spindle to keep it nice and taut and flat.  There was no looping or twisting or skipping stitches.  I used a fairly small stitch, quilted a bit slower than usual, and it worked well.

The larger the stitch the more sparkle/glitter you get.  But, the larger the stitch, the less puff in the batt, and the design loses its oomph.

The background quilting was done with pale yellow #100 YLI silk thread and really sets off the metallic nicely.  I think this thread combo has possibilities!

Next I am trying YLI Sparkle for a feather design on ecru silk fabric instead of muslin.  I'm using a #70 Jersey needle.  I'll post my findings later.

Below, another photo of the design. 

The sparkle of the thread is very apparent in real life, not so much in the photos.  Sorry about that.

What I didn't like about this thread is the lack of smoothness for smaller designs or close echo quilting. 

Curves were not smooth, and the stitches tended to go off a bit from a straight line.  On the back, the silk stitches looked perfect. 

I think it is an anomaly of this type of flat thread but I didn't like that it made my quilting suffer just a bit.  I didn't wobble, the thread did!  I would not use this thread for tiny designs or micro fills, froth, or baby pearls.

Sometimes it's fun to go off your normal path, and try a new road.  I am having some fun making these samples and will keep them around to remind me of possibilities for future projects.  I took notes with a Sharpie pen on the back so I can refer to what was used to create each sample. 

Oliver loved this thread; he let it run through his teeth as I quilted.  Yikes.

You must know your tools and materials to have success in your quilting.  Taming a thread is always a good thing, and knowledge is power.  Try something new today, just for fun.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better everyday.

Happy Halloween from a sleepy Oliver, still in his nightcap.....!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fabric Matters

At our recent classes at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY, one of the key items I discussed was how to get dimension into quilting designs.  It's tough to go to all that work to find designs turn out flat and lifeless.

The design above was quilted on cotton sateen over wool batt, and had a soft fine cotton as the backing.  I used #100 silk thread and a stitch length of about 1.6 mm.  I did get dimension in the areas where the batt was left to fill the design. 

I realize it is NOT the same as stuffing the designs with extra batting ("trapunto") but I am quite content with this look.  It's easy to handle in a home sewing machine and just enough oomph to set off the designs.  I also quilt closely around them to flatten surrounding areas and make the design more of the focal point.  Thread color can also emphasize quilting designs.
However, some students consistently had problems getting any loft at all into designs.  After teaching for a long time and observing and drawing conclusions, I realized it is due to a variety of factors:

Batt, of course.  You need a batt with some loft in it to get designs to show well.  I currently am using wool batts, various brands and experimenting.  Some of the cottons work great as well, but remember, washing a quilt with cotton batting can cause shrinkage and puckering, making designs hard to see.  Wool tends to keep most of its dimension after gentle washing/wetting and air drying.

Stitch length.  In designs like Bouncing Bananas, below, or Headbands and Froth, if the stitch length is too big for the design size the puff will ooze out between the stitches, leaving you with a very flat design that is nothing but many stitches.

Here you can still see the individual stitches as well as the puff.  Stitches are not piled up, or so close it is a jumble of thread.  They are small enough to create a smooth shape PLUS create dimension and puff.  Correct stitch length is vital in creating puff.

Fabric choice.  The final crucial factor is the fabric you quilt on, even the fabric on the back of the quilt.  Sometimes when there was NO loft in designs at all, I would turn over the student sample only to see amazing loft on the BACK of the quilt.  The fabric used for backing had the proper hand and weave, thread count and finish, to allow the puff to appear.  The fabric on the TOP of the quilt did not. 

Many fabrics that we love don't work to showcase machine quilting.  Tight weaves, extra finishes, very dense fabrics, all can prevent the puff from happening. 

Even with a batt 1" thick, there would be little dimension if the fabric will not allow it to happen.  Sadly many batiks fit into this category, and that's why I suggest on my supply lists to save them for work at home, not in class.  Thread doesn't sink into them well at all.  They tend to be very flat when quilted, and many times affect thread tension adversely.

