Monthly Archives: October 2011

Aunt Grace’s Garden Party


We had snow Saturday night on Long Island, so it’s not exactly garden party weather. However I decided to sign up for this Block of the Month at my local quilt store, in the hope that the bright colors will help get me through the long winter.

Here’s the finished product. Scroll down to the second quilt.

These fabrics make me smile. I have yet to start the quilt, but the instructions seem pretty clear.

Here’s our homework for the first month, as well as our packet of fabrics.

First Month's Homework


Fabric for Month 1

Back to School … that’s Quilting School


There’s no question that I’m a convention junkie. If the money fairy could turn the acorns on my lawn into ten dollar bills, I would spend my fortune traveling to quilt shows around the world. Alas, the money fairy has not yet made an appearance and I have a limited budget for learning.

One of my favorite resources is This is a fabulous resource for longarmers, especially Linda Taylor fans. I have taken many classes with Linda at conventions — she is talented, funny, and very knowledgeable. Oh yes, and a great teacher too!

In my mind, there’s nothing better than watching an episode of these master teachers to help improve technique and get inspiration.

The Quilting School is available for $19.95 per month (less if you buy a one year package). There are several free programs available on their website, but I would recommend a subscription. With most convention classes costing $50 for 2 hours, this is a bargain.

(Note: I have no financial interest in the Quilting School or Linda Taylor’s business.)

Planning Saves Ripping


I’m not proud to say that I am the Queen of Ripping. I’ll get started on a quilt and just go with the flow. Sometimes, the result is awesome. Other times, not so much!

I was working on a pumpkin quilt this week. It was very abstract and my client wanted gold lines to make it look more pumpkin-like. I added some abstract lines and it looked okay. But it bothered me that my lines did not meet at the pumpkin stem and it looked a little wrong. This problem could have been avoided if I’d (1) actually looked at a pumpkin photo beforehand or (2) if I’d sketched out my design (using a piece of plexiglass or see-through vinyl) and actually seen what it would look like on the pumpkin.

I hope I learned my lesson. Three minutes of planning can save three hours of ripping. Here are the before and after pictures of the pumpkin.

Note that the gold stitching does not meet at the pumpkin's stem

Much better -- vertical lines meet at the stem and it looks more realistic

Home Machine Quilt Show, Utah


Yesterday I received an email that the class list is available for this show. I attended last year and took 11 classes, so feel that I can highly recommend attending. Many (probably most) of the teachers from the Machine Quilter’s Expo in Rhode Island were also present at HMQS. However classes were much smaller (10 people vs. 30 to 50) and the atmosphere was more relaxed.

In one of my longarm classes, the teacher asked how many people used their longarm machine for a business. I was shocked that it was only 10% of the class, whereas, in the northeast, it seems that 90% of us longarmers are doing it for profit. From my informal survey, most of these women had a smaller machine (like a Handiquilter 16″) and I didn’t run into anyone with a computerized machine.

I can’t stress the importance of attending classes, especially for the novice. It is fantastic to see the work of these professional teachers, and to decide what you like (and don’t like) about their styles. Many classes cover the use of rulers and templates, or give ideas of non-traditional fills for your quilts.  Other classes cover the basics, such as how to load a quilt, how to make sure your quilt is square, how to resolve tension issues, and how to maintain your machine. I have taken all of these classes and learned from each one.

Another benefit of conventions is being able to network with other longarmers. At another convention, I was relatively new to longarming and having a terrible time with tension on my A1. I ran into numerous people with A1’s who gave me excellent advice. I ALWAYS introduce myself to the person beside me and love talking quilting with people from all over the country.

Salt Lake City is beautiful. It’s surrounded by mountains and breathtaking. The city is easy to drive in, the convention center has plenty of parking, and my convention hotel was close by. I had many adventures on both my inbound and outbound flights, but that wasn’t the fault of HMQS and I’ll skip complaining about the airlines on this post!

Floating a Quilt on a Longarm


During my training on my longarm, my sales rep explained that I would be doing a “full float.” I had no idea what that expression meant (along with many other things we covered that day!).

I have since learned that “full float” refers to how the quilt top is loaded on the longarm, and means that the quilt top is not attached to anything (zippers, rollers or backing). The backing is rolled onto the machine and attached to leaders, zippers, or some other mounting gizmos. Then the batting and quilt top are laid on the taut backing. The quilt top and batting are basted to the quilt only at the very top. The rest of the quilt top/batting is not stitched or zipped to anything … thus it is floating.

