Longarm Templates for Sale

Hi all!  This has been a super busy time for me for about the last 6 months.  I’ve got so many different things going that my head is spinning.  One thing I have not formally unveiled on my blog yet are the new Longarm Templates that I designed.  I’ve been working on them since January, trying out different prototypes until I found some that I thought would work.  They were finally done towards the end of May, so that I would have them in time to sell in my booth during the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival in June.  I’ve just been too busy to share them with you yet.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve had 6 surgeries on my left eye and 2 on my right.  I am legally blind in my left eye, but I don’t see that as a problem.  I think I’ve actually been given a gift along with it.  For whatever reason, I know see textures more clearly when I am quilting, which is weird, because my depth perception is messed up.  My left eye runs 20/400 without glasses; it is like looking being under water in a pool and trying to look at things out of the water.  I also have a retinal pucker, so things get a little wavy.

Anyhow, one of the problems I have run in to when quilting was when I was using my Longarm Templates made of Plexiglas or a similar material.  I have LED lights on my Longarm and they shine off the shiny Plexiglas, creating a glare that hits my eyes like the glare of the sun on a windshield… blinding me in both eyes and causing me to make mistakes.  I looked for non-glare templates but had no luck.  I wondered why someone hadn’t thought of them yet.  Maybe it’s just a problem I have; I don’t know.  But, I do know I wanted to solve that problem, if not for others then at least for me.

I use the Plexiglas below for laying on top of quilt tops and drawing out designs.  Can you see the lights shining on the shiny surface?   That’s the glare I am talking about.


Now look at it with the frosted templates I designed.  See where the glare is? Not on the frosted templates and not on fabric from quilt tops.

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Here’s a shot of a “regular” shiny ruler and the frosted ruler/template on a pair of slacks with a seam.  See the difference in the glare?


My concern was that we may not be able to see the lines on the template of a frosted ruler, so the company I hired to manufacture these rulers (Midwest Engravers) and I tried out several mock-up prototypes before I settled on one.  For stitching around applique and using a template as a “push” the selection was an easy one.  I wanted it to be usable for both right-handers as well as left-handers, so it is frosted on both sides.  It doesn’t need any lines, so the only engraving is the name and my website.  I named it “van Go” because it is shaped like an ear and helps the hopping foot “go”.   The “ear lobe” opening is a little large; on purpose but still experimenting to see how others react to it.  I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with running my hopping foot over the edge of an opening that is just right for the hopping foot when I’m not moving it.  That causes a chip and scares the bajeebus out of me when it happens.   For hand placement, my thumb goes into the indention on the ear and my other fingers hang on to the big part of the ear.

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For Stitch in the Ditch and straight edge stitching, we first looked at frosting on both sides, but if you look at the picture above, you will see that it is not easy to see etching.  So, then we tried frosting on one side and experimented with etching.  As you can see in the pictures below, it is not as clear as shiny Plexiglas, but you still can see the lines, marked 1/4″ and 1/2″ away from all edges plus 45 degree lines from all corners.  This one is called Eye-c, because now I can see better without the glare and it looks kind of icy… and the “c” stands for Cowtown.

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So, if you, too, have a problem with glare on the rulers or if you are in need of a ruler or template to help you quilt better, would you please give one or both of these a try?  They are easy on the eyes and help prevent eye fatigue.  Ask me how I know.  😉

You can find both rulers here.

Rotary Ruler Cutter Review

You may or may not remember that I will be vending at the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival in June over Father’s Day weekend.  I had planned for a year now to get things made for the quilt festival but haven’t had much luck at all in finding time to do that.  Plus, my daughter is pregnant and due June 2nd.  The doctors have decided that they will not let her go past her due date.  She has Gestational Diabetes and they figure the baby’s size if 1 week ahead of schedule.  So, the baby may come early.  In any case, I have that coming up to worry think about as well.  I haven’t had time to make any baby quilts or anything else for the baby or my daughter, let alone make anything for the quilt festival.

Well… I guess I could just hand out business cards and flyers about my quilting business…  What I finally figured out, though, is that I don’t have to MAKE stuff to sell.  I could sell retail stuff, so that is mainly what I will be doing.  I’m still going to try to get some home decor made (wall decorations that look like buttons – in case you didn’t know, I also dabble in woodworking), but we will see how that goes with everything else going on this next month.  Oh, I almost forgot!  I created a couple of ruler templates for use with a longarm quilting machine.  I imagine it could also be used with sit-down machines, but I haven’t tried that yet.  The rulers should be ready sometime this next week.  I plan on selling those at the quilt festival as well.

