Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Modern Quilt Movement and Me


I’m excited to report that I am apparently a quilting pioneer! The Modern Quilt movement is upon us and this quilt fits right in. Modern quilts are pieced quilts that tend to use monochromatic fabrics, large blocks, and a modern design. While the definition is a bit murky, you can be sure you won’t see any Baltimore Albums or Double Wedding Rings in this category.

Shortly after I started quilting, I was exceedingly proud to have mastered half-square triangles. At the same time, one of the online stores had a smoking clearance on layer cakes.  (If I recall correctly, they were 70% off and cost $2.99.) I stocked up and made this quilt top. Given my novice quilting skills, this quilt took a lot of design, but I was kind of embarrassed about how ugly the finished product looked.

Fast forward more than 2 years and I am on a quest to finish 3 charity quilts this month. I pulled this out of the plastic bin containing my unfinished quilt tops. I was kinda shocked when I realized how much it looked like some of the modern quilts I’ve seen. I was even more shocked that my family, generally my harshest critics, said that “it really wasn’t as bad as some of my other work.” Apparently I was just ahead of my time with my design skills!

You can learn more about the Modern Quilt Movement at:

(If you have problems viewing photos, please see my blog at






Latest Show Quilt: Swim Toward the Light


This quilt uses all four colors of the “Gone Fishing” fabric designed by Brandon Mably. I was immediately intrigued by this colorful fabric where some fish were more than 12″ in length. Somewhere along the line I decided it would be cool to use all four colors, and make it look like the fish were swimming from darkness into the light.

The body of the quilt contains only three seams. The trick was to line the seams up exactly so that the fish transitioned seamlessly between colors.

Once the quilt top was completed, I added a layer of wool batting. The plan was to use trapunto to show off each fish. I used Superior Thread’s Vanish-Extra water-soluable thread to outline each fish. (This thread dissolved when I wet the quilt to block it.) Then I carefully cut away the parts of the wool batting that were not inside a fish. I used a second layer of polyester batting in the quilt sandwich.

As I started quilting, I realized that my quilting was dense enough that the trapunto was not showing. That’s when I decided to leave a few fish with little quilting, so it would be evident that I did trapunto. (Non-quilters look at this quilt and say, “Wow! It’s 3D!”

My next step was to extend the fish into the border, making them like ghost fish. I also free-handed some fish at the top of the quilt. I used a pantograph for the bottom design, and free-handed a meandering wave pattern for the middle part of the borders. So far all was going well.

The fish on the top of the quilt were not visible, so I decided to paint them. It was hard to find a paint to show on the dark orange fabric. Inks and Fabrico pens did not work. I was finally able to get some real color using Setacolor paints and acrylic paints. I did a test piece and it looked decent. Unfortunately, once I got the fish on the top of the quilt painted, I hated it. I tried several methods to remove the paint — but it was too late. Oops!

I delivered the quilt yesterday. I love everything except the painted fish. Live and learn.

This fabric is available from Hancocks of Peducah.–search-fish–srcin-1

Vanish Water-soluable thread is available from Superior Threads:

(If you can’t see these photos, please visit my blog at A big thank you to my daughter Angela for taking these photos!

“Swimming Into the Light” using Brandon Mably fabrics. I love the quilt, except for the painted fish on the top border.

Close-up. I painted the tops of the star-fish and kelp, so that it would show against the blue background.

A view of the trapunto

My daughter photo-shopped out the painted fish on the top of the quilt. I like it so much better. I wish we could have figured out a way to remove the paint!


Quilt Blocking: The Real Story


I am relatively new to the quilt show circuit and have never before (gasp!) blocked my quilts prior to showing them. (I’m sure this partially explains the lack of ribbons in my quilt show adventures!) As a result, I signed up for a quilt blocking class at MQX East this year. The teacher, award-winning quilter Cathy Wiggins, made the process sound pretty simple.

