Monthly Archives: January 2012

Spiderman Quilt


Seriously. Isn’t this just the cutest quilt? I made it with Tshirts purchased at the Disney Store.

This is so easy to make. Cut out the designs from the Tshirts. I used a light-weight, fusible stabilizer. Select some matching fabric for sashing and borders and you’re done. I will quilt this using mono poly thread in a spider web design pattern. Stay tuned!

The hardest part of making Tshirt quilts is choosing the sashing. My daughter and I argue about this all the time. She likes the sashing to be plain so that the Tshirts are the star of the quilt. I feel like a printed fabric often adds to the quilt. It’s purely preference, but — whatever your choice — the sashing and border fabric needs to enhance the quilt.

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Spiderman Tshirt Quilt

Remembrance Quilt


Growing up in Canada, we honored our veterans by wearing poppies. This tradition came from poem, In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician John McCrae during World War I. This poem was inspiration for the quilt you see below, called “Remembrance.”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae

For more information on this history behind this poem, go to:

The quilt was constructed using the “Lil Twister” tool to create the black and white pinwheels. The poppies were cut from a commercial fabric. The lettering was created by tracing stenciled letters onto fused red fabric, then cutting out the letters and fusing to the black fabric.

"Remembrance" quilt (Photo by Angela Clayton)

"Remembrance" quilt close-up (Photo by Angela Clayton)

My Artist Date: New York City and The Cloisters


Yesterday I wrote about the Artist’s Date, one of Julia Cameron’s tools for nurturing creativity. The artist date is a solitary adventure designed to nourish your artistic soul and expand your horizons. (If you missed my post yesterday, here’s a link to Julia’s website and info on artist dates —

On Wednesday, I went on my best ever artist’s date. I left my east-end Long Island home at 6:45 AM and caught a 7:30 AM train to New York City. From Penn Station I transferred to a 35-minute subway ride, where my goal was the visit The Cloisters. The directions are very poorly marked and, thanks to a couple of friendly New Yorkers, I finally found my way to the adjacent park.

The Cloisters is a museum owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It overlooks the Hudson River (it’s on a major cliff), and is a beautiful combination of gardens and medieval architecture. I am working on a stained glass quilt, and my goal was to get inspired by their stained glass windows. I also wanted to gather photos for future quilts and blog posts.

The gardens were empty and beautiful. I immediately reached for my camera and realize that I’ve left the battery in the charger at home. Not a great start!

I’m not a great history buff, unless it’s quilt-related, but I couldn’t help but be impressed with tapestries that were from the 1400’s. The museum had artifacts dating back to the 800’s. I imagine it was like being in a monestery 500 years ago; I felt an odd mix of peace and reverence. Except I was still mad that I’d forgotten my camera battery!

I was not repeating the walk to the 190th Street subway station, so caught the bus in front of the Cloisters. I decided to ride the bus down 5th Avenue to Times Square — approximately 150 blocks. The ride took 90 minutes and it was exhilarating. I saw areas of New York I’d only read about (Barnard College, hospitals, cathedrals, the Guggenheim, the entire length of Central Park). Being that I was on a bus, I was above the traffic and got excellent views.

My next stop was the Disney Store in Times Square. I’ve been making Tshirt quilts and needed some more fairy princess shirts to add to my collection. I have been to Times Square several times, so it’s lights and energy were not a surprise. As a tourist, you need to make a stop there. I have never found it not to be insanely busy, which I think is part of its charm!

Next, I caught the subway to City Quilter. This is one of my favorite stores and I visit it whenever I’m in NYC. I had several projects that needed fabric and probably spent 2 hours finding what I needed. City Quilter staff are friendly and helpful. Unlike many quilt stores that have one or two staff, City Quilter always seems to have at least five people on the floor. They also offer a 10% discount if you have a guild card.

My final stop was the Wall Street stop in the financial district, where I was meeting up with a friend who was visiting NYC. I had to change subway trains, and managed to get lost looking for her hotel. However, once again thanks to friendly New Yorkers — I found my way.

