Midwest Road Trip

Last week, Peter and I were on a road trip. It was wonderful to be away – we have had one of those Summers when everything has been going wrong. Since his retirement, it seems like Peter has done nothing but repair things and read online guides and talk to repairmen, when he can’t fix something. Some months ago I signed up for the Midwestern Handi Quilter Event in Highland, Illinois, and when I asked if he would like to come along, I got a resounding “yes!”.

Our first stop was in Franklin Tennessee, which was #2 on my Where To Live Next List. It is a charming town set in lovely, rolling countryside, not far from Nashville. The horse farms and large estates (I looked at a house across the street from Reba McEntire’s farm!) are breath-taking. We had some yummy meals downtown and Peter toured the area on his bike while I window shopped. Next trip we will explore Nashville.

Handi Quilter makes my Sweet 16 quilting machine and I thought I’d like to go and see what I could learn about the machine and how to get better at free motion quilting.The Handi Quilter Event was sponsored by Mike’s Machine Shop and they did a nice job, and Mike is so knowledgeable about the machines. The classes were held in this Masonic Temple in Highland…..it’s quite a beauty!

The Event was 5 days long, but only the first two were relevant to me. I have a Sweet 16, which is called a “sit down, mid arm machine”. I do not use the HQ version of a stitch regulator, nor do I use a computer. She’s a plain vanilla machine and I’m delighted with her. Over the years I have taken machine quilting classes from “big deal quilters”. They show you how to do their quilting; the way they like to do it. Mary Beth Kraptil gave an overview, with many, many ideas for designs and how to accomplish them. After going over the basics of the machine and how to get the quilting started, she talked about a variety of quilt patterns, including “ruler work” and there was even a bit of time to try out her ideas and play with the rulers. And the mantra always is, no matter who teaches the classes, practise for 15 minutes every day!  She had samples galore, which are so helpful to see up close.

This idea for a practise piece was one of my favorites. She started with a printed fabric in the middle and then “finished” the motifs that were cut off. You can see that she added more floral and leaf shapes in the background and then fill, fill, filled!

Highland is about 45 minutes from St. Louis, so we decided to go to a Beer Week Event at the Anheuser Busch Biergarten. As you can see, it was a lovely evening… and check out the arch appearing in the distance!

It is so incredible!

The trip home was not as fun as the getting-there – isn’t that often the case? We were listening to a book on tape and I was secretly tracing quilting designs on my leg. I have so many ideas and some new tools and toys to play with!









Orphan Block Quilt – – – Finally Finished

I certainly do not win awards for finishing projects in a timely fashion! After starting to quilt The Orphan Block Mash Up quilt, I quickly lost interest and it sat under my Sweet Sixteen machine for months. Languishing… it was started over a year ago. Fast forward to the present : I have a growing stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, so I have spent the last two weeks getting it done.

I am not thrilled with it. My quilting is not great so I will not be showing you a close-up. But as I have told students in the past, you can quilt samples or practise on “the real thing” and I chose to do the latter. Most people viewing the quilt in my hallway are not quilters, so they will not scrutinize my work. And if I can keep my tongue in my head and not say “Gee, the quilting is not very good”, I am sure they will admire it. (Sorry for the poor photo – I have no walls big enough to hang a quilt and get away from it to photograph, so it was on the floor and I was on a ladder!)

I must say that I am always amazed when I wash a quilt. It looks so much better and you really have to look closely to see the quilting at all; there’s just a nice texture.

Now that it is done, I can get on with the next project and learn some more.

Patchwork Couch-Pillows

I have been eyeing these tiny  blue and white quilt pieces and feeling fairly sure that they weren’t going to become a quilt, but I’d pieced quite a lot and didn’t want to throw them out. One day genius struck and I took them downstairs to the new couch and these four squares fit perfectly on the (matching) (dull) pillows that came with the couch. Yippee!

Tiny Delectable Stars

This is something that I do frequently. Matching pillows on a couch are pretty dull… Here is a couch-pillow slipcover that I made for the Colorado brown loveseats using fun bits of fabrics in my stash.

