Monthly Archives: July 2012

Confessions about Quilt Labeling


I consider labeling quilts to be in the same category as eating enough leafy greens and remembering to take my Vitamin D supplements — it’s a great habit but not one that is critical. Quilts don’t work well if you don’t secure your threads or add a binding. They do, however, work absolutely fine without a label.

I always label my quilts for shows (as this is required) and usually for gifts (if I have enough time). Otherwise, I don’t label anything. I know that is not a good habit and that future quilt anthropologists will struggle to identify my work. But I make a lot of quilts and, quite honestly, the majority of them are pretty unoriginal.

When I make labels, I “design” them in Microsoft Word. I make sure that the label includes my name, address and phone number, as well as the title of the quilt and the date it was completed. I will also include other relevant information, for example the fabric name and designer (if the fabric is obvious in the quilt) or the name of a poem on which the quilt is based. I print the label using June Taylor Quick-Fuse Iron On Fabric sheets. I cut out the label with my rotary cutter and fuse it to the back of the quilt.

Since I waste most of these 8.5 x 11″ sheets, a great idea would be to pre-make labels with my name, address and the current year. That way the label would be ready to iron on when I complete the quilt. The label wouldn’t contain a title, but it would be better than nothing. June Taylor’s iron on fabric sheets are widely available:

You can learn more about quilt labeling at:

This interesting blog post gives examples of seven quilt labels:

25th Anniversary of AIDS Quilt


This year marks the 25th anniversary of the AIDS quilt. The first panel was made in 1985. The quilt was first displayed in 1987 and now contains 94,000 names on 48,000 panels.

While I’m not sure that this “quilt” meets the strict definition of a quilt — top, batting and bottom — you cannot argue with its spirit. Here is a way that non-quilters have worked to memorialize loved ones who have died from this terrible disease. These blocks capture intense emotion and show the individuality of each AIDS victim. I can only imagine that creating these blocks played a role in healing the family and friends involved in the process. I can also only imagine the profound emotions that would arise from viewing the quilt.

The AIDS quilt is on display in Washington DC this summer. In order for the public to view the entire quilt, panels will be rotated at 50 locations over 31 days. You can learn about its locations at:

You can now view a digital map of the quilt online at:

You can view photos of the AIDS quilt display at:–abc-news-tech.html



Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto — How To Get Things Done Right


It is interesting that some professions, notably pilots, have always relied on checklists as part of their duties.  These checklists make sure they don’t skip any routine tasks. They also give a quick “to do” list when something goes wrong, such as when a warning light goes on or birds strike the engines. Another advantage is that, in developing checklists, aviation professionals review previous responses and look at ways to make future responses better.

In medicine, doctors have been far less willing to use checklists. They are, after all, professionals who have proven their sound judgement and skills. Nevertheless, in 2008 the author was able to implement a 2-minute, 19-item checklist in eight pilot hospitals around the world. The results were stunning — in the three months following the introduction of the checklists, the rate of major complications fell by 36 percent and deaths fell by 47 percent (pg 154). Pretty awesome results!

So how does this relate to quilting? I think that routine increases effectiveness. It also helps when you’re having a problem — especially on the longarm. We know that the problem is most likely the thread path or the needle, but sometimes we blaze through the obvious and start looking for weirder causes to our problems.

I can also see checklists working when we are going to retreats. I have personally forgotten my machine power cord, machine pedal, box of feet for my machine, and thread stand. I take my machine to a class at least once a month. It would make sense to develop some sort of checklist to be kept in my sewing machine case.

I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a lot to think about. I hope that the medical world becomes more willing to use this checklist approach.

Make Quilts, Not Dolls


My son is going away to college at the end of August (after he gets back from his 6 week job at a summer camp) and is leaving a big hole in many lives, including a wonderful female friend we’ll call “Anne.” My son promised “Anne” that he’d make a doll of himself to keep her from getting lonely.

Kevin doll

Knowing his schedule and limited sewing skills, I decided to make the doll. It was not supposed to be a serious effort, so I apologize to the amazing doll-makers out there who might think I’m mocking their talents. I fused a photo of his face to the head and used fabric markers to make the hair. (I tried using wool, but it was too difficult to get the tapestry needle through the quilter’s cotton; more successful doll-makers use a knit for the face area.) The body is constructed of quilter’s cotton and stuffed with left-over batting. I cut up two of his favorite shirts (which were sitting in the “throw out” pile) to make the shirt and the shorts.

