Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Just an update on "My Christmas Album" adapted from the pattern featured in Quilter's Newsletter designed by Tina Curran.  I have used felted wool for all my appliqué motifs.

The blocks and borders are pinned to my design wall, but not pieced as yet.

I'm still hand stitching the penguin and ice skate blocks and then on to all those sweaters.  

My dear sis Ellen LaVen sent me some wonderful little diminutive buttons from her SkeeterBitz Etsy shop to adorn some of the sweaters and I can't wait to start stitching  them.

It is a Christmas quilt... Christmas 2014 that is.  


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Just Because

Mittens and Tam

Here we are with winter upon us (I really do like winter) and my thoughts turn to wool appliqué.  I spotted this quilt pattern titled "My Christmas Album" in Quilter's Newsletter and it looked like a perfect project for me.  Just because.  Because at night, I like to hand stitch.  Because I get tired working at my machine.  Because I run out of designing energy and want to create using someone else's pattern.

My Christmas Album
Pattern by Tina Curran

I like the simple 9 block layout of this quilt. It's all about appliqué.  And I like the mandala like layout of the blocks.  But  what I like best about this design is the sweater border. They are just too cute! 

Tina Curran is the designer of this fun quilt.  I've changed up some of the blocks, replacing some of her motifs with some of mine.  I have 4 more blocks to prepare, then on to those great sweaters. 

Winter Birds


Fun trees

Christmas ornaments

After showing my work in progress to my quilt group, one of my friends offered me and another quilter a chance to go through her extensive wool collection and choose any pieces we could use.  Like kids in a candy store:

Some of my new woolens

By the way, when I do wool appliqué, I still use my raw edge fusible technique to prepare each motif.  I know some would frown on fusing anything to wool and instead use glue, staples, or pins.  But I find it works just great and helps keep those wool edges from fraying.  I am using a variety of gray toned cotton fabrics for the blocks and a slightly darker gray fabric for the sweater border background. I use a buttonhole stitch to appliqué each piece with 2 strands of embroidery floss.  I'll add embroidery details as I go along, using various threads and techniques. 

Ready to cut and fuse

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Edge of Nature

Spent wildflower in late autumn

Wasn't there a soap opera once titled "The Edge of Night"?   What is the edge of nature?  

Nature abounds here in the Northwoods of Wisconsin at all times. Summer blooms and flora are long past but take on another beauty when spent and dried.  


This is a block from a new quilt I'm working on, probably to be titled Nature's Edge.  I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal's Style and Travel section a while ago about New York Fashion Week and the spring theme of "edgy floral designs." Flowers always catch my eye and the inspiration took hold.  Just yesterday, I actually read the article noting  "softness and toughness, dripping with color, washed out in black and gray, blurred, black blooms."  

The flower blocks are not meant to be anything in particular though they were inspired by real flowers.

Bachelor buttons?

Anemone and spiders?

A graceful black and gray bird

One block to go....

I plan to extend the bird branches and leaves all around the block borders and then of course, there will be an appliquéd outer border, so there will be lots more color and dimension.  None of the blocks have been appliqué stitched yet.  Lots of work to do.  

Sage and Rosemary brought inside for the winter.  

A nice sprig of mint popped out when I repotted the Rosemary.  We'll have fresh herbs for  Thanksgiving dinner this year!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wax poetic

How about a peek at my awards from the Treasures of Tomorrow quilt show, Marshfield,WI October 25 and 26:

Bittersweet Too - Second Place

December  - Third Place

I Love the Nightlife -  First Place

Great show as always.  It's not a huge show, but it is judged.  I enter and attend every year.  

It was wonderful to talk to other quilters about their quilts and mine.   I met another quilter who had entered two of her quilts, one winning the Best Machine Quilting award and the other winning second place.  Her quilts were beautifully hand appliquéd. She used a technique called back basted needle turn appliqué which I had never heard of, so she explained it to me.  This was her first attempt at hand appliqué and her first quilt show entries.  Way to go!  

A Mercer friend and artist who always attends the show mentioned to me that she recognized the botanical elements in December from "our north woods".  That comment was so interesting.  She is not a quilter and I love the fact that a viewer would catch something like that when looking at my work.

By the way, I Love the Nightlife was considered for the Best Machine Quilting award, according to the judge's comments.  Hear that Lisa Arndt? (my machine quilter for that quilt).

I've had some thoughts since the show.  I don't normally wax poetic in my blog posts.  I figure readers want to see some of my photos, read a bit, just get in and get out.  But here goes.

Why do I enter quilt shows?  Based on my comments above, you may get the general idea. But questions arise at times about how much prize money I receive, how many shows I enter, do I make quilts just for show, just for the chance to WIN.  Am I looking for fame and fortune??  

I do make show quilts, but I don't make them just for show. I make quilts because I love the process and because they are an expression of things I see and love in life. Making quilts of show quality is a challenge I enjoy; it makes me always strive to improve my work. By the way:  I received no "could be better" comments from the judge on my quilts.  I guess I have finally passed the binding test.  That's one area I often needed to improve according to judge's comments.

