Category Archives: Quilt Workshop

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

Craftsy Block of the Month (PS: It’s free!)


So far, I’ve been very impressed with Crafty’s offerings. The block of the month is no exception. The instruction is great and the teacher is very high energy. The blocks seem well-thought out to improve your quilting skills. Best of all — it’s free!

Bookkeeping … a Path to Empowerment? (Part 2)


As we left yesterday, I was describing my banker’s box full of unsorted receipts and bank statements. It was closer to a fire hazard than an accounting system!

My first problem was that I didn’t have any kind of accounting program. Years ago, I’d used “Mind Your Own Business” accounting software and loved it. Unfortunately, it was no longer available and I was stuck selecting something else. I spent two weeks reading the pro’s and cons of several software packages. Here’s my recommendation: skip the customer reviews and just buy Quickbooks. It seems to be somewhat of a standard and I’ve been happy with it. Spend your accounting-software-investigation time quilting!

There also seems to be a lot of resources for learning Quickbooks. Our local community college offers several courses, as do many local training businesses. There are also national companies — such as Fred Pryor — that offer seminars.

Once you have a software package, you can start thinking about how you’re going to categorize your expenses. For this, you need to know something about taxes. This is a biggie! General wisdom says we all need a CPA at our disposal, and I’m certain that’s good advice. However — as I mentioned earlier — I am all about becoming empowered. So wander over the the IRS website and you’ll find some pretty useful information. There are even local seminars for businesses that looked worthwhile.

If you have questions and don’t want to hire a CPA (seriously, I have nothing against CPA’s!), I have another source for tax answers. “Enrolled Agents” pass a difficult exam and are experts on the tax code. Many are former IRS agents. They are generally less expensive that CPAs. An hour of time with an EA may put you on the path to self-sufficiency. There’s probably one in your town.

In summary, today’s empowerment has had three steps:

1. Choose an accounting software package.

2. See if you can find answers at the IRS website.

3. Consider hiring an Enrolled Agent if you have additional questions.

An Ergonomic New Year


I’m sure we all made similar resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, save money, spend more time with family, and — of course — spend more time quilting! Of course it’s now Day #3 of the new year and many of those well-intentioned goals have already gone by the wayside.(Especially the lose weight goal, as we’re still drowning in Christmas candy around here.)

However I’ve done well with my “more quilting” goal. I the weekend making two baby-sized quilts in two days. And boy was my body sore afterward!

I have herniated disks in my neck and bursitis in my hip. Quilting hurts. But do I listen to my body and take a break? Or do I charge onward trying to win the Most-Productive-Quilter award? This weekend I was going for the award.

Quilting, but its nature, makes us prone to repetitive stress injuries. These are made worse by our:

(1) Stubborn refusal to take a break every hour or so.

(2) Poorly set up work environments with cheap chairs, wrong height cutting tables, and/or poor lighting.

(3) Lack of hydration because we’re too busy to drink water (plus peeing slows down our quilting).

(4) Lack of stretching, because … well … we just don’t like doing it.

So I’d suggest that we all make a New Year’s vow to protect our bodies so that we can continue to quilt. Take a few minutes to set up our quilting area correctly. Buy a good chair. Take an hourly break to drink some water, stretch a few muscles, and take a few deep breaths.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about some resources that can help make quilting less painful.

Happy New Year!

A Perfect Party for Quilters


I’m in a small group (14 people) that stays in contact primarily be email. We occasionally see each other at quilt shop classes and retreats, but mostly we post online. I love seeing photos of everybody’s projects. We have a diverse group whose projects include traditional quilts, art quilts, pocketbooks, aprons and cosmetic bags.

Yesterday we got together for our first annual Christmas party. It was such a nice afternoon. Everybody brought food to share, show and tell items, and a present for the gift exchange (under $20). We had hand-made ornaments, fat quarters, calendars, scissors, fat quarters, small kits, and all sorts of other wonderful quilting items.

Everyone also brought hand sewing. After we ate, opened gifts and shared projects, we sat in a circle, sewed, and talked. We remarked how nice it was to be sewing with friends like our fore-mothers did. With our current methods of quilting involving heavy sewing machines (or longarms) and mostly machine projects, sewing tends to be very solitary.

