Shimmer Quilt – Part 1

This next series of posts will explore the process of creating a new quilt inspired by shimmering sunlight and shadows reflecting off the rippling surface of Lake Michigan.

My initial starting point was this selection of ombre fabric. I’d never worked with fabrics like this before, so I thought it would be a fun challenge to come up with a design that would take advantage of the gradated colors. 

Ombre fabric from

The next step was to think about what kind of shape or shapes I wanted to work with. I’ve never worked with clamshells before, but I’ve always loved them. It seemed to me that clamshells would lend themselves to the kind of organic movement I had in mind.   Continue Reading…

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Fun with Cathedral Windows

Cathedral windows has been a favorite pattern of mine since I first saw this traditional quilt style many years ago, but I’ve never made more than a few blocks at a time because the handwork proved too frustrating for me to manage wth my peripheral neuropathy. So I was immediately intrigued when I heard about the Cathedral Window Pillow episode from Angela Walters on her Midnight Quilt Show. I checked out Angela’s demonstration on YouTube and was excited to see how the process had been reimagined and reengineered to make it relatively quick and easy to create by machine.

You can also download the (currently) free pattern from Bluprint 🙂

The cutting instructions are for two 20″ pillows, but I opted to make just one this time. Angela was using a charm pack (precut 5″ squares), but I raided my scrap bin and leftover bits and pieces from other projects and cut my own squares and triangles.

I decided to make my pillow with a mix of scraps of my custom fabrics from Spoonflower and of my carefully hoarded Kaffe Fassett fabric. The white fabric I’m using is Lily & Loom Brilliant White from Bluprint (formerly Craftsy).

Continue Reading…

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Quilts on the Grand 2018

So I’ve been offline for a bit, for both good and not-so-good reasons. First, the good – John and I took a WONDERFUL trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. While we were there, we were also able to get together with my parents and with my brother and sister-in-law and their amazing kiddos. So lots and lots of fun all around!

But what a different story when we got home… we first found the dryer broken (unfortunate, but not so bad), then drips in the basement (somewhat alarming), then standing water in the basement (red alert!).  The hot water heater had sprung several leaks, couldn’t be repaired and had to be replaced; and then the technician let us know that our furnace also needs to be replaced asap, as well as the chimney (fire hazard). Whew!

Since my studio is downstairs (along with the dryer, water heater, furnace and chimney), and everything had to be packed up and/or pushed to one side in each of the large rooms downstairs in order to mop up water and create space for the repair crews to work, my creative activities will be a bit curtailed for the immediate future.

But a very bright spot in the midst of all this – the biennial Quilts on the Grand show put on by the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids, MI. Continue Reading…

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The Good, The Bad, and the Unfortunate…

I should have known, first thing in the morning when my 30 ounce environmentally friendly metal tumbler full of organic pu-erh tea and coconut cream completely upended all over a four foot radius of bedding, pillows, books, magazines, bedside rug and slippers that it wasn’t going to be an auspicious day for precision work.

But I’m an essentially optimistic person, so I decided to proceed with my plans to machine quilt my invisible machine appliqué teaching sample anyway.

Before quilting…

What followed what a series of unfortunate events punctuated by the occasional expression of shock and consternation.

It wasn’t just the tea that should have tipped me off that the stars were not in alignment that day.

The first step was to assemble my quilt “sandwich” of quilt top, batting, and backing.  I soon discovered that the supposedly fusible batting I had specifically purchased for this project wasn’t fusible after all.  So no biggie, I thought, we can improvise. Continue Reading…

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Handy Tools for Invisible Machine Appliqué

So this post will be a little unusual – it’s a few links specifically requested by the lovely gals in my Invisible Machine Appliqué class who wanted to know where I found a few of the items I used in class today. Upon discussion, it was agreed that the easiest thing for everyone would be for me to post the links here.

First off, here are the light boxes/light pads I brought for everyone to use:

For a working surface just under 13″ x 17″:
Continue Reading…

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How Does the Jazz Do with Invisible Machine Appliqué?

So far the Jazz is performing superbly. 🙂 

But an important test for me is how well it will do with invisible machine appliqué, as that is one of my specialties. Of course, my other machines are just great for this, but I’m excited about having much more workspace on the Jazz.  

Here is how I set up the machine:

A regular zigzag presser foot works perfectly well, but I prefer an open-toe appliqué foot as it allows better visibility.

I like to use a very small zigzag stitch for this. Depending on the machine I am using, the width and length settings are usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5, 1.5 or 2.0, 2.0. Here is how I set the stitch length and width on the Jazz:

Stitch settings on the Baby Lock Jazz for invisible machine appliqué – about 1.9 and 1.8. 

After doing some test stitching on scrap fabric, I determined (to my surprise and delight!) that no tension adjustments were necessary. The stitches were perfectly balanced – no bobbin thread visible on the top of the fabric and no monofilament visible on the back.

However, I did find that the monofilament thread had a tendency to coil off and wrap around the spool pin, causing it to break; but I quickly solved that issue with a thread net placed over the spool.

Sliding a thread net over the spool keeps the thread feeding smoothly into the machine

I prepared my appliqué pieces by ironing the edges over freezer paper templates, which I removed later.

One side of the zigzag goes into the appliqué piece, while the other side goes only into the background fabric, just off the edge of the appliqué 

Continue Reading…

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AQS Quilt Week Grand Rapids 2018

From the American Quilter’s Society website:

“AQS QuiltWeek events are held in multiple cities across the country. These events make an indelible mark on the fiber art community by offering the largest cash prizes for quilters in the country, thanks to our generous sponsors! In additional to displaying the contest quilts at each event, attendees can enjoy a variety of special quilt exhibits from around the world. Each event also features workshops and lectures with top quilting instructors, and a huge Merchant Mall with vendors offering the latest machines, fabrics, and other tools used in quiltmaking.”