For now, I’d like to share with you 2 of the products I will be selling.  They are both Rotary Ruler Cutters, but they are made by different companies.  The one on the left is made by Fiskars (note the orange handle), and the one on the right is made by Havel’s.  They look like paper cutters for scrap booking, don’t they?  But, these are for fabric… unless someone in your household mistakenly uses them for paper.  The good news is that you can swap the blade out for a new one.


At first I was drawn to the one made by Havel’s because of the color of the handle.  I figured they were both the same, so why not go for purple?  Well, if you look closely at the rulers, you will see the markings for measurements are a little different.  Which one do you like better so far?  They both have good qualities.

Then there are the way the blades go on and come off.  The Fiskars has a screw nut on it like most of my other rotary rulers; I don’t know if you have that or not.  But, for me, it is familiar.


Havel’s has a white cover that has a turn dial for you to remove to get to the blade.  This is a nice safety feature, but it took me awhile to figure out how to work it, even after reading the instructions.

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Fiskar’s safety feature comes in the form of a separate blade changer, which costs extra.  I’m guessing it is optional,  but it’s a nice feature to have.  The picture on the left is the blade changer.  You can see how to use it on the back of the package and also on the back of the box of the rotary ruler combo.

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Another nice feature of the Fiskar’s is that it has a carrying handle – I like that.



Let’s go back to the original picture and look at the one on the right made by Havel’s in the picture below.  If you notice, Fiskars ruler is all plastic, while Havel’s has a metal strip along the short end where you can hang it up.  They both have holes for hanging, but the metal strip under the hanging hole of Havel’s cutter is kind of nice, and it has smooth, safe edges.  Let’s talk about length.  Havel’s says their ruler is 6″ wide x 27 1/2″ in length to cover an entire width of a fabric bolt – it’s nice that the ruler runs over the ends of the fabric you are cutting.  Fiskar’s says their ruler is 6″ x 24″, but I think that is for the actual measuring part.  If you look closely you will see that the Fiskar’s ruler is almost the same length of the Havel’s and Havel’s ruler is 24″ long.


Both rulers are good for either right-handed folks or for left-handed folks with numbers going both ways, and they both use 45 mm rotary blades.

I think the best part of both of these rulers is the no-slip grip strip along the side of ruler that the blade runs along.  Look along the bottom of the metal edge of the Fiskar’s rotary ruler combo, just above the plastic ruler.  Do you see that dark strip?  Both rulers have this, and I LOVE it, because as you are pushing down on the handle above the rotary blade, it runs right along that strip, making it hug to the fabric.


And, as you can see from the before and after pictures below, you get a nice, smooth cut.

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Now for prices… Havel’s rotary ruler combo sells for $71.43.  Fiskar’s sells for $59.99.  Fiskar’s also has one of these in a square size (12 in. x 12 in.) that sells for $54.99.  It cuts on one side just like the longer ruler.  I haven’t seen it in use yet, so I don’t know what to make of the benefit of the square other than it is wider, which is nice.  Fiskar’s separate Blade Changer comes with 5 new blades and has the ability to store up to 6 dull blades.  It costs $29.99.

I have 2 Fiskar’s rotary ruler combos and 2 Havel’s rotary ruler combos for a total of 4 rotary ruler combos, and I have one Fiskar’s blade changer; all of which I will have for sale in my booth (#436) at Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival.   Whatever I don’t sell will be on my website after the quilt festival.  I will also have a rotary mat and some fabric there so customers can try each of these rotary rulers out for themselves.  I think it’s a great tool for those of us with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Arthritis and other wrist, arm, and hand issues.  You don’t have to buy one; you are welcome to just try them out.

I will have a lot of other goodies for sale in my booth.  I will try to get a picture of some of the items soon and post a picture for you.  Most of the stuff will be gift items and hard-to-find notions such as Rebecca Barker Quiltscapes and Sister Quilter greeting cards, wall stickers for quilters, car decals for quilters, Laurel Burch bags, pins with numbers (to put on your stacks of pieces to help you keep track of what order to sew – I’ll have to get a good picture of that to share with you later), a few Creative Grids rulers, woolies curlers, walnut shells for making pincushions, etc.

I hope you’ll be in the neighborhood Father’s Day weekend.  I’d love for you to stop by so I can meet you.








