Category Archives: Quilt classes

Karen Kay Buckley taught me how to applique!


I’m a pretty proficient quilter. I can make a decent 1/4″ seam, piece, improvise, and machine quilt with my longarm. But I have never mastered hand applique. I found the whole “needle turn” thing very frustrating and had basically accepted that I was stuck using fusible web for my projects. However, when our local guild sent out information about a Karen Kay Buckley workshop on hand applique, I decided to give hand applique another try.

I was not disappointed. First of all, Karen is a great teacher. She is extremely organized and gives fantastic instructions. She also works with a great close-up camera, so you can see her techniques without crowding around a sewing machine. Karen has a very relaxed philosophy about quilting, basically that “if it works, go for it!” This creates a low-stress workshop environment where you’re not paralyzed with anxiety about doing something wrong.

Karen Buckly class sample

Class Sample

During the morning, we cut out a template and placed it on fabric. We then cut out a 1/4″ larger piece of fabric and, using the iron, tucked the edges to the wrong side of the template. You’ll see the result on the blue piece on my sample. (The ironing was by far the hardest part!) We then hand- stitched this shape to our block, which was my first try at hand applique. Despite the instructions, I wasn’t doing the sewing correctly. Thankfully, with Karen’s help, I quickly got the hang of it.

We started the afternoon session learning how to make perfect circles by using a template. (You can see my “perfect” circle in orange.) We then cut out the final shape (mine is shown in green) and learned the needle-turn method of applique. I’ll admit that I wasn’t totally skilled using my needle to turn under the fabric, but the two-handed method I was doing worked and gave a great result. Karen even said there was a name for my method, which I can’t recall, and that it was perfectly acceptable.

The final part of the day was reverse-appliqueing a circle as a frame for our block (not shown).

I have taken well over 100 quilt classes and this was one of the best. Unlike many classes, where you spend most of the time cutting or sewing seams, this class focused on learning new skills. I’m not sure if it was Karen’s instructions, her personality, or maybe just the fact that I was ready to learn — but sometime between 9 AM and 4 PM I realized that I could actually hand applique, and that I really liked it!  The long-time hand appliquers at my table were laughing at my enthusiasm.

My only criticism is that our supply list did not include “Basic Sewing Supplies.” I did bring needles and one type of thread, but the others at my table had come prepared with a variety of thread colors. Fortunately, Karen had needles and thread available for us to use (as well as to purchase) so this was not an issue.

It was a great day and I highly recommend Karen as a teacher.

Karen Kay Buckley Crop

Homework Woes: My Orange Mini-Quilt


As I have mentioned earlier, I am currently taking a class about color theory. This month’s assignment was a bit overwhelming. We had to:

1. Use a single color and it had to be our least favorite color.

2. Use materials or techniques that were new to us.

3. Incorporate some element of surprise into the quilt.

4. Make a finished mini-quilt that is 12″ x 12″ in size.

Here was my first thought: “Are you friggin’ kidding me?” I bought some taupe colored silk and a set of orange wool charm squares before I left the class.  I found some orange silk ribbon in my stash at home. And then I totally ignored this assignment for 3 weeks because I had no idea what to do..

Yesterday morning I sat down and looked at the ingredients for my quilt. There was lots of heavy sighing as I came up with a plan. Since I had never worked with wool or silk, I decided to incorporate them into the quilt. I cut 1.5″ strips of silk and 2.5″ squares of wool. It was pretty easy to sew these into a grid pattern.

Step 1, using wool and silk to make a grid pattern

Since I have a longarm machine, I no longer do any quilting on my Janome. I decided that, in the spirit of #2, I would do some simple machine quilting. I chose a decorative stitch from my menu and snaked around the quilt. This looked good and worked well until my machine jammed and started to make a horrible noise.  So that was the end of decorative stitching.

My next idea was to stitch on the silk ribbon and use that to secure the quilt. My first pattern looked awful. I ripped it out.

