Square Peg in a Round Hole?

Susan inherited this quilt top from her dad and step-mom. You can obviously see that the design flows into kind of a “sweep”.  But, to me, it looked like it could have been a Native American design.  The design is merely different colored squares sewn together into an interesting design.


Susan already had the PERFECT thread for this quilt.  The colors matched perfectly. When I got it home and threaded the machine and put the first stitch into the quilt, I realized it was thicker than any thread I’ve used.  And, I was worried.  It took some coaxing to get the thread to go through the quilt layers, but once I got it going it worked like a charm…and didn’t break, not once!

I’m glad Susan decided on a Native American quilting design.  And, you know what?  That thick thread REALLY showed off the design in the light-colored border.  And, the batik border fabric is a wonderful companion to the quilting design and Susan’s thread.   Edge-to-Edge quilting used the wavy lines and the stepping stones under the sun in the border design.


I don’t remember ever getting the chance to quilt a Native American design into a quilt, so this was a lot of fun to do.  If you’re wondering where to find the border design, I took one of Meadowlyon Designs’ pantographs (named Modern Southwest) that you can find here.  Their pantograph is 10 1/2″ tall, but the border of Susan’s quilt was 7 inches, I think.  So, what I did was make a smaller copy of one repetition in the pantograph.  I then traced it onto Golden Threads Quilting Paper (you can buy it from their website and other stores) and pinned it to the quilt top.  I wanted a cornerstone, so I took the bird , enlarged it in different sizes to find the size that worked best and then traced it onto the quilting paper as well and then stitched through the quilting paper. In the past, I’ve used vellum, tracing paper, Press ‘n Seal, etc for marking quilts.  But, I had this on hand and it was just sitting on the shelf, so I thought I’d try it.  I actually really like it.  The paper is a soft yellow, which blends with lots of colors, believe it or not.  When you pull the paper off, it doesn’t leave as much paper behind, and the paper isn’t a bright white.  Judge for yourself if the end product (quilting shown in the pictures above) turned out okay.

I said earlier that Susan inherited this quilt top from her dad and step-mom.  Well, here’s something you don’t realize you need or would like to have until you get it.  They left their quilt tops in “kits” with batting, thread, and backing included on many of the quilts; ready to be quilted.  And, check out this batting!  I was floored.  How cool is that! The batting is marked so I know which way to load it (you need more from roller to roller than you do side to side, because the rollers will use more batting – you can read more about that in my blog post “Oops! Please Add More Batting!“).


I have a tip for loading quilt backing.  I like to load backing fabric so the selvages attach to the rollers. The reason I like to do that is because the width (weft) of the fabric has a little more stretch than the length (warp) of the fabric.  When I load the backing fabric to the canvas of the rollers, the fabric will stretch some.  It stretches even more if I load the quilt with the width going side to side rather than roller to roller – that produces a “waistline”, as I call it, on the backing fabric.  See how the top of the fabric in this picture is stretched more?  That’s because it is attached to the roller canvas.  The rest is not attached to anything yet.  I lay batting on top of the backing fabric and then stitch a straight line across the top of the batting so that I can get the edge of the quilt top straight.  I then baste the top down.  After that, I will check to make sure the sides of the quilt top are straight and will stitch it down.  AFTER it’s stitched down, I attach stretchy clamps to the sides of the backing fabric to hold it taut – that’s what helps keep wrinkles out of the backing fabric, where you can’t see it as you roll the quilt.  So, what will happen is the backing fabric will have more of an “hourglass figure” if I load the backing with the width (weft) of the fabric going side to side than it will if I load the backing with the length (warp) of the fabric going side to side.  And, the selvages have the extra thickness in its weave, so that adds to the strength where it’s attached to the roller canvas.  The difference it makes for the quilt maker is that if there’s a seam down the back, it might not end up straight.



One of the best parts of my job is the variety of quilt tops and quilting designs that I get to work with each day.  I learn something new with each one.  I had a lot of fun with this one.

