Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quilting with Digitized Embroidery

Detail from the megahoop design in my "Quilting Whimsy" collection

If you own a home sewing machine that has the capability to do hoop embroidery you also have the capability to do hoop quilting!  There are digitized quilting designs available from various quilt artists, and I've seen many quilts using these designs now, beautifully quilted. 

All three layers are positioned in the hoop for the quilting, although I do know one quilter who quilted the designs through the top and a thin batt first, then layered the backing and did simple outlines around the design and any background quilting through ALL the layers.  It was easier to do the digitized quilting in the hoop in her home machine with a thin batt and only the top.

It's easier to do small projects, and larger quilts are better suited if the machine is mounted on a frame system.  Smaller quilts are very do-able in your normal set-up, and can give you beautiful ornate quilting that might be hard for you to do with regular free motion quilting.  The stitches are even, the traveling is undetectable, designs can be sized, rotated, combined to create your own look.  Backgrounds, like the grid below, are done free motion or with a walking foot by you.

Designs from "Quilting Fancy" combined to create this medallion

When I've seen quilts done with my designs that have been digitized I always have to catch my breath, they are lovely.  These designs really can add to your quilt's beauty, even if you use only one as a focal point.

I have two collections of designs available at www.embroideryonline.com under the licensed artists' collections.  "Quilting Whimsy" is on sale now, and they have brought back my original collection "Quilting Fancy."

Combined designs from "Quilting Fancy"

These designs were meant for quilting, but look amazing done as "redwork" line design embroidery as well in colored, heavier thread.

Hope you had a terrific Thanksgiving, and can sneak in some time for yourself and your quilting....or play with digitized quilting..... during this busy time of year.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day,

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thank You....

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the USA, and we are preparing for a day of delicious food, and a day of giving thanks. 
It is special to set aside a day to think about all we are grateful for, to share it with family and friends, or maybe just a dear little cat.  I am thankful for so much, and as I chop veggies, roast the turkey, set the table, I will be thinking of so many of you who have enriched my life beyond compare. 
The people and places of quilting have given me so many memories, funny, exhiliarating, exasperating, heartwarming, all in a very special place in my heart.  For that I thank all of you, and wish you the very best Thanksgiving and holiday season, with much to celebrate.  Oliver will be helping me cook, especially the Brussels sprouts and yams, as we settle in here in very cold Wisconsin for a yummy meal and look forward to a cozy winter.
May your day be warm and wonderful, food delicious, friends and family there for you, and memories to be made for the future.  Enjoy,

Monday, November 4, 2013

AAQI Reaches $1 Million!!

Congratulations to Ami Simms and her Alzheimer's Art Quilt Iniatiative for reaching the $1 million mark at Houston last week!  Above, Ricky Timms and Alex Anderson helping Ami celebrate this remarkable amazing splendiferous achievement!
I am honored to have had a quilt in the very first AAQI traveling exhibit and book, and now have my second quilt, "Return to Provence" in the Celebrity Invitational Auction at www.alzquilts.org
The quilts are made by famous quilters, are so very beautiful, and are the last big chance for all of us to support AAQI and make the final amount raised even higher! 
Special thanks to Ami and her thousands of helpers and volunteers who made this happen, to quilters who made quilts, sold quilts, bought quilts, shipped quilts, helped at the exhibits, did it all.  Quilters rock!!!! 
Below, photos of my quilt in the auction, but please buy one that speaks to you; they are all works of art, all special and unique and original. 
The auction is on now, and runs through 10 p.m. Nov. 10 (I earlier mistakenly said Nov.6).  Here is the link for bidding:   
Thank you to all who even consider bidding - all of us who have loved ones, friends, dear people affected by Alzheimer's can't even begin to tell you how much you are treasured for helping this cause.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy Halloween

It's that time of year again when pumpkins glow, leaves are flying in the air and rustling in the wind as winter approaches. 
Quite a few years ago while quilting on this lovely hand dyed sateen, above, I came back to my machine and discovered many small Dracula type bats looking at me.  I had not noticed them when I washed/pressed the fabric, or cut it and layered it, or even when quilting the feathers, but all of a sudden..........there they were! 
I had to make a decision whether to quilt background over them, or give them their space.  Not wanting to tempt fate, I decided to outline quilt them and let them have their fun emerging from the bottom feathers with glee and ghoulishness, ha.  I named the small quilt "Batzbelow" in their honor and so far all is well.  They stay in the quilt, stored in the back room.
Last week we got a new furnace and AC unit as our old ones were starting to fail with metal fatigue and old age, much like me I think.  Oliver had a hard day, lots of banging and clanging, new duct work, two efficient competent guys going up and down noisy stairs and in and out of the house all day. 
He worried for about a week now that they were either a) still in the basement waiting to spring a surprise on him, or b) across the street working on the new roof over there.  Everything is now quiet, toasty warm, fabulous.  Even my fingers are warm!  Oliver's toe pads and nose are PINK.  High efficiency heat is VERY nice! 
Can't wait to try the new AC that is 5' tall (really) and the highest efficiency rating and cooling capacity sized for our house that we could get.  I hope next summer I will be cool and dry and calm and fabulous instead of hot and sweaty and grouchy and no energy.  That is yet to be seen of course.
Hope you are enjoying the turn of seasons.  Below, a photo of "Joy Remembered," a quilt I made last year for the AAQI Celebrity Auction.  This year's quilt, "Return to Provence," will be available in this same auction in November.  Please visit www.alzquilts.org to see all the quilts made by fantastic people to help raise funds to fight this terrible disease.   I'll post some photos of it this week so you can think about it before the auction ends. 
Detail "Joy Remembered"
Have fun this Halloween, and if you are like me you better not buy Reese's peanut butter cups for the trick or treaters as there will be leftovers and they are not to be resisted.
Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day,