Marian’s Spring Bouquet

If you’ve ever heard of Edyta Sitar from Laundry Basket Quilts, you know she creates masterpieces from scraps.  Marian recently made a quilt from Edyta’s pattern “Spring Bouquet.”  If you like what you see in this post, you can find the pattern at Laundry Basket Quilts here.

Let’s start out with a full shot, so you can really start drooling.


As you can see, there are what looks to me like a gazillion pieces, many of them tiny.  I know this must have taken some time for Marian to complete.

Before I get on to the close-ups of Marian’s quilt, I want to show you a trick I use when quilting.  I have a couple of laser lights for making sure I get things square.  I have a laser square that I use for blocking quilts.  You can see how I use that here. Yes, it’s a tool you can find at your local hardware store; a place I get several other tools for my quilting work.  But, for when I don’t have the room for the laser square such as when I’m working on my quilting machine’s frame, I use another laser tool like this in the lower right of the picture below.  These can also be used for making sure you hang pictures straight across a wall.  I use it to line up seams and borders as I am moving along the quilt.  I can run my fingers along that laser line and nudge the top this way or that if it needs it.


So, let’s take a look at some quilting I did along the borders so you can see what I did with Marian’s quilt.

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And, then we’ll move a little inside the borders.


I know Marian didn’t want any stitching inside the applique (some people do, some people don’t), but see those daisy looking flowers on the right in the picture below?  I couldn’t control myself and had to tack that center down.  It was trying to fly off the quilt.  Honestly, I usually try very hard to give the customer what he or she wants, but, since she was putting this in a show, I thought it might detract from the beauty of Marian’s work.  So, I stitched it down. <big breath>



Until we get to the middle…


If you would like to drool on see this quilt in person, Marian has entered it into the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival held at the Overland Park Convention Center next month…June 19 – 21.  For more information on the quilt festival, check them out here.



Flaming Guitars

My latest customer quilt is for Mary’s grandson.  Mary has done a wonderful job of combining colors to match her black fabric with musical notes.  I think she is using up her scraps; smart lady!  Anyhow, she paired the musical notes fabric with another black fabric that has guitars on it.  Here’s a shot of the whole quilt and a couple of close-ups.  Mary was very open to whatever I wanted to quilt on this, but this time we were looking at quilting something other than musical notes.  This is for her 10-year-old grandson.  What kind of stitching would you quilt on this?  The backing is a fire red, so I thought flames would work alright on this quilt.

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I snuck in a surprise down towards the bottom in the middle.  I put it in a place where it wouldn’t be obvious – you’d have to search to find it.  I wasn’t sure if her grandson would be frightened by it or think it was cool.  I’ll turn it over to the back so you can see what it is before I show you the front.  The orangey-red (flame red) is the actual color of the backing, but you can see the picture better in the second picture.

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I needed a template for adding this to the stitching, so I drew the flaming skull out onto vellum paper and then pinned it down before stitching it.  I avoid marking on my customers quilts unless I can find no alternative.  It’s just too risky.


As you can see (or maybe you can’t – that’s the idea), after pulling the paper off, you have to really look to find the skull.


If you are interested in seeing this process in action, I have a video of me doing this on my YouTube Channel.  You can find that video here.  I hope this helps you learn some strategies for marking (without marking ON) your quilt top for quilting.

Hearts and Flowers Stitched with Love

Jane brought me this to me at our last guild meeting.  Her sister had embroidered the blocks and it was (is) her sister’s first quilt.  We could have done a lot of different quilting on this quilt, but I think perhaps Jane didn’t want to overwhelm her sister with too much fluff (smart thinking!), so we kept it simple.


You can see that Jane’s sister embroidered cross-stitched hearts along with Lazy Daisy flowers in the blocks.  We figured cross-hatch quilting would pick up the cross-stitching and some fun flowers would pick up the embroidered flowers.  So, Jane opted for quilted flowers in the background of the blocks and cross-hatching in the sashing (strips of different fabric in the areas between the blocks) that also extend out into the borders. She is planning on cutting a curved border – you can see the markings for that in this close-up.  I also repeated the cross-hatching in the center of the embroidered hearts.  Simple, but fun!


While I was working on this quilt, I made sure I had everything lined up so the quilt would be “square” (actually, a rectangle, but for quilter’s wanting straight edges along all borders… “square”) by using a laser square.  You can see how as I rolled the quilt on the quilt frame, I used the laser square to make sure the quilt is rolled how I would want it to end up square, with the rows and columns all straight.  I used the seams as my guide.  It seams were a little off, I would gently nudge them into straight lines with my fingers.