12″ wide quilting paper

18″ wide quilting paper

24″ wide quilting paper

Product Review

I see I’ve been negligent in posting.  The upside is that I’m busy.

Every now and then I like to do a product review, and I was just working with this product today and wanted to share it with you.  Clover makes it, and it’s called a Thread Pic.  Have you ever had a quilt with a white or cream-colored background and a stray dark thread gets trapped between that light-colored top and the batting?  Or trapped between the backing fabric and batting?  I try to be careful and check the quilt top and batting as I go, but it’s not easy to check the backing as you quilt on a longarm… until it’s too late.

Well, today, I was cleaning up a quilt, getting it ready to go home to its owner.  I do that for all my customers; I try to clean up loose threads and then package it up like a gift.  I fold it up with the backing side out (showing) and put it into a gift bag with tissue paper.  If it doesn’t make my customer feel special it sure makes ME feel like someone important!

As I was going over the back of the quilt, I found a stray black thread trapped under the ivory backing; it was about 3 inches long.  So, I got out my handy dandy Soft Touch Thread Pic and pulled that baby outta there.  Of course, I didn’t think to show you how to do this until after I was done, but I did find another small stray thread trapped on the front of the quilt.


What I have learned from using this pic is that you need to be careful with it or you will pick out more than a stray thread.  What works best for me is finding a seam that is close to the loose thread.  I don’t know why, but it seems to keep me from pulling up more than the loose thread when I get as close to the seam (or in the seam) as possible.


Being careful to nuzzle my way between the weaving of the fabric, I stick the Pic in there and work it around so that I’ve got hold of the thread, but not the batting nor any of the other threads that are part of the top fabric.  The way I work it is turn that tiny hook around to the underside and wiggle it around until I’ve got the thread.  Then I GENTLY pull it up.


And, voila!


You can’t see much improvement of the before and after in this next picture, but I swear by this Thread Pic when it comes to a glaring dark thread trapped and showing on a solid light-colored backing.


It’s a nice tool to have and I think it’s worth every penny.


If you are in the Kansas City area next weekend and are interested in taking classes to learn Longarm strategies, learn how to maintain a featherweight sewing machine, or how to start a quilting business, check out the Longarm-a-Palooza at Quilted Memeories. I’ll be teaching the business class. Here’s a link for the classes: Longarm-a-Palooza


A Woodland Christmas… by Joan

I figured I’d better get this on here while I’ve got the chance.  I’ve been busy lately working on things for my booth at the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival, which starts next Friday, by the way.  And, I will continue being busy working on more stuff for the next week.  This was the last customer quilt I was able to work on before the quilt show.  Joan always lets me play and put whatever I want on her quilts.  It’s a very dangerous tactic, you know.

So, let’s show you a full shot of the quilt first before I get into the details of the quilting.


Now, how on earth would YOU quilt this?  My first concern was the border, because that’s where I start.  The cornerstones were easy – Joan had an applique star in the upper right hand corner, so I just copied that into the other corners.


As for the borders, I couldn’t come up with something creative enough (for me) that would go with this quilt, so I ended up doing something simple with holly leaves.  It would need to be able to work play well with the applique in the borders.  Just now, looking at these pictures, I wish I had added piano keys on the outside of the swags.

IMG_2515 IMG_2517

Along the lower border were 2 bears, but they needed a mama bear so I added her in the back of them.


Joan asked how I got the bear to look just like the others.  Well, I cheated, and here is a tutorial showing you how I did it.  But… it shows what I did with the trees at the top of the quilt instead of the bear; I did the same technique.  I found myself going back and forth on this quilt, adding a bit here and a bit there.  It seemed to me that I was doing a lot of the same things, so in that big open space in the tree farm, I decided to add more trees.  I have a roll of vellum or onion skin (I can’t remember which I’d bought) for tracing designs. So, to add more trees, I simply traced the applique trees already there and added more trees around them.  This would be my quilting design.  If you look closely at the corners of the paper, you will see where I have straight pins holding the paper in place.  I just stick them straight down without trying to weave them into the fabric.  When I do that, it just turns out worse.