Brown batiks

In the Colorado Summers, I covered the loveseats with denim slipcovers and made these two cases from my wonderful Asian fabric stash. I hand stitch one end of the cover, so it’s easy enough to rip out the stitches and change the brown covers to the blue ones. (I’m too lazy to sew zippers…)

Asian blue pillows

This Delectable Stars pattern was made using foundation piecing and this is what it looks like when all the paper is (carefully) ripped off. Quite the mess!

Paper piecing detrius

I love to sew triangles, but they are nasty when it comes to pressing. It involves some careful pressing and then a lot of mashing with a steamy iron.

So many triangles

And here it is quilted and in place on the couch! I quilted it way more than I needed to do for just a pillow, but I wanted to be sure to highlight the piecing pattern. And it was good practise for the big Delectable Stars quilt, should I ever finish that one.

Blue pillow


Ongoing Quilt Projects

I have been less than diligent about working with my wonderful Sweet 16 machine… I started Tommie Lee Turkey in November nad quickly abandoned the project due to Santa making and indecision about what to quilt where. And so the machine sat. The other day I was re-organizing a studio closet and came across my quilt-tops-to-be-quilted pile. I’m not sure if I ever wrote about finishing up the Orphan Blocks Mash-Up quilt. I decided that this was the quilt I needed to practise on and quickly got it layered and pinned.

Ready to quilt Orphans Block Mash-Up

Years ago I was teaching a friend to hand quilt. She was really frustrated with her stitches. I said it took lots of practise and the choice she had was to find some patterned fabric and practise quilting on that until she was happy with her work or to continue quilting her beginning sampler quilt. She chose to work on her project. I have been working on bits of fabric for practise but I finally decided the other day that I needed to take my own advice. I like the mash-up quilt, but I don’t feel precious about it, so it’s perfect for my needs; it has lots of areas for free motion and lots of places for ruler work (straight lines). I am quilting with white thread and so it’s virtually invisible on much of the top, so I don’t find myself constantly saying “that looks crappy, that’s okay…” I also know that when I wash the quilt, it will look even better as the stitches will sink into the quilt. So I am working a little each day and feeling better.

The Halloween Hexie quilt made the trip to AQS Phoenix and I’ve continued working on it at night. It’s so fun to put together.

Halloween Hexies

And I have to share this hilarious picture of Gizmo with you. A week or so ago we had the cats’ teeth cleaned and this vet shaved both ankles for the I.V. drip. With Gizmo’s long hair, we think he looks like a poodle ready for the Westminster Dog Show. We laugh every time we see him, poor guy!

Gizmo's shaved legs


One More Batch of AQS Phoenix Quilts!

I meant to get to this sooner, but life gets in the way sometimes. There is one more group of quilts to share with you. It really was a good show and I found lots to study and admire. There is something for everyone to enjoy in these shows, that’s for sure!

This one comes first because of its colors. In a sea of brightly colored quilts, this beauty quietly waited for a closer inspection. This quilt is Trellis by Mary Owens. I think the design is lovely – and –

Trellis by Mary Owens

— be still my heart – it’s hand quilted! I want you to see this detail. I was standing in front of it and another woman came and stood with me. After a bit she asked me why the quilt looked so soft! Hand quilting and piecing will do that.

Detail Mary Owens Trellis

This elegant quilt is Celestial Orbs Sylvia Schaefer. The simplicity of the design and the circular quilting is amazing, and she sells this pattern if you’d like to make one.

Sylvia Schaefer Celestial Orbs

I wandered around the convention hall late on Friday afternoon when the crowds had gone home, and enjoyed the quilt show almost alone; and I saw some quilts I’d missed! This colorful quilt is called Yellow Sky and is by Shirley Gisi. She lives in Colorado – might you have guessed? The colors sing and the simple quilting echoes the design.

Yellow Sky by Shirley Gisi

Summer Storm by Peg Collins also has amazing use of color and simple quilting. I think the design is so fresh and pleasing.

Summer Storm by Peg Collins

And of course you know that I save the best for last. This is my favorite quilt; I love, love, love it! I saw it in some quilt magazine or other and thought it was wonderful. And lucky me, I got to admire it in person. It’s called Golden Temple of the Good Girls, by Susan Carlson.

Susan Carlson, Golden Temple of the Good Girls

Here’s a close up for you to admire the delicious fabric choices, lovely quilting and of course, the sweet girls.