It was a wonderful day. I’d love to have regular gatherings for hand sewing!

Designing Quilts: Michelle Scott Lecture


Michelle is an energetic quilter who teaches 4th grade, sells pattern designs to magazines, and designs fabrics. She is a hilarious bundle of energy who missed her calling as a standup comic.

Michelle showed 70 quilts in an hour, so you can imagine the pace of her trunk show. She also passed around her quilts so we could see the positives and negatives of each quilt.

Because she is self-taught and very busy, Michelle admits that her quilts often lack complexity, sharp points or perfect binding. Her motto is that “finished is better than perfect.” She recommends that you enjoy the process and save the (close to) perfect quilts for shows. For utility quilts, however, just do it.

I love her relaxed nature about quilting. You can tell she loves the process, which is what it’s all about. She designs her quilts using EQ7 (which she raves about) and admits that magazines want simple and easy quilts. I could see many of the audience, who had been awed by some of the big-name quilters who were teaching, visibly relax during this show. Her love of quilting and get-it-done attitude was contagious.

One of the members of the audience heard Michelle speak at her local guild. She said that Michelle’s attitude was incredibly refreshing, and she left that evening feeling like she could be a good quilter — not believing that she was vastly inferior to the ultra-talented teachers that are on the lecture circuit.

You can see more of Michelle’s work at

Marianne Elizabeth Lecture and Fabrics


At the “Quilter’s Gathering” in Nashua, New Hampshire, I attended a lecture called “Behind the Scenes: The Making of Fabric” conducted by Marianne Elizabeth. I was excited to attend this lecture, because I knew nothing about fabric design or production.

Marianne is a great speaker. She has incredible passion for her vintage designs and spoke for 90 minutes without notes. She also answered a wide range of questions about the fabric design and production process over the last 200 years.

Marianne researches her fabrics at the American History Textile Museum in Lowell, MA. ( Until this week, I did not know that such a museum existed. Her designs are transformed into CAD programs at the mills and printed in Japan.

It was interesting to me that, although we think of fabric companies (Moda, Northcott, etc.) as manufacturers, they are actually known as “converters.” They design and market fabric, but all manufacturers print at the same few textile mills. The quality of the plates and dyes does not vary between quilt shop and mass marketed fabric — but the grey goods used for production (ie the unprinted fabric) can vary greatly in quality.

She said that most manufacturers do one 3,000 yard run per fabric and that’s it. So if you like a fabric — buy it now!

One thing I found interesting was how you make a line work together — but how each fabric must function on its own. Apparently many (most?) quilt stores do not group collections together, assuming they even purchase more than a couple of bolts from a collection. Rather than being grouped together, fabrics are separated and stored with like colors and designs.

As an aside … I think this is one reason I like online shopping. Collections are shown together, and you know that your purchases will match and make something spectacular. I had no idea that, hidden in my local quilt shop, may be several collections that had been divided up.

Although I am not a fan of vintage fabrics, I have to say that her fabrics are beautiful. Yes, I had to buy some for a  future quilt.

Classically Home Fabrics, by Marianne Elizabeth

Aniko Feher Workshop: From Photo to Quilt


I signed up for this class because I love portrait quilts and had no idea how to make them. The supply list for this class is annoying long — including acetate, fine point Sharpies, freezer paper, Saral transfer paper, Steam a Seam 2 light, and water color pencils. We also needed a photo enlarged to 8×10 or 11×14.

The instructor was Aniko Feher. You can see her work at: She also gave a lunch lecture, which I missed because I stupidly mixed up the dates, and I heard her lecture was excellent.

I thought it would be cool to make a portrait quilt for my website and Facebook page. So I had my daughter take a photo. Well, that was humbling. Nothing like seeing your wrinkles, jowells and double chin up close. But I persevered.

My original portrait

This is a 2-day class. I did not enjoy Day 1 at all. It is very tedious, where you outline the shadings in your photo onto acetate and then make 2 copies of the acetate. (Let me interject that the copying was a royal pain … anyone with a size great than 8×10″ had to leave the hotel and find a copy shop to do the copying.) On the other hand, my 8×10″ portrait did not require a field trip for copying … but I soon discovered that it is MUCH easier to do a larger photo because your shaded areas are bigger.