I had the pleasure of attending the last day of the Grand Rapids QuiltWeek, which ran Aug. 22-25, 2018.
I’ve been to many, many regional & national/international quilt shows over the past few decades, in a wide variety of roles, including contestant, exhibitor, speaker, teacher, and/or guest, and I have to say that this one was one of my favorites. 

I renewed my AQS membership, too!

Sadly, my schedule only permitted me to spend a few hours at the show this year, which is not nearly enough time to take in everything. John (my husband) and I had to breeze through the show at a pretty fast clip to try to see as much as we could in the time we had, and I know there was much we missed. 

That said, I thought it was a fabulous show! One of the things I liked the most was the wide variety of color palettes, techniques, and styles. In addition to all the competitive categories, the show included a number of wonderful special exhibits.

Here are some of my favorites – although quite of few of my photos didn’t turn out well enough to share, so this list is very incomplete!

Continue Reading…

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Experiments in Binding – Bringing the Binding From the Back to the Front

In my last post, I started a sewing/quilting experiment by doing things a little differently than I normally would. 

(1) I sewed the binding first to the back of the quilt (in the past, I’ve always sewed the binding to the front first)

(2) I purposely planned to have the binding finish at 1/4″ wide on the back and approximately 1/2″ wide on the front so I would stay clear of the binding on the back when sewing the binding down on the front of the quilt (in the past, I’ve always made sure my bindings were the same width on the front as on the back)

Now I’m ready for the next twist!

(3) Sewing the free edge of the binding down by machine instead of by hand.

And to take it even further,

(4) Appliquéing the free edge down with a small zigzag stitch!

The first step is to start wrapping the binding around to the front.

Bringing the binding around to the front

Continue Reading…

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Making a Celtic Quilt – Top Tips for (Invisible) Machine Appliqué

Working my way around the design, including  sewing down the folded edges formed when the points were created.

This is the ninth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric. You can choose to appliqué the design (sew everything down), add borders, layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then quilt by either hand or machine. Or you can choose (as I usually do) to add the border(s), layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then machine appliqué and quilt in one step.

Here are some of my top tips for successfully appliquéing a Celtic-style design:

In 20+ years of teaching, this is the monofilament thread that seems to work the best in the greatest number of machines.

Choose the right thread.

I recommend a .004 polyester or nylon monofilament thread for your top thread. In teaching various appliqué classes for more than 20 years, I have found the single brand that seems to work best in the greatest number of machines is MonoPoly by Superior Threads.  That said, I have also had students use Wonder Thread, YLI, and even Sulky successfully – it all depends on what works best in each particular machine.

I never use monofilament in the bobbin. Instead, I prefer a high quality 50 or 60 weight, 2 ply cotton, or a high quality 60 weight poly such as Bottom Line by Superior Threads.  Using a relatively finer thread in the bobbin instead of an all-purpose 50 weight, 3 ply cotton thread makes it easier to avoid little dots of bobbin thread being visible on the right side of your work.

Note 1: monofilament can be a little tricky to work with, as it has an unfortunate tendency uncoil, get wrapped around the spool pin, and then break before you realize what has happened. Fortunately, you can minimize breakage by

(1) using a thread net over the spool,

(2) switching to a vertical spool pin instead of a horizontal one, and/or

(3) stitching slowly and steadily – avoiding abrupt stops or speed fluctuations that might cause the spool to spin.

Note 2: If you’d rather avoid monofilament, you could opt to use Bottom Line, or a 50-60 weight, 2 ply cotton thread in both the top AND the bobbin – just match the color of the thread as best you can to your appliqué fabric(s). Silk thread is also WONDERFUL, but can be pricy.

Choose the right tension settings.

Many machines now have automatic tension control, which generally does a very good job adjusting to whatever kind of thread you may be using. However, when it comes to monofilament thread, even high-end machines may need some minor adjusting. On my own machine, I find it helpful to lower the upper thread tension to between 1 and 2 when I’m using monofilament thread as the top thread in my machine (auto-tension for my machine is set at 4).

For more on thread tension and when and how to adjust it, see this machine quilting post: Machine Quilting FAQ & Top Tips.

Choose the right needle.

Continue Reading…

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Making a Celtic Quilt – “Basting” the Appliqué Design

True Lovers’ Knot design (on point) from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams, traced onto my background fabric

This is the sixth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric.

The fabric tubes have been trimmed and pressed, and are ready to go. How do you get them positioned smoothly on the fabric? 

First of all, I don’t recommend using pins – they will only poke you and get in the way (ask me how I know this!)

When I first started working with Celtic and Celtic-style designs, I preferred 1/4″ wide strips of Steam-a-Seam2, which is pressure-sensitive and holds the fabric temporarily in place until you press with an iron to fuse it permanently.

Some years later, I discovered Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It. I love that it only takes small droplets of glue to hold the fabric in place, dries very quickly – especially when you run a hot iron over the fabric – and is water soluble, so it is easy to dampen and reposition something if necessary. I have never had any issues with it discoloring my fabric over time when I haven’t washed my samples, but I love that it does wash out.

The needle-nosed applicator is terrific for applying just the wee bit that is needed, but always remember to remove the applicator tip, clean it out thoroughly, and replace the original bottle cap on the glue bottle for storage. (Again, ask me how I know this is so important…)

Here is a link on Amazon if you can’t find it in your local sewing or quilt store:


Now let’s get started:

Continue Reading…

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