Susan Carlson Golden Temple of the Good Girls close up

Upon reading her website and blog, I found that the quilt is a fabric collage! Susan has a lot of information on her work and this blog post talks about designing this quilt. Though you can get quite close up to the quilts in the AQS shows, I had no idea. No wonder the piece has such a richness to it.

Hope you enjoyed my show and tell. Any favorites???


And The Next Quilting Project Is…

With the Too Many Moving Pieces quilt completed, I dug around in some boxes and bins to see what I might work on next. All went well as I finished the last areas of that quilt, but I am ready for much more practice. And here is the UFO chosen… a red, white and blue house quilt.

Red white & blue house quilt


I sewed the top when we lived in Colorado, so that dates it to 2000 – 2005. I remember finally deciding to use the acrylic templates that I bought at the quilt show in Tokyo. And in looking at the quilting I did do, I really over reached. I chose to use three colors of thread, which means lots of bobbin changes and re-threading and around the houses I did a tiny stipple, which I am not looking forward to trying to do again. I did not pin the sandwich well enough and the back is a mess. This will be the 4th machine I have used to quilt it! Yow. It has a lot of problems, but it will be good practice to try to do tiny stippling, not to mention all the straight lines. And I won’t be worrying about doing a poor job since that has already happened.

I also did this red and white house quilt too. Perhaps that will be up next or maybe I will need a rest from quilting houses!

Red Houses quilt top


Too Many Moving Pieces Quilt!

It’s always an exciting day when a quilt is finished. And completely finished, binding, label and washing is all done and the quilt is hung! Though I cropped this photo, I hung the quilt in the studio where you can see it as you walk down the hall. It looks very nice against the beautiful pink walls.

Too Many Moving Pieces quilt completed

The first job when I finished quilting was to square up the quilt. As I said, I was in over my head and there was a good bit that needed to be trimmed; “funny edges”, stars that didn’t work out and lots of bias gone bad. Check out  the outside edge on the top below – – – it’s ugly!

Too Many Moving Pieces edges

I did the initial trimming on my table mat, and then I moved the quilt to the floor to check that it was square. It wasn’t and it took several tries to get it all (fairly) even and parallel. This is one of those times I wish I had a black and white tile floor like many quilters to to help in this process, but taping several cutting mats together worked pretty well.

Lots of trimming

I wasn’t sure what I was thinking for a binding, so I dug around in the batik stash and actually found the splotchy batik that I used in several stars. It seemed like a good choice to hold the piece together. When the binding and label were sewed, I was so anxious to wash the quilt. Not only did it have a billion holes from all the quilting I ripped out, but it was covered in cat hair. I don’t know how that happened as I make a great effort to keep quilts away from my darlings.

Here is a close up of the pale, pale flying geese. I didn’t realize how light they were until I hung it…you can barely see them.

Too Many Moving Pieces detail

I’m very pleased and wondering what quilt to work on next…

A Quilt Name & Some Progress

Coming up with names for my quilts is something I really enjoy doing, and when nothing comes to mind, it bothers me. Interestingly enough, I find that naming a quilt early in the creative process helps me with the colors or design. When I take a class with someone, I generally refer to it as something like  “the Gail Garber class quilt”, which was what I called this quilt was for some time.

Too Many Moving Pieces sewing

And then it came to me –

As part of his job, Peter develops training courses. When things aren’t going quite right, he’ll say, “There are too many moving pieces”, meaning in a business sense that a lot of things can go wrong – or perhaps aren’t well enough thought-out. The words popped in my head one day when I was trying to invisibly sew a seam that had come undone while I was quilting the top. I only designed one of the stars in the class and that was fairly straight forward. I came home and added flying geese and many more stars and trying to figure out how to piece everything together gave me fits; it was a bit over my skill level…and so it seemed a good name for this quilt.

I started this quilt top in a Gail Garber class on March 9, 2012. Last January I pulled it out of the closet planning to quilt it in time to enter my guild’s show in March. After all the relocation and related distractions, I was seriously committed to trying to figure out how to use the Bernina 820 and do some good quilting. It was not to be and I won’t bore you again with a Bernina rant!  (I just looked over my posts from last year and I did not comment much on my difficulties. I think I was so upset that I couldn’t discuss it.) Since the Sweet 16 was shipped to me in November, I have been wound up with The Holidays and have spent very little time using it, so I needed to find something to experiment on.