Monday, October 7, 2013

Log Cabin Grid

Here is another example of a large marked on-point grid, quilted, and then one by one each square filled in with a log cabin spiral. 
It is done with the same idea as Celtic Bubbles - one unit at a time, carefully concentrating to keep things fairly even as you quilt straight lines and resolve them to the very center, lock in stitches, and cut thread.  It's a wonderful texture to use because it is simple to mark the large grid, and the rest is freehand. 
My lines aren't all straight, spacing isn't all perfect, but I like the effect and this was fun to do, but definitely a bit challenging if you are a beginner.
Because the overall grid is quilted first, and then the interior portions done one by one, it does take some time, but with designs like this one I believe the extra care and time is worth it if you use this judiciously. 
By that I mean no huge expanses of this (unless you LOVE doing it and can do it well and quickly), but here and there in a quilt as a perfect space filler that gives structure, a linear look to offset many curvy designs, or in a special place, such as in a basket, a vase or urn, the big center of a pieced block, parts of a landscape, etc. 
For quilting on a home sewing machine, keep the squares no larger than 3" and fill them in with the design.  This grid was 1 3/4" marked, but 2" works well too.  That way you are moving the quilt under the needle for short lines, easy to do, easy to keep those lines straight.  The spacing was a scant 1/4", easy to visualize as we use it all the time in piecing quilts.
When quilting the logs, look a bit ahead of the needle, keeping that space between the line you have already quilted and the one you are now quilting in your vision and keep that "puff" smooth and even.  Look at the space between the lines, not the lines, to get an even well-spaced design
Don't turn your quilt while quilting this.  Learn to quilt away from yourself, to the east and west as well as towards yourself.  If you try to do this design in a large quilt, even a wall quilt, you cannot turn it in the machine every time the line you are doing changes direction.   
Avoid running the machine too fast when doing this kind of work or stitches will get too small, as mine tended to do.  Your hands are going slower to do this, so stitches will pile up quickly as you concentrate on the lines, and quilt more slowly.
When you "run into" a design, ditch, another line of quilting (above in photo the echo lines around the leaves), stitch on the line to where you need to be to resume the line design.  This can get confusing sometimes, so if you don't know where to go, stop, look at the design, see where you need to go, maybe even place a dot or mark to help you judge where the next line will be.  This "layering" takes practice and a good eye to do smoothly, so it looks as if the grid design is continuing under the main design. 
Sometimes when you get to the final part in the center you will get more of a rectangle there instead of a little square.  Fine!  It's a rectangle and will add interest to the squares in the other places.  But think "why" did it happen.  Usually it is because the spacing of the logs of this design were not similar, so work on your consistency. 
Yes, I had rectangles too.  It happens.  :-)
Be sure and warm up first.  Practice some straight lines, square tops and bottoms as you stitch over to begin the next parallel line.  One stitch in place at a corner keeps it nice and sharp rather than curved corners.  You do not want curves in this design.
If you need to stop and breathe, or adjust hands, try doing it at a corner in the design, needle down.  When you begin quilting again, go slowly or raise the needle to the "up" position so you do not create a wobble when you resume quilting.  Do the lines in one smooth motion, looking to the end point and going to it. 
It's always ok to stop at a corner and take a moment, even a second or two, then proceed.
Tip!  The main grid is quilted "on point" or at a 45-degree angle to prevent distortion.  If you mark it on the grain you will run into distorted squares, fabric pleats, difficult times for sure.  Trust me on this.
Give this design a try.  It can be the focal point (done in contrast thread or shiny thread), or a background.  It would look wonderful as the final border on a quilt, a 5" border or the outside portion of a border.  It definitely would stabilize the border and keep it smooth and flat, and give a great linear frame to the entire quilt.
Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Autumn Leaves already?

Every year about this time the leaves turn glorious shades and begin falling, and I begin a quilt project inspired by the colors around me.  Above, detail from "Shadows of Umbria," made "just for me" one autumn, because I simply had to dig into my fabric and work with these colors.  I always do.
It has been so long since I've posted that I almost forgot I had a blog, but today I have some spare time and decided to check in and see what's going on in Blogland. 