Essentially you get a foam board (she recommended insulation board with metallic coating) and place your quilt on the board. Wet it using a garden sprayer (clearly marked as “water only” so it’s not also used for bleach!). Then — using a set square and a straight edge as guides — use T-pins to hold your quilt in place. Let it dry and, voila!, you have a perfectly square quilt. Sounds easy, right? It would have been easy, if the experience had gone as planned.

Today is the deadline for our local quilt show. Quilts must be turned in between 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM. I’d procrastinated the blocking process because I was afraid it would ruin my quilts. The first quilt was tough. Clearly I was not channeling Cathy Wiggins because I found blocking the quilt to be very difficult. Here’s how it worked for me:

1. Go to Home Depot with the intention of purchasing the 4 ft by 8 ft insulation board recommended by Cathy Wiggins. Realize that insulation board is too big for my car. Decide on a substitute (package of foam boards made for re-insulating garage doors) that fit easily into my vehicle. Add a tarp (for under the foam) and a piece of painters’ plastic (for on top of the foam) and decide I am a brilliant problem-solver.

2. Refuse to admit that my basement is too cluttered with crap to have enough space to block the quilt. Decide that the garage will be a great substitute. Ignore the fact that a garage floor is very hard and garage lighting pretty much sucks. Fortunately there are several variety of bugs flying around in the garage to provide some entertainment.

3. Buy a garden sprayer (for wetting the quilt) that requires an engineering degree to figure out. Seriously. My husband has an engineering degree and he had to help me. Wetting the quilt required a lot less water than I’d anticipated, so a squirt bottle would have worked just as well and saved me $15.

4. Don’t buy enough T-pins. I bought 2 packages, but didn’t realize there were only 25 pins per package. I had to finish blocking the quilt with quilting pins.

5. Make sure that I’m blocking my quilt on the hottest, most humid weekend yet. This has two effects: (1) It ensures that I am dripping with sweat and in a foul mood, and (2) It takes the quilt 48 hours to dry.

(Please check my blog at if you can’t see these photos.)

My “do-it-yourself” quilt blocking station. The bottom layer is a paint tarp. Next is a double layer of foam (the kind used to insulate garage doors).

Here’s my finished blocking station. You can see the painter’s plastic underneath the quilt, as well as the sprayer I used for wetting the quilt.

As you can tell, I did not enjoy blocking my first quilt. However, after 48 hours of drying time, my quilt hung incredibly straight. All the sudden I was a fan of blocking and ready for quilt #2.

My second quilt was MUCH easier. I knew what I was doing and the blocking process went smoothly. Unfortunately it was even more humid and drying was a problem. After 24 hours the quilt was still very wet, so I opened our garage door yesterday to let the air circulate. This would be a no-brain solution except that I live in a rural area where critters like to come live in our garage. (I still haven’t recovered from the crazed squirrel who gripped all of the foam insulation off our garage door as he was trying to escape.)

I checked the Quilt #2 this morning (it is still pinned to foam on my garage floor) and am pretty sure it will be dry by this afternoon’s deadlines.

Here’s Quilt #2 in our garage. Instructions for the show say that quilts must be free of threads and animal hair. I didn’t see anything that required them to be dry!

Baby Genius Quilt


This quilt was made by my client Rochelle for Lucas, her 2-year-old grandson. The quilt is made from a kit using Baby Genius fabrics.

I’ve actually used some of these fabrics in a quilt for my geek husband, so I was excited to open the box and see this design. There is something about the Baby Genius fabrics that make me smile! The colors and design called out for custom quilting to accentuate the attic windows and the creatures within each block.

Unfortunately, we did not take a close-up photo of the stars at the bottom. I love to quilt kids’ names into their quilts. It’s pretty easy because cursive is a single line. However, because Lucas was so young, I decided to use block lettering instead. I actually quilted each letter individually and buried my threads!This quilt got the seal of approval from my 17-year-old son, who basically does not like anything I do (quilting or otherwise). When my son said that he loved the quilt, I was pretty certain that young Lucas would love it too!

Baby Genius Quilt

Pieced back is almost as cute as the front!


