Monday, March 20, 2017

I Am Determined to Become a Machine Quilter!

As a quilter, one of the best ways to spend a weekend is on a quilting retreat, and did I ever have a terrific weekend recently!  There were seven of us who gathered at The Creative Place retreat center in Spring Hill, KS.  We had plenty of room to sew and a wonderfully quiet room in which to sleep.  We spent all our waking time in a large studio, chatting, sewing and eating, everyone having her own projects and goals.   Some of us arrived bright and early Friday morning while others arrived throughout the day and then we spent our time sewing like madwomen until late Sunday afternoon. What a pleasure to simply concentrate on quilting, having the time to sew without the interruption of laundry, vacuuming, cooking, or dishes.

I will admit to being a frustrated machine quilter.  Well, I can’t even call myself a machine quilter, just frustrated.  I can’t recall how many machine quilting workshops I’ve taken, trying to master this technique, but it has been many.  I feel like I know the mechanics very well and I have even been known to machine quilt a project or two using my BERNINA #50 Walking Foot, but I have never felt like I could call myself a Machine Quilter.

While most quiltmaking techniques and hand appliqué are what I teach, I admit that machine quilting leaves me frustrated. I think I know the mechanics well.  It is the rhythm and artistry that escape me.

Armed with Lori Kennedy’s new book Free-Motion Machine Quilting 1-2-3:  61 Designs to Finish Your Quilts With Flair (Martingale), a basket of thread, batting scraps, muslin, and my BERNINA 740 I set out to get a handle on machine quilting and I was hoping to finally begin to master the techniques. My plan was to go through the book and try to stitch each of the designs to gain control of the machine.  The step by step photos and excellent descriptions in Lori’s book guided me through each design. Lori encourages quilters to begin by doodling, by drawing a design over and over on paper to get the feel for it. I must admit to being amazed by how much this step helps.  I drew the design, going over and over it until I was comfortable with it, then off to the machine I went with my quilt sandwich.  Again, using a technique Lori uses, I drew parallel lines on the quilt, giving me a defined space in which to stitch, just as quilt blocks or the space between appliqué motifs might.

I began my endeavors using the BERNINA Stitch Regulator, eventually switching to the #29C Quilting Foot, the transparent sole allowing me to see in all directions.  While the BERNINA Stitch Regulator comes with a clear foot, I thought the smaller #29C might be of benefit while I was learning.

I began by stitching loops and then added more and more and then I shifted to scallops.

At times I seemed to have the control I was seeking, but then it would seem to slip away, showing me that the “Practice, practice, practice!” heard from every machine quilting teacher will indeed make all the difference.  My excellent machine quilting friend (and first teacher) says I have to pay my dues – that’s what the practice is all about.  While I dislike practicing I continued with my exercises:

Lori’s designs taught me how to look at the designs and quilt them, giving me confidence to try the designs in my imagination.  So playing around with those became the next goal.  I thought I might work with a design that I actually want to put in a quilt.  Maybe if I could learn how to stitch that design, I could move on to an actual quilt someday soon.   I began by drawing out my own design and worked on that.  My friend also said I would learn a lot of control if I tried quilting my name.  So I doodled, played with my design, wrote my name and tried embellishing my design.  I have a lot of work to do to get to the point my parallel lines are actually parallel!

So I practiced some more. 

By the time I was finished on the third day, I was finally seeing some progress and realized that, with consistent practice, I might just become a Machine Quilter!  Thank you, Lori!

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am a national teacher and a BERNINA Ambassador, happy to travel the country, teaching quiltmaking techniques – except for machine quilting! – for quilt guilds, quilt shops and BERNINA dealerships.  You can find out a lot about me on my website at

Along with other BERNINA Ambassadors, I am participating in a Blog tour.  You won’t want to miss the blogs offered by the following Ambassadors on the dates noted below.

I hope you’ll leave some comments.  Tell me how YOU learned to machine quilt.  Any advice for me?  Any hints?  I look forward to hearing from you!


Blog Schedule:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quiltmaking on the High Seas

Last month I went on a quilting cruise.  “What is that?” you ask.

So there is a cruise ship with several thousand people and mixed in is about 125, give or take, quilters and their traveling companions.  Although, there was at least one quilter who came alone, she was quickly adopted and probably never got a moment to herself until in her stateroom. 