These fabrics can certainly be used, but if you plan on having areas in quilts to showcase quilting designs, do an audition on various fabrics before the top is even put together. 

Quilt up some prototypes, use the same fabrics, batt, thread, needle that you will use in the quilt.  Try various threads and colors,  adjust tension, see what works beforehand.  Plus, check for puff.  You want to see if the fabric will allow the designs to have dimension.

Sometimes spray adhesives used for basting quilt sandwiches can adversely affect puff as well.

Recently I had lunch with Ann Fahl and we were discussing the effect fabric has on quilting, how it prevents dimension, how some threads don't work well in certain fabrics.  She showed me her new book "Mastering Metallics" and she found that even with everything else done correctly, metallics don't work well or create problems in some cases because of the fabric.

Below, her new booklet, and my sample.  I tried some #40 Superior gold metallic with a Schmetz #80/12 Topstitch needle, #100 silk thread in the bobbin, on a mystery fabric that actually was so labelled.  It said it was a blend of silk, and unknown fibers.  It's a devil to quilt on, trust me, slips and slides and skews all over the place.  You can't see markings, and you can't see where you've already quilted.  I auditioned it several times for projects, and dismissed it as too difficult for the result.

However, I did get some nice dimension, and using Ann's guidelines in her booklet on how to place the thread on my machine, what needle to use, tension adjustments, and speed of machine, I successfully quilted a frond design with NO problems at all.

Even when several areas converged, everything went well.  There was no fraying thread, no skipped stitches.  I quilted slower than usual and that helped. 

Oh how I wish way back when I had had this book to help me when I first tried metallic thread!  If you want to use all the types of metallic and need some help, this booklet is perfect.  You can order it from Ann at her website,

So.....stop and consider everything before plunging into a project.  Selecting fabric to showcase your beautiful machine quilting to its very best advantage is worth the bit of extra time it takes.  After a while you will have experience in what works, what lines of fabric you love to quilt on, what backings work the best.  It's an adventure!

Meanwhile, keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Follow me on Twitter!  I will be using it to mention machine quilting tips as they pop into my head.....!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

National Quilt Museum Classes.....Wow!

It was beautiful weather in Paducah, KY last week for my two classes at the National Quilt Museum, warm, autumnal, perfect.  Above, my first class, posing in the museum's main gallery with two of my quilts as backdrop.  Yes, there were onlookers watching us with either questioning looks or big grins, because this group was fun, talented, and really succeeded with their quilting.  It was such a pleasure working with them.

They had the wonderful opportunity to view the quilts in the collection plus several exhibits, shop, eat at charming downtown restaurants, have lunch at Bryerpatch Studio with Caryl Bryer Fallert, and generally enjoy all that the museum and Paducah offer.  What a terrific time we all had.

We certainly had an array of beautiful shades of denim!

I've scheduled this same class there for next Oct. 18-20, 2012 for experienced beginners and beyond.  I think this is a wonderful class and we get a lot accomplished in the three days spent together.  Because local shops close early we take a longer lunch break for either viewing the galleries (free to class members), shopping in the store on site, or eating out, shopping at the local quilt stores.  Contact Rebecca Glasby at the museum for information from their website.

I had a second class after a day catching up, recording a video interview for my part in an upcoming exhibit at the museum, doing some re-shuffling of samples, and oiling my machine. 

The second class was for experienced quilters and former students who worked on techniques and designs I suggested and also did some independent work with advice from me.  They were definitely troublemakers, as you can see in the photos below.

Joan and Susan came complete with accessories, and made me smile every time I noticed their bat headbands gently bouncing as they worked or talked, while moving their heads.  Susan is filling the bucket with chocolate bars, which we needed and ate!  The handle had flashing lights....

Doing some quilting as a demo for interested students.

Class #2, below.

Thanks to all for making my time at the museum fly by, your talent and humor and hard work were terrific.  I hope new students will sign up for next year's class where we'll explore free motion machine quilting on a home machine, take you to a higher level of expertise, and become friends and kindred spirits in quilting.  I know I'll see many of you again at quilting events.

