Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Teaching Beginning Quiltmaking

 At a local shop Sweet Home Quilting, I recently taught a 9 hour class for beginners. The project is fairly simple, and the 3 class sessions are about right for beginners to get the hang of making their first quilt. I call the class Learn to Quilt--the Basics, Fast and Fun:

39" x 48"

This time, I did session 1 and 2 in the same day--so the students had 6 hours of instruction the first day. For true beginners, just learning to cut fabric and the basics of piecing a block can take 3 hours--then it's time to pack up. This worked very well. Everyone got all the instruction they needed, as often as needed, and all went home the first day with at least 4 blocks complete. 

A week later they returned for the third session, 3 hours of instruction on how to finish their quilt--whether they will quilt it on their machine, will pay to have it longarm quilted, or will rent time on a longarm and quilt it that way. They also got detailed instruction on binding their quilt.

Four of the six students returned for the last class. The other two were unable to make it. Leila used luscious Cherrywood fabrics for her blocks. While not a true beginner, Leila knew she could benefit from learning tips and tricks and she was very pleased with her improvement in  piecing:

In the 3rd session we also discuss selecting borders that really add a great touch to the quilt. This Kaffe Fassett fabric is absolutely perfect for Leila's blocks and navy sashing:

Betsy chose a beautiful, soft palette and made several sets of blocks at home. She has just ordered a brand new Bernina 770 sewing machine and is eager to step up her quiltmaking a notch when it arrives: 

I have taught almost 2000 beginner students over the past 35 years. Many of them make beautiful first quilts in the classes, quilts that impress me with their workmanship or color choices, or a design element added.  I am not usually totally gobsmacked by a student's quilt but Ida did that. 

I love everything about this quilt. She chose a line of fabric, so everything blends nicely. But it is her choice of a small print for the sashing and the geometric outer border that just did it for me. Remember when we learned "you don't wear stripes with polka dots"?  It's kind of like that for me--my sashings tend to be solids. Ida used a lovely small vine-like print for her sashings. Then she knocked it out of the park with the terrific geometric print for the outer border. To cut that accurately, she had to cut one layer at a time--she figured that out on her own. Great job, Ida!:

A close-up: 

I love teaching beginners or those who are learning on their own and want to enjoy the process more by being more successful in their efforts. Now I look forward to seeing these lovely women again in future classes.

Let's quilt.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

I Love Texas!

 Recently I had the pleasure of traveling to Houston, TX to give a lecture and workshop to the Quilt Guild of Greater Houston. Here are some photos of the trip. All four flights, from Huntsville to Atlanta to Houston, in both directions were on time or arrived early. No travel issues at all--that alone makes for a great trip.

I will also mention: almost everyone I saw in  public was wearing a mask. Of course, at the airports, that's required, but also in all the stores and restaurants I entered, many had signs posted masks were required. Many at the meeting also wore masks and I put mine back on after I gave my lecture.

The lovely woman I had been communicating with for almost two years, picked me up right on time and we had traveling mercies: Houston traffic is tough,  it was late afternoon, but we made it from the airport to the hotel in about 35 minutes--that was super! The kind woman at the front desk of the Hilton Westchase recognized my status with Hilton and upgraded my room. This trip is just getting better and better:

My quilt on the bed


Double sinks

The view

The Rio Rancho hotel restaurant was totally about "sense of place"--can you tell we're in Texas?

I highly recommend the Breakfast Tacos--Brisket and Eggs, yum!

The following day there was some touring and shopping then dinner before the evening lecture:

Ready to begin

Slideshow prior to the meeting, with announcements

The next day's workshop

The audience to my left

The audience to my right--some are still  out in the foyer conducting guild business

They had some ZOOMERS watching from home. After I gave the lecture they had show and tell. I was thrilled many brought their Afternoon Delight quilts to show me: 

One of the ZOOMERS sent her Afternoon Delight show and tell for all to see

Love this border, inspired by Sue Garman's pattern Ruffled Roses

Another fantastic border--great way to enlarge this quilt without making even more Double 9 Patches and Applique' blocks

Another beauty

And another beautiful border

THEN: the Color My World quilts came out to impress me: 

These two ladies are happy to be keeping up

This quilter was inspired by Color My World--Mariner's Compass center, circular design all around, but totally her own quilt

One more in the home stretch now

The next day we had such a great workshop I took no photos! The group was small but eager to learn and all got individual attention throughout the day. I have already received a lovely email from one who said she was thrilled with what she learned in class and that her original plan to only make one block as a trivet has now changed to something more useful and beautiful. It is that unexpected note from a happy student that keeps us traveling quilt teachers on the road.