I've been enjoying retirement, although it seems life is as busy as ever, but no travel deadlines for me now, no packing stacks of quilts, samples, and handouts.  Life is at my pace and that is good.  I'm keeping up with quilting, what is going on, new machines, fabrics, styles, people.  And every now and then Oliver and I spend some time at the machine doing a bit of quilting too.
Oliver turned 4 in August, and we celebrated with a bowl of fresh guacamole which he loved helping to prepare (he adores fresh veggies, especially sweet corn this year, the silk, of course).  His godfather visited and brought him a playstation that he uses many times every day and loves it. 
And adventures he has had!  He made his escape from the house for an entire hour one day by figuring out a way to slither through the opening in the sliding patio door.  I came down to see him OUTSIDE, looking IN!  He couldn't get back in on his own, and how he squeezed himself into that opening I'll never know, but now that has been revised and I believe he will stay in the house from now on.  I had a few new grey hairs from that little escapade, and perhaps his innards are slightly compressed too.
I visited Bigsby's Sewing Center in Elm Grove to see what's new, and had a great time with Riley, their saved kitten, now a large sweet cat, who showed me how to work an IPad.  He has a game where he chases the pink mouse and he even knows how to swipe the screen to go to the next game.  Ah, cats.  Smarter than we knew.
Recently I held a small class for two professional quilter friends and it was wonderful to experience teaching again.  We quilted, laughed, shared and had two good days at our machines.  During that time there were many things that came to mind about quilting and I will list some of them here for you to consider too:
I know this is something you have heard over and over, but clean and oil your machine (if oiling is appropriate for your brand/model) frequently if you quilt or sew often - I do it every 3 or 4 hours.  After a big project, be sure and do this thoroughly.  The bobbin area is especially important, get rid of lint and gunk, shine a light in there, and gently get all the lint, threads, "stuff" out.  Clean thread guides on top too.  Then add a drop of oil where metal rotates around metal in the bobbin/hook area, slowly run the machine to distribute it, and remove excess.  Quilt or sew a bit on a sample to work out any excess. 
Above, using my microbrush (or a cotton swab, and a brush is good too) to clean the hook area.  After all lint and gunk is removed I add a drop of fresh sewing machine oil here.  Note the warning on the machine telling operator to close the door!  I have to remind those in my classes to do this all the time.  Just shut this door and things will be good.
If you hear strange noises in the machine or suddenly your tension is not right and no matter what you do can't be adjusted, you might have something damaged in the bobbin area.  Stop; don't continue quilting if a noise alerts you or if stitches look bad.
In our class we discovered a metal part on the bobbin case had been damaged on an older Bernina.  Once it had been repaired the machine worked perfectly.  Many quilters have an extra bobbin case on hand or perhaps one comes with the machine and you can try that to see if it solves the problem.
Bobbins can become damaged or bent through use, over time.  Try a new one, wind it, see how that works before you assume the worst.
Don't always blame your skill level or inexperience for something that isn't working right on your machine.  It can be something very tiny, maybe that you can't see, that could be causing the problem.  Many times the simply re-threading top and bottom of machine, checking to make sure the bobbin is in correctly and wound correctly, cleaning in the bobbin area, all might fix the problem.  Replace the needle, try another spool of thread if you have one, a new bobbin wound with fresh thread.  All these things are tiny tiny problems but added up can cause huge issues with free motion machine quilting.
When you are shopping and see new exciting products, make sure they can be used in the way you plan.  That gorgeous thread might not work in the top of the machine, only the bobbin if at all.  What needle will work best with it?  Ask the people at the store for advice; a specialty quilt/sewing store will have trained people to help you. 
We had fallen in love with an assortment of threads, but Rosemary said it did not work well in the machine even though it would thread ok, the "twist" of the thread caused problems.  So we put that back and looked for other delightful choices.
Try something new with your quilting.  Set yourself a challenge to research and come up with a new technique or design that you can add to your next project.  This not only adds interest to the finished quilt, but keeps you interested in your quilting.  It's so much fun to draw something, figure out how to quilt it, make some samples, practice it until you are proficient, and use it in a real quilt. 
We tried some grid-based designs, zentangle ideas, freehand florals.  You need more than loopy backgrounds for quilting designs; some focal point motifs are important too.  Many floral designs can be done with some sketched in guidelines or a starting point, then add  freehand petals, details, leaves, echoes.
Below, a grid-based background I tried around a feather.  It appears to be on-grain squares, but in reality it is on-point squares stitched first, then each filled, one at a time, with a log cabin style spiral technique.  It was a bit tedious, went faster the more I did, and I love the finished look, so definitely will be adding this to my projects.

I hope you are taking some time for October's bright blue skies, and autumn leaves if you have them where you live.  It is one of the highlights of living in Wisconsin, the vistas of color as you make the turn in the road and see nature's glory for a fleeting time each fall.  Even a bright red leaf fallen on the sidewalk is a chance to marvel at color, composition, design. 
Enjoy, and keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Trip to Quilters Hall of Fame

Last weekend I travelled to Marion, IN to visit the Marie Webster House which is home to the Quilters Hall of Fame.  The highlight of the trip was the induction ceremony for Meredith Schroeder, AQS President, into the Quilters Hall of Fame, such a well-deserved honor. 
It was raining and thundering when I was there so didn't choose a good drenching in order to take photos outdoors.  The Star quilt exhibit by the American Quilt Study Group was fabulous, new interpretations of vintage quilts, plus some of the old ones on display too.  They were both hand and machine quilted, a pleasure to explore all their details.
The house has been beautifully restored, with its moldings, windows, gorgeous front door and leaded glass, and lovely ceramic framed fireplaces.  It is a perfect backdrop for the quilts on display, and the rain pattering on the windows, floors creaking a bit as I walked from room to room only added to the feeling of stepping back in time.
There were exhibits and classes for the event, including a special invitational exhibit of quilts that Meredith Schroeder assembled called MasterPieces.  I am very honored to have a quilt in this exhibit which will be seen in August at the AQS show in Grand Rapids, MI and later at the National Quilt Museum.  It is a spectacular exhibit with quilts from leaders in the quilting movement, so see it if you can.
The ceremony was happy, yet lots of teary eyes as we paid tribute to Meredith who has affected so many of is and our lives and careers in a very good way.  Her warmth and generosity and ethics, along with the skill to lead AQS have contributed so much to the quilt world.  We had towering fields of corn surrounding us, delicious IN food, and the joy of seeing old friends at such a momentous occasion. 
Now I am back home, re-inspired and grateful for the quilting experiences I have had.  Oliver missed me, is still running and chirping in happiness.  Time to start thinking of a new project.....
Next post I will answer some of your widespread questions on various subjects in your comments, all here in one place.
"Shadow Leaves"
Keep quilting! It gets better every day....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Return to Provence