I enter shows for the pure fun of it.  I love viewing every quilt at a show and it is so fun to see mine displayed among the others.  I love talking to people and answering questions about my quilts.  I learn so much from other quilters at a show and I am always inspired with new ideas to take home.  I take only a few photos of other's quilts and I never post other quilts on my blog without permission and credit to the artist.  

I notice very often - on Pinterest especially - photos of quilts posted without identifying the quilt maker.   Not good. 

One interesting note:  I entered December in the Wall Quilt, Art category described in the entry form as "Quilters original design that depicts a person, place or thing in a realistic or abstract manner."  Any technique may be used.  December is my depiction of winter and especially the month of December.  The dark background represents winter darkness setting in, with snowflakes brightening the landscape.  The bright blue pieces here and there depict the clear blue sky, not seen too often.  Fabric circle borders surrounding the snowflakes are the colors of  pine trees.  I used botanical elements in the snowflakes, such as birch trees, little snow clumps on brush branches, icicles etc.  All these ideas were gathered on my daily walks.  But looking at the other art quilts displayed in that category, I wondered if December really is an "art quilt".  No matter really.

But the perpetual question remains:  What really is an art quilt?  And that age old wonderment:  Are quilters artists?  

I don't wonder the answer to the second question.  To me, all quilts are works of art, and all quilters are artists.  

Fame and Fortune for me?   I am not trying to be famous and prize money is always nice but will never cover the costs of entering shows.  I cherish my ribbons more. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

That bittersweet time of year

"Bittersweet Too"

Autumn is my favorite season, especially here in the Wisconsin north woods.  I love the sights and smells of the woods, chilly nights, the striking moon over the lake.

Even though there is a ton of yard work to do now, it's  good  to be outside enjoying the weather.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it).

I hope you've purchased my book "Nature's Journey Appliqué" as there you will find the pattern for Bittersweet Too.  This quilt really captures the essence of autumn.  

If you attend the Treasures of Tomorrow quilt show in Marshfield, Wi October 25 and 26, you'll see this quilt on display along with 2 of my other quilts.  

Soon winter will be here, snow will cover those remaining leaves and pine needles on the ground and I'll be nestled into my sewing room again, hard at work. I'm looking forward to it.

I have a new quilt on the drawing board and other projects to finish including machine quilting "Cubic Circles." I  started with some simple straight line quilting using my walking foot.  Next, I outlined and echo stitched each outer circle, filling that space with pebbles, and last, I will pebble quilt all the open spaces.  I'm using Hobbs 80/20 batting and I do like it's loft versus my usual cotton batting.  

"Cubic Circles"
Note that I've already machine stitched the binding in place.

Detail straight line quilting

Pebble quilting in progress

Roadside pick of the day.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Carla's Quilt

Carla's Quilt 
45" x 54"

Today I'll share my most recent quilt with you.  Surprised?  Not one bit of appliqué!  Here's the story:

My daughter Carla and her hubby Jack purchased a 1920's farmhouse near Minneapolis and have done major renovations while still keeping the beauty and character of the home intact.  In the process of decorating, Carla found a photo of an antique, traditional quilt and asked me to replicate it for their living room.  No problem!

I found the vintage navy fabric on Etsy and the white background is a Moda Bella cotton.  

The pieced block is a variation of The Old Maid's Puzzle, set on point.  

I used my favorite Triangulations software to create the half square triangles which was a breeze, but then matching points while piecing the blocks took a bit of practice, not having done this for a while! 

The quilting needed to be just right and I decided to find an expert to do this, someone who could capture the hand quilted look on a long arm machine.

At the Treasures for Tomorrow quilt show in Marshfield, WI 2 years ago, I was lucky to meet the  winner of the Best Machine Quilting award, Ann Becker of Always in Stitches and see her winning quilting.  I contacted her about this challenge and she was up for it.  What a wonderful job she did!

The finished quilt is beautiful.  Carla had debated about wanting me to wash the quilt creating even more of an antique soft puckered look, but right now, she's happy with it as is.   

I will present it to the Fahdens next weekend.

 Close up heirloom machine quilting.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nature's Journey Bouquet

Here we have a photo of a lovely bouquet presented to me by my kids to congratulate me on my recently published book.  Carla had sent my cover photo image to a wonderful florist in Minneapolis, who created the arrangement.  I just love it!  

Having my book finished and out there, I now find myself in a sort of limbo.  What shall I do now?  I need to regroup.  I will continue making show quilts and work on other projects, but gee, should I think about my next book?  

In the meantime, I decided to do a make-over of one of the guest rooms.  Having the old windows replaced was the first step and the impetus to get going.  As decorators will tell you, start with the largest item in the room, in this case that would be the twin beds.  New "Cubism Birds" duvet covers from West Elm were chosen. Next, I took down existing wall quilts and pictures to have a clean slate.  