Keep quilting - your work definitely gets better every day,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Leaves, Fall Feathers

Autumn leaves are beginning to appear here in Wisconsin, just touches here and there.  I always like to use fabrics in these colors that I love so much once fall arrives and inspires me. 

I decided to do a small feather frond as a class sample for my upcoming classes at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY.  I just read on their website that there are a few openings in my classes, which are the final ones I'll be doing for awhile.  I have no more scheduled for the future.  If you are interested, give them a call.  The supply list is fairly easy to assemble, and these classes are wonderful, Paducah a great place to visit.

We will be quilting feathers and there are two basic methods I've used over the years, so both are included in the sample, above.

On the right side of the feather, which I quilted first, I began by zipping along from the bottom up and totally forgot I was going to do them the "traditional" way, with no space between each feather.  The first feather on the bottom right does have that space, and then I quickly realized I was already diverging from my plan. 

If something is quilted well, I don't take out the stitches.  If this had been in a "real" quilt, I still would have left it in, and it would blend with the rest and be a bit of a quirky variation on the feather, but not wrong.

I made a quick mental readjustment, and the remaining feathers on the right side, plus the smaller feathers at the top are done the way I had intended.  Each one is quilted, then there is  "backtracking" or "traveling" over the top of that feather or on the center line, or "spine" of the feather, then the next feather is quilted.  This involves precision, experience, control. 

I learned how to quilt them like this in 1990 and quilted them like this for many years, over a decade and more.  I could quilt them quickly and efficiently, but students found it difficult to stay precisely on the previous stitches, and often had feathers that looked messy and uneven.  They were not happy.  I made it look so easy when I showed how to do it, but it takes a bit of repetition and skill to get them so precise.

I like how they look.  Neat and even and compact.  Smooth, classic.

However, I decided there had to be a somewhat easier way, and came up with "Echo Feathers," explained in my Quilt Savvy book. 

Instead of stitching over a previous line of quilting to get to the next feather, when I completed a feather shape and hit the spine, I simply bounced off the spine and echoed the line of the first feather about 1/8" away or less.

When I reached the top of the previous feather I had to create the new feather shape and quilt it, down to the spine once again, building from the bottom of the feather and UP so I could see the feather already quilted in front of the foot and space the next one perfectly.

Upon reaching the top of the design it is important to echo down the outside of the feathers already quilted, that same space that was left between each one, completing the design, and taking you to the bottom.  Then you can quilt around to the other side and begin building feathers from the bottom up, on the left side.

I could quilt these quickly, at one even smooth speed.  I rarely had to slow down, maybe just a bit at the spine for the bounce into the next feather shape. 

The left side has the echo feathers.  There is a small space between each one.  Sometimes this technique seems to define each feather more and make it stand out.  It is faster, and most students can master this with some effort. 

Try drawing them, use a stencil and quilt around those lines to get the flow and shape of the design in your mind.  It's impossible to quilt something with no marking if you don't know the shape.  Practice them, look at what's wrong, correct it, practice some more.  Draw, draw, draw.  Quilt, quilt, quilt.

Some beginners at feathers can only do two at a time and then they begin to deteriorate or become funky.  The answer to this is to quilt two, stop the machine, take a breath, look at what you've done, proceed to the next two.  Soon you will be able to do more at a time, and finally entire rows of feathers with no problem at all.

They look especially lovely like the one above as "leaves."  Instead of large leaves in designs, try some feathers instead.  Tuck some tiny feathers in your leaf designs.  Use leaves with feather designs! 

Get out some of the beautiful fall colors you've saved and mix in your other favorites for something fun to quilt.  I always tell my classes to "practice" on fabrics and colors you love.  You'll do better work.

Some will quilt feathers better and easier the old-fashioned way, and some will love the echo technique.  One isn't necessarily better or easier, just different.  Give it a try!

