Monday, December 19, 2011

With Christmas shopping, baking and general fun taking up a lot of my time lately, I had put aside my machine quilting project.  This photo is the before shot of "Bittersweet Too" taken before I started quilting it.  I blogged a few weeks ago about the difficulties I was having with tension, needle size and the wool batting.  

I think it's a good idea to step away from something that is frustrating you or is just not fun (unless you have a serious deadline breathing down your neck).  It's also necessary to have your sewing machine cleaned and serviced regularly (I do have this done, but it was overdue).  I combined my machine service visit with a fun Christmas lunch and shopping with a good friend.  

Al, who does my machine servicing, said you really should not mess with your bobbin tension (I confessed that I had REALLY messed with it).  This is controversial and I know you can do it with care.  But he did say, just adjust the top tension if needed.  

So, I was ready to give this machine quilting mystery a shot again.  I started with a warm-up to check my tension.  What actually worked for me was to increase the top tension.   I had immediate success and somehow, it all just felt better.  I'm now doing free motion background quilting as shown here:

The results are not too bad!  3 more of these background sections to finish, then on to the borders.  

I have also changed my opinion about wool batting.  While I'd still say it's not exactly what a beginner might want to use, it really is wonderful to work with.  It is so light and just feels great.  It does have more loft and you must be aware of this and plan you quilting accordingly.  But, I do believe I'll choose it again.  Yes, I will continue to machine quilt - my smaller projects at least.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our applique group which meets the first Wednesday of every month at Your Arts Program, Manitowish Waters will participate in the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.  We are each completing a quilt for the "Priority: Alzheimer's Quilt" project.  Read more:

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative™ ( is a national, grassroots charity whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research. The AAQI auctions and sells donated quilts, and sponsors a nationally touring exhibit of quilts about Alzheimer's. The AAQI has raised more than $679,000 since January 2006.

Ami Simms of Flint, Michigan is the founder and executive director of the AAQI, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operated entirely by volunteers. She is a quilter. Her mother had Alzheimer's.

The AAQI currently sponsors two major programs:

Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope
The first is a nationwide traveling quilt exhibit called "Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope." It features 182 "Name Quilts" six inches wide and seven feet tall, containing the names of more than 10,000 individuals who have or had Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Hanging among the Name Quilts are 53 small format art quilts (9" x 12") that each interpret Alzheimer's in some way. The exhibit will tour the United States for 5 years.

Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts
The second is the "Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts" project, so named for the urgent need for research dollars and the hope that quilters across the country would make participation in this project a priority. These small quilts fit inside flat rate cardboard priority mailers from the USPS, which the group uses to ship quilts to winning bidders after monthly online auctions.

There are an estimated 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease. We believe we can make a difference, one quilt at a time.

Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative
1200 Creekwood Trail
Burton, MI 48509

Each quilt will measure no larger than 9" x 12".  Our group theme is "birds" and most of us will design our own quilts.  Any method of applique can be used.  We have not set a deadline and are encouraging more quilters to join in.  

For my quilt, I decided to hand applique folk art birds in wool felt on a cotton background.  This is just the beginning as I plan to embellish and add borders etc.  You'll note some of my own hand-dyed wools in the photo.  I haven't done any wool applique for some time, so I'm excited to work on this project.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Fun of Applique

Recently,  Your Arts Program in Manitowish Waters, where we hold our applique group meetings, created and donated a Christmas tree for the Festival of Trees, an annual fund raiser for the library.  The trees are bid on and sold.  All of the ornaments for this tree were hand made.  I made the one above, using one of my applique designs from my quilt “Woods and Wildflowers”.  

Here is the center block of that quilt featuring this little bird which I just love - it could be a chickadee....

Or maybe a cardinal. Here, I used my design again to create this little bag for a Christmas gift for someone who loves cardinals.

So, you can see how much fun applique can be. A favorite design motif can be used in many different projects. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Love the Nightlife

"I Love the Nightlife" is finished and  ready for the world.  Lisa Arndt did a fantastic job completing the long arm quilting. I'm writing and editing the pattern which will be included in my book. Take a closer look at all the detail. 

