Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all, may you find peace and joy this time of year, and have a New Year that is filled with your heart's desires.

We are shoveling out once again here in Wisconsin, USA, staying home and thinking of the friends and loved ones who have so blessed our lives.

Thanks to all of you in quilt-land for being there, and I wish you all the happiest of holidays.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Some December Tips

Back in 1999 Arnie helped me finish October Morning. Now he is a creaky 17+ (who really knows?) years old and this quilt has been in the National Quilt Museum for 9 years, but it seems like this was only a year ago, tops. Time does funny things as you get older.
Today my guest blog appears at Hope you enjoy it.
While I was quilting and trying out some new ideas in small piece yesterday I decided to post a few tips for you this December when our lives are so hectic and busy. Hope they help a bit, and you can all relax and take some time for yourself and for your quilting.
  • Always try and warm up a little before quilting on the actual quilt each day. Just a few stitches, wake up your muscle memory, get the feel of it, try out a design. Get with the flow.
  • The "thread pathway" is often the cause of so many troubles. If thread winds around the spindle, gets caught on the thread spool's top or bottom or little notch, falls out of a guide or tensioning device, disaster happens. Broken threads and/or needles, skipped stitches, snarls, bad tension--all can be results of problems threading the machine. Re-thread carefully, consult your owner's manual if you are unsure of where that thread should go. Then, with the presser foot UP, gently pull on the thread to make sure it goes through smoothly, no catches or stops, and that the needle doesn't bend. Then you can proceed to try out some stitching.
  • Magnifiers are fabulous for close work, but can be a bit of a hindrance for larger designs. You need to see the "field" when quilting a larger size design and especially a freehand design. You need to see the "big picture" and not focus on individual stitches. Don't focus on the area right around the needle, but look ahead and aim for that point, keeping hands and machine speed coordinated, not moving hands too fast. The quilting will flow beautifully, be smooth and beautiful.
  • If you like a quilting design you have done so frequently you could now do it in your sleep, try modifying it somehow to get something in the same style but with a different look. Recently I did this with my basic echo feathers and came up with something that is fresh, easy, and a nice alternative for areas where I would have quilted feathers before.
  • Always keep an eye out for new ideas in textures. Look around you, sketch, doodle, draw, take photos of interesting textures that could easily be tweaked and turned into machine quilting designs.
  • Clean and oil your machine (if oil-able) regularly, and take it in for its scheduled check-ups. I always think nope, doesn't need a thing, just fine thank you, and when I get it home again I am amazed at how fabulous it has become in the hands of my trusty technician.
  • Try a new color, fabric, or thread, or both. Add some spicy orange to your fabric selection, or deep teal or purple, or a pastel to soften your brighter hues, something pink maybe. Yellow! Put colors together you never before considered. A new year is coming; time for some changes.
  • I like to take a short break between techniques that are totally different. If I am quilting marked lines and then want to do some freehand work, I take a break before beginning. They are such different techniques it gives my concentration and focus a "refresh" before beginning the next one.
  • Start a trend, don't follow them in quilting. Be your own leader.

Keep quilting, stay warm, your work gets better every day!


Thursday, December 10, 2009


The weather people were finally right; we did get hit by a huge storm here in Wisconsin, tons of snow, bitter cold today, and drifts everywhere. I am staying in. My sewing room is cozy and bright and I can work on some samples for next year's classes while I ponder fabrics lying here and there, needing to go in some wonderful project. I ponder too much, quilt not nearly enough lately.

Most of my holiday shopping is done, and one of the things I chose for a gift for a quilter is the book, below, by Robert Shaw, American Quilts, The Democratic Art, 1780 - 2007.

This is my favorite type of "quilt" book - filled with gorgeous photos, detailed description and commentary, it takes you from the early beginnings of quilting in this country all the way up through 2007, encompassing all styles, trends, major breakthrough quilts over those years.
I like to keep it next to my chair so when I sit down for a break I can pick it up and read a bit here and there. I am always instantly engrossed, and always learn something new. Even if you only turn the pages and take in the glory of these quilts it is worth having.
It was an honor to have the author, Robert Shaw, include one of my quilts in this book, "Through a Glass Darkly: An American Memory." Below is the book opened to "my" page. When I wrote on this blog about traditional quilts and their place in history and in modern quilting as well I hadn't seen this book yet. Now it is there, one of my quilts, with modern art quilts, with traditional very old quilts, all in a continuum from early days to the art movement in recent times. It fits in so well, and I am so pleased to have been included in this spectacular book.

Hope your December is going well; keep quilting, your work gets better every day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This and That

The leaves, above, are printed on a sheer crinkly fabric that I placed on black so the design would show more clearly. I like it. It is an old blouse I never wear, and while I was packing it up for a donation box I loved the great leaves.

I am always noticing quilting motifs in everything, and with some tweaking this one would be great. Now, to sit at my machine and play with this a bit. It might make it, or it might end up on the cutting room floor.

I've had so many emails about silk thread and how to make it work in various machines. Usually it's wise to lower the top tension a bit, maybe a lot, and use a fine cotton in the bobbin and it will work very well. Do a small adjustment at a time, maybe half a stop, so if it is set at 4, go to 3 1/2 and quilt a bit and see what it looks like. Sometimes it needs to go much lower, depending on the machine. Always check the back stitches and the tension there too.

In my last class we had two machines that had very loose bobbin tension. If I held the bobbin case up by the thread it fell. It should feel like it is going to fall to the floor but doesn't. We adjusted the bobbin tension, a bit at a time, until it felt right, then tried it in the machine. Success! Perfect stitch.

There was one that was incredibly tight, and we loosened it and it worked perfectly afterwards.

If you have "fear of bobbin tension" syndrome, and are concerned about adjusting it yourself, take it in for a little field trip to your dealer if possible and have them show you, check it, get the right information.

I have used #100 silk thread by YLI on several models of Berninas and they all take it a bit differently, but in the end, perfectly. In my last teaching trip to Phat Quarters in Galena, IL I used a new Bernina 730 and it worked absolutely perfectly at the default upper tension setting with silk in the bobbin as well. Once you get the hang of how your machine and your thread get along you will know exactly what to do, and have great success, and great confidence.

And don't forget your technician at your dealer. They see it all, know so much, and have a direct link to the mother ship.

Exciting news! I finally twisted Ann Fahl's arm and she has begun a blog. Ann is an accomplished award-winning machine quilter and art quilter who will have many thoughts and tips to share with you. I love her advice about color in her first post, and agree totally. I know I will enjoy reading her blog with my morning coffee. Her blog is

Let's welcome her to the blogosphere!

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day!