"Return to Provence" ~ Diane Gaudynski 2013
The entire quilt, above, is 14 3/4" square, quilted with YLI #100 silk thread on gold silk dupioni, Pellon Legacy wool batt.  The designs are based on my miniature quilt, A Visit to Provence.  Below is a detail so you can see scale:
Although the motifs are small, it was fun to quilt.  The backgrounds were time consuming as always, but in miniature even more so.  However, I like the finished result and will let you know when this available for bidding for the AAQI Celebrity Invitational Auction this fall.
Because I hadn't quilted much in over a year, just some samples, I didn't know if the ease and fluidity of it would be there, or would I struggle and make errors.  I think if you have machine quilted for a long enough time so that you don't have to think about it as you quilt, so that it is a natural process for you, it will be part of muscle memory and the slightest nudge to your brain will wake all that up and you will be back quilting as you were before. 
If you are a beginner and stop for long periods, you will probably have to do some re-learning and practice to get back to where you were.  It's something that is different for everyone, some seem so natural at it right away, and some struggle and practice but eventually master free motion.  Know yourself, what works for you. 
I highly recommend working on real quilts right away, not practicing forever.  I did that, never worried I'd ruin a quilt, planned each one to use techniques I could do and tried at least one new thing in each so I could build my skills and the variety of quilting techniques I could do on each top.
One invaluable tool for me has always been layering a prototype, and quilting on that first.  The same fabrics/batt/backing as in the real quilt in a big enough sample so I can really warm up and get the feel of the quilt, choose thread colors, practice a few motifs before I switch to the real quilt.
Below is my prototype that I knew was sorely needed for this new piece.  I began by doing a few freehand feathers that would be the size for the outer wreath, getting those familiar and smooth, with several shades of thread so I could see what looked best to me. 
The first quilting I did is right at the bottom, and I used chartreuse thread.  It looks fine, but......to me it looks like the blue marker I used for parts of the marked areas didn't wash out completely and stained the thread.  No matter how I looked at it that's how it appeared in my eyes, and I wondered if others would think, whoa, she used gold thread and the marker didn't come out!
The other objection to the chartreuse thread was these feathers have backtracking, two lines of stitching right on top of one another, and the green was so much more noticeable in these areas when compared to the next bit of sample feathers I quilted in matching gold silk thread.
Because I wanted this quilt to be classic, I decided to use the gold thread.
Then I experimented with gold Sparkle thread, a blend of fine gold metallic and gold #100 silk.  I liked it but it was fraying.  I used a larger needle, a #80 Jersey ball point, and all was well.  I liked it with one row of echo, then Sparkle, then back to silk.  Of course I tried out many variations of this! 
Later I tried some colored pencils and shaded the quilting a bit, but decided in the end I liked it without better.  Again, more classic.  You can see a bit of the shading on the rabbit in the prototype.
All this left me forgetting to be tense about my quilting; in fact, I didn't even think about it.  I was focused on the color of thread, how the machine was working, everything else except my quilting.  Because of this I believe I was so relaxed that my quilting was as good as it has ever been.  Compared to some I did for the original quilt in '03 on that prototype, it is better quilting. 
That made me feel so optimistic and relaxed, I started on the real quilt, knowing I would use the prototype space to do a few clamshells, try out the other backgrounds and motifs before doing them on this miniature.
The backing of the quilt is cotton, a Moda fabric from the Wuthering Heights collection, in a dusty teal floral.  I used gold silk thread in the bobbin as well so the shadowing of the gold on teal makes for a very pretty quilt back, below.
While I was quilting I noticed the fan was blowing the silk thread out of the first vital guide, right before the tension discs.  I attached a small pin, below, and threaded that to keep it in line.  Worked perfectly, plus I was cool with the breeze gently fanning my face.
Soon I'll post some tips for quilting that I think are something to keep in mind.  The biggest tip?  Keep quilting....your work gets better every day!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Quilting Again