Step 2: Used decorative stitching (until machine started making funny noises). Step 3: Silk ribbon, which I immediately ripped out.

The quilt still didn’t look finished. I took the remaining silk ribbon, cut it into smaller pieces, and sewed them on the quilt.

Steps 4 & 5: Silk ribbon and binding

The next step was binding. Of course it had to be orange. That was easy enough.

So what was going to be my element of surprise? I’d already spent enough time on this quilt and I wasn’t feeling very whimsical. As I live on Long Island, all 3 of our towns’ gas stations were empty following Hurricane Sandy, so there was no trip to Michael’s or Joann’s in my future. I looked through my stash of embellishments and found some felt flowers cutouts in orange and yellow. That would have to do.

Finished Quilt

My husband said this was “scattered and Frankenstein-ish.” Wow. Tell me how you really feel, honey! I have to agree it’s not my best work and clearly this is not an award winning quilt. I did get to work with wool and silk (both which I liked). And I did enjoy the challenge of doing an monochromatic quilt in my least-favorite color. Every once in a while it’s good to be pushed outside my comfort zone. So I guess, overall, I’d consider my homework a success.

Lecture: Chunghie Lee Talks About Bojagi (Korean traditional wrapping cloths)


On Saturday, I attended a lecture by Chunghie Lee at Empire Quilters in New York City. The lecture was about bojagi, which are traditional Korean wrapping cloths, used to wrap gifts and also for tableware.

Since I know absolutely nothing about Korean textiles, I was interested to attend this presentation. I will say that Chunghie has a strong accent, so it was sometimes difficult for me to follow what she was saying. She had an excellent set of photographs, and it was clear that she was passionate about her subject.

Chunghie has had several prestigious art shows around the world, and is an instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design. In August, she headed the Korea Bojagi Forum. According to their website:

Bojagi is the traditional Korean folk art of making wrapping cloths. Bojagi, first sewn in the 15th century by a few nameless women in small villages, now inspires many influential artists of the 21st century throughout the world. Bojagi has been introduced to the western world over the past 30 years, and Korea Bojagi Forum 2012 is designed to provide a meaningful and comprehensive multicultural survey of Bojagi, exploring its origin, materials, uses, historical background, and creative transformations.

From their roots as wrapping cloths, bojagi has inspired wall art, sculptures, room dividers and clothing. Her lecture had some wonderful photos of her work, although it was hard to see the beauty of the pieces. At the end of the lecture, Chunghie unrolled a large bojagi that looked like transparent stained glass. The room made a collective “ahhhhhh.” You could see how the light danced through the cloth.

Chunghie Lee unveiling one of her bojagi

We also saw the work of one of her students (whose name I, unfortunately, did not catch. She had a white sheer piece of bojagi that was absolutely breathtaking.

One of Chunghie Lee’s students shows us her work.

Chunghie is the author of Bojagi and Beyond.

You can learn more about bojagi at wikipedia.

You can see more images of Chughie Lee’s work in google images.

Craftsy Class Review: Machine Quilting Negative Space by Angela Walters


I took a live class from Angela Walters at the Machine Quilter’s Expo this spring. She was a wonderful teacher — fun, engaging, and clearly talented. I was thrilled to see that she offered a class on Craftsy. (For those of you unfamiliar with Craftsy, it offers 3 to 4 hour online classes in quilting and other arts, reasonably priced for $39!)

Angela Walters is known for quilting modern quilts, which are challenging because they have a great deal of quilting. Angela begins the class by defining negative space, and then sketches many designs. As the class progresses, she shows you how to combine and re-size the designs to create a lot of different quilting effects. Once the sketching is complete, she moves on to the longarm machine and shows how to stitch each pattern. You can make the project yourself by following class directions, or by purchasing an (optional) pre-printed panel from Spoonflower.

The most impressive thing is that Angela quilts with only one hand on the longarm machine. Seriously. I’ve taken a lot of classes from national teachers, and I have never seen someone consistently quilt with just one hand.