(By the way, sewing with knits is horrible. I’d forgotten how much I hated it. Constructing the clothing was not fun and reminded me why I only sew with cottons.) Because the shirt and shorts fit so poorly, I have actually sewn them on the doll.

I think the doll is very cute and a great idea. The execution left a lot to be desired, but it’s meant to be a keepsake and not an award-winning doll.

You can see some amazing fabric dolls at:

My First Civil War Fabrics


Last week, I was asked to make a block using civil war fabrics. No big deal, except that my huge stash of fabric did not contain a single fat quarter of reproduction fabrics. I wasn’t even sure where the civil war fabrics were displayed in my local quilt shop! My friend Sharon, a civil war fabric lover, helped me pick the fabrics for this block.

Civil War Fabrics

I must admit that I prefer modern colors and designs to the sedate colors and small patterns that characterize civil war fabrics. However I do think that this fabric combination is quite attractive.

Directions for this Friendship Star quilt block can be found at:

You can learn more about civil war reproduction fabrics at:

Ricky Tims Super Seminar — Part 3


Ricky Tims and Libby Lehman signing autographs

It’s been almost a week since I attended the Ricky Tims Super Seminar in Rochester, NY. Earlier this week, I shared with you about the venue and the topics covered by Ricky. The seminar also features two enormously talented quilters — Libby Lehman and Alex Anderson.

Libby Lehman missed her calling as a standup comic . She is laugh-out-loud funny, in addition to being a talented quilter and well-respected quilt judge. Libby’s mother owned a quilt shop, so Libby learned quilting  by taking classes at a young age. Two of the topics Libby covered were thread painting and reverse applique. I have never attempted reverse applique and was very impressed by this demo. She also gave a great demonstration of how to use the circular attachment on your sewing machine. You can see Libby’s work at:

Alex Anderson earned her fame on “Simply Quilts,” a long-running PBS series. She made her first quilt in college, when she discovered she was a credit short for her art degree and asked if piecing together her grandmother’s quilt would allow her to graduate. I really enjoyed Alex’s lecture on fabric selection. She also gave a hand-quilting demo. You can see Alex’s work at:

The final 30 minutes of the program was a prepared slide show answering questions about all three quilters. These questions included:

1. What kind of flooring do you have in your studio?

2. What is the view from your studio window?

3. What do you do while you’re quilting (listen to music, watch TV, etc.)?

Each presenter then showed slides of their studio and answered these questions. It was very interesting to see the environments and methods in which they worked.

Libby, Alex and Ricky answering questions

I also enjoyed learning that all three quilters are evolving. That’s no surprise for Ricky, who has always been an innovator. Libby Lehman, well known for her thread painting, has moved on to other things. And Alex Anderson, known for hand-quilting, is on a new journey to becoming a machine quilter.

The seminar cost about $200 and included ten, 90-minute instructional sessions, as well as an evening concert (which I did not attend). I’ve taken this seminar twice — as both a novice and fairly seasoned quilter — and would highly recommend it to quilters of all levels.

Quiting, interupted


My experience has been that most quilters — like me — would rather quilt than carry out mundane household chores like  cleaning.  However there’s always a judgmental little voice in my head telling me that my cleaning standards should be a lot higher than they are.  The line I most often think of is: If your bathroom isn’t clean enough for Mrs. Obama to use if she happened to be in the neighborhood, then you need to do some cleaning. (Of course I always figured that, if the Secret Service were sweeping my house for bugs and other devices just so Michelle could pee, then they could spend a couple extra  minutes with a toilet brush and a vacuum cleaner.)

The real need for a clean bathroom is not for impromptu presidential visits — it’s when you  have the stomach flu. That’s been the case this week with my daughter (Monday and Tuesday) and me (yesterday). We’ve both had a wicked virus. In fact, I weighed myself this morning and realized I’d lost 6.5 pounds in the last 24 hours. That’s a lot of body fluids.

At the risk of providing too much information, I will stop now. Hopefully I’ll be back to quilting shortly. And I’d suggest that Mrs. Obama knock on our neighbor’s door if she needs to use the facilities!