The organizers worked it out with the cruise line that there would be a couple of meeting rooms set aside and dedicated to the quilters the whole cruise.  These rooms were stocked with about 20 sewing machines each that the quilters could visit every evening and just sew to their hearts’ content.  On the days we were at sea, the quilters gathered in the machine rooms and three areas of the large dining room and had machine or hand quilting related classes. ( I got to be one of the teachers, teaching applique and Mariners' Compass!)  On the days the ship was in a port, the quilters joined the rest of the ship’s population and explored or relaxed or went on excursions. 

On a cruise you smile all day long.  This is mostly because you are just plain happy.  But, also, every time you pass a person who is a member of the working staff, they greet you with a huge smile and an extremely pleasant greeting, as if you are one of their very best friends.  And they don’t seem “fake” about it!  By the end of the cruise, you look upon all these people as friends because you’ve forged relationships with various members of the staff.  The stateroom steward seemed to just KNOW when I needed fresh ice.  It always just appeared.  And one of the drinks staff seemed to know my favorite lunch beverage was a Mojito!  With all those people to deal with, I was amazed anyone would remember specific preferences. 

For the whole time I was on the quilting cruise, I was pampered and spoiled.  It is rather hard to come back to reality, actually.  But the new friends I maked and the photos I took has left a lasting memory and I can’t wait until I can go again!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Three months ago I had my knee replaced with a new one.  For a few weeks I couldn't go anywhere, and I really didn't feel like doing much.  Before my surgery I prepared by having basted a quilt top I’d finished ages ago and pulling out two other tops that were in the midst of being hand quilted.  I just knew I was going to get the ones started finished and I could make quite a dent in the third.  I never picked up a needle.  My stitch group came to visit one day and I think I might have gotten an inch quilted.

But there was something I did get accomplished – with a little help from a new friend.  My husband happened upon a woman whose business is to help people who need help to stay in their homes whether for health reasons or age.  She doesn't do medical chores like changing dressings or giving injections, but she helps with household chores such as laundry, dishes and vacuuming and she helps with bathing if needed, meal preparation and such.  My husband thought she was exactly what HE needed while I convalesced.

At first she helped my husband with some housekeeping chores.  Eventually her being there let him get out of the house so he could go grocery shopping or just an hour or so with his buddies over a cigar.  He was afraid to leave me alone as I was having some hallucinations with my medication and he was afraid I might fall.  Eventually he had a great idea.  Why not have her help me clean up my disaster of a sewing room?

So, eventually we headed down to my studio where I sat in my BERNINA sewing chair (I call it my   throne) and Cindy got to work.  We went through everything.  UFO’s were scrutinized.  Would I really finish it?  If not, all the supplies were put together for the project, packaged and put in a special tote for distribution to the “share” table at my guild along with fabric I would probably never use again.  Other notions or patterns and fabric were placed in another tote for distribution whenever I needed a door prize.  A lot more was just simply discarded.

Eventually my room took on organization and space.  And now, to begin a new year, I have a clean and well organized sewing studio!  I wonder how long it will last…

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday Throws Me Back to Germany

So, I've noticing the Throwback Thursday fun.  It made me think of my teaching experience in Germany a few years ago.  I was going to be in Germany to visit my older son and his wife and someone arranged for me to teach a workshop in Saulheim at the Sanger Halle.  Participants included American quilters as well as quilters from France, South Africa, the Netherlands and France. 

The Sanger Halle reminded me of the VFW Halls.  We were in the upper (main) level and it consisted of two rooms; a large room looked like it was for dancing or programs.  The other room seemed to be the bar.  We met in the bar.

The day began with my showing slides of my quilts and that was followed by a lovely soup luncheon with wonderful homemade breads.  The lunch was served by a lovely German couple.  I think she probably did the cooking and he was the person who was in charge of the Sanger Halle. 

The workshop I taught was my “Not Your Grandma’s Appliqué” workshop.  While the participants were from all over, I had no problem communicating with them.  They all understood and spoke English, which was a good thing as I didn’t speak anything but English.  Everyone was very attentive and seemed to be having a wonderful time.


Half way through the afternoon, we were served a variety of cakes.  In addition there was wine!  Never had wine served at a workshop before or since.  Getting back to the workshop and my demonstrations, I soon discovered our hostess, after cleaning up the cake treats, had joined us and was looking over my shoulder very attentively – she almost had her chin on my shoulder. 

All of the ladies were so much fun.  Next to seeing my son and his wife and getting the news that I was going to be a new Grandmother, teaching this workshop was the highlight of my trip!

This is Marie.  She presented me with the most adorable crocheted holder for my thimble.

This is everyone!  This is in the entry of the Sanger Halle.  Notice the trophy cases.

Hey!  Throwback Thursday IS kinda fun!

