Category Archives: Quilt Challenges

Modern Clock Quilt


Clock crop 1I made this quilt as an entry for QuiltCon 2015. (It was not accepted, so don’t look for it in Austin!) The quilt was made for the minimalist design category.

I made it over two days using 2.5 inch black and white strips from my stash. It took quite a bit of planning to make the black blocks symmetrical and I admit that I called on my engineer husband for technical support.

This was my first time doing a circle quilt and it was really fun. I used pre-made bias binding to make binding easier. The quilt is 29″ in diameter. I did use two layers of batting and the black parts are actually trapunto.

Let’s just say that I had a great time creating this quilt (pardon the pun!).


American Made Fabric (and Challenge)

Standard can’t remember a time when a new quilt fabric line created such a buzz in the industry. Even though I’ve taken a long break from blogging (which will be covered in the next post), I wanted to share this with y’all.

We have a new American-made line of solid fabrics. The fabrics are grown in the U.S., as well as spun and manufactured here. Yup. The whole process. You can read their story here. I first heard about this line of fabrics from a quilter friend. Now, the buzz is everywhere and I just learned that our local quilt shop has purchased the entire line of fabrics. (Way to go, Pieceful Quilting.)

Even more fun is the fact they’ve created a Farm to Fabric Challenge. Registration must be completed by August 15th.

As someone whose been recently challenged to find time for quilting, I know that challenges are a great way to get inspired to start — and actually finish — a project. I’m pretty sure I’m going to enter myself and I’d love for some of my readers to enter too.

The quilt that nobody loved


The scrap quilt project … rejected by me and sewn by my mother.

This is a sad story with a happy ending.

It began at a quilt retreat about 3 years ago. The project was to create a mystery quilt, which turned out to be a scrap quilt. Instead of getting a kit of brand new fabrics, the quilt shop staff had been asked to donate their scraps. Many of these scraps, we all recognized, were from discount shops and not good quality fabric. Since I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy mystery quilts, I hadn’t planned to do the project anyway. So this sad bag of scraps and instructions found its way where most castoff’s do … to my mother’s house.

Now my mom is a great quilter and she did a wonderful job making the top. But I felt guilty asking her to quilt it, so it made the trek (once again) from Canada to the United States, where it waited for 18 months for me to put it on the longarm machine. I was dreading doing the quilting. I’m a pretty funky quilter and my mom is a traditionalist — plus I really hated the quilt — so I had no idea what to do. Finally I settled on a pretty pantograph of maple leafs, which I thought would add some texture to the design.


Here’s my husband’s first attempt at un-quilting, as he helped me with a 20-hour rip-out project. Thanks, honey!

I was too embarrassed to take pictures of the pantographs. Let’s just say they were a big mistake. I hadn’t used a pantograph for a couple of years and my lines were atrocious. By the time I was one-third of the way through the quilt, I’d determined that I wasn’t getting any better. With my husband’s help, we spent 20 hours ripping out those darn stitches.

The quilt is now finished and it looks fine. I even sort of like it. I used a star template for the larger white blocks and did a freehand loopy design over the rest of the squares. Hopefully someone will love this quilt, because it’s certainly had a tough beginning!


Here’s the background. Isn’t it perfect for hiding errors? However, trying to pick out black threads on this background was almost impossible. I guess that’s why you’re supposed to do things right the first time!

Quilts from a recent show


I am pleased to actually share some quilts with you, rather than my usual rambling and excuses about why I haven’t been quilting. These are the only two quilts that I’ve finished since January. They were completed for the Eastern Long Island Quilt Guild show in Riverhead, NY, which was held at the beginning of this month.

Remembrance II is the second in a series of black and white quilts that feature crosses. At this point, I’m not sure if I will continue the series or not. I do love working in black and white and have lots of scraps.  However it would have looked a lot better if I’d made the cross from a single piece of fabric, rather than piecing together white pieces. Oh well. Live and learn!