I learned a lot from this class. Although I believe that free motion quilting is much easier with a longarm, the information is totally applicable to a domestic sewing machine. She covers both in the class. She has a sweet, relaxed attitude that makes it look easy. I was able to immediately create the free motion designs she taught when I went back to my longarm machine. The class was totally worthwhile and I would highly recommend it.

For a list of Craftsy quilting classes, check out the link below. Machine Quilting Negative Space is about half-way down the page.

Gloria Loughman Lecture in New York City


On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Gloria Loughman at the Empire Quilters Guild in New York City. The presentation was part lecture, part travelogue and part trunk show. She also talked about her quiltmaking techniques that combine piecing, applique and fabric painting.

Gloria began quilting when she was in her 30’s. At the time, she was working as a physical education teacher and had three young daughters. Sadly, she had also just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Attending a quilt class was part of her healing process and she was hooked.

Gloria and her husband live in a custom-built house on the ocean. Her husband describes the house as “a big studio with a little house attached.” I didn’t see photos of the house, but the studio was large and included a wet area for dying fabric. Although the studio was built with the intention of it being a classroom, currently the only students are her grandchildren.

One of the best parts of the Powerpoint presentation was the photographs. Gloria travels with her husband, who is the family photographer. (She claims that he only travels with her so that she has a larger luggage allowance for her quilts.) The couple has been all over the world and the photos are breathtaking. My favorite were close to home — the Canadian Rocky Mountains — which I consider one of the most beautiful areas of the world.

Gloria learned to quilt on a Bernina and continues to use only Berninas. She does all of her own quilting. She is the author of two books — “Luminous Landscapes” and “Quilted Symphonies.” She has a third book in production with C&T Publishing.

She is a great speaker and packs a lot of information — and quilts — into her lecture.

You can see Gloria’s quilts at:

Dianne R. Schneck Lecture: Quilts with a Sense of Humor


Last night I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Dianne Schneck at the Eastern Long Island Quilt Guild in Peconic, New York. Her lively commentary and smile-inspiring quilts were worth the 45 minute drive from my house and battling the mosquitoes outside of the meeting hall! Some of her quilts included:

  • Hawaiian shirts and ties
  • Cows on vacation
  • A Baltimore-album style quilt featuring diner food
  • Elvis memorabilia
  • Martini glasses
  • Neon coffee cups

Unfortunately the link below does not show the backs of her quilts (or any of her newer work). The backing contained fabulous novelty fabrics and most of them were pieced combinations of related fabrics. She also paid great attention to her labels. The “Ode to a Diner” quilt, for example, had a donut on the label.

Dianne explained that humor is created by quilts that have an unexpected subject matter, provide a parody, or contain unusual materials. The best example of the latter was a “quilt” that looked like a giant teabag!

In addition to making me smile, her quilts also showed a great understanding of color and balance. I kept whispering to my neighbors about how much I liked the settings and the design elements of each quilt.

You can see more of Dianne’s work at:

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.

Linda Warren Lecture


On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Linda Warren in New York City. She was speaking to the Empire Quilter’s Guild about color.

Linda was not born knowing about color.  She describes learning color as being akin to learning any other set of skills — you do not sit down at a piano and know how to play — you practice! And learning a musical instrument is just like learning about color. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Linda suggests that we don’t be afraid of colors. Set up a design wall (a flannel sheet will work just fine) and play around with blocks and with color. Her final words were: “Try Stuff. Play to learn about design.”

I actually like this idea. I’ve always figured that good use of color was some kind of magical skill that others (not me) were born with. Her lecture made me much more willing to play around and not just accept the first color combination I come upon.

You can see Linda’s quilts at

I also purchased one of her patterns. The quilt, as you can see from her gallery pictures, is stunning.

(If you can’t see the photo, please go to my blog at

Linda Warren describing one of the block-of-the-month quilts that she designed

Linda Warren quilt pattern — I can’t wait to try this!