Thanksgiving is over and it was a wonderful holiday, but cooking and getting ready to travel took me away from my quilting for a bit.  And now it's back to work.

Just a note:  Flower Power will be featured as a series quilt in Quilter's Newsletter starting with the April/May 2012.  Initially, it was supposed to start with the current issue, but there was a delay.  

I recently purchased a new Gingher cutting mat and rotary cutter.  My old equipment was in sore need of updating - why do we put off buying some of the most basic necessities?  I have had the large Gingher scissors, the pinking shears and the embroider scissors for many years and they are wonderful.  These new tools are just the best!  What a difference.  And I just love the neat silver box the cutter arrived in.  



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Machine Quilting Tales

Plain Jane 

I consider myself an expert at machine applique and have always had positive comments from judges at shows about my applique technique and design.   There are those who think that with this talent, I should easily be able to machine quilt on my home Bernina. Over the years, I have done some basic machine quilting but I have had my large quilts done by long arm machine quilters Cheri Trexler and Lisa ArndtI have read all the books by the experts and taken Sue Nickel's excellent class - twice. Yes, I've done my homework. Recently, I did machine quilt Camellia and Plain Jane which are nice small wall hangings.  I had little difficulty and I like my results.

Now, I'm attempting to machine quilt Bittersweet Too measuring 56" x 56" which is not huge, but it is definitely more to handle.  Some of the detail quilting I've done:

This is definitely a learning experience and I'll share what I've learned so far.

-  Wool batting is wonderful.  I love natural fibers and I love how lightweight it is and how it feels, but it has more loft than cotton batting (my usual choice).  It is used by machine quilters who do a lot of detail stitching.  I won't choose it again - not  until I'm much better at this.  I will need to add background detail to tame down that extra loft.

-  My thread choice for the detail stitching was #30/3 polyester New Brytes by Superior Threads with  #50/3 polyester So Fine for the bobbin, also Superior Threads.  These are wonderful threads and the #30/3 gives the definition and bolder stitch I want, but boy you better have nice even stitches when your stitches show that much.  Again:  better left to the experts.  I have ripped out a lot of stitches and this is one thing you never want to have to do.  A better choice would have been a much finer thread.  This is common advice for beginners, but I ignored it.

-  I was stitching along with some success when I began to have trouble with my machine tension.  I've never had a single problem with my machine and I tried everything I could - cleaned and oiled my machine, practiced on sample after sample, adjusted the bobbin tension etc.  I had change my needle, but to a different size which was not recommended.  Then I simply tried another new needle in the correct size, and like magic all was fine again!  I better order a case of those needles.  By the way, I highly recommend Superior Threads for high quality supplies:  

-  Don't let anyone kid you:  working on those little 12" x 12" machine quilting samples or a small wall hanging is a lot easier than trying to handle  bigger quilts.  The American Quilter's Society quilt show in Paducah, KY has a separate category for quilts which are quilted on home machines.  It is a very special talent and I am always in awe of those quilts. 

-  Another very important element of machine quilting is the quilting design itself.  It needs to be planned while you are designing and making the quilt.  I am always amazed at the beautiful designs that expert machine quilters come up with. 

- The frustrating part for me right now is that I'm not happy with the quality of my work so far, though many would say it's just fine.  To me, technique is just as important as color and design.  Well, maybe one day I'll be as good at machine quilting as I am at applique.  I know it will take years of practice. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bittersweet Too

 Some favorite photos of autumn past.  

Back to the present, I won some nice awards at the Marshfield quilt show this past weekend.

Plain Jane won third place in it's category:


And Woods and Wildflowers won first place and the show chairman's award:

I am working diligently on my book.  Bittersweet is one of the patterns to be included:

But, looking at the other quilts to be included in my book, I felt Bittersweet needed to be updated with newer fabrics and design.  So, I used the same log cabin layout, but in a smaller size, went exploring the woods for new leaves to inspire me and came up with the New Bittersweet or maybe I'll title it "Bittersweet Too."  I did add a final border in the brown marble fabric after this photo was taken.  Now it just needs to be quilted.  And the pattern is finished!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn Tradition

Autumn is my favorite season - yes, not summer or spring as you might think.  I love the changing leaves, the cooler weather, the fresh crisp air, and the dark quiet days.

