Monthly Archives: February 2012

First Ever Longarm Quilt Cruise (That I know about, anyway!)


The longarm email lists are buzzing this week with Stitchin’ Heaven’s announcement of a longarm cruise. They have assembled a fabulous crew of teachers — Linda and Rick Taylor, Kimmy Brunner, Pam Clarke, and Deloa Jones. I have taken more than one class from each of the women, as well as Rick’s longarm maintenance class (I think it’s the only class he offers). All of them are fantastic instructors. I understand that all classes are lecture format and that each class will be offered more than once.

The cruise will be held  from February 2nd to 9th, 2014. I am already envious of everyone who is going. You can find more info at


Paper Bag Quilting


Over the weekend, I attended a quilt retreat at the Southampton Inn on Long Island. The group project was a scrap quilt. Because I’m not a big scrap quilt fan, and because I had a lot of my own projects that I wanted to work on, I decided to bring my own quilt kits and pass on the group project. However I certainly enjoyed the scrap quilts that were brought for Show and Tell.

As we were looking at the quilts, people started talking about the “brown bag method” of selecting fabric. It works like this: Throw all of your scraps into a paper bag. Pick out a scrap. It’s the next piece to be used on your quilt. Don’t match it to the previous piece, move it to another location, or fixate on the color in any way. Just sew it and repeat with the next piece. When the quilt is complete, the fabrics do work together.

If you’re working on a quilt that requires light and dark pieces (such as a log cabin), use two bags. Choose from the light, then the dark, and repeat. If I were to do this, I would pre-screen the fabrics so that they were similar — such as using a Thimbleberry-type line of fabric rather than a mixture of novelty prints, bright florals, and Civil War fabrics.

However the scrap quilt project  at the retreat used all different scraps. They ran the gamut of colors and prints. The resulting quilts were beautiful. I’m not sure how such different fabrics could work together, but they did.

I decided to try the process with this quilt top.  I had to make 4 patches using a total of 14 different fabrics from my kit. I’d already sewn the 2-patches, but decided to just randomly pair them. I followed the same random process with the border (although I’ll admit I did a bit of fudging to make sure the same fabrics weren’t beside each other.) Overall, it worked very well.

As I was cutting out the kit fabric, the light green bothered me. It did not seem to be the same value as the rest of the fabrics. If I were to make this quilt again, I would definitely leave out the light green, or throw in another couple of fabrics that were a lighter value.

I will definitely use the “paper bag” method again in the future. It is quick and the results are very satisfactory.

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"Stars and Strips" by Atkinson Designs

Quilter’s Delight Wine


I attended at quilt retreat this weekend at the Southampton Inn on Long Island. (Yes, it was in the Hamptons!) It was a great weekend with old and new friends, not to mention wonderful rooms and someone else doing the cooking. I also finished two quilt tops and made a good start on a third.

One of the things I love best is learning from other quilters. This weekend we exchanged favorite websites, design ideas, and doctor recommendations. We chatted about subjects that included husbands, parents, kids, pets, medical challenges, work, and retirement goals. I managed to make a few notes about some recommendations that were pertinent to my life.

At the next table during dinner, I noticed a group enjoying a bottle of wine. Much to my surprise, the label said “Quilter’s Delight.” I asked if I could take a picture for my blog. I intended to research the label and share it with my readers.

Well, folks, it’s not to be. I cannot find any reference to this wine using google search. According to the label, it is  manufactured in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I’ll have a look for it in a few weeks if I make it to the AQS Lancaster show and see if I can learn anything more. It would make a fabulous gift for a fellow quilter. I wonder if it’s guaranteed to improve your quilting!

UPDATE: Thanks to my wonderful readers, here is the URL for Quilter’s Delight Wine.

Quitler's Delight Wine Label

Quilter's Delight Wine

Lost Quilts


Quilts get lost for many reasons. A read through the Lost Quilt website is heartbreaking. Many quilts are clearly stolen from shows and booths — somehow mysteriously not packed up with the other quilts. (These are not just national quilt shows. One woman’s quilt was being displayed in a library.) Others are left in hotel rooms, or go missing in a hospital.