(I’d just like to say that I find New Yorkers to be incredibly helpful. On several occasions, I’ve just looked lost and people have come over to volunteer directions. The nice lady near the Cloisters subway stop, who was on her way to work, actually took a little side tour to make sure that I found my way.)

I made it back to my home at 11:00 PM. I was exhilarated. I’d navigated the New York subway system for the first time. I’d been inspired by architecture and artifacts. I had enough quilt fabric to finish several projects. And I’d enjoyed an evening with a friend.

I admit that this is a very ambitious artist’s date. Any part of this trip would suffice — a museum visit, a hike through a park, or a browse through a quilt store. But the overall effect was a complete success — it nourished my soul and expanded my horizon. Julia Cameron would be proud of me!

My Artist Date


The book that has most influenced my life is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.

I first read this book twelve years ago, when my eldest child had just turned six. This book awakened a childhood dream to be an artist, despite the fact that I hadn’t drawn anything since six grade or ever had the courage to take an art class. In fact, I had pretty much blocked any kind of art out of my life.

While I was reading the Artist’s Way, I had signed my 6-year-old up for an art class. Bravely and tentatively, I asked the teacher if I could join her group of budding artists. We met weekly for over a year and had periodic art shows. At the time, it was impossible to distinguish my 40-year-old art from the creations of my 6 to 11-year-old colleagues. But I loved the classes enough to endure the weekly stabs to my ego! When my son decided that the art world was not for him, I moved on to adult art classes and — a decade later — to quilting!

Julia Cameron has written more than 30 books (and I have them all). Her message is that our creativity grows when we nurture and honor it. One of her tools is a weekly artist date — a solitary adventure to renew your creative spirit. Anything nourishing qualifies — a trip to the bookstore, attending a poetry reading, visiting a quilt show or art exhibit, taking photographs at the zoo. Trips to the laundromat or Costco, getting the car washed, or watching your daughter’s soccer game do not qualify. You get the idea.

Over the years, I’ve fought the solitary nature of an artist’s date. But now I see the wisdom in going alone. This is about me — the artist — and not having to please my companion. If I choose to stare at a leaf for an hour, I can. If I want to leave a gallery after three minutes, I can do that too.

This brings me to my 15-hour artist date yesterday. It was long overdue, as I’ve been trudging through accounting records and feeling resentful and stressed to not be quilting. Tomorrow I will describe my adventures and what I gained from a day nurturing my creativity.

Bookkeeping … A Path to Empowerment (Part 3)


I have been working on my book-keeping challenges for weeks now. Although part of me has resented the time I’ve spent sorting, organizing, posting and checking … a huge burden has been lifted. Everything is posted and I’m two-thirds of the way through checking my work. Yes, I still have bank accounts to reconcile and reports to run. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This has been a huge weight off my shoulders. Avoiding necessary labors creates stress. And facing challenges takes courage. This may seem minor when we’re talking about accounting and not climbing Mt. Fuji or curing cancer, but I have learned a lot along the way and I am proud of myself.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about running a business. Our local library has an entire section — including several books on running crafts businesses that contain some great info.  The “Crafts Business Answer Book” was excellent.

A quick search of gives me at least a dozen books on selling your crafts. I couldn’t resist adding a couple to my cart! Most everything in these books is applicable to quilting.

I also encourage you to check out SCORE. I have attended their seminars with mixed success. They now have a lot of information online. Pick and choose what works for you.

I have also come across June Walker’s website and highly recommend it. I have been very impressed with her no-nonsense approach and answers to questions. To be honest, I found this website during an online search which gave her some crappy reviews. So, as with any resource, keep an open mind and make your own decisions.

So that’s it with my bookkeeping adventures. Tomorrow, we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming. No mountain climbing or medical research at this blog, but I’ll be back on topic with quilting! Yippee!

Bookkeeping … a Path to Empowerment? (Part 2)


As we left yesterday, I was describing my banker’s box full of unsorted receipts and bank statements. It was closer to a fire hazard than an accounting system!

