Friday, April 30, 2010


Oliver has been helping me with some piecing lately.  I am making a small wall quilt to showcase my new collection of digitized designs and decided it was long overdue to figure out how to piece on my Bernina 730.  I honestly do not want to switch between machines, but I always feared the wide feed dogs.

While rummaging through my machine's feet in my sewing drawer, looking to see if perchance I did have a #37 foot somewhere for this machine, I discovered the #57 foot, below.  It seems to be the #37 foot with this cool little guide on the right to keep everything going straight and even through the process.

I put it on the machine, cut some triangles and squares from muslin, put in some lovely YLI Soft Touch thread for piecing and my trusty #60 Sharp needle and WOW!  It was amazing, the fabric was controlled from beginning to end of each piece, the seam was perfection.  Yowza!

The stitch length I used was 1.8 for a fine thread and for piecing.  It is nice and secure for a lighter weight thread, but I can still insert the tip of my seam ripper in a stitch if I have to un-sew.

I  may buy a #37 foot for those times when I don't want the extra guide that the #57 has.  All you have to do with the #57 foot is make sure the raw edges hit the guide on the right.  I also look at the 1/4" line on the throat plate, and keep an eye on the fabrics as the emerge behind the foot to keep everything straight and even. 

The seam from beginning to end was straight and even.  When I did triangles the seam stayed perfect right to the tips.  Later I  tried it for sewing a pieced row to a solid border strip and the results were perfect, triangles all lined up with no tips nipped off, and it fed smoothly through the machine with no problems. 

I am thrilled to know I can piece and quilt on the same machine!  All because of this great little foot.  It reminds me of discovering the #24 open toe foot for quilting; I was delighted when I could quilt so much better, just because of the foot I was using.

I love sewing on my 730 because of the smoothness of the rotary hook, the great thread delivery with no glitches, the fabulous sound and perfect stitch/tension of this machine.  Those birds' nests of thread when beginning a line of stitching don't happen as often on my 730, although I do try and remember to hang onto the loose threads when beginning and that helps a lot with any machine.

There is a single hole, or "straight stitch" throat plate on the machine when I quilt and when I piece.  It really helps keep problems from happening, and keeps the stitch quality the best. 

My machine has a security feature so if you do have this throat plate on instead of the zig-zag plate, and you enter that info in the machine (easy!), it will not do a zig-zag stitch or any stitch with width, and break the needle.  The machine does not run if you try a wide stitch with this throat plate.

Check your machine's owner's manual to see if you have this feature, and an available foot for piecing, and a straight-stitch throat plate option.  With new electronics on all brands of machines you might be surprised to find things you didn't know you had, always a good thing.

In the past I would stick a red label on my machine to remind myself that I had this throat plate on, but sometimes I forgot and tried a stitch and oops, broke a needle.  Love the security feature on this machine.  No more problems.  If you do not have this, then by all means do something to remind yourself that this throat plate is on, and zig-zags are not allowed.

Years ago I discovered that if I used a smaller stitch length and finer thread my piecing looked so much nicer.  Thread did not show in seams, and pieced patchwork came out  much closer to the desired "finished" dimensions. 

I press well with a spritz of starch, press the seam before I open it or press allowances to one side.  If I am pressing to the side, I set the seam with heat, then press from the top, very gently so as not to distort.  Then I add the spritz of starch and hold the iron on the seam without moving it, so the starch is pressed in and dries. 

Some of my favorite threads for piecing are, from left, Superior MasterPiece cotton, YLI Soft Touch cotton (Oliver is eating it), small cone of brown Aurifil #50 2-ply cotton and large large cone of the same in all-purpose tan, and in front, brown Mettler #60 2-ply cotton. 

I try to use a neutral like tan, ecru, grey, but I recall with the fabrics in my quilt "Shadows of Umbria," below, I used Aurifil #50 in a dusty purple and it was by far the best option for a "no show" thread in the seams.  It melted into every color I was using, perfect, plus I had a huge cone of it as a gift in my teacher's bag of treats from Harriet Hargrave.