One unusual story was about a woman, in the beginning stages of dementia, who took her quilt to be repaired and forgot about it. Years later, her family is still trying to recover the quilt. is an excellent website to read through. Not only are the stories interesting (but tragic), it also tells you how to protect your own quilts. The most recent missing quilt is Sally Schneider’s “Farmer’s Daughter.” This quilt is spectacular and I can’t imagine how upsetting it would be to lose such a quilt.

Quilting Inspiration is Everywhere


My kids always make fun of me because I see everything in terms of quilting. This “skill” is not limited to the visual world. I also give advice using quilting metaphors and examples.  I think this is part of the reason why my 17-year-old son completely ignores everything I say.

So my see-quilting-in-everything  worldview leads to today’s topic … where do we find inspiration for our quilts? The answer is — everywhere! Of course there are the usual answers like “in nature” or “by attending quilt shows.” However I find that, if I keep my eyes open, inspiration comes from the oddest places.

Yesterday I spent 2 hours in an exam room with my teenage daughter. Much of that time was spent waiting and there wasn’t a lot to do (big surprise there) so I was intently studying the room. The more I studied; the more excited I became. This room was the perfect color palette for a quilt. The walls were a robin’s egg blue. The trim was cream. It was very soothing. The floor tiles were even arranged in a staggered pattern that was very quilt-like.

To top it off, the privacy curtain had great accent colors. And of course I had to take pictures of everything. (Another quilting tip … keep a digital camera in your purse for recording inspiration!)

By the way, I didn’t mention to my son that I have now resorted to taking photographs of exam rooms.

(If you have trouble viewing these photos, please visit my blog at

Curtain for accent colors

My Exam Room Inspiration

Fishing Tshirt Quilt


I have to say that I really like this quilt. It’s very simple, but everything comes together. The batik sashing and borders looks like water, plus they pick up both the blues and browns of the Tshirts. (Once again I’ll mention that choosing sashing for Tshirt quilts is best done at your local quilt shop. It is a tough process and I haven’t had any success trying to accomplish this online.)

I quilted the sashing/borders in a water-like meander. The quilting barely shows, but it does read more like water. I used a more complicated fill in the Tshirts.

It’s always tough to choose a thread color in a quilt like this. Blue and brown are the obvious choices, but blue thread wouldn’t look great on the brown Tshirts and vice versa. In this case, I recommend changing thread colors. I used blue on the blue Tshirts (and throughout the rest of the quilt) and brown on the brown Tshirts. Most longarmers will charge a nominal fee for thread changes ($5.00 or less). I feel that it’s worth it.

The back of the quilt is a mottled blue flannel, reminiscent of water. The overall effect is soft and soothing. This is a great quilt for a male outdoorsman.

(Please check my blog at if there’s a problem with the photos.)

Fishing Tshirt Quilt

Close up of quilting

49 Days to MQX (Machine Quilter’s Exposition)


This will be my third year attending MQX and I have to say it is my favorite quilt show. (I haven’t been to Paducah or Houston, but I still bet this Rhode Island show would provide stiff competition!) In previous years, I have taken back-to-back classes. The first year, all of the classes were lectures geared toward my domestic machine. Last year, I took several hands-on longarm classes in addition to the lectures.

I cannot say enough good things about this show. The quilts are spectacular. Many of the vendors offer wholesale prices, so it’s a great time to stock up on supplies. The teachers are organized and clearly very talented  I’ve come away from each class feeling like I’ve increased my skills and learned a boat-load of practical techniques that I can apply to my quilting.

One of the best things about the show is being able to talk to other quilters. When I went last year, I was in the middle of serious tension problems with my longarm. I mentioned it to everyone who’d listen. I came home with some very practical suggestions that solved my problems.

Spiderman Tshirt Quilt


Here is my completed Spiderman quilt. I used four Spiderman T-shirts from the Disney Store and a background that looked like a starry sky.

Here’s the lesson I learned … I saw these T-shirts and knew that I had a great spider web pantograph at home. The idea of Spiderman with spider webs was brilliant, I thought, and would lead to a spectacular quilt.