And keep quilting, your work gets better every day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Fall is right around the corner, back to school is just about here, and the sunbeams are streaming in at a new dazzling angle.  Oliver has found his old cozy spot on the soft throw on the back of the couch every evening, rather than his summer spot, stretched out on the hardwood floor.  The summer is winding down.

I was thinking of more grid-based designs using my June Tailor Grid Marker stencil that lets you mark those perfect lines with no gaps so quickly.  My first favorite background or space-filler was a cross-hatch grid.  Next came "Diane-shiko," the classic sashiko design but done not in circles that overlapped, but over a marked grid, lines removed when quilting is finished. 

Then came Apple Core.   My students embraced these designs and most could quilt them well with a bit of practice.  It gave everyone such a fabulous design basic to use over and over, giving a structured look to contrast with more circular flowing designs.  It's good to have structure.

But another one?  I wondered what would happen on a marked 1/2" grid if  only gentle wiggles were quilted on those lines, in both directions, "sort of" trying to cross both lines at the marked intersections, but not obsessing about it.  What would that look like?

The design, above, was my first effort, done on a 1/2" marked grid (lines are removed after quilting) with #100 silk thread, in a very subtle variegated green.  I don't like the distraction of the thread, but that is just me.  Many love the little surprises when variegated is used.

I did the vertical lines first, then horizontal to avoid stretch. 

It would have been easier if this had been marked "on point" with lines at a 45-degree angle to the edges of the fabric.  There would be no distortion at all, no pushing or pulling of fabric as you approach an already-quilted line or intersection.  Just a suggestion, as it does work ok quilted on the grain if it works for your design choice, but be careful of distortion.

Below, my second try, on a 1" grid with matching silk thread in green, next to the first sample on the 1/2" grid.  This was actually a bit harder to keep the wiggles small and not revert to the arcs in my other designs like Diane-shiko or Apple core.  It was harder not to create large wiggles.

However, like any machine quilting motif, repetition brings competency.  After doing this for a half hour or so, I could do it rapidly with minimal goofs.

I decided the design looked just a bit like the old wool woven Houndstooth, which I have always loved.  This gives a structured look with TOTAL forgiveness in quilting! 

However, and you know what I am going to stress:  Stitches must be even and consistent, tension correct, thread color a good choice.  I honestly think the most distracting thing about poor machine quilting is uneven stitches, especially very large ones. 

If you have stitches that are too large for either the type of thread or the design, the "puff" of the batt will not happen.  You will lose it.  It will seep out under those giant stitches.

With stitches that are too large, you tend to "see" them, not the design.  Stitches look like big chicken tracks. 

Slow down your hands.  Speed up the machine just a bit.  For some mysterious reason the most common problem I see in my classes is a combo of fast hands but slow machine speed.  Work on this.  Learn to move those hands smoothly and evenly, and keep the speed of the machine going fast enough to create the best looking stitch length.

Make up a sample and try this!  Use something beautiful, a scrap of silk or sateen so you can see the quilting, and the final design.  Once you become more proficient, try it on a quilt in an area you would normally use a grid.  Let me know what you think!!  I believe it would look great over prints, just like the other grid-based designs do.

And have a wonderful Labor Day holiday everyone, hope you can relax and enjoy the end of summer.  Soon I'll be seeing many of you at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY in October.  Please email me with any questions about the class if you have them:

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Oliver claiming his spot in the "other" sink while I brush my teeth....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oliver is Two!!

Today is very special, our Oliver is two years old!!  He has lived with us since he was 6 months old, a wild and woolly kitten who had been surrendered by his first owner to the Wisconsin Humane Society.  He is now a somewhat wild but totally wonderful cat, settled into ruling the house and us as well. 

He woke up this a.m. purring, happy, scampering about, knowing it was "his special day."  He especially liked the birthday singing, and the cake is fun to investigate and watch us eat (ridiculously yummy).  We dared not light the candle.