After a lovely early dinner after the workshop, we took the trek back to the airport so the next day would be easier for everyone.  Alas, what should have taken less than an hour, took more like two. Houston traffic at the end of a work day--it is what it is. But I was settled for the night and the rest of the trip, back to home, was uneventful.

One more good meal at one of my favorite places, Pappadeaux at the airport, salad with grilled salmon:

Then I was home. Someone was happy to see me: 


I love teaching quilting just about anywhere but especially in Texas. All my Texas quilter friends--I am ready to come back any time!

Next stop is BACK to Houston in a month for International Quilt Festival. I am very excited to see my Special Exhibit "My Joyful Journey" hanging in the Convention Center. I hope to see many of you there. 

Let's quilt.


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ruler Work--My Favorite Kind of Quilting

 The other day I presented a 2 hour Demo on Ruler Work quilting at a local shop. Barb's Sewing Center is celebrating their 20th year anniversary and this Demo Class was a gift from them to their customers.

Congratulations to Barb Martin for 20 great years

My Bernina Q20 and I have been friends for 6 years now. The more quilting I do, the better I get. What a surprise! And I love Ruler Work. Using rulers allows me to get designs that vary from good enough to great and I am satisfied with the quilting I  can do. The machine makes perfect stitches. With care, I can make pretty close to perfect shapes/designs.

Here are my favorite rulers/tools:

The LineTamer ruler makes straight lines a breeze and I am sure I use it on every quilt I work on. Grip-Its make it easy to maneuver the quilt when doing Free Motion Quilting--much better for me than gloves, rubber finger tips, rings, etc.  Amanda Murphy's Good Measure Rulers are well-thought out and have the grippy stuff on that back that really helps. Natalia Bonner's, Mini-4-in-1 and Mini Inside Out 4-in-1 are excellent. Clamshell rules can be used for lots of circular designs.

Many videos are available to help us learn. Natalia Bonner, Amanda Murphy, and Angela Walters have some of the best for me. 

Four years ago, I wrote a blog about this with details and photos: Ruler Work--the Basics

Here is some of the quilting I showed at the Demo:

I LOVE Curved Cross Hatching

Wishbone motifs and a Leaf Border

No marking, I just winged it, Pumpkin Seed and Wishbone motifs

I love the Pumpkin Seed design, often seen in Pennsylvania Amish quilts. Easy to do with circular rulers. For this one, the Clamshell ruler was the perfect size for this block: 

One of my most favorite "go-to" border motifs is a simple leaf vine, done completely free-motion. I have done it many times and now it is almost automatic, not hard for me to do. I like it in narrow borders. There is curved cross-hatch and straight line quilting in the large outer border--nearly impossible to see on a busy print, but still good practice:

I didn't have this one with me, but it illustrates the importance of trying new motifs and working on something that matters. I used different shapes/designs in each of these borders, alternating ruler work and free motion quilting. White thread on the white, navy on the dark blue. 

Use busy fabric on the back as you are learning. Doesn't that quilting look GREAT?!

The finished quilt, Spellbound, pattern by Debbie Maddy:

If you are new to machine quilting, with or without rulers, I have a few tips:

1. Move beyond muslin sandwiches quickly. The sooner you work on things that matter the better you'll get. Placemats are a great thing to practice on. As are simple donation or baby quilts . 

2. Use busy fabric on the back--starts/stops and wobbles won't show.

3. Don't blame the machine for operator error.  Understand how to set the tension correctly on your machine. Machines don't "like" or "dislike" any brand/size of thread. A quality machine can handle just about any quality thread with the proper needle and tension settings. All thread manufacturers' provide excellent educational info on their website. 

4. Practice really does help you improve. Whether you put in 20 minutes a day, every day, or work for hours on a bed-size quilt, know you will get better and don't beat yourself up for the occasional wonky stitches. Bet you won't even be able to find them tomorrow. And if they still bother you, your stitch ripper will take them out.