My first problem was that I didn’t have any kind of accounting program. Years ago, I’d used “Mind Your Own Business” accounting software and loved it. Unfortunately, it was no longer available and I was stuck selecting something else. I spent two weeks reading the pro’s and cons of several software packages. Here’s my recommendation: skip the customer reviews and just buy Quickbooks. It seems to be somewhat of a standard and I’ve been happy with it. Spend your accounting-software-investigation time quilting!

There also seems to be a lot of resources for learning Quickbooks. Our local community college offers several courses, as do many local training businesses. There are also national companies — such as Fred Pryor — that offer seminars.

Once you have a software package, you can start thinking about how you’re going to categorize your expenses. For this, you need to know something about taxes. This is a biggie! General wisdom says we all need a CPA at our disposal, and I’m certain that’s good advice. However — as I mentioned earlier — I am all about becoming empowered. So wander over the the IRS website and you’ll find some pretty useful information. There are even local seminars for businesses that looked worthwhile.

If you have questions and don’t want to hire a CPA (seriously, I have nothing against CPA’s!), I have another source for tax answers. “Enrolled Agents” pass a difficult exam and are experts on the tax code. Many are former IRS agents. They are generally less expensive that CPAs. An hour of time with an EA may put you on the path to self-sufficiency. There’s probably one in your town.

In summary, today’s empowerment has had three steps:

1. Choose an accounting software package.

2. See if you can find answers at the IRS website.

3. Consider hiring an Enrolled Agent if you have additional questions.

Bookkeeping … A Path to Empowerment? (Part 1)


Over the last month, while my fellow bloggers are creating masterpieces and snuggling up with their new quilts, I have been spending time with Quickbooks and my accounting system. This is what my desk looks like. Note the lack of a sewing machine, fabric, or a happy atmosphere in the room.

Two books of purchase receipts, organized by month

I’ve spent days trying to get my accounting in order. I’m not proud of it, especially given the fact I have a business degree with an accounting major.  Yes, I knew better. No, I don’t have any excuses except that building my business was more fun than book-keeping. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

I’m going to spend a few days this week talking about the financial side of the business and the importance of record-keeping. Not because the IRS demands it, but because it makes us feel empowered. And because good information leads to better business practices.

I read a book this summer that deeply affected me. It’s by Geneen Roth and you’ll find the link below. This woman is a very successful author and workshop leader. However, she has lost her life savings three times. Once because her father “incorrectly” set up his will, despite advice from some of the best estate lawyers available, leaving her without an inheritance. The second time, her accountant took all her money. The final time, she invested in the Bernie Madoff scheme and again lost everything. In her book, she admits that she relied on other people to take care of her finances without trying to understand them herself. She didn’t ask questions and she didn’t want to appear stupid.

Although I’ve always done my own book-keeping (at least, in a previous business), this year I decided to also prepare our tax returns. Maybe it is foolish, as I’m not a CPA, but I want to truly understand where our money goes. No longer do I want to passively hand over a package of receipts to our accountant, despite how much I like her. I want to feel empowered. (Caveat: I haven’t actually tried to prepare our taxes yet, so I may change my mind. But at least I will have tried.)

So I encourage you brilliant quilters and artists to look at the other side of your business — the financial end — with new eyes. We need to understand the how’s and why’s of what we’re doing. We are small business owners. We need to be in control of our finances, just as we are in control of our customers and our quilting skills.

In the next couple days, I’ll share some resources that have helped me. Hopefully they will help you, as well, get organized and feel empowered.


What the heck is a pantograph?


In 2010, I was a relatively new machine quilter when I attended the Machine Quilter’s Expo on Rhode Island. I signed up for several free motion classes, which turned out to be conducted on longarm quilting machines. At that point, I’d never even heard of a longarm machine. (Of course, it was love at first sight, but that’s another story.)

At every class, people would use the word “panto.” I had no idea what they were talking about. Too shy to show my ignorance, I never got the courage to ask. In hindsight, I would have gotten a lot more out of my classes if I’d understood the language.