What a blessing a pet is.  We were reluctant at retirement time to take on a new young cat, but oh we are so happy we did.  He makes each day brighter, and happier, and more fun.  If we are bored, we say "where is Oliver?"  "What is he up to?" and he will stroll in and do something cute.  He helps us get through the bad times, and makes good times that much better.

I think he knows now we are his forever people.

Give your pet companion an extra hug today, or adopt one at your shelter who needs a loving home.  They give us so much in return.

Oliver posing as statuary on a very tall chest of drawers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Phat Quarters Classes

Home from a wonderful trip to a charming town, Galena, IL, and a most welcoming shop, Phat Quarters!  The shop, above, suffered severe flood damage right before our scheduled event, but fast work, Jane and her intrepid staff managed to salvage inventory and move to a new location right on the busy Main St. in time to host our event. 

Classes were held in the new front room of the shop, with big windows and plenty of room.  Now that we have left, they can proceed to setting things up and arranging inventory, decorating, etc.  They were flying by the seats of their pants, with an old cash register, no computers, but none of us complained at all. 

We had two days of great classes, fun, excitement, and success!  The charming shops and restaurants were all on the same street, and in the beautiful summer days there we took advantage of it all.

Feathers were amazing, stitches improved, students were smiling.  I thank everyone in class and especially the staff for making this happen.  If you are in Galena, stop by their new place and see what's going on.  Fabric not damaged is on killer sale, great bargains to be found.  And yes, they have Berninas!

I stayed in a hotel at the outer part of town and it had the most perfect carpet that included scrolls, feathers, leaves, and spirals, and of course the ubiquitous tendrils, below.   Perfect to set the stage for class as I unpacked and regrouped before my lecture the first night, with vintage 35 mm slides.

I arrived home Wed. night thinking I just might have time to bid on my AAQI quilt online and own it myself, but by the time I got to it the auction was over.  Thank you all for your bids and support, and congrats to the final bidder who will receive this quilt.  I think it is one of my favorites, and I hope it will be enjoyed for a long time.

"Mourning Too Soon"

Teaching with talented quilters gave me many ideas and inspiration, and now I hope I can find some time to work on a few long delayed projects. 

Oliver of course scampered his little heart out when I arrived home, then settled down for unpacking and sniffing everything from foreign lands, well, IL at least, and purred in contentment as we rested and relaxed. 

Monday he will be two years old, and we must plan a party.  He is still a Vegan, although he has been licking the remains from melted frozen custard in my dish, his first real people food, definitely on the path to becoming a bona fide Cheesehead.  He is a cautious boy.  He much prefers corn husks, raw green beans, and any veggie. 

Thanks again to my Galena students; it was such a pleasure getting to know you in class.  Don't let too much time go by before you quilt some of the techniques at home.  Repetition is the key.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Days

It's muggy and hot, slow and steamy here in Wisconsin.  Oliver and I have written another one of my columns for American Quilter Magazine, we're catching up on laundry and other put-off chores, relaxing in the big recliner with iced tea and a book.  Soon I'll be packing my bags for my trip on August 8 to Phat Quarters in Galena, IL for some classes.  Hope to see you there!

There is a new blog in town that you might like to visit.  I especially enjoyed Scooter the cat on the beautiful blue and white quilt, lovely.  The address is: and tomorrow the entry will be about the quilt auction of the exhibit quilts for AAQI.  Please visit, enjoy, please support the initiative.  Thank you!!!!

Continue to enjoy your summer days, and take some time off to relax and live in the slow lane.  If you can work in some fun quilting, that's good too.  Or you can just clean and oil your machine.....!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quilt Auction!

We are in a heat wave here in Wisconsin, today going to 97 with high humidity so it will feel like 110.  Ugh.  I know many of you have it worse than this, so I hope everyone can stay cool. 

Oliver doesn't like the closed curtains, extra fans, sleepy days.  He is protesting by sleeping all day.  Soon he will be two years old and is becoming quite a cat now, no longer a kitten playing with abandon.  Now he is more purposeful, thinking out his attacks, waiting to strike.