If my piecing goes well, I will then proceed to tracing a zillion designs on this little wall quilt and then begin quilting it, my favorite part. 

Those of you who know my methods from classes know that before I put needle in quilt I will play on some leftover bits of the fabrics layered with the batt and backing in the actual quilt.  I use this to pick out thread color, warm up on my motifs, check thread tension, see how it works and feels.  I will try some thread colors out of my comfort zone to "see" what they look like, I will get the feel of the quilt and be ready to hit the real one and do a great job.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Empty Spools Class Registration

Classes at Empty Spools Seminars, at sunset, above, are going to open soon for registration,  I believe around May 10.   I will be teaching two 5-day classes there, near Pacific Grove/Monterey, California at a state park called Asilomar.

From Wisconsin I fly to Phoenix, run like crazy to catch the connecting flight, and then on directly to Monterey in Northern California, a simply beautiful part of this country.  A short cab ride and I am at my location.

Both classes are the same content, with the focus on learning to improve your free motion machine quilting skills (home sewing machine) and learn some freehand motifs on a simple pieced project.  Stencils and following planned, marked lines are also an option, so both marked and unmarked quilting will be covered.  My goal is to have you improve and go up a level in your quilting skills.

My first class is March 25-30, and the second one is May 27 - June 1, 2011.

Because I am not traveling as much as in the past, and these are the only 5-day classes I teach, they do fill fairly quickly, as do many at this event. 

The location, the relaxed atmosphere, sharing of meals with others as well as those in your class and teachers, the beautiful architecture, no tv, fresh air, wildlife, and the Pacific ocean all contribute to the experience and make it very special.  It truly is a Refuge by the Sea.

If you have questions about my class and if it would work for you, please email me:

And I'll see this year's last session at the end of June.  Meanwhile, keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Paducah Trip

Shirley Kelly - "Remembering Kelly" (I have permission from Shirley to post this photo)

Home from Quilt City USA, and back to catching up on home things. I had a good trip, fabulous weather, great food, and it was wonderful to see so many at the National Quilt Museum Monday night for Hollis Chatelain's tour of her Imagine Hope exhibit.  Also saw many familiar faces and old friends at Sneak Preview and the opening day of the show.

Shirley Kelly, above, won two first place awards for her fabulous work, hand applique and home machine quilting.  Anyone who sees her work will remember it, and this one was especially poignant with the mementos and memories of a great horse's life.

My treat of the show was to finally see Sandra Leichner's quilt, "Tea with Miss D." below, permission to add this photo to my blog granted by Sandra, and these are her photos.

Sandra Leichner ~ "Tea With Miss D."

It was more than I could have imagined, a treasure to see and take in.  The handwork and details were amazing, the machine quilting designs and execution the very best.  I am afraid my mouth might have been hanging open as I gazed at this delicious concoction, discovering detail after detail, and I know from the many comments of quilters that so many enjoyed it tremendously.  To see it and many detail shots, go to Sandra's blog, and be sure and check out the fabulous quilting too.  Below, the center tea cup surrounded by little strawberry shortcakes.  Oh my.

We had perfect weather early in the week, but rain arrived later, after I had left for home.  Crowds were not as big as in the past, parking was at a premium so lots of trekking was needed, and those who went in the new Pavilion for vendor shopping liked it.  They reported it was airy, bright, with lots of room and much easier to shop than in the old vendor locations in years past.

Now I am home, I am going to try and trace some of my new digitized designs for home embroidery machines and quilt up a sample, of course, free motion, and gasp, I have to follow lines so the designs will resemble those on the CD.  Not easy now that I am so used to quilting with minimal marking.  I like the designs but know I will do a bit of fudging as I quilt to make them even better looking.  I'll post a photo  when the project is finished.