Let's quilt.


Sunday, September 19, 2021

A Gift of Comfort

 One of the Sunday Sew and Sews is dealing with breast cancer, again, after having beaten it twenty years ago. We wanted to make a quilt for her, to wrap her in love and comfort. We knew it could NOT be pink--she told us a few years back that pink was her least favorite color because it reminded her she had had breast cancer. 

So, what about red white and blue? I remembered she owned a couple antique family log cabin quilts that were red, white and blue. And that color combination always works, so that was the plan. 

The finished quilt: 

The top: 

Simple diagonal line quilting: 

When making a group quilt, it is best to use an easy block and a design that does not have blocks set side-by-side. This block is perfect--it FLOATS, meaning the star points are well inside the block edges, and perfection is not required. 

I have written about this block several times. Use the Search box in the upper left for Tiny Stars. Here is the post with the instructions: Tiny Stars Block Swap

This block can be made in just about any size, these stars are 4.5" Finished. Fifteen of us made the blocks. I had each person make 10 Tiny Stars AND assemble them in rows, alternating a Star/Blue Square/Star/Red Square, etc. All I had to do was open a seam or two to create the diagonal set. Much faster for me than if I had had to sew all the stars/squares together myself. I also asked each person to sign one of their stars, adding a message if they wished. 

The back and binding fabrics were donated by one of our group--it was fabric she had gotten from Janet, our Sunday Sew and Sew who passed away last year. So even Janet was able to contribute to this gift.

These quilters are all great piecers who have successfully completed some challenging quilts since we began this group in January 2017. Still, there are some tips I can share about piecing that might help improve all our piecing skills. I am NOT picking on anyone here--we ALL can improve, myself included. 

1. Use a fairly small stitch for piecing, especially small blocks. I recommend no larger than 2.0. If your machine default is 2.5, and many are, lower it before you begin. Here's why;

Discovered while quilting--this is tough to fix on a basted quilt--it is a star on the outside edge of the quilt. I had to hand-sew it closed with white thread: 

2. If seam allowances are important for construction, indicate which way to press them. Because the stars don't touch other pieced blocks, I told the group they could press the seams on the stars however they preferred. The seams joining stars to fabric squares, need to be pressed toward the squares--not everyone did that. It was a simple matter to repress those rows before assembling the quilt:

3. Double check your piecing. I do this all the time, and regret it if I skip this step. As you join a star to a fabric square, check to be sure your seam allowance is accurate. Two 4.5" finished blocks should be 9.5" when sewn together, including seam allowances. Two pair should be 18.5" when sewn together, with seam allowances. It is very easy when chain piecing a lot of blocks to get off just a little. And a "little" off, can add up. When joining the rows I occasionally found the intersections didn't always align--this is simply due to the seam allowance being off just a bit. 

Off just a tiny bit: 

Spot-on, 9" finished for two blocks: 

4. BE SURE THE BACK IS BIG ENOUGH: this last tip is for ME. I pieced the back from Janet's fabric, and knew it would be "close" to big enough. After spray basting the back, adding the batt and then adding the spray basted top, I was irritated at myself to see the back was about 1" too narrow. What a mess! To try to sew additional fabric on the spray basted back would have been really messy. 

My plan was to just cut off half the stars on both sides, not a great solution, just the easiest one. Once I started the quilting, I determined I didn't want to cut the stars off so I added more back fabric to both sides, sewing through all 3 layers. Now there is a visible seam on the top, very close to the edge. But, when completely done, those lines are not really visible unless you look for them. No picture to show you. All in all, it worked out.

The label is the last, important step for finishing any quilt. I named this "Stuff Happens", because it does, in life and in quilting. It tells the who, what, why, when and where of the quilt. Read more about labels here: Quilt Labels  For speed, this one was hand written with a permanent pen, on a folded triangle of white fabric, then included in the binding seam.  The only part of the label that needed hand stitching was the long diagonal folded edge.

After washing and drying the quilt, it was ready to be presented to our friend. She seemed pleased with it.  Speed was of the essence here, treatment is ongoing. I received the blocks September 5 and presented the quilt September 17.  

We hope it will help our friend feel the warmth of our love and concern for her during this trying time. 

Let's quilt.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

New Project on the Way

 I've been having a mental debate with myself about what quilt project to start next. It's been on my mind for months. 