Ricky Tims Super Seminar — Part 2


Over the last few years, I’ve taken dozens of hands-on classes. While I love this way of learning, it is also incredibly inefficient. The teacher lectures for maybe an hour of your six hour class and the rest of the time is spent sewing. Imagine what it would be like to have just the lecture portion — and cover a huge variety of topics — and you have the idea behind the Ricky Tims Super Seminar.

I love that Ricky Tims is a self-taught quilter. As such, he has created several unique styles of quilting (all of which are covered at the seminar). Here’s some of what we learned.

1. Caveman Style Quilts. These quilts are “no rules” quilts that don’t require straight lines or 1/4″ seams.

2. Harmonic Convergence Quilts. This simple technique requires cutting two contrasting fabrics (A and B)  into strips, then sewing them back together in an AB, AB, AB format.

3. Rhapsody Quilts. These were the most complex of Ricky’s quilts (and my daughter’s favorite). Quilts were designed around a center medallion and all four quadrants of the quilt were the same. These quilts were constructed using applique. You can see examples of these quilts by paging through the book listed below:

4. Kaleidoscope Quilts. Remember how cool it was to look through a kaleidoscope when you were a kid? Making these quilts gives the same effect and is equally cool. Ricky offers a complete tutorial on youtube:

5. Machine Applique techniques. All of Ricky’s quilts are done using machine applique. He uses Steam a Seam 2 for fusing and finishes his work with a blanket stitch.

6. Setting in corners and circles. These are neat ideas. I loved his inset corners, which meant that corners are set into a single piece of fabric, rather than made using two pieces of fabric. He also demonstrated how to sew a circle into a circle-shaped hole.

Here is a complete list of topics covered over the ten 90-minute seminars in 2.5 days.

Ricky Tims’ Super Seminar — Part 1


This past weekend (July 12 to 14), I attended the Ricky Tims’ Super Seminar in Rochester, NY . It was held in the Gordon Field House at Rochester Institute of Technology. This was the largest seminar yet, with 740 attendees.

I’d attended this seminar two years ago in Cape Cod, when I was a more novice quilter. I was attracted to this seminar because (1) my friend Vicki from Toronto wanted to attend, and I seldom see her, and (2) because it was a lecture-only format and I was not comfortable being the worst person in the class. Overall I had a great experience in Cape Cod, although some of the lectures were too advanced for me. (Yes, I could have opened the class syllabus a year later and figured it all out, but I never got around to it.)

This time I was able to keep pace with the entire program (which I will talk more about tomorrow). Basically the program consists of ten, 90 minute lectures, by Ricky Tims, Alex Anderson and Libby Lehman.

As you can see by my photo, images are projected on a huge TV screen and the image quality is awesome. You can see everything — including the sewing demos — with great clarity. The diagrams and photos are equally wonderful, and all the technical information is in your 4-color syllabus. There is no need to take notes or strain your neck trying to see. The entire seminar is very well illustrated.

(If you can’t see the photos, please check out my blog at

Here is the large screen. As you can see by the interpreter in the lower left-hand corner, the screen is huge and the image quality is excellent. The photo on the screen is of Ricky’s first quilt.

Seminar area at Gordon Field House, Rochester Institute of Technology

The second photo shows the back of the screen. In this area was Ricky’s private collection of quilts, as well as a couple quilts by Alex Anderson and Libby Lehman. To the right of the quilt display was a large store area that sold Ricky Tims’ products — including fabric, thread and DVD.

Across from the store was a Bernina area. I was able to see a price list and tell that Bernina was offering good show specials, but was disappointed to see that none of the machines had prices on the first day of seminar, and only a few had prices by the last day. I also found out that the price lists were not meant for customers, because the dealership owner told me so as I was puzzling over machine costs. (Can you tell I wasn’t impressed by these sales techniques?)

The seminar runs like clockwork. As I said, the video quality was excellent and the audio quality was equally good.

My only complaint were the seats. The stadium seating was hard and did not have much leg room (especially for people like me who are 6 feet tall). There was constant chatter around me from women with pain in their knees and hips, and general agreement that the rear ends in the quilting demographic (older women) did not belong in stadiums. That said, I’m not sure how they could have done much better, unless they built stadium seating and furnished everyone with a Lazy-Boy chair!

Tomorrow I’ll share what I learned at the seminar.