Lecture: Phyllis Twigg Hatcher, “150 Years of Quilts”


This past weekend I attended the Peconic Quilt Show on the east end of Long Island. One of the highlights was a lecture by Phyllis Twigg Hatcher featuring 150 years of quilts.

There is something magical about seeing quilts that were made in the 1800’s. Especially quilts that had a modern design. It makes you see that these women were truly artists and — despite lives that involved a lot of mundane household chores — they took the time to make their quilts beautiful.

Phyllis is an excellent speaker. She was informative, energetic, and very funny. She had great stories about the background of each quilt, and she probably showed us 30 of them. Even though I’m not especially fascinated by older quilts, I learned a great deal and came away with a far greater appreciation of older quilts. I also learned quite a bit about the dying process.

One more comment … I had my teenage daughter with me at the lecture, and my daughter even admitted that Phyllis “did not suck.” That kind of praise is equivalent to having your quilt win at Houston!

You can learn more about Phyllis at

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

Phyllis talking about a redwork quilt.

One of the crib quilts from the lecture. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s about 150 years old.

Lessons from a Mother’s Day Quilt


My mom has been quilting for more than 5 decades. She has given beautiful quilts to everyone in our extended family, mostly as wedding and baby gifts, as well as to a large number of friends. She’s also done countless charity quilts. And they are all beautiful.

Soon after I took my first quilting course, in which I made the requisite lap quilt, our local quilt shop offered Quilting 102. This was a twin size quilt made with half-square triangles. At the time, that was a big challenge for me. I was determined to make a quilt for my mom, as she had a special birthday coming up. More importantly, nobody had ever made a quilt for her, and I was honored to be the first.

I worked hard on this quilt. I chose a floral theme, since she also loves gardening. I bought some variegated purple thread that matched beautifully and proceeded to start quilting on my trusty Janome. Here’s where the quilt taught me my first lesson: free motion quilting on a domestic machine is HARD. I quilted the borders and decided to take a break.

Soon after, I bought a longarm machine. I added muslin leaders to the half-finished quilt and proceeded to finish quilting it. The longarm stitches looked great, but they made my Janome stitches look terrible by comparison. I decided to rip out the Janome stitches and re-quilt these areas with the longarm.

Here’s when I learned lesson #2: It takes a very, very long time to rip out stitches on a quilt. I finally realized that it would be much faster to re-make the quilt top and give up on the ripping. So I re-made the top using similar fabrics.

Two years later, the quilt top remained in my UFO pile. I was determined to get it finished before Mother’s Day this year. I hung the quilt top up to photograph it and realized it was extremely wavy. Lesson #3: Boy my piecing has improved a lot in the last couple of years!

You need to know that my mother is a hand quilter. She’s old school and likes minimal quilting. She’s not a particular fan of machine quilting, because she feels quilts aren’t as soft. So I was determined to just do some light stitch-in-the ditch quilting and give it to her.

Now we come to Lesson #4: There’s a reason why we shouldn’t be our own doctor, and the same premise applies to quilting. If anybody else had brought me such a wavy quilt, I would have explained that stitch in the ditch was not enough. There needed to be a fairly dense overall design to smash down the lumpy piecing. However, for some unknown reason, I convinced myself that this was not necessary.

Lesson #5: You can not get rid of bad piecing using stitch-in-the-ditch. You need a dense overall design. As a result, I ended up quilting this quilt twice — once for the SID, and the second time with flowers on each half-square triangle. This resulted in a lot of stitching over stitching that didn’t particularly enhance the quilt.

Overall, the quilt turned out nicely. I had to get over the fact that my piecing skills had improved a lot over the last 2 years and accept it, as well as acknowledge that my longarming could have been better. Regardless, Mom loved the quilt. This brings me to the final lesson: Quilts made with love are always beautiful.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, and to all the other mothers in cyberspace!

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