The first issue was color. Pantographs are an all-over design and you cannot change thread color. I wanted Spiderman’s eyes to remain white, so I had to use a white thread. Using the pantograph, even with white thread, was still going to leave stitching lines through his eyes, which I certainly didn’t want. Also, the white thread really didn’t blend with the project.

Secondly, I realized that the web design on the pantograph would “fight” with the web design  on the T-shirts. Clearly, my pantograph plan was not going to work. (I had to sulk about this for awhile.)

I decided to just free style quilt this and follow the lines in the T-shirt. It looks amazing. The quilting gives it depth but does not take away from the design. Clearly this was the right choice.

Back to the lesson … sometimes I have an idea in my mind that I feel I just “have” to use. (This usually happens with pantographs, because I have a large selection and want to get my money’s worth out of them.) Often, this idea becomes a stumbling block as I’m trying to rearrange the entire design to incorporate an element that really doesn’t work. Using a spider web pantograph on Spiderman is a great example.

I’ve learned the same lesson with fabric. Occasionally I’ll have a fabric that I REALLY want to use in a quilt. I assemble the rest of the fabrics and the original fabric  looks terrible. That’s because the original fabric was a great inspiration, but should really not end up in the quilt. However it takes a lot of internal strength to abandon the fabric that was the genesis of the quilt.

These issues are hard to deal with. I’m constantly struggling to get my ego out of the process and do what is best for the quilt.

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Spiderman Tshirt Quilt


Meandering, Stippling, Samplers and More


Stippling is one of the easiest quilting techniques to learn. Using your machine, you make a series of curves — much like puzzle pieces — and make sure you don’t cross your lines. You can also envision stippling as linking “s” curves that are in normal position and lying down. Lines that are more than 1/2″ apart are referred to as “meandering.” Lines that are less than 1/4″ apart are called “stippling.”

The concept of meandering/stippling is easy. The trick is to keep your curves even, for instance keeping all of your curves quarter-size.( You’ll need further practice if you have some curves the size of a dime and others the size of a silver dollar.)  Meandering takes practice and getting into a rhythm. The second challenging part is planning your path so that you don’t get stuck in a corner.

This child’s Tshirt quilt (shown on a previous blog post) is a great example of meandering. (If there’s a problem viewing this photo, please visit my blog at

Sample of meandering/stippling

A year ago, I took a quilting class from longarm guru Linda Taylor in which she recommended making a meandering sampler. As I recall, her sampler had 11 different sizes of meanders/stipples.  She came up with the idea because the longarmers she employed were sometimes inconsistent with their meander sizes.  They had particular problems when they worked on a project before and after lunch — and then couldn’t duplicate their results on the remaining half of the quilt.

This weekend, I gave a presentation and talked about meandering. Some of the quilters worked on domestic machines and commented they couldn’t keep their meandering curves even. I showed them my sampler and recommended using it as a reference tool while they were quilting.

In addition to being a good reference tool, a meandering sampler is a great learning tool. It allows you to practice your technique and to learn to be consistent. Becoming proficient takes time and practice.

For longarm quilters, a stippling sampler is a great way to show clients what to expect. Most clients can’t picture the difference between a 1.5″ stipple and a 1″ stipple, but the difference is evident if you have a sample handy. In addition, you can assign prices to your samples.

My sampler is about 40″ long and 10″ wide. It’s not very flashy, but it does the trick. So I encourage you to make your own sampler. It is valuable for both business and skill-building reasons.

Large Stipple

My quilting injury


It’s okay. You can keep reading. This injury does not involve a rotary cutter or blood of any sort.

As I was working on the computer yesterday, the base of my left thumb was becoming increasingly more painful. For the first few hours I ignored it; finally it was painful enough to warrant a break and some ice. Since I’m over 50, I’m used to body parts hurting spontaneously, but this was really annoying. I put on a hand brace and wondered what the heck I could have done.

Tonight I sat down to continue ripping out my Shadow Star quilting. I realized that I’m using my left thumb to bunch up and hold the fabric. Do that over and over again for a couple of hours, and it completely explains my thumb strain and pain.

Hopefully this will resolve itself soon. Quilting is clearly not a hobby for the faint of heart!

Speaking of hearts … Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!