Oliver was ecstatic to see me when I arrived home.  The gymnastics, the run, run, run, squeak, squeak, squeak....all off the charts of feline happiness.  He is now thinking maybe I am home for good, of course until the bags come out to pack for the next trip.  Below, his special place on his "special" chair in the living room window so he can watch the birds in the bushes outside.  And chirp.  He is a great little chirper, and I swear he grew and gained weight while I was away!  His fur is getting thicker and prettier every day too. 

Yesterday he discovered rotary cutting.  Oh my, time to close the door to the sewing room and work alone or risk paw amputation!

Hope you all enjoyed the AQS Show in Paducah, and.....keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ah, Paducah!

Oliver has been helping me draw, draw, draw.  He is very well behaved, sits on the drawings, helpfully holding them in place in case a strong wind might blow through.  Then he naps or chases something around the floor while he waits for me to be done so he can sneak up and attack me, then run off in a frenzy of delight.

I have been working on a new digitized collection of my quilting designs for the embroidery sewing machines, and it is coming along nicely.  I based the designs on some of my recent quilts, but the drawings are all new.  Watch for a September release from OESD if all goes according to schedule.  I don't have a title yet, but I'll let you know more details as this project unfolds.

And, speaking of schedules, mine includes shipping off these designs, then quickly switching gears and packing for my trip to Paducah next week.  Spring has arrived about 2-3 weeks early here in Wisconsin, so it won't be the dramatic change from winter to spring when I drive down to KY, but it will be wonderful to be back at the show this year and see so many quilts, friends, vendors, BBQ, dogwoods in bloom, friends and quilts at the museum. 

I see there are many familiar names with quilts in the show, and many who have taken classes with me.  It will be terrific to see your work hanging in this prestigious show......congratulations to all!

Please say hello if you see me, remind me how I know you, as it is a sea of people and it's hard to place people out of context. 

While I was working in my sewing room, Oliver discovered the bird lamp.  This is a lamp I've had for probably 40 years, has a wrought iron base with a vine and birds and lemons and leaves all over it.  Every now and then I put it in the pile of stuff to give away, and then I look at its fun whimsical design and decide to keep it just a bit longer. 

No other cat has ever paid the slightest attention to it.

Oliver sat under its warm light and tilted his head and stared at the little birds looking back at him.  He ended up with one paw on the head of a bird, just touching it gently, trying to figure out why the outside birds were sitting in Mom's quilting room.  He chirped and squeaked, tilted his head to the left and to the right, and finally settled down and slept under the gaze of the happy little birds.  I kept drawing.  Nothing like a deadline.  No chirping for me.

After I return from the AQS Show in Paducah I shall return to some quilting blog posts, ideas, tips, designs.  It's time to venture outdoors and enjoy the springtime.  Take a bit of time to look around and be inspired, translate that into your quilting ideas.

See you in Paducah!

Keep quilting-- your work gets better every day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A New Tool for Spring Cleaning

While in my class at Empty Spools Seminars in March one of my students showed me this wonderful product, tiny swabs with a microfiber tip.  Microfiber dish cloths and dusting cloths are fabulous, and these are a tiny version of that fiber. 

They can be used to clean any number of tiny spaces and spots, but are really wonderful to use on your sewing machine to get out stray threads, lint, gunk, etc.  Great for all electronics too.

I use them very gently to remove the waxy substance left from silk thread.  It can clog the hook race in the bobbin area and this little device works great for gentle removal.  Never poke and jab at any sewing machine parts, especially delicate springs.

Here you can see the difference in size between the microbrush and an ordinary cotton swab, which I still like to use after adding that drop of oil to the hook area by the bobbin to remove any traces of oil and gently smooth the oil over any metal parts. 

I also used the microbrush to clean the thread pathway in the top of the machine.  If a thread gets caught in any of these areas, the tension discs, thread cutter bar, etc., it's nice to have a gentle and effective tool like this that will help but not damage the machine. 

You can order the product from Cotton Club.

Hope you are having a terrific jump into Spring, and are doing just a little quilting in addition to everything else.

Keep quilting; your work gets better every day!