Yes, quilting again!  A deadline approached and I entered the Forbidden Room with Oliver where he camped out nearby to help me with a quilt project.  Marking is never fun, but new markers and an old clamshell tool from www.thimbleworks.com did the trick beautifully.  Oliver knocked the markers off the table several times and watched me search and retrieve with that intensity only a cat can have.
Two weeks ago as summer finally arrived I realized that the small quilt I promised to make for this year's AAQI Celebrity Auction is due very very soon, yikes.  The auction will be online this November; I'll give you the details later when I make sure of dates, etc.  But trust me, from the list of names making quilts I know you will want to bid and bid early and often so you can claim one of the beautiful quilts.
Above, my 15" square miniature quilt, marked, layered, and pinned.  Ready for the machine!  The top is a beautifully luxurious gold silk dupioni with minimal slubs, very smooth and pretty, and I used YLI #100 silk thread for the quilting, which is tiny and exacting, and yes I needed a magnifier. 
I used Pellon Legacy wool batt, and a scrumptious perfect dusty teal Moda cotton from the Wuthering Heights 3 Sisters Collection.  I'll try and get a photo of the back of the quilt, as I like it equally well as the front.
I did make a small prototype, practiced my feathers, checked thread colors.  I'll write about that a bit later when I get more photos taken.  It helps so much, not only showing you in real life how the thread color looks, the one you were planning on but now can see isn't quite right after all.  My muscle memory woke up, and quilting was easy and beautiful, the best news I could have after not working on a real quilt for over a year.  This skill does not go away. 
Oliver got into more trouble, hiding from me and making me search the house for half an hour, wondering if somehow I had let him outdoors?  I sensed his eyes on me when I went into the kitchen, turned, and saw the white spot of his fur in our wine cupboard that for once had an empty shelf!  Perfect spot to fit his body, a 2009 Oliver, smooth and sweet with that hint of smoky naughtiness!
I quilted a few hours a day for a little longer than a week.  There are designs marked on this miniature quilt, the vines and animals, but I did all the feathers freehand as always.  It is based on my miniature quilt A Visit to ProvenceMy sketch of the feathers and vines in that quilt has been lost so I referred to my photo and came up with something similar, with the addition of my Rabbit, and signature sleeping cat instead of the urn from the original.
There was no room for an outer border so I filled the corners with delightfully tiny clamshells, 1/4" Diane-shiko, and some very tiny stippling for the odd spaces.
It is bound and finished, titled Return to Provence.  I love it.  I look at it and like to keep looking at it, for me the true test of a successful design.  I hate to ship it off for the auction and say goodbye, but I know it will go to a good home and give others pleasure.
Below are some details of the quilt, and I'll post the full photo soon when my camera battery recharges.  I used one line of echo quilting around the main designs with Sparkle Silk thread for a hint of gleam.
Clamshells in upper right corner, above.

My hands are sore, but better, and it was wonderful to be at the machine again.  I hope to make more small projects soon, in a leisurely way.  Thanks for all your comments on "retirement" - it's good not to have the travel and pressure of teaching, but I do miss seeing all those talented bright funny students.  I hope you are all doing well with your work, sneaking in some quilting time when you can. 
Meanwhile, keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.....


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Off the Grid

Oliver and I have been "off the grid," as they say in one of my favorite tv shows, "MI-5."  I keep thinking I blogged about one thing or another, or checked in and commented on your feedback, but I guess I have not been in the blog state of mind lately, so I apologize but retirement is sort of becoming my way of life.  Those of you who have retired know what I mean!
Spring has arrived finally, although the past holiday weekend was cool, and today very rainy.  We are living in a green-out of lush foliage and blooming trees, so pretty.  I've had some down time from chronic illness, and haven't been quilting, but every now and then an idea pops into my head.  I hope to share some of them with you here soon.
I did go to the AQS quilt show in Paducah, had a good time, talked to many quilters and old friends.   It's wonderful to see so many familiar names with quilts in the show, many with awards.  I am always so proud of the work you all are doing.
The Celtic Bubbles tutorial was fun and now having many of you send me photos of what you've done is terrific!  I just knew this design could be adapted to whatever style you like or need for a particular quilt, and I was correct.  It's also something that most can learn to do, and see dramatic results right away. 
If you have any questions about it, please comment on this post and I'll try and answer them.  I know many of you are adapting the spirals so you can make more than one at a time, but for me the "one and done" works so well to keep the formal look, and keep them all consistent. 
Oliver is exhausted today; he was up all night watching out the windows for the reappearance of a visiting raccoon that came to the front step under the porch light.  Oliver made a symphony of cat noises that would wake the dead, fluffed out his fur so he was almost as big as the raccoon, and his tail stayed inflated for at least half an hour. 
It is his job to protect his house, his people, his territory, so he guarded all night and is sleeping today.  I hope the raccoon will not come back.
Watched a delightful movie last night, "Salmon Fishing in Yemen," and now it's time for vacation to be over.
Hope to do a quilting post soon, so don't give up on me.  Meanwhile, keep quilting, your work gets better every day.....!

Thursday, March 28, 2013


This beautiful collection of Ukrainian eggs by Carolyn Trout is the perfect harbinger of Spring!  Hope your celebration is splendid and joyful. 
Oliver and I are sorting through my sewing room and finding interesting things, and missing what we are really seeking.  Things seem to disappear easily in there, and we look for an hour at most, then move on.  They will surface some day.
The birds have returned, snow is receding like large slow glaciers melting, a house fly came to life in the window sill today and gave Oliver a good chase.  Signs of life are everywhere, spring is definitely arriving.
"Twilight Feathers" ~ Detail
Scraps and samples from the quilt above were found in a bottom drawer.  We vaguely remembered this one as a Pilgrim and Roy Challenge Auction quilt for the National Quilt Museum several years ago.  I finish these quilts and ship them in days, still hot from the machine, so it's no wonder they are forgotten quickly.  I hope whoever owns it still is enjoying it.  I'm working on a small one for the November Celebrity Invitational AAQI auction, just beginning to quilt a bit now and then as my thumb and wrist improve. 
I am so pleased many of you are trying the recent tutorial on Celtic Bubbles and having success!  My email is dianequilter@sbcglobal.net if you have photos to share.  Working on this design should not only give you something new for your quilting repertoire, but help improve the quality of your quilting, more even stitches, better control, better spacing, better everything. 
Happy Spring, and keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Celtic Bubbles Part II ~ Variations