The next step is to decided on a base color for the face. Aniko sells kits containing five 8×10″ pieces of coordinating flesh tones. Each kit costs $15 (I thought that was pretty expensive) and I bought two kits because I was too fair to use the darker colors in the kit.

Some of the flesh-toned fabrics

Once you have the colors, you assign a color to each bubble in your face. The next step is to to make a freezer paper pattern of each piece, then attach the pattern to fused flesh-colored fabric. As I said before, the process is tedious and not fun.

Day 2 was adding on to the face. We inserted the eyes, teeth, lips and hair. The project looked much better. Details were added using water color pencils. (My camera was not working, so unfortunately I don’t have any progress photos.)

It is always interesting to see an instructor’s style. Some (like John Flynn) give you steps 1 through 25 in a lecture and I manage to forget 24 of these steps when I get back to my sewing machine. Aniko gives you one step at a time. I would have preferred to have a project overview first. She was very helpful. This is NOT a good project for someone who has never fused before.

I finished my project and was very pleased with it. So I have mixed feelings about the class. It is probably my least favorite class in terms of instruction and enjoyment. However I seldom like the quilts that I make in class, and I am absolutely thrilled with my finished quilt. I am amazed at what I accomplished in 2 days.

My final self portrait (not yet quilted)

Louisa Smith Quilt Class: Introduction to Color


I must admit that I took this class because I thought it would be good for me, not because the description sounded very exciting. However I looked up Louisa’s quilts online and it was clear she knew what she was doing. So I signed up and expected a “good for me” experience that was equivalent to a visit to my hygienist.

Well, I was glad I followed my instincts. I learned more in this class than in other classes in recent memory.

When I started quilting, my classes were filled with “ah-ha” moments. As I’ve gotten more experienced, I always learn things, but I haven’t taken anything that has changed my view of quilting. “Introduction to Color” was a game-changer.

Until now, I haven’t given much thought to planning the color in my quilt. Basically I buy fabric when I like it, and put it together in a manner that is pleasing. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to transitioning from light to dark, or to ensuring that there is contrast between my blocks.

One of our first tasks was to divide our fabric colors into pure colors, tints (created when white is added to a color), shades (created when black is added), and tones (when grey or other colors are added to soften the pure color). I sucked at this. Although I could easily identify the pure colors, it was another story with the tints, tones and shades. One of my classmates had a 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom that contained color strips which helped identify these colors.

We brought in magazines and pieces of fabric. Our next assignment was to find a magazine photo that we liked, and then use the fabrics that were the same color. This was quite hard in a classroom where we didn’t have access to a whole lot of fabric.

Then we moved on to value, which is the lightness and darkness of colors.

One of the highlights was Louisa’s quilt show. Her quilts are spectacular. They can be viewed at her website:

Louisa is energetic and very funny. I attended one of her lectures and it was well-planned and interesting. I can’t say enough good things about her teaching methods and would highly recommend her classes!

One of Louisa's quilts -- magnificent!

Louisa explaining colors in quilt

My (failed) attempt at applique


My quilt shop was offering a block of the month for the Pumpkin Hill quilt. This quilt is hand appliqued and I felt that it was a skill I would like to master. Well, I’ve changed my mind.

At our first meeting we received a wonderful packet of fabric, duly labeled as “cream” or “stars.” Unfortunately, the labeled fabric didn’t match up with the instructions, and many in the class were frustrated trying to decide which fabric to use.

Our second problem was that the leader didn’t have time to show us how to applique. I went home and watched tutorials on Youtube. I tried a practice piece but found needle turn extremely difficult. I also realized that hand appliqueing these blocks was going to take a lot of time.

I then decided to do the “freezer paper method” whereby you trace each component on freezer paper, then cut out the freezer paper and iron (shiny side down) to the back of the fabric. The project has been in this state for the last two weeks.

I’ve been joking that fusible web has been looking pretty good.

This weekend I made a decision — I am going to fuse this quilt and do machine applique. I do not have the time or desire to learn to applique by hand. Maybe I will sometime, but not now. Here’s a link to the finished quilt. It is really interesting and I’m sure that machine quilting won’t take away from the design.

Fabric for Month One of Pumpkin Hill