Taxi! was from a member challenge that asked us to make quilts using only two colors. I did not kill myself quilting this piece. I was trying to make the quilting quick and funky and fun. I also decided not to do the extra work of stitching around the fused pieces, despite the fact it would have looked a lot better if I did. After all, it was just for display. When I picked up my quilts, I was surprised to learn that the member challenge quilts had been judged. Of course the judge’s main criticism was that my fused pieces were not stitched down. At least, for once, I agreed with the judge!

As always, it is fun to see my quilts hanging in a show. I try to enjoy the experience and not compare myself to people who have been quilting longer than 4 years!

Remembrance II Quilt




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

Square is Good!


For us less-than-perfect quilters, the only way to learn how to quilt is to spend time quilting. Lectures, magazines and tutorials are wonderful — and they do help improve our skills — but there’s no substitute for sitting at a sewing machine. The same holds true learning how to use the longarm.

Every time I go to shows, I hear stories about people who bought their longarm machine and immediately started to quilt for customers. This amazes me. My first year’s worth of quilts were … um … let’s just say learning experiences that I wouldn’t want to inflict on a customer.

This red and white quilt is the first large quilt I did on my longarm. The piecing was decent. I had a beautiful red and white backing. There was a guild challenge coming up and I was determined to enter this quilt. I can’t remember the details of how I squared up the back (because it certainly was not square). However, when I took the quilt off the longarm, the back had some major pleats. I was devastated. I’d ruined the quilt because I’d skipped a crucial step of properly preparing the backing. Needless to say, the quilt did not make it to the guild challenge. I shoved it in a storage bin and tried to forget about it.

Is there a happy ending to this story? Actually, yes. First of all, my teenage daughter loves the quilt and it now has a good home in her bedroom. This quilt taught me the importance of squaring up the back fabric, so that pleating has not been a problem in future quilts. I’ve also used this quilt in lectures to show others the importance of a square backing. Finally, it made me realize that I could only concentrate on so many new things at once — until this quilt, my focus was largely on getting good tension — and that it was okay to have some fumbles on my road to being a quilter.

A year later, I just finished a large quilt. The back turned out beautifully and it hangs straight. I can now look at this red and white quilt and feel thankful for the lessons it taught me.

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

Class Review: “Solving Tension Headaches” with Dawn Cavanaugh


I took 10 classes at MQX East and learned a great deal from each one of them. This class, however, was the hands-down winner for practical tips.

Getting that perfect stitch is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Many, many things affect your tension. Basically you are doing a juggling act between a lot of different factors and trying to come up with the best solution.

The class began with a discussion of the factors that affect tension. These include the types of fabric, fabric thread count, and whether the fabric is washed.  Some fabrics (such as batiks or Tshirts with raised lettering) are harder to quilt through. Don’t forget that backing fabric (such as a sheet, Minky or flannel) will also affect tension. Finally, batting also has an impact on tension. It is much easier to quilt through a lighter, more airy batting (say a high loft polyester) than a dense cotton batting.

Thread choice can also impact tension. Metallic threads and invisible threads can be difficult. Cotton thread can cause drag on the fabric, whereas a polyester thread will glide through.

To add to our problems, environmental factors such as dryness and humidity will impact our quilting.

Whew … we hadn’t even gotten to the quilting part and I already felt doomed to tension hell.

This class was very interactive — apparently there are a lot of us with tension problems. It was 2 hours of “I didn’t know that” and I am NOT a novice longarmer. Here are a few things that are worth repeating:

1. Thicker threads require thicker needles. It never hurts to go up a needle size.

2. Quilts should not be drum-skin tight on our longarms. A little slack will improve tension.

3. Threads have a twist. The goal of the thread guides is to untwist your thread. Look at how it is coming off the bobbin and thread accordingly. Most of us have a gauge that looks like a stop light (3 vertical holes). This can be threaded from top to bottom, or bottom to top, depending on the twist of the thread. (Oops. I was threading the wrong way.)

4. Most of us know that the longarm functions better when the needle moves  from left to right, and from top to bottom. What I did not realize is that this direction is from the freehand side of the machine (the size closest to the needle). I was always careful to go from right to left — EVEN ON the pantograph side of the machine. That’s right … I was not accounting for the fact that I was facing the wrong direction. Oops.