Charity Quilt #1


It’s time for a true confession —  I’ve belonged to my guild for three years and never made a charity quilt. I’ve done some other items for charity (animal beds and Christmas stockings) but I have yet to contribute a quilt. And I’ve felt pretty darn guilty about it.

This Spring, my goal is to donate three nice charity quilts to our guild. So far, I’ve done one.

When I started longarming, I bought several quilt tops on eBay. I used some of them initially to practice my skills, but I still have several unquilted tops in my studio. These are becoming the tops for my charity quilts.

I always admire people who donate lovely quilts to charity. I know that, for the sake of making lots of quilts, guilds often tie their quilts and use pillow case bindings. But I love the idea that people will receive lovely designs, beautifully quilted, with proper binding. And I think I’ve done that.

This quilt is stitched with a pantograph pattern called “Deb’s Feathers” by Deb Geissler.

One charity quilt done; two to go before our last meeting on June 9th. Stay tuned!

(If you cannot see the photos, please visit my blog at

The Perils of Piecing Quilt Backing


First let me say that I love the look of pieced backing. It is a fun, economical, and visually appealing choice for backing. So it’s hard to believe there could be any downside. But there is –especially  if your quilt is being done on a longarm.

The job of a longarmer is to make sure that the backing is square and rolled evenly on the rollers. Otherwise you get sags and tucks in the backing.  The easiest way to achieve a tight, square back is to use a single piece of fabric. This has lead to the popularity of 108″ (and wider) backing fabrics.

When you piece the quilt’s back, you are introducing different fabrics that may not have equal amounts of stretch. You may have seams that introduce fullness into one piece of fabric. You may also have fabrics that are cut partly on the bias, which again increases the stretch in some of the backing.

If you do seam the backing, it is best to do it parallel to the longarm bars. This is  because seams add additional bulk to the quilt.  Pieced backings need 1/2″ seams, so you have an additional 1″ of fabric bulk for each seam. If you put the seams perpendicular to the longarm bars, you are introducing bulk in part of the quilt, which makes it impossible to roll it evenly.

One more complication … longarmers generally load the quilt with the widest sides attached to the roller. So the backing seams should generally be vertically in the backing, because the seams will end up being parallel to the rollers when the quilt is loaded. However this is not a carved-in-stone rule, as the quilt design also determines which direction the quilt will be loaded.

Some longarmers have different preferences, so check with your longarmer before you piece your back. In my opinion you can never go wrong with a wide backing!

(If you can’t see this photo, please check my blog at

A great example of pieced backing (which I pieced together for my customer Rochelle). They are incredibly effective but much harder to work with than a single piece of fabric.



I try to keep this blog solely quilt-related, but I’m making an exception today. Although I will say that my allergies have impacted my quilting, since it’s hard to bind a quilt with watery eyes and a runny nose!

I moved to Long Island, NY five years ago after 17 years in Phoenix, AZ. While there are many things I love about Long Island, seasonal allergies are not one of them. The standard greeting on Long Island is: “Boy my allergies are terrible this year! How are you?”

About 2.5 years ago I started taking Zyrtec and it worked wonderfully for my allergies. A year later, I went for my regular dental appointment and had 8 cavities. This was shocking for a person that seldom had any dental work to be done, and of course they scolded me about my dental hygiene. Six months later — 7 cavities, and another lecture. After that I became Miss Dental Hygiene with an array of toothbrushes and mouthwashes. At my six month checkup I had 8 more cavities. If you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s 23 fillings in 18 months.

My dentist was baffled. He said they only saw cavities like that in people who went to bed sucking on hard candies. He kept stressing that I improve my dental hygiene — and I kept saying that there was nothing else I could do.

Shortly after, my friend found an article on Zyrtec and dental cavities. Yup. It was the Zyrtec. It especially causes cavities in middle-aged women who are taking additional medication (ie: quilters!). Both my allergist and my dentist were unaware of this side effect.

I pass this along with the hope it will save my blogger friends from the same fate I’ve had. Six months after I stopped Zyrtec, Xrays revealed no more cavities.