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If you haven’t borrowed (forever borrowed) the laser square from the toolbox in your garage, put it on your wish list, because I have found it to come in handy for a lot of quilting strategies.

Zipper Leaders

An update to the original post, which is included at the bottom of this post…

For those of you who like using zipper leaders, I have found a couple more shortcuts.   Awhile back, when I was getting ready to baste the quilt backing onto the zippers, I had my 1/4″ quilting foot on my machine.  Instead of swapping out the foot, the lazy side of me decided to leave the 1/4″ foot on and try to baste the zippers on with that.  Guess what?  It worked!


Another discovery has to do with backing that is not cut square.  It’s more important, for me, to have the backing square than the quilt top.  I can fix the quilt top so that it ends up square with the quilting.  But, if you don’t have a square quilt back, then your quilt will never be square when it’s finished.  Whatever side you attach to the zippers needs to be straight, so if the customer does not have a preference of which way the quilt is loaded (which is usually the case), then he/she will not know which 2 sides need to be straight.  I could charge my customers for cutting the fabric for them to make the quilt backing straight and square, but I don’t feel comfortable cutting their fabric.  You never know what they want to do with it.  Besides, unless a customer has watched you step-by-step in the preparation process, he/she won’t understand how important this is.  So, this is what I’ve done with quilt backings that are not straight.


I fold the fabric back and just stitch over it.  This is especially an issue with pieced backings.  Here’s another shot after I unzipped the other side of the zipper.  See how the backing is pieced and the edges don’t match?


But, what about when you want to sew the other side of fabric to the other side of the zipper and it doesn’t match up?  Before you unzip the zipper to attach the other side of the fabric, make sure you line up the 2 sides of the backing fabric.  If they don’t match, mark the side that extends with a pin and pin it onto the other side of the fabric.


I only suggest you try this if you do not have too much fabric to fold back.   When I attach the quilt top to the quilt sandwich on my frame, I make sure I am about 4 inches (at a bare, bare minimum 2 inches) from the edge of the zipper.  The reason I do this is because I have found that when attaching the backing to the zipper, the fabric stretches a bit.  This is a problem no matter what.  When I was pinning the backing fabric to the canvas on the quilting machine frame’s rollers, the backing fabric would stretch then as well.  Sometimes it was worse than when I baste it with a zipper leader.  I know a lot about fabric, but I haven’t figured that one out yet.  In the picture below, you can see how the zippers kind of “wave” with the stretch of the fabric.  It’s not bad, but to be careful, I accommodate for that, which is the reason the above fabric folding technique can work for me.


One more thing… Sue Schmieden, the creator of the zipper leaders I use (www.longarmconnection.com) suggests color coding your zippers.  I don’t have a picture to show you, because I haven’t tried it yet, but when I am ready to replace the zippers I have on my canvas, I will definitely try this!  For color coding, Sue suggests that you use a different color fabric for each side of the zippers.  So, for the belly bar or bottom of the backing, you would attach the backing zipper that would go on the canvas onto a piece of colored fabric (let’s say “red”) and then sew the “red” fabric with the zipper to the canvas on the belly bar.  I’ve gotta tell ya, this sounds so much easier than trying to sew the zipper onto the canvas. Then, for the other side of the zipper that would be zipped go with the belly bar zipper, you would attach red fabric to that part of the zipper also.  That way you know that the bottom edge of the backing fabric which is attached to the belly bar will always be red.

You would repeat this process with a different color for the other 2 rollers with canvas.  Let’s say “blue” for the take up roller (the roller bar with the canvas that rolls up the top edge of where you are working if you are facing the front of the machine) and its set of zippers.   And, then use another color (let’s say “white”) for the quilt top roller.  I hope it all makes sense, but it would only make sense to another longarmer, I think.