IMG_2502 IMG_2503

After I had the trees drawn out, I then hold my left hand on the paper and move the machine around with my right hand (if you are left handed, hold the paper with your right hand and move the machine with your left hand).  If you don’t already know this, a longarm quilting machine floats or hovers above the fabric and has no feed dogs (those gritty teeth things on the bottom/bobbin plate of a domestic sewing machine) to keep it steady and in place.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Unless someone shows you what I just did, you will never know if “I meant to do that” or not.

IMG_2504 IMG_2505

And, here is the result after I tore the paper off.

IMG_2507  IMG_2514

I tried to give each of the houses a different roof top, but some of them are repeated. If you go back and take a second look at the border pictures, you can see more houses in those shots.

IMG_2526 IMG_2522

Most of the houses in this quilt reminded me of the Victorian houses in the Colorado mountains.  This trio, however, could have been cabins, if I had thought about it long enough.  But, they turned out okay as Victorian houses as well.


The final picture is of the star on top of the “town tree” shining down for its audience to “ooh” and “ahh”.


All in all, this was a fun quilt to “quilt.”  I hope you enjoyed the show and learned something, too!  Merry Christmas in June!

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.

IMG_1952 IMG_1954 IMG_1956

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.

IMG_1957 IMG_1959

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.

Tutorial for a Reversible Fabric Bucket

My niece, Julia, is having a baby, and the baby shower is tomorrow. I’ve already bought some things for her, but I didn’t have anything to put them in. Oh, sure, I could have just bought a gift bag, but I won this cute Henry Glass fabric from one of their giveaways. You should check out their blog (http://henryglassfabrics.blogspot.com/), because they are doing more giveaways between now and December 20th as part of their “Countdown to the Holidays” gifting to their fans. Anyhow, I thought Julia could re-use a fabric bucket more than she could a paper bag for baby gifts. So, this is what I made to hold the gifts. I figure she can re-use it for holding things in the baby’s room or in the bathroom, or the baby can use this for holding toys or possibly as an Easter basket at some point in the future.


Materials Used for this size Bucket:

  • 1/3 yard each of 2 coordinating fabrics
  • 1/3 yard Pellon 71 F Single-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer or any interfacing of your choosing (optional)
  • 1/3 yard batting (optional)
  • 1/3 yard fusible fleece (optional)

Cutting Directions/Sizes

  • Cut a 10 inch circle from EACH of the 2 coordinating fabrics
  • Cut a 9 inch by 30 1/3 inch rectangle from EACH of the 2 coordinating fabrics
  • Cut a 6 inch by 20 inch rectangle from ONE of the coordinating fabrics

Optional Use of Stabilizer and/or Batting

  • Cut one 10 inch circle of either stabilizer or batting or both, depending on personal preference
  • Cut one 9 inch by 30 1/3 inch rectangle of either stabilizer or batting or both, depending on personal preference, OR use fusible fleece

The first thing I did was determine how big I wanted it to be (big enough to hold the all the goodies for the baby shower).  I decided to make the bottom 9 1/2 inches wide – that would be my finished size.  Using a template, I drew with a 9 1/2 inch circle onto the wrong side of 2 coordinating fabrics and then another circle 1/4 inch outside of that first circle, which would make the outside circle 10 inches (9 1/2 inch + 1/4 inch on each outside edge of the circle.  The added 1/4 inch would be my seam width.  I then cut along the outside circle.