A favorite autumn tradition I have is to enter and attend the Treasures of Tomorrow Quilt Show in Marshfield, WI.  This is a judged show with prize money and an overall viewer's choice award.

My lifelong friend Jan and I always attend together and spend the day.  Jan has never made a quilt though she is learning to hand piece a sampler I got her started on.  She does love to view the show quilts and shop the vendors as much as any seasoned quilter does and she has always been one of my biggest supporters. 

                          This year my entries include "Woods and Wildflowers" 86" x 86"

                                                         and "Plain Jane" 28" x 28"

Visit the web site for show dates and details:

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Golden Opportunity

I have not blogged for a few weeks, nor have I been quilting, though I've appliqued four of my newest quilt blocks and pieced them together.  I have this piece pinned to my wall and as I usually do, I get ideas by just gazing at it.  I have the rest of the appliques ready to cut, fuse and stitch to the background.  There will be 16 blocks total and a neat appliqued border yet to be designed. Something like this:

Well, then what have I been doing? The American Quilter's Society has accepted  my book proposal and agreed to publish it my book.  If I sound rather calm about this, I'm not.  This is a huge opportunity for me and to say I'm just overwhelmed at the moment would be about right.  

I plan to include 8 of my quilt patterns. I've been working on Woods and Wildflowers, as this is probably the biggest challenge.  I kept notes and drawings when I made this quilt, but I wish they had been more thorough.  In the back of my mind, I've always wanted to write a book, but that thought stayed right there - in the back of my mind.  It has been great having Woods and Wildflowers out again as I am remembering the inspiration for each block and the fun I had making them. 

My motivation for writing a book?
I'm not looking for fame or notoriety, some money would be nice, but no, it's that I really do want to share my quilts with others.  What good are all these quilts to me alone?  Isn't that what the world of quilting is all about? After all, I learned everything  I know about quilting from other quilters. 

Having my book published will be a feather in my cap though, not to be too humble.  So, I put a feather in my hair and called it.....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Essence of Self


 Plain Jane 
28" x 28"

The applique group at Your Arts Gallery unveiled their "Essence of Self" (self portrait) quilts last night at our monthly meeting.  No one had talked about or seen each others projects before last night. Frances Whitfield (gallery director) set them up for us to view and try to guess who was who.
I have to say, each of the 8 quilts was stunning - original, colorful, artful - just wonderful!!  Everyone told their story and those stories were also wonderful. We learned things about each other we didn't know.  
My quilt entry is titled "Plain Jane".  I designed, machine appliqued and machine quilted this project.  It tells the story of how my quilts speak for me while I maintain a sort of quiet demeanor which is reflected in the monochromatic color scheme.  A few  flowers, leaves and stems in a  simple but lovely setting show that I try to find the beauty in nature and everyday life.
The Essence of Self quilts will be on display at Your Arts Gallery later this month;  I will take photos and share them on this blog (with the artists' permission).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Carla Rose and Katy Marie

Here's the start of a brand new quilt which I have already named "Carla Rose and Katy Marie."  Usually, I don't name my quilts until they are finished, but in this case the name is the quilt.  Carla and Katy are my daughters of course, and this quilt will be bold and bright and beautiful and fun - just like they are.  This block is only the beginning and many more details will  be added as I go along, so "stay tuned." 

I am feeling nostaligic this time of year as all the kids go back to school and I have fond memories of sending my girls off on that first day.  A couple of first day photos from the 80's:

They did love to dress up and shop for clothes.  Katy still remembers those red shoes! I have kept the dress she is wearing in the second photo in my box of appliqued treasures.