Border Design with Celtic Bubbles
Now that you have tried quilting this beautiful overlapping spiral design, I'll show you a few variations.  Above, an idea for a border includes filling a portion of the space first with a pile of Bubbles (interior of the quilt would be on top, or the other way round if you prefer, but I love having the grid go to the edge of the quilt to keep it stable for binding).  I then echoed the Bubbles once, and then added some small feathers.  Of course feathers could be larger, your decision. 
Finally I filled the last of the space with a quarter-inch grid.  It isn't all that straight as I winged this sample, and marked those lines after the first part was quilted on a very poufy batt sandwich, so there are some interesting variations on "straight." 
Tip:  Always mark any grids before layering the quilt, if you can.  Variations in spacing aren't nearly as noticeable in Diane-shiko or Apple Core, but straight line grids show everything.
When I finished the feathers and was deciding what to quilt in the remaining space, a grid popped into my head immediately as the perfect offset for all the curves and circles.  I like it.  It isn't that hard to do free motion, but it is marked, so that takes some time.  It is a wonderful visual contrast and contains the puff evenly. 
Next, Oval Celtic Bubbles!  Usually I mention in classes that it is ok to quilt an oval if that's how your circles end up, so I decided to try an oval and see.  I used my class demo sample sandwich one more time, so there are "other things" included that I had done in class.  I squeezed in a small batch of oval Bubbles.
Oh my gosh, it is SO much easier than circles!  The shape is much the same of course, but not having to quilt out to the east and west on a home machine is so much better.  I could quilt ovals better and twice as fast.  Below is my only sample so far, but I hope to get you a really nice one soon.
Oval Celtic Bubbles
More variations!  Next, for those of you who want some interesting variations, try some of the following, or come up with your own.  The first is a soft wood grain effect by doing overlapping ripply ovals.  The following samples made years ago for classes were folded and are a bit wrinkly.
Next I used a chrysanthemum type ripple to create the following.  Note it is cut from a class demo sample.....
You can do rectangles or squares as well.  I'll try and get a sample soon for those, as my old one is too disreputable to post here. 
Below is a portion of a small class example quilt where I added Celtic Bubbles in the upper corner, simply for visual interest.  I had other designs in this border but it all worked well together.  The entire border could have been Bubbles too, just another option.
"Batz Below" detail
One function this design does very well is enclose excess puff between other designs and work it in with the curving arcs.  Before the area was quilted there were huge mountains of puff to be controlled.  Celtic Bubbles did the job.  I like to have these tools for function as well as visuals because every now and then it's necessary to solve problems while machine quilting by the correct design choice.
I also really held the quilt sandwich smooth and taut to control the puff while quilting this area, and slowed down.  I had the pressure lowered on the free motion foot as well so the foot didn't push along any excess.
Another option for you is to do micro Celtic Bubbles, above, very tiny ones for close background fill.  I drew a two-inch square and filled it with tiny Bubbles.  They were actually easier than larger ones, but it is tempting to start whirling out into space from centrifugal force as you whiz around the circles as they become larger, so be careful. 
Those of you who love to do this kind of quilting should be able to get some amazing results.  I definitely used my magnifier on the sewing machine for this.  I would use Micro Celtic Bubbles for small areas instead of another tight background fill.  However, acres of them, probably not.
If you are more a large scale quilter, try one of the "wonky" versions and space out to about 1/2" between rounds.  It will cover territory quickly and evenly.  I think it would look great too on children's quilts in areas where you don't know what to quilt.  Try heavier threads, fun threads and colors.
One thing I discovered - you get so much better the more of these you do.  I look at those first ones while I was quite rusty and wow, I can go twice as fast and the results are twice as nice.  It does happen.
Enjoy your spirals and springtime eggs....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Celtic Bubbles ~ Tutorial

"Celtic Bubbles"

It's a blustery miserably cold day here so I did some quilting and took some photos of this beautiful design.  I have taught it in classes for years but never published it.  It's one of those universal patterns, found in all areas of design from textiles to concrete.  You may look down at your bathroom towel and see it in terry, or be wiping your feet on a doormat that is made up of this design! 

I first quilted it many years ago, sitting at my machine and doodling around, warming up, usually after an oiling so I get all the excess worked through before working on my project in the machine.  I did it on muslin, and it looked so amazing I pinned it to the wall, thinking that someday I would use it in a quilt. 

There are variations of this I'll do in a future post.  Students either prefer the circles, above, or other shapes that might be easier for them.  Circles are fairly easy even for beginners, and the only difficult part is the tiny bit of travel as one Bubble collides with another.

"Shadow Leaves" with floating Celtic Bubbles

Currently I prefer to fill in all spaces with the design, or arcs from it in the odd spaces left between circles.  However, originally I "floated" the bubbles across the surface, much like blowing bubbles, how they appear floating in the air, seen in photo, above.  Some were clustered, some were solitary, and the spaces between them had to be filled.  I used a close background like bananas or stippling, but now fill in with portions of other circles as it looks better to me and is SO much FASTER. 

The feather, above, was a sample from my class demo piece.  I started filling in with Celtic Bubbles around it to see if it would be do-able as a background fill, and it is.  In the future I think I would make sure the last echo around a design is the same color thread used for the Bubbles, so the travel stitching on that last echo would not show as much. 

This design goes fairly fast.  It is not continuous.  Each spiral is one complete unit.  Each one is begun in the center.  Work out from that first circle, echoing it, keeping spacing even.  When you finish each one it is necessary to cut the threads and start a new one a short distance away. 