Now to figure out how much fabric to cut for the sides.  Go back to Geometry to figure out how the circumference of the circle.  I know my finished circle would be 9 1/2 inches or 9.5 inches.  The formula for figuring out the circumference of a circle is C = πD (Circumference = Pi x Diameter).  Pi = 3.14 and my finished diameter will be 9.5 inches so I multiplied 3.14 x 9.5 for a circumference of 29.83 inches.  That’s how long it would be when it’s finished.  I needed to add another 1/4 inch to each side for my seam allowances, so I added 1/4 inch to each of the 2 ends; .5 (or 1/2) inch + 29.83 = 30.33 inches.  Basically it’s 30 1/3 inch long.  I originally cut the sides at 10 inches, because I wasn’t sure yet how tall I wanted it to be.


At this point, you need to decide how sturdy and/or soft you want to make your bucket.  I thought I wanted to use both the stabilizer and the batting, but I changed my mind as I was working on it.  It got to be too bulky and I needed to get it done and not spend time trying to make it work.  If you are using a fusible product, now is the time to press it onto the fabric.  I chose to iron my stabilizer to the lighter color fabric, because my batting is off-white.

In the following pictures you can see where I goofed and started out sewing the side to the circle (right side of fabric on the side and wrong side of fabric for the circle – see the stabilizer?) and then picked out the stitches and sewed right sides together, with the stabilizer “stabilizing” the circle as I stitched.  I forgot to add that I sewed the short ends of the rectangle together to form a loop that would be sewed to the circle.  You could also save that step for AFTER you stitch the long sides onto the circle bottom; just make sure you leave an inch or more not stitched at each end so that you can then stitch the ends together and finish off stitching to the circle after the 2 ends are sewn together.  Most people pin the pieces together- I was in a hurry and should have slowed down and pinned, but I was feeling cocky.  Anyhow, sew the sides to the circles for each of the coordinating fabrics.  I chose to have a chevron bottom with the polka dot sides for these pictures.  I reversed it for a polka dotted bottom and chevron sides for the reversible part.

IMG_1925 IMG_1928

I used batting and stabilizer for the bottom, but when I got to this part of adding the sides, I found both of them to be too much to work with, so I chose to leave out the batting.  After I had both bucket parts sewn together, I put them together and this time I pinned.


Figuring out how tall I wanted the bucket to be, I folded the tops to the inside and pinned them in place.

IMG_1937 IMG_1938

Before sewing these together, though, I need to add the handle.  I didn’t use any batting or stabilizer for this, although stabilizer would probably make it more sturdy.  The reason I didn’t use anything is because I was going to fold this so that there would be 4 layers of fabric.  In my mind, that is enough fabric to try to sew through.  What I did was fold down the length of the 20 inch fabric and then bring the edges to the middle and fold again.  I did not iron these; I just finger-pressed them.

IMG_1933 IMG_1934IMG_1935

I then sewed the handle down the folded edge and then again a little closer to the edge.  I repeated this for the other side, so it would look a little nicer.


I then figured out where I wanted to put the handle and pinned it in place.


After it was pinned in place, I turned the bucket on its side and sewed the edges together, catching the handle in with the sides.  To mimic the look on the handle and to make the bucket sturdier, I sewed another line closer to the edge.

IMG_1941 IMG_1942

And this is the finished product.


I wasn’t as happy with the rigid look of the chevron fabric, with its pressed-look where the stabilizer had gotten folded during the scrunching, etc.  Plus, I wanted to show off the look of the coordinating fabrics, so I “reversed” it so that on the outside you see the polka dot sides and the chevron handles.  This is why I offered an option of batting and/or fusible stabilizer.  Obviously the stabilizer makes it more rigid and sturdy.  I think fusible fleece would work well, too.


I then filled it with gifts for Julia and her baby, so I am now ready to give this to her tomorrow.


What do you think?  Cute?  If you make one of these buckets, I would LOVE to see pictures of your finished product!  I’ll post them, too, if it’s okay with you!  In the meantime, head over to Henry Glass Fabrics’ blog here so you, too, will have a chance to win some cute fabric.

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.