There is much debate over whether floating your quilt is a good idea, or whether the bottom edge of the quilt top should be rolled onto a roller. From my experience, most people like to float the quilt because it provides a better chance of controlling the quilt as you are quilting, and leads to less distortion as you reach the bottom of the quilt. However there are many teachers that argue that attaching the bottom edge of the quilt top to a roller is a far better method for keeping the quilts straight and flat.

One thing I’ve noticed from all the classes I’ve attended is that every teacher does things slightly differently. Some are very careful to stabilize the quilt; others don’t bother. Some use clamps on the sides of the bottom fabric; others find clamps get in the way. Some use a lot of rulers and templates; others enjoy freestyle or pantographs. The “right” way is the method that works best for you.

Here are two resources that I found useful in learning how to float my quilts.

Trip to Fashion (Garment) District, NYC


I live at the east end of Long Island. It takes me more than 2 hours to get to Penn Station, so I don’t get into New York City more than once a month. This weekend, however, my mother-in-law was visiting from Toronto and we decided to make the trek. Saturday was a beautiful fall day. Best of all, my husband came along to carry our purchases.

The fabric district is located on 38th and 39th street between 7th and 8th Ave. You can also explore the ribbon stores (39th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues) , and the bead stores (6th Avenue from 36th to 39th Street). All the stores we went into accepted wholesale and retail customers. (Note: if you pay cash they generally will not charge you sales tax.) Fabric stores tend to be crammed and somewhat junky looking  … but the fabrics are amazing. You’ll find a huge selection, knowledgeable staff (sometimes attentive, sometimes on their cell phones), and they are often willing to bargain. One vendor told us that we were welcome to come in and just feel the fabric.

My daughter purchased some chiffon fabric (great deal at $5.00 per yard), as well as spandex — both for costumes. She also got some cool feathers. Since none of these stores held quilt fabric, I couldn’t justify many purchases.  You can see my daughter’s purchases at

I’d like to recommend some specific shops, but they all blurred after we’d been in at least 15 of them. My favorite trim store is B&J Trimmings, located at 1008 6th Avenue (between 37th and 38th Street).

NY City Garment District

Ribbons and Trim

More Trim

Buttons, Buttons, Buttons

Continuous Binding For Quilts


There’s one thing I still struggle with when making quilts — it’s joining the final ends when I’m doing continuous binding. More often than not, I get the ends twisted (or not twisted enough) and need to do some ripping. I’ve consulted several books and internet resources and, I’m guessing, they are missing a step, because I follow directions exactly and still get a twisted result.

Thankfully, my friend Vicki is a Binding Guru. Several of us asked for a “how to” lesson on binding, and she complied with a recent blog post that I’m happy to share. Happy binding!

Holocaust Quilt: Many More Butterflies


My friend Gillian was teaching religious classes about the Holocaust and wrestling with how to teach this difficult subject to her Jewish students. In the process of her research, she came across the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” by Hana Volaukova. This picture book includes poems and artwork from some of the 15,000 children who passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp; less than 100 children survived.

You cannot help be moved by this book. In a situation of profound sadness, the people in this camp were able to focus on art and beauty.

As a result of reading this story — and, of course, in tribute to my dear friend — I created this quilt. It was the first time I realized how much emotion can go into a piece of art. I created this piece with a very heavy heart (and shed many tears), thinking of those souls whose lives were cut short, but also trying to capture the beauty that they created. The quilt has a block wall in the bottom and black netting at the top. This, of course, represents the starkness of the concentration camp.

However I also wanted the quilt to reflect hope and beauty. Wildflowers are growing on the wall. And surrounding the netting are beautiful, hand-made butterflies. The pieces is framed with six-sided stars in honor of the Jews who were killed.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” is available from

"Many More Butterflies" Quilt












Close up of butteflies

Close up of the flowers (Pardon the purse strap)

Red and White Quilt Challenge: “A Study in Red and Cream”


The Empire Quilt Guild in NYC had a red and white quilt challenge on Saturday. There were 31 entries and 4 winners. The top two winners were crazy quilts and they were stunning in red and white. (My quilt did not win.) Here is a photo of the finished quilt.

Study in Red and Cream, 42" x 42"












Deciding how to quilt this was interesting. A general “rule” of quilting is that a quilt filled with geometric shapes (ie lots of lines) will get quilted with some kind of curves. I followed this guideline and used curved templates for the blocks. I did simple meandering, using red thread, in the borders.

Flower-like quilt pattern in the center of large blocks

Leaf pattern in negative space between blocks