He and I have not been quilting.  It is too hot.

The photo, above, is a detail from my quilt "Mourning Too Soon," made in honor of my mother, Erma Hinterberg for the "Alzheimer's:  Forgetting Piece by Piece" exhibit, organized and curated by the amazing talents and dedication of Ami Simms.  The exhibit travelled for five years and more than 300,000 people had a chance to see it, were moved by it, and were encouraged by it as well.

It is a strippy style quilt, chocolate and lilac silk dupioni, "almost" wholecloth as it is "all" quilting, with original designs and a cable design in the chocolate strips.  It includes a Mourning Dove, one of my mother's favorites, who cries for the sadness we all feel for losing our loved ones way too soon to this disease.  It is a beautiful quilt.

After the exhibit ended I donated my quilt for auction, along with other quilts in the exhibit.  Please go to:  to see the quilts. 

The auction is August 1-10, and the link is:

I hope they will raise many dollars to go to this cause.  This disease has touched us all, and continues to devastate families.  We need research, a cure, help.  This is a great chance for any of you who have wanted to purchase one of my quilts to get a lovely piece, with my heart in it, to have in your own life and support a great cause at the same time.

Please make a bid on my quilt. I am a huge supporter of the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. They are an all-volunteer national charity whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research. They spend no money on fundraising and all their profits fund Alzheimer's research. They have raised more than $550,000 for quilt at a time. Help me help them.

And a very special thanks to SewCalGal for her wonderful write-up of my class!  It was an extraordinary group and experience, and the interaction in the class was terrific.  Everyone benefited and it made my job so much easier.

Hope you all are enjoying summer, the heat, and maybe just a bit of quilting.  And thank you so much in advance for supporting this cause.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My New Bag

With no ulterior motive whatsoever, really, I so admired this shoulder bag that Roberta, our sewing machine guru at Empty Spools last week was wearing as she toured our classroom in the Open House. 

I could see my designs on it from 30 feet away!  They are the digitzed quilting/embroidery designs that are built in to the Bernina 830, but similar ones and more are available on my OESD CD "Quilting Whimsy," available for all embroidery machine formats. 

She used them as outline embroidery to embellish this soft and drapey bag, made with some changes to wholecloth rather than piecing from the La Borsa Bag pattern. 

She used Metrosene red/white/blue variegated thread, #40, and the double stitching and overlaps of the thread made it shimmer and blur so that it has an entirely different look.  I probably would never have done one of my designs like this so it was a delight to see how beautifully it turned out, how muted and elegant it looked on her shoulder.

The design square on the bottom is  my "Bouncing Bananas" motif, and looks amazing as well in this thread.  What Roberta did so well was use her creativity with the digitized designs to create something new and fresh. 

After gushing over this beautiful bag to my class the next morning, who should stroll in but Roberta, with bag, and she totally surprised me by giving it to me.  I was open mouthed with amazement, and a hug and thanks were all I had in exchange.  Thanks so much Roberta, I shall use it often and love it each time.

The designs on the Bernina 830 and my "Quilting Whimsy" CD can be sized and combined, rotated, whatever, to get the effect you want.  There are two designs for a large hoop.  The creativity is up to you. 

Using them as quilting in the quilt sandwich and placing it in your embroidery hoop, then doing some simple free motion work or walking foot lines around them to finish up a very fancy quilt makes these designs a great way to quilt your tops, or try out on table runners or placemats to get the hang of it. 

Or make a bag like this!

Hope you liked seeing this project, and keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day......

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fronds, Feathers, Flowers, Froth, Fun....Home from Asilomar

Another fabulous class at Empty Spools Seminars, at the beautiful Asilomar State Park near Monterey, California!  Above, my intrepid and amazing students, 25 in total, who worked with me for 5 days to accomplish more refined and beautiful machine quilting, all done on a home sewing machine.  My table is in the foreground and this "chairs up" session at the front of our huge classroom/building covered one of many techniques included in the class.