One of the key factors for success in this design is that you MUST stop after each one and cut the threads.  This small interruption in your work keeps your focus at a high level, gives you a small break, lets you look at your work and see what to change as you move on.  I find that the quality of the finished work is so worth having to cut the thread for each unit you quilt. 

Students have had spectacular results.  Trust me.

Quilting the Design:

I began my sample by marking a 6" square on a larger piece of fabric, layered with wool batt, and muslin for backing.  Give yourself plenty of room at the edges to hold the quilt. 

I am using #100 chartreuse silk thread for the quilting on a lilac cotton sateen.   Starting at a left bottom area/corner works well for most designs as it is easiest to build the design to the right and UP. Try and do the first bubble in a fairly inconspicuous spot as it will probably not be your best one.  Here I can end my first spiral at a line, and if you quilt it in open space, you must end the final row by merging into a previous round, and then cut threads, see photo below.  This way is better so there is no problem with ending the spiral.

Center spiral below was the first one quilted with the final round merged back into the spiral, threads cut.  It's better to start at the bottom so your first spiral isn't the focal point!

After a few rounds stitching over the thread tails, see photo above, I stop and cut the threads before proceeding. Thread tails are a visual distraction and every time you approach them while quilting you might veer off course, slow down, speed up, something.  

However if you HATE to stop and lose your momentum and concentration, it is fine to wait until the single bubble is complete and then cut those thread tails at the center.

My best advice for the start of this design is to relax, and don't think too much about which dirction to spiral.  I sometimes quilt my spirals clockwise and sometimes counter-clockwise; there is no right or wrong. 

It's nice to be consistent throughout the design, so don't decide which way you will circle, just begin and do it.  Your body does what is natural.  In this exercise I seem to have quilted them all counter-clockwise!  But I have been known to take a break, come back, and quilt in the other direction.  It all adds to the character of the quilt....do not worry about it.

OK, let's begin!  Insert needle, pull up bobbin thread, hold both threads gently with left finger.  I take about 7 very small stitches to begin and then cut the thread at the quilt surface.  If you choose to bury thread tails, leave them long, bury later. 

Start out at a slower controlled even speed.  My spacing is a fat 1/8" or can go up to a scant 1/4".  Try to keep within that zone as greater spacing will be a bit more difficult, especially on a home machine and for the first time you try this. 

This first circle you quilt is very important as it establishes the shape for the entire first "Bubble."  If you quilt an egg shape as you begin, the Bubble will be egg shaped.  And that is fine.  Don't obsess over getting perfect circles; just go for it and try and make the spiral evenly spaced with good even stitches.

After cutting the thread tails, carefully begin quilting and continue echoing the spiral. 

Quilt until you hit something - another spiral (in the future after this one is done), and here, the blue marked line, or in a quilt, a seam, edge, quilting design, applique, edge of piecing, etc.  When you get to that edge or stopping point, slow down a bit, stitch on it, and travel to the place where you continue the next round. 

Here I have hit the blue line and filled in the corner with short parallel arcs, keeping the spacing as even as I can.  Don't worry too much if the spacing isn't exactly the same.  After you've quilted more of the Bubbles, it will all look so much better. 

My sprials are not perfect in this sample.  My excuse is I lost momentum and concentration because I had to stop and take photos.  I also got really upset when my machine started doing odd things, skipping stitches, doing funny jumping things with the needle.  It turned out I had bumped my screen with the small light I was using for photos, and turned on some weird combi-stitch.  I rebooted and was ok, but my quilting was shaky for a round or two.

Cut the threads.

Next step:  Begin the second Bubble, photo above. 

Insert needle less than an inch from the outside of the first spiral you just finished.  Begin the same way, establish the circle design for a few rounds, stop and cut threads, and spiral away.

Tip!  If you begin the second motif too far from the outer edge of the first one, the second one will become extremely large, look out of place, and be way more difficult to quilt on a home machine.  Longarmers won't have this issue though.

Here I have stopped and will cut the threads.

Continue spiraling, perhaps increasing machine speed so the curved lines are smooth.  Be careful not to move hands faster as you spiral out, or the stitches will increase dramatically in size.  

  • The small even stitches help maintain smoothness of design, and create "puff" in the finished design.  
  • Large stitches let the puff leak out and your spirals will be flat. 

Now we begin "layering" the Bubbles. As you spiral around the second one, quilt until you collide with the adjacent Bubble, the first one you quilted. Slow down a bit, and stitch on the outside line of that first Bubble out to where you can continue the correct spacing and quilt the next spiral.  This technique makes it appear that the second spiral is partially hidden by the first one, or "layered."

Above, I have hit the first Bubble and stopped.  I will quilt on that line, to the left a few stitches to establish spacing, then quilt away from that point, around my spiral, below.

The catch is, you will be reversing your direction here.  You collided with the first Bubble as you quilted towards it, then stitched on it to the left, and now are quilting back away from that first Bubble. 

Tip:  Don't turn the quilt.  
  • You may tweak its position in the machine a bit to see better, but it's best to look behind the foot and estimate the spacing.  
  • Do not look at the needle.  You will get better at this with practice.  I ask you not to turn this small sample (even though it would be soooooo easy to do it) so that you build your skill and when a larger quilt is in your home machine, you will know how to quilt away from yourself and do it correctly and easily.