So, for the few of you who might not know, this post is dedicated to pantographs. A pantograph is a design that is printed on a piece of paper that’s about 12′ long and between 4″ and 20″ wide. The design is one continuous line. You start at one edge of the quilt, follow the design with a laser stylus, and sew until you get to the other edge of your machine. You don’t worry about sewing over blocks, applique or borders. Pantographs can range from simple to complex. They can also be recognizable shapes (such as bows or a baby bottle) or abstract lines and complex designs. The process of using pantographs is sometimes referred to as “edge to edge” quilting.

APQS has  a great series of Youtube tutorials for longarm quilters. Here’s their recent tutorial on pantographs.

Pantographs are available in paper and digital formats. (The digital format is for people who have computers.)  It generally costs between $14 and $20 per pantograph and buying them is addictive! There are many vendors selling pantographs. Here’s one of my favorites:

Trip to Parson-Meares costume design shop in NYC (Part 2)


I was very surprised at the lack of technology at this costume shop. I watch Project Runway and they’re using tablets for design. We quilters use EQ. So it was interesting that their patterns were made with brown paper and fitted on mannequins. The sewing machines (industrial Singers) were 25 years old, but looked like they could have been from the turn of the last century. The space was busy with activity and cluttered. We saw people beading, sewing, serging, appliquing, painting and dying, I have to say … these costume designers are artists!

(I’m still have issues with my photos in emails. Please visit my blog at if you can’t view the photos).

A view of the workroom

Singer Sewing Machine

Employee Working at Serger

An art quilter (like me) found heaven in their painting and dying room. The work that these ladies do on fabric is exquisite. I’d say most of their fabrics are dyed and painted. Applique and trapunto are then added to many costumes.

Samples of Dyed Fabric

Close-up view of dyed, painted and appliqued fabric

Almost Complete Costume


Trip to Parson-Meares costume design shop in NYC (Part 1)


My local quilt guild arranged a trip to Parson-Meares costume design studio. My daughter and I attended yesterday and were thrilled to see inside this prestigious costume shop. Of the 20 or so costume shops in New York City, Parson-Meares is one of the largest. They do costumes for such Broadway Hits as Spiderman and The Lion King, as well as costumes for singers such as Bette Middler.

(I apologize if photos are not working. Please go directly to my blog at to see the proper format.)

Dragon Tail Costume

Here is Christian, our tour guide (a Project Manager manager at Parson-Meares) showing us one of the costumes.

The gown is pleated. The rest of the garment is hand painted with dyes. The bodice is a separate piece so that the gown can be dry-cleaned.

Christian explained the costume-making process. First they receive a sketch from a costume designer. After viewing the sketch, they ask many, many questions. Is the actor wearing a harness under the clothing? How much twisting will they be doing? If they’re dancing, how high will they be kicking? If you want sparkles, do you want sequins (cheaper) or rhinestones (much more expensive).

The next step is to place a bid for the costume. Hopefully they will be successful.

An employee shopper then combs the fabric district for appropriate fabric and notions. In one legal size file folder, we found 10 strips of one inch black lace. In another, there were swatches of orange. The costume designer will then pick the fabric that they wish to use.

Lion King Costume

Here’s another costume for the Lion King. It is made of soft ropes over a metal frame that has enough “give” that the actor can walk through doors.

In Christian’s left hand you can see the hand-woven bodice made of silk plant leaves.

This part of the tour took place in their large fitting room. It was interesting that this room has a variety of lighting options (including black light) so that the costume can be seen in its show environment.

Samples of flesh color

I believe this is called the “Skin Ring.” It contains samples of all flesh tones for the nude part of the costumes. I was amazed at the number of colors of flesh, so it’s possible to match skin exactly. Also, these were not flimsy fabrics like pantyhose. These were a thick mesh.

Design studio

Here’s a peek into the costume studio. It was a large room that accommodated about 60 people. I’ll show you some more pictures tomorrow.