I have finished my book proposal and it's off to the publisher.  Now, I wait and see.....  In the meantime I have a wonderful, fun project to keep me busy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pencil vs. Mouse

Camellia  21" x 21"

This is one of my newer applique designs and I'm currently working on a pattern for it.  I did machine quilt it and will have a good photo of the finished quilt soon.

I design all of my appliques using paper and pencil.  I do a lot of sketching and keep files of ideas and also collect things I find in nature to use as patterns. Once I've designed a quilt around my appliques, I use graph paper to map out the exact size appliques I will need and then draw them to fit.  Lots of erasing goes on before I'm happy and have what I want.  If I am drawing a symmetrical flower for example, I do one half on graph paper, fold it on the center line, place it on my window and trace the other half.  Perfect!  Sometimes I  use a simple light box.  I have a set of circle templates and a draftsman's compass for making circles big and small. 

I do use my Electric Quilt program to lay out quilts and color them, but I have never used the graphic drawing part of it to draw appliques.  I've been thinking that I should get myself up to speed and be a little more professional with my design work so.....recently, I enrolled in an online quilting class through Quilt University:  ( class is EQ Applique Design and teaches exactly what I need. I started Lesson One over the weekend and became hopelessly stuck trying to draw a heart.  The teacher even sent me a separate video and I still can't do it.  I think there's a problem with the software - yeah right! 

I could have drawn 1,000 hearts by now on my paper - any size, any shape I chose.  Maybe I should stick with what I know and can do.  I'll keep trying though:  I don't want to "drop out" of university!

The rest of my time right now is devoted to preparing a quilt book proposal with the far off hopes of having it published.  The proposal itself is daunting, but I am working my way through it.  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wholly Moda!

Here is a quilt I made a few years ago entitled "Wholly Moda!"  The Fabric Patch in Ironwood, MI sponsored a Moda fabric quilt challenge contest requiring you to use a pack of Moda neutral background fabrics in your quilt entry.  There were several categories one could choose to enter and I chose "The most Moda fabrics."  From my stash entirely, I used 88 different Moda fabrics, all documented by the Moda logo cut from the selvages of each fabric.  I do love Moda fabric!!

This pattern is "Flowering Vines"  from the book: "Flowering Favorites" from Piece O' Cake Designs.  I pieced the background in the border blocks using the challenge fabric and then appliqued them.

This quilt hangs in my upstairs hallway and always makes me smile.  Oh, and I did win a sewing machine as first place in this contest.  That made me smile big time!

I have completely finished (including sleeve and label) my "Essence of Self" quilt for our applique group challenge.  I can't say another word about it (secret identity), but I am happy with it and will look forward to seeing everyone and their quilts in September at our next meeting.

Also:  "Flower Power" is presently in Colorado where Quilter's Newsletter is creating their own pattern from it, to be featured as a series quilt in their magazine starting this December.  I had just finished creating my own pattern to be self published, but that will be on hold for now.

If you subscribe to Quilting Quarterly (NQA's magazine), my quilt "Woods and Wildflowers" is pictured in the Winner's Gallery in the current issue.

I will have more news to share next time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tulips in July?

Aren't they just beautiful?  These are not tulips, but lily pad flowers pulled from Echo Lake.  Yes, it's legal.  Why am I writing about this and not quilts? 
OK, I'll write about my quilt adventures of late. I've been a little stalled getting started on a new quilt;  I have 2 waiting on deck.  But I have been working on my "Essence of Self" project for my applique group.  I can't share a photo as the rules are:  no one sees them before the grand unveiling in September. We will have to guess who is who!  I am machine quilting this small wall hanging and after adding some detail stitching to the applique, I did not like the thread color contrast at all, and so I ripped all those stitches out yesterday.  I sat on the deck and it wasn't so bad - kind of mindless.  Once finished ripping, I took a pedal boat ride down the river, and there were so many wonderful water lilies.  Not tulips.  

My bug quilt (still unnamed) is off to my machine quilter Lisa Arndt - I am attempting to machine quilt small items, but I have sooooo far to go, that one had to go to the pro.