PS: I have switched to Allegra. It is not nearly as effective as Zyrtec.

You can read more about Zyrtec and cavities at this link:

Explaining “Quilt Market”


Shortly after I started quilting, I went shopping at a couple of our local quilt stores. At both stores, I was told that the managers and owners were “at Market.” I knew that they weren’t referring to a trip to the local grocery store, but “Market” seemed to be common knowledge for every quilter but me.

So let me enlighten you. “Quilt Market” is a semi-annual trade show for the quilting industry. The fall show is always held in Houston at the end of October and is not open to the public. The spring show changes location and, after an industry-only show, is open to the public. The 2012 spring show (which ended yesterday) was held in Kansas City, Missouri; the 2013 spring show will be in Portland, Oregon. Both shows feature classes and vendors, and it is where quilt shops see (and purchase) the new products available in the quilt industry and learn new techniques to teach their customers.

You can see images from Quilt Market on Pokey Bolton’s blog:

You can learn more about Quilt Market at:


New York City Art Quilt Gallery


I have to admit that I know very little about art galleries. I’ve visited two in my life — once on vacation in Santa Fe about 10 years ago, and a second time at a small, local gallery owned by my daughter’s art teacher. So by now you’ve figured out that I don’t moonlight as the New York Times’ art critic!

That said, I wanted to introduce you to New York’s City’s only art quilt gallery. This gallery is a small room at the back of City Quilter. It has been open for a little more than a year now. I make certain to check out this gallery on my regular trips to City Quilter. The gallery currently currently features 18 works by Lenore Crawford. This lady clearly has talent and I enjoyed seeing her work.

Good points:

  • The lighting is excellent.
  • Admission is free.
  • There is no pressure to buy and they have no problem with people browsing.
  • You can shop at City Quilter and tell all your friends you had a cultural experience.

Bad points:

  • The gallery is extremely small (about the size of a master bedroom).
  • Only only artist is profiled at a time.

You can find out more about the Art Quilt Gallery at:

You can find out more about Lenore’s work at:

If you cannot see the photo, please view my blog directly at

Review: Omni Thread by Superior Threads


If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I was the Queen of Tension Problems with my longarm. After frustrating attempts with several different kinds of thread, my representative suggested Signature. I’ve been using their 40 weight cotton thread (along with Superior Thread’s pre-wound bobbins) exclusively for the last year. Thankfully, my tension problems are a thing of the past.

I have been pretty happy with Signature Thread. It is reasonably priced and comes in a lot of colors. The downside is that it is EXTREMELY linty. Some of my longarm colleagues have told me that all 100% cotton threads generate a lot of lint; others have confirmed that Signature wins the prize for lint generation. Regardless, I seem to spend a lot of time picking lint balls out of my machine.

At the recent MQX East quilt show, I was in line at the Superior Threads’ booth stocking up on pre-wound bobbins. One of my longarm friends looked at my purchases and asked if I’d tried Superior’s Omni Thread. I hadn’t — and had no desire to. She’d switched to Omni and absolutely loved it.  Honestly — she was raving about how great it was — and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t an undercover Superior employee hired to generate business. She pretty much forced me to buy a couple of spools to try. After telling myself that it wouldn’t kill me to be open-minded, I bought 2 colors and put them directly into my drawer of unusable threads. So much for being open-minded.

This week I decided it was time to work on a charity quilt. Which was also the perfect opportunity to give the Omni thread a try.

I must admit that I’m a convert. Omni thread is indistinguishable from cotton, but it is polyester and much stronger. It worked beautifully, with no tension adjustments needed. Best of all, it leaves my longarm relatively lint-free. Furthermore, Omni thread turns out to be cheaper than my current thread brand and is available in more than 170 colors. I give it a 5-star rating and will be placing an order for more in the near future.

I guess the lesson is that we don’t always have to stick to our tried-and-true products. There may actually be something better out there.

You can learn more about Omni thread at

Signature’s cotton thread is available from