Do the same thing as you come around the spiral and hit the first Bubble on the lower side.  Slow a bit, stitch on the last line of that first Bubble, then quilt away from it keeping the spacing even, around to the other side.  

Isn't this so pretty??!!

Tip:  An open-toe foot really lets you see the line you are traveling on so this small amount of two sets of stitches will not be noticeable.  It would be extremely time consuming to cut threads when you hit another line, so this method works well to get you to the next round of the spiral.

Keep going as many rounds as look right to you.  Some Bubbles are larger, some smaller; this makes the design interesting.  The larger the Bubble becomes, the more difficult to quilt that huge curve on a home machine.  Be aware as the Bubble increases in size, you might tend to make straighter lines and lose the nice round you began with.  Longarm quilters will have an easier time with these large shapes.

Here are the first two Bubbles (or spirals, but Bubbles float so nicely....) completed.  Threads will be cut at the quilt after tiny overlapping stitches on a previous line of quilting are made to lock them in.  Note that my final big round is beginning to flatten out a bit.  I knew it was time to quit and begin a THIRD BUBBLE, below. 

Tip:  You might want to take a small break now, pat yourself on the back and look at those gorgeous spirals before starting Bubble #3.

Here I began the third Bubble, and quilted to the right as far as I liked because I ran out of room to do a complete spiral.  I traveled on the blue marked line (a ditch or seam in a real quilt), and on the last quilted line of my second Bubble on the top part.  I stopped, cut the threads, and will fill in the space at the bottom next.

All filled in!  Keep going like this, beginning the next center less than an inch out from a quilted spiral edge.  Keep going, fill in spaces, take breaks if you need to.  You can see that the areas stitched twice are hardly noticeable.

The color of the fabric is affected by the lighting.  Under the needle it is in fluorescent light from the machine, and the photo above is natural light.

More Bubbles completed!!  A stack of Bubbles.....

I could stop now at this point of the design, and do another design in the top portion, or continue adding spirals, filling in odd spaces, always traveling over another line to get to my next row.  Sometimes, alas, you do get into a spot where you must cut the threads.  It doesn't happen often, but accept it, move on, look across the room to refresh your eyes, pet your cat or dog. 

Complete!!  Not all round, not all perfect, but very pretty.

The entire square is now filled with these lovely Bubbles.  There is depth and dimension, so much texture and visual interest.  This design even shows up well on prints.  Any parallel line quilting will show well on most fabrics. 

The design is not marked.  It goes fast, stands alone as a terrific design, or can be used as background.  It's harder to do that, but not impossibly difficult.  Instead of colliding with another spiral, you will be colliding with a quilted design such as a feather or anything else you have quilted and want to set off nicely.  You do need some space to make this design show or it will be fragmented too much in small spaces.


  • Because the lines are arcs and not straight, this design doesn't distort or push/pull excess fabric and batt to form pleats.  If you find as you approach a quilted line from the previous spiral and excess is building up a bit, slow down and allow the fabric to ease into your quilting.  Also reduce the pressure on the foot just a bit so the free motion foot will float over the excess fabric.

  • Quilt at a nice even speed.  You might increase the speed as you get comfortable, or as the spirals increase in size.  If you go too slow, the stitches get HUGE.  Speed up the machine, slow down your hands.

  • Slow down for the traveling stitches so you are accurate.  This design looks so beautiful if you can't see where you had to stitch twice.

  • On the bigger spirals you will have to stop and move your hands.  Stop the machine as well.  Then begin slowly and I even stitch once or twice  "in place" and then proceed to eliminate the tell-tale wobble when you have to start and stop in the middle of a stretch of quilting.

  • Work on spacing.  Visualize the path or "puff" between the rows of stitching, not the lines themselves.  Look down the path not at the needle.

  • Quilt at a speed that gives you control, good spacing, and even stitches.  Your speed will increase as you become comfortable. 

  • In a Real Quilt, the marked square would first be quilted to stabilize it and prevent the square from becoming distorted.  It might be a corner square, part of a pieced block, a section of border and the ditches would be quilted first for stabilization.

  • Don't get discouraged, keep going.  The only way to become good at this is to do it often, each day for awhile, until it is natural.  Locking the technique into muscle memory is important.  As soon as you become fairly pleased with your work, use it on a REAL QUILT.  Don't put the sample away and move on.  Make a small piece using this design to see how it looks in something REAL.

Above is a piece of fabric with this design I bought at The Back Porch quilt shop in Pacific Grove, CA.  I had a senior moment and left my package on a bench in town while waiting for a cab, and someone found it, came out to Asilomar where I was teaching and left it at the desk, where it was delivered to me in the main hall that very evening by a handsome park ranger!  I was thrilled.  Of course I bought it because it was a great sample of this quilting design.

Below, a towel I bought when I saw the design.  I couldn't resist, and then the purple pillow from just after Christmas, same story.  The rounds on the pillow are from a digitized design/machine and each round is complete, rather than a spiral that is continuous.

Fortunately these things were very inexpensive....!  You can find the design in many places, it's classic and wonderful and is any style of quilting, from funky and modern to classic formal quilting. 

Good luck with your quilting, let me know how it goes.  My email is dianequilter@sbcglobal if you have a finished sample photo for me to see.  Post questions in comments, and I'll do a future post and answer them for all to read. 

 Meanwhile, warm up the machine, give it some oil, make up a bunch of layered samples, and give this a try.  I'll post variations of the design for you to try next time.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every freezing day.....