This quilt-in-progress seemed like a good project to work on since it’s really ruined and I can’t mess it up anymore than it has been. Last February I put it away in a huff and yesterday I had to carefully examine it to remember what thread I was using. The Bernina was so fussy that I tried many kinds of threads before I found two that seemed to work. Usually I wrap the quilt up with the threads I am using, but I was pretty angry. I had some places where thread needed to be ripped out (because the quilting was so awful looking) and when I got going, I ripped out a lot. There were also lots of threads to weave into the quilt. (Perfect football watching work!)

Ending threads

There actually isn’t much left to quilt, so if all goes well, I will have the first finish of The New Year soon…


My Other Classes at IQA Houston

I have not written much about this, but my friends have gotten an earful about the tremendous problems I’ve had with my Bernina 820. I bought because I was so sure that the stitch regulator would help with my free motion quilting and planned to use the machine mostly for that purpose. It didn’t go well. The store where I bought it in Illinois was sort of helpful, though their machine mastery classes left a lot to be desired. However, whenever I had a problem they were glad to have me come and someone would help. Then we moved to South Carolina. In January, I decided to quilt a quilt for the guild show and I spent about 6 weeks fooling with the machine. I had endless tension problems, I changed thread brands many times. I threaded and re-threaded the bobbin and the machine. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Everything would be fine in the morning only to be bad in the afternoon. I would quilt during the day and rip out at night. I called the local Bernina store repeatedly. The sales ladies were very nice and would say I could come see “the Bernina saleslady” and then someone would call me back to say, no, I couldn’t. The owner wanted me to take their machine mastery class for about $350… I said that I had already taken it and of course they spend only a few minutes on quilting because there is so much information to cover. But she kept saying that because I had not bought the machine there, they wouldn’t help me! {If I bought a new sewing machine every time we moved, I’d be broke!}

I googled Bernina stores in NC, SC and GA and in desperation, I called the Asheville Cotton Company, and begged for their help – – – and they said yes! It’s about an hour drive there, but I was so relieved that someone would help. The saleslady took everything out of my machine and oiled it and wound a new bobbin and proceeded to take me through the process. Turns out there was a whole lot of operator error due to poor instruction during the original machine mastery classes. I was not inserting the bobbin case properly. I was not oiling the machine enough (more than once every bobbin!). I did not have the tension even close to the proper setting. I took the machine home and have barely touched it since. And I had to tell the quilt show organizers that my quilt would not be ready for the show. {End of rant.}

Before I bought the Bernina, my friend Beth told me she thought that I ought to buy a Sweet 16. It’s been in the back of my mind and lo and behold there were several classes offered at IQA Houston featuring Handi Quilter’s Sweet 16. For you non-quilters, this is what is called a “mid-arm machine”, meaning it has a larger throat space than a domestic machine but smaller than a long arm. It sits in the middle of an adjustable table and does nothing but free motion quilting, meaning that it has no feed dogs. I took two classes on how to use the machine. The first day was a basic class on how to get set up and going. The second day was all about threads and tension – a topic that makes me very nervous and was the problem I had with the Bernina. David Taylor taught them both, and he is one of the many “big deal” quilters who own and love Sweet 16’s. The best part about the class is that each person had their own machine and there were 26 of us. (In many classes of this sort, it’s two students per machine.) I call this picture “The Sweet 16 Sweat Shop”! You should have heard the din when we all were quilting!

Sweet 16 class

The woman sitting beside me did not need to take the thread and tension class… Not only did she create beautiful patterns, she spent very little time adjusting either tension. She was quite nice though and had all sorts of tips for me. I aspire to quilt like this.

Quilting sample

And guess what? I liked the machine, I liked the salespeople I met in the classes and I really like the high level of support Handi Quilter offers. The website has videos and webinars and they have several national workshops. So here I am, buying the machine that I used in the classes. {Anyone want to buy a Bernina 820???}

New Sweet 16

Wish me luck!