A Fresh Start

I don’t know about you, but I feel a fresh start coming in 2014.  I’ve put together 13 “intentions” for 2014 which include a lot of different things that I want to do for myself.  But,  I’ve also put together a list of quilting goals.  I took Angela Walter’s advice and looked at what I wanted to do with my life in the next decade, the next year, and the next month.  You will be amazed at how “level headed” you will feel after doing this.  Well… I have to admit that organizing things helps clear my head, too, and I’ll get to that in a minute…  I did the organizing before I wrote down my list of goals.
You have to understand (before reading this list) that I have so many ideas jumping around in my head that I cannot keep up with them.  I have a drawing notebook for my quilting ideas – it’s a great idea for any kind of artistic career.  I take it with me to doctor’s appointments and other places where I know I will be sitting for awhile, bored.  When I get discouraged in life, it’s a great thing to come back to for a creative reprieve.  I also think I have ADD, because I will start one thing and quickly find myself headed in a gazillion different directions.  It makes me crazy, but I can’t seem to keep focused long enough to get my “goal” of whatever I was doing completed.  So, I hope having this list written out and in front of me, where I can cross the accomplishments off as I reach that particular goal, will be helpful.  It is typical for me to get started on a project and get side-tracked because I forgot to check on something else, which then leads to something else, which leads to another idea totally unrelated to the former idea and what started it all.  Are all artists like this?  Or, is it just the minds of women???  I also do that when I’m having a conversation with others.  I’m a great listener, but it will make me think of something totally unrelated that I must share.

The thing about me and lists, though, is that I am a finisher and if I have something on a list, I will finish it sooner or later.  It can be a great thing, but it can also be bad, because that list is like a nagging spouse with a “to do” list.  I don’t like starting a project unless I plan on and know I can finish it within a time frame.  Given that, here are my quilting goals, both the far-fetched and the realistic ones.

Quilting Goals

In the next decade…

  • ·        Create quilting designs and patterns for pantographs and digital format
  • ·        Start making and publishing quilt patterns?
  • ·        Teach at quilting venues (includes guild meetings)

In the next year or more…

  1. Start drawing and doodling every day.
  2. Finish the New Orleans quilt (this is a quilt that I started almost 3 years ago, with every intention of finishing it within a year – FEAR has held me back; fear of my abilities or lack thereof and fear of it not turning out as wonderful as I envision in my head).
  3.  Finish the Migraine quilt (it’s a joint quilt with my daughter).
  4.  Draw out the cartoon that is in my head from IQF Houston of Carol and her cousin and create a pattern and quilt from it.
  5. Make a quilt for the BVQG Challenge due in April, 2014.
  6. Make up some embroidery samples for use in quilts (will be teaching this at April mtg.)
  7.   Enter Hoffman Fabric Challenge, 2014 (must be received by July 18, 2014).
  8.  Finish the Jennifer Jangles appliqué quilt that I have been working on.
  9.  Make a white, queen-sized whole cloth quilt.
  10.  Make a king-sized whole cloth quilt from the light blue fabric.
  11.  Make a 9-patch red and white quilt.
  12.  Make a 4-patch blue and white quilt.
  13.  Make a scrappy Pineapple block quilt.
  14.  Make memory quilts out of Bob’s T-shirts.
  15.  Get the Buffalo quilt pattern done.

In the next month…

  • ·        Draw and doodle every day.
  • ·        Draw out cartoon of the Houston quilt.
  • ·        Start on New Orleans Quilt.
  • ·        Quilt customer, raffle, and charity quilts.

Do you think I’ve set myself up?  Or, do you think I can accomplish at least some of them?

Okay, back to the organization part of this story…  My life story seems to be either “feast or famine” in all areas.  I’m either really busy or not busy at all and my ADD will kick in overdrive then, sending me back into the “busy” part of my life.  Anyhow, by nature, I am an organizer.  You’d never know it, though, if you had looked into my closet a week ago.  I have a lot of shoes.  The way I “organized” my shoes was to just toss them into the closet.  They were all over the floor in there – I would trip on them every time I’d go into the closet.

I’d been meaning to take that shelving unit in my closet and transform it into a shoe rack of sorts.  I’ve been avoiding it, though, because I thought it was going to be too much work to add shelves to it.  I even broke down and bought myself one of those plastic organizers with pockets for shoes that hang from a door but never got around to putting shoes in it  Well, after building a computer armoire, my confidence level shot up and I figured out a way to (in my mind) easily add shelves.  I have a Kreg shelf pin jig that I used to drill holes into the sides of the existing shelves.  I added shelf pins after that along with MDF boards the width of the shelves.  Voila!

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I feel like one of those rich movie stars who has a shoe closet – LOL!  Creating this “shoe space” has been a goal of mine since we moved into this house in 2009.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to finally have this done – the clutter in my closet was “cluttering” my mind – literally!

My point is that you, too, can accomplish a lot IF you know what you want.  Start by organizing your ideas and/or your space and then writing down what you want to accomplish.  If you don’t know, start with just a few items.  They might be goals that you know you can accomplish.  Or, they might be far-fetched goals.  But, if you take that first step, you at least know where you are headed and are farther on your life’s journey than you were yesterday.  Here’s to new beginnings and fresh starts!