Not that I don't have plenty to do. There are videos and blogs to prepare, work for the 2021 and now, 2022 Block of the Month  quilts for The Quilt Show.  That takes a lot of time. I am teaching locally again and that takes time. Next week I'll be in Houston to give a lecture and teach a workshop for the Quilt Guild of Greater Houston--love that too.

There are several quilts to quilt, a few for my guild quilt show next March. They will take time. So I have plenty to do...

But I always want to have the "next great idea" lined up. Digging around the studio the other day I remembered this project and knew this is "IT". Ever since this 2010 magazine arrived I've been planning to make this "someday". In a large plastic tub I found all these fabrics, ready to go, the magazine, AND all the paper patterns for the flying geese--printed years ago--READY  TO GO. So, this is it. 

I will pre-wash these fabrics soon. I can't start this until more of the Block of the Month stuff is done but that will be in about a month. Oh, wait, then I will be in Houston for Market and Festival, 13 days away from home, SO, maybe  this will see action in November. 

It just feels good to know what is next. Does that happen to you? Do you have a plan for the next idea or just wait to see what happens? I have several projects under construction I could go back to but the bright, new shiny thing is so much more appealing!

Let's quilt.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Meet Goldie

DISCLAIMER: This is a post about our new cat. If you're not a cat person, come back a few days from now when it will be quilt stuff once again.

It's been some years since we had cats, about 8 years ago now.  I have always loved cats. One cat is fine with me. Eight years ago when I decided to get a kitten, my husband insisted we get two, so they would be companions, playmates. So we rescued two kittens--read about that adventure here: Kittens

One was a love, the other evil. The bad one attacked the sweet one and he had to be put to sleep. Read that sad story here. Within a year, it was clear Patches had to go. She was attacking us daily, insisted on being outside and would kill squirrels larger than she was and deposit them at the back door frequently. The vet said a cat that attacked her humans was not a happy cat and it would be best to put her down. So we did and I was pretty sure that was it for me with cats.

Enter Goldie. My son lives in Nashville and he and his girlfriend have 3 indoor cats. As he has a heart of gold, he feeds the neighborhood strays. A couple weeks ago, this little girl showed up, skin and bones, starving: 

She ate as much as she could handle, then jumped in his lap for a purr and a cuddle. Other than being undernourished she seemed in good health. They checked for a chip, she didn't have one. They gave her a safe place to stay that night, an outside greenhouse Joshua built. but she was gone in the morning. Later that day she was back for more food and more cuddles. And she wanted IN the house. This is odd for wild cats so she might have been a pet who was dumped.

They brought her into the guest room because their cats wanted no part of a young one around, nor was she interested in them. She used the litter box from the beginning and continued to eat well and fill out a bit. Joshua and Cait spent time with her each day and declared her a sweet, loveable cat who needed a home. 

I caved. I told him to get her checked out and if she was healthy, I would take her. The vet said she is about a year old as all her baby teeth are gone, 6 lbs, all tests negative, clean ears, all the good things you want when getting a young cat checked out. Personality was most important to me and Joshua kept telling me how sweet she is. He named her Goldie and that stuck.

Here she is on her first day with us, still skittish:

This is her favorite spot--in the kitchen, where she can see her food bowl and the living room: 

The second night she jumped in my lap for a cuddle, purring loudly. That only lasted a few minutes but it's a start: 

It's hard to photograph a cat in your lap. This is now a nightly routine:

In the morning she will play for just a few minutes, then it's nap time again: 

She is still skinny but starting to fill out a bit. And she loves that chair: 

Next week she has an appointment to be spayed. I will be interested to see what the local vet says about her. 

I describe her as an "odd" little girl. What she doesn't do

1. come into our room at night, though the door is wide open
2. play with toys, paper bags, anything typical young cats love to do
3. jump up on surfaces, like the kitchen table or my sewing machine
4. spend time in my studio--she came looking for me there a few days after she arrived, walked around the room, then went back to her kitchen chair
5. try to get around my feet/legs, being a trip hazard--she likes her "personal space"
5. meow much--except at 6 am when her food bowl is empty and it's time to eat

She is a sweet girl so we'll see how this goes. Wish she could tell  us her story, I'll bet there were some adventures in her young life.

Now, let's quilt.