5. Polyester thread has less drag. I did not know this. (Guess who bought some Polyester thread at the quilt show?)

6. You can use mono poly thread on both the top and bottom of the longarm. Years ago, I was told that this could not be done. Dawn does it all the time, so I’m going to try it.

I can’t say enough good things about this class. Dawn is a funny, engaging, knowledgeable teacher. I can see why her classes are so popular and am excited to take more classes from her. Dawn is Director of Education for APQS (a longarm manufacturer). You can find a schedule of her classes at

Toddler GIrl’s Tshirt Quilt


Isn’t this adorable? It’s made of four small, girl’s Tshirts. Since I needed some extra squares so that the Tshirt would be larger than a napkin, I made alternate squares from the backs of the Tshirt.

This quilt gave me some grief. First of all, it’s hard to unify colors as diverse as  fuschsia, turquoise, orange and brown.  I was lucky to find a floral pattern that picked up all of these colors.

Another issue was how to fill the empty squares. I tried making appliqued flowers out of the floral sashing fabric, but it was way too busy and did nothing to enhance the quilt. Finally I decided to make the faux trapunto hearts, and I think it worked out quite nicely.

My final challenge was thread color. I settled on a medium green that contrasted slightly from all of the colors, but managed to recede into the floral background. The back is bright pink flannel.

Overall, I think it’s a very cute girl’s quilt and I’m pleased with the results.

(If the photos didn’t come out properly, please visit my blog at


Toddler Girls Tshirt Quilt


Faux Trapunto




Longarm machines are like children …


I had some longarming deadlines to meet this week. I’ve been tired and stressed. My goal was to have everything ready by Friday afternoon. Well, it didn’t happen and I ended up canceling my evening plans to give me time to finish my work.

I got off to a late start this morning because I had to take my dogs to the vet for a pre-surgical checkup. They’re getting their teeth cleaned next Friday and apparently needed to have bloodwork and immunizations before they could go under anesthetic. I decided to take advantage of the visit and have their anal glands expressed and nails clipped while we were there. Sorry if that’s too much info.

Once I got to work, I had a  frustrating day with my longarm. Everything seemed to be going wrong. The machine was jamming. I broke a needle. My stitches started becoming loopy on the bottom for no discernible reason. Some cable was jamming along the track. I had thread caught around both of my stitch regulator encoders.  Plus I couldn’t find my clip-on scissors, and I kept losing the non-tethered pair. You get the idea. I was ready to call my vet and apply for a job expressing anal glands (it’s even worse than it sounds).

I often wonder if my machine is psychic. It’s like when I had young kids. Whenever I needed to get something done, I could count on them being sick, needy, or just obnoxious. Seems to be the same with my longarm. Unfortunately, on these kinds of days, longarmers and parents have to press forward and meet deadlines.

I did manage to solve my problems. I consulted Superior Threads needle chart and went down a needle size. I cleaned the thread off my encoders. I had my husband remove one of the cables that was jamming under the track. Suddenly, everything was working beautifully again and I’m in love with longarming.

I had a longarm rep tell me that there are many, many unused longarms in basements. People just aren’t willing to put in the effort needed to learn the machines. They get frustrated and give up. After days like today, I completely understand their mentality.  There is no shortcut for learning and no substitute for perseverance.  If you stick it out, you learn something, solve the problem(s), and are farther ahead — knowledge-wise — than you were before you hit the rough spots.

Superior threads has an awesome website. Here is their guide to needle-sizes.

I’m a Calendar Girl!


Every year, Quilting Arts Magazine publishes a calendar containing art quilts based on a certain theme. The 2012 theme was pets and I was lucky enough to have my llama quilt chosen to represent April. The fur is made from yarn, cut into approximately 1″ pieces. I then overlaid Sulky soluble stabilizer and zig-zagged all over it with clear polyester thread (I like YLM’s brand the best). The tree and leaves are made from batiks. The face is thread painted. I completed the piece with free motion quilting in the background.

The calendar can be purchased directly from Interweave.

"My Pet Llama" from Quilting Arts Magazine 2012 Calendar