After looking at blank walls, I searched for new art work on Etsy and elsewhere.  Not finding anything, I went to my fabric stash and pulled out a pile of colors that I thought would work for a quilted wallhanging. I wanted to keep the overall look of the birds and bring in color.  Other than the birds' turquoise eyes, which I love, the duvet covers are neutral grays and white.  

Leo immediately nestled amongst my chosen fabrics and I assumed he approved.

I often incorporate circles in my quilts and that's where I began.  I cut circles in different sizes from 1" to 3" in diameter, layered them randomly color-wise, placed them in rows and started fusing. 

Yesterday, I finished appliqué stitching the top and will now add a narrow framing border (to look like framed art) and I'll machine quilt it with an all-over squarish block design.  

Title:  "Cubic Circles".  

Loon on Echo Lake and color inspiration.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fons and Porter Master Class Review

Today I have the pleasure of presenting my review of Janet Pittman's video "Learn How-To Fusible Appliqué."  

You'll find this class and many more on Fons and Porter's Daily Craft TV which is "a community showing new craft ideas and projects with online webinar videos.  Expert instructors provide online craft classes in Quilting, Scrapbooking, Sewing, Crocheting, Knitting and Paper Crafts."

Janet Pittman, "a quilt artist from West Des Moines, Iowa, has been designing her own quilts since 1994. Her appliqué designs are stitched are then embellished to add natural texture and dimension for a realistic appearance whether it is a fuzzy bear or a satin rose. Janet is a Master Gardener and finds inspiration from her colorful garden."

Click here to visit Janet's web site.

Considering my love of appliqué in quilting, the subject "Fusible Appliqué"  jumped right at me when browsing the list of classes.  

I really enjoyed this class. It is short, well organized and nicely presented.  It reminds me that there is always something new to learn when taking a class and I should do it more often. 

Janet's class is listed as intermediate level, but I really think anyone interested in fusible appliqué would enjoy it.  

Sources for appliqué patterns, types of fusible web, fabrics and other supplies are covered. 

Next, Janet teaches how to trace, fuse, cut appliqué shapes and arrange them on a background.  

An interesting and easy method of making fusible bias stems is shown - I will definitely use it!  

The need to reverse shapes in fusible appliqué can be confusing, but here it is explained well and is easy to understand.  

Janet talks about fussy cutting with special motifs and the use of fabric gradation and linear fabrics for maximum effect.  Also covered is how to line light appliqué shapes so that darker fabric shapes won't show through.  Another trick I will try.

The last portion of the video class teaches how to use different appliqué stitches and the machine settings for each.  Janet also demos free motion embellishment which looks like a fun technique to explore.

The complete pattern for Janet's original Clematis Block is available for download once you order this class.  It features full size color templates and instructions to make the block including free-motion zigzag stitching.  It is an excellent practice project.

Be sure to browse Daily Craft TV and take a class!  There are 37 quilting classes alone, covering a wide range of topics.

Fons and Porter to me are the quintessential quilters, teachers, designers and leaders in the industry.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nature's Journey

It's official: my book is "in stock and will fulfill immediately." 

You'll find your copy at The American Quilter's Society web site.

Expect great things!  

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Beast Has Been Redeemed

Who would refer to a quilt as "The Beast"?  Read my blog post about some of the history of this quilt and you'll know why I (sort of) lovingly nicknamed it The Beast.

It has come full circle, and after winning second place at the 2013 Minnesota Quilter's show in Duluth it has redeemed itself.

Pictured below is the quilt, my long arm machine quilter Lisa Arndt (on the left) and me.  All the work involved in blocking and wrestling with this queen size quilt has turned out to be worth the effort.

Lisa Arndt and Jane Zillmer 

 "Oh, Mexico Beach"

This quilt and a number of my newest quilts were on display recently at The Ladies of the Lake Quilt Show in Minocqua, WI.  I was very happy to be asked to participate as Artist of the Year and I met and talked with so many great people while promoting my book and my workshops.  

My booth at the show

Just in time, "December" is finished and made it's show debut.  It seemed to be the favorite among the viewers.  Snowflakes in August.... why not?

58" x 58"

"December" snowflake block close up

And at our Mercer quilt group's annual show in July, many of the finished "Dresden Basket" projects from my workshop last fall were entered and looked great on display.  Each one is unique.

Small Town Quilters show

Thursday, July 4, 2013


It's the Fourth of July in Mercer, WI and though it is the holiday  everywhere in the USA, there is nowhere I'd rather be.  This is our 22nd celebration here in the North woods  family is here, the weather is perfect, our boat is in the water and shortly, we'll be attending the parade through town.  

I'll write more about quilting next time.  For today, I'll share some photos of summer and nature. 

Budding Geraniums

Geraniums in Bloom

Wild forget-me-nots near the lake

Pretty annuals 

Magnificent Loon with 2 chicks - a rare and beautiful sight.