This particular group forged out on their own to counter the next building's group, who chanted all day long and were interfering with our own Zen and the sounds of our machines.  Original chants were devised and performed, highlighting lessons learned and teacher foibles, ha. 

With all the class work, the other activities, the evening sessions, time to eat and sleep, who knows when they had the time to do this, and practice, and perform so very well!  This will be my "chanting" class in my memories, the class where all I had to do was hold out my arms, and a chant would ensue. 

Yes, we had fun.

Yes, we learned about doing beautiful motifs and techniques on our home sewing machines.  Podflowers grew, feathers flowed, gingko stretched our brain power.

My trip home was smooth, my last day there I spent in a fantastic new room far away from the woods, up on a scenic outcropping with a full ocean view.  A wonderful way to unwind, pack for the trip home, and relax.

Class, I never found the gingko handouts with the diagram.  They were not on the kitchen counter after all.  I may have unpacked them in my first night's hotel and left them there.  Who knows what some housekeeper might be practicing in her off time, and what wonderful gingkos she is quilting.....!

Thanks to everyone for making my last class so wonderful.  I will always remember my times at Empty Spools, the fun and talented people, the scenery, the buildings and charm.  Special thanks to Diana, Suzanne, and Gayle for making it all possible and for taking such great care of me and everyone, and for all those over the years who were my classroom assistants/hostesses and made it all go smoothly.  

Special thanks to Roberta for all her assistance with the machines and who provided me with a wonderful smooth familiar Bernina 730 for my quilting demos, and for the lovely bag, which I shall show in a future post.

Oliver was ecstatic when I arrived home, and is still checking out my luggage and interesting crumbs and exotic scents in my things.  There were even a few pine needles.  I think he grew while I was away, but is now so content and happy that I am home and doing fun things like laundry. 

More on what we learned in a future post.

Meanwhile, keep quilting....your work gets better every day!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thank you GLHQ! On to Asilomar....

I just returned from a wonderful trip to the Detroit, MI area where I taught classes and gave a lecture to the Great Lakes Heritage Quilters.  The weather was summery, food amazing, scenery lovely.  Special thanks to Diane and Joyce for taking such great care of me, and Linda for chauffeuring me in a pinch, and for sharing their time so generously. 

We had fun, we talked, laughed, quilted.  Everyone worked so hard in class, and the results were terrific.  Keep on quilting, work on those tops or make tops to quilt and perfect your free motion skills.  Remember to take breaks too.

Loved seeing all the cousins, uncles, aunts and other relations to my amazing Buick on the roads there too.

I returned to Wisconsin to find spring has finally arrived, the trees are blooming and the warm days are here.  I had a few hours rest and relaxation, some time to assure Oliver it really was me back again, but he knows I am not even stowing the luggage in the hidden room.  I must be going somewhere again, and he is right.

Next week is my last session at Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in California.  I am busy shipping things and hoping they get there in time.  My silk thread cones arrived on Monday and I shipped off a box of them for class, but I am also bringing some with me in case these don't arrive in time.  When I dumped them all out on the kitchen table they were so pretty, like jewels in all the colors and shine.  Yum.

Those of you in class next week should keep in mind:
  •  Prepare the project to quilt in class ahead of time.  You may layer it, and even stitch in the ditches first, with fine weight thread of your choice.  If you decide on marking something in the squares or border, that can be done in class after we get started and discuss options.  I will have some stencils for you in class.
  • Be sure and have good markers - you need to see the marks.
  • The on-site shop will have wonderful wool batt, Pellon Legacy, in case you'd like to try it. 
  • Sew EZ tables are a great thing to have if you are driving.  There is plenty of room in our classroom.
  • The chairs could use a small cushion if you are short. 
  • Please do not wear strong perfumes, essential oils, or insect repellent to class as many of us are allergic to them....thanks from me, and all of us.
I look forward to spending this time with all of you.  I hope the class will have something for everyone so your quilting will improve and you will leave with new excitement about this amazing art.  Please email me if you have specific questions.

Back to packing, but do keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.