Friday, September 12, 2014

"YES! I Can Go Home With You"

Something I hear from my beginning applique students often is, "Can you come home with me?"  They convince themselves they won't be able to remember everything I tell them in class.  And even though they have lots of information on handouts, I can understand their wanting to see me do what I do up front and personal.

Several years ago my son, Ian, and I made a DVD showing all I cover in my classes.  I was very proud of this project because there were very few instructional DVDs available.  I'm catching up with technology and am putting the DVD in segments according to subject on my YouTube channel.   (Thank you, Ian!)

Here are all the videos in one place.  No searching.  It should be easy enough for you to watch them all in order.  I hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for my beginning students.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Chapter one

Chapter two

Chapter three

Chapter four

Chapter five

Chapter six

Chapter seven

Chapter eight

Chapter nine

Chapter ten

Chapter eleven

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tutorials Go Live!

In the spring of 2002, my first book, HEARTS AND FLOWERS:  HAND APPLIQUE FROM START TO FINISH, was published.  I received a phone call from a producer representing SIMPLY QUILTS WITH ALEX ANDERSON, during the following fall.  Would I consider appearing on SIMPLY QUILTS?  Am I able to come to Burbank the following January for taping?  Can you imagine my answer?

At this same time our younger son was a student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, studying acting and all that goes with it, including film making.

The summer following my taping, when our son was home for the summer, we talked about my making a DVD that would be a visual companion to the book.  And since I often hear from my beginning students, “Can you come home with me?” we decided to call it “Yes!  I Can Come Home With You; the Heart of Appliqué.”  Even though we made the DVD in our own living room “studio” we were quite proud of our project – especially since tutorial DVDs were not common.

Fast forward eleven years.  Now the “thing” is YouTube!  So, we have decided to break the DVD apart and make these “chapters” available on my YouTube channel.  I will be rolling out each tutorial over the next month or so.  I hope you enjoy them, find them useful and tell your friends.  I’m so very proud of the DVD.  Mainly, I think, because we created it before it was the thing!

Here you go!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Quilter's Summer Vacation

Whew!  What a month this has been!

My husband and I set out on a car trip odyssey that took me to some amazing places where I got to see and do some amazing things.  I had a ball!  I am exhausted!

 One of the many serendipitous occurrences was when we had made a right at Pueblo, CO and headed toward Durango, CO.  At about lunch time I saw a road sign that indicated we were VERY near La Veta, CO.  Well, any quilter worth his/her salt KNOWS what that means!  This is the home of RICKY TIMS!  So my husband agreed to make a little side trip - after all, it was lunchtime! - and we headed off the highway for the 5-mile trip to La Veta.

I'm not sure what that picture under the sign represents, but my take on it is "don't make noise!"  So I didn't.

La Veta is a charming little town.  I think the main part of town is all of 9 square blocks, if that much.  There were galleries and restaurants and a few people strolling along.  It was a Sunday afternoon so it was quiet.  Rich made me inquire at one of the open galleries as to where Ricky Tims' studio is located.  This was very hard for me.  I am reticent about being a "fan."  (I never even screamed over the Beatles when I was 14!)  So I asked.  But I also asked for a recommendation for lunch.  We were told where the studio is (just around the corner) and directed to the Dog Bar and Grill.  Isn't that an intriguing name?

Cuchara, CO is a tiny community tucked in the mountains just a short ride down the road from La Veta.  Indeed, on the patio, almost everyone had a dog with them for lunch!  I think someone mentioned there are about 70 people who live in Cuchara year-round.  But lots of people have homes and come for a little rest and relaxation.  We were chatting with a guy up from West Texas.

After lunch, we stopped by Ricky's studio.  No one was there, of course.  I really don't think he encourages visitors, anyway.  But it is an interesting building just off the main street.


I especially appreciated the wrought iron work.

In Durango, CO I visited the Durango Quilt Company.  The ladies in there were very friendly.  And you can't miss the building for the vivid color!  Look how it matched the sky that day.

I hope you have a chance to visit sometime.  It is a very nice shop.

Later in the week I visited the Quilts, etc and Quilts, etc etc.  This is a shop(s) in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.  Quilts, etc is on the corner.  When the building across the street on the other corner became available, they expanded and called that building Quilts, etc etc.  Again, very nice shops!

Want to hear something funny (but sad)?  The night before we left on our trip, I ran around and organized a stitching project to take along to work on in the hotels in the evenings.  I carried that bag in and out of the car.  I never opened it - just too tired!  I keep taking projects to work on when I travel and I never actually do any work!  But I just know if I failed to take something along, something bad would happen!