Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Still Learning

 Students are often surprised when I mention a class I am taking or recently completed. They wonder why, after almost 40 years of quiltmaking, I would still take classes. Don't I know everything I need to know by now? The answer is NO, there is always something new to learn. 

Here is a good example. This little quilt is a pattern from the Temecula Quilt Company blog. It is called "12 Days of Christmas", the patterns are still available free and I have made several of these over the years. The first block has 1 fabric, the second block has 2, the third, 3, etc. Adorable, fast and fun:

These blocks were made last year, and stored with the border and binding, just waiting to be completed. So I cut the green sashing and used it as a "leader/ender" project while working on other things. 

Usually, I quilt these very simply, stitch in the ditch along the sashing, something simple in the border and call it done. This time, I wanted to try something more. The idea of micro-quilting in the white fabrics occurred to me as it would make the red fabrics pop. 

The current show on The Quilt Show features award-winning quiltmaker Kumiko Frydl, who demonstrates how she micro-stipples on very small quilts. I watched the show and was game  to try it. 

First, I did stitch in the ditch along all the sashing seams, using a dull medium green Microquilter thread. This provides the "bones" and lets me play in each block next.

Using white Microquilter thread on top, a 100 wt. polyester thread, and  light tan Bottom Line thread on top, 60 wt. polyester, both by Superior Threads, I was on my way. It was fun and easy, just slow, which took a bit of time to learn. Going slow is not my usual speed. 

Then I added simple quilting with red Microquilter in the red fabrics. Without it, the quilt didn't look done. In the busy border I knew no stitching would show up so I quilted one of my go-to border designs, a leaf vine, that I can do quickly and easily, with no marking, it's just great practice: 

So watching Kumiko's show gave me the knowledge and confidence to try a new technique.

Another quilter I enjoy learning from is Natalia Bonner of Piece n I have several of her books and have taken a few classes and watched lots of her videos. Recently she had a free class on quilting designs, 9-Patch Along 2.0, similar to her 9-Patch Along last year. I made a simple 9 Patch quilt and followed her instructions for a different design in each block:

The Back

About 50" square

Natalia encourages you to change up her designs if you like and I did on a few blocks, adding more lines where I wanted more quilting. 

I used wool batting because it is easy to quilt and adds great dimension. After machine washing, I laid it out on a tile floor for a couple days to dry.

For the sashing, I played with her rulers to come up with a design I liked. The outer border was a good place to practice a curvy feather vine--I used her Guide to Feathers book for ideas. I may still add some more lines in the largest feathers--a few of them still look empty to me. Or maybe not. Finished is better than perfect, right?

So, there is always something to learn from every class you take, even if what you learn is "I don't ever want to do that again!"

As I look forward to all the things I will teach for the 2022 Block of the Month quilt, Garden Party Down Under, I hope those who are afraid of applique or think it's too slow, or just haven't enjoyed it in the past, will give it a try. It will be a "Sampler of Techniques"--try something new, you just might like it. Lots of options for machine work if hand applique isn't your thing.

Let's quilt.



  1. Great thoughts. I didn't watch the show on microquilting because I thought I would never do it, but now after reading about it think I will try it just for fun. I have a couple of mini quilt tops I could use. I also think I will do a few of the BOM blocks just for practice.

    1. The center of Garden Party Down Under makes a great small quilt. Month 1 and 2 finish at 33” square, a nice size for a small quilt.

  2. I know what you mean. Every time I take a class I learn something. Natalia’s classes are so intimidating until I just dive in and do it. Sometimes I have to watch her videos over and over. I always get better taking her classes

    1. Me too. I have to watch them more than a few times--they are quick and she makes it look so easy. Once I see where she's going, I get it.

  3. Barbara I’m curious as to how you sandwich your quilts in preparation for quilting. I know your longarm is seated but haven’t thought to ask how you get ready. The floor just isn’t an option for me anymore.

    1. No getting on the floor for me either. Usually I pin baste on my dining room table, working the middle by clamping/taping the back to the table. After the middle is pinned, I slide one side on the table, clamp/tape that part of the back and pin that side. Then I do the 3rd section. Sometimes I go to a shop classroom where I can use multiple tables to lay out the entire quilt, that is best.

  4. I started quilting over 50 years ago, Barbara, and I still learn things from you!