To the Moon and Back

This is another quilt I should have put up on my design wall before quilting it, because the colors and the pattern are striking.


Kathy called this her Universe quilt.  It has the 4 quadrants in colors.  Do you see the circles of color in the blues down in the lower left?  Those look like planets, too, and all the mottled batiks in the borders look, to me, like an Aurora Borealis.  So, how would you quilt this?


The colors are so magnificent, that it’s hard to see the quilting, but I decided to stitch a stun into the upper right hand (yellow) corner with the 9 planets circling around it.  The orbiting circles are anything but perfect.  I hand drew them on with chalk and then stitched following the chalk lines.

In the purple down in the lower right is where I put Earth and its circling moon.  Can you see it?  The moon’s orbit is elliptical, so maybe if you find that semi-sideways oval, you’ll see the big circle inside, which is Earth.  I also drew the Big and Little Dipper with the North Star to the lower left of Earth.  Of course, my ADD brain struggled with which way to put those stars (they’re not in correct proportion anyway)…as I am looking at them on the quilt?  Or as I would look at them if I were on Earth?  I also put shooting stars and meteors in the quilt, but you can’t see them here.  The backing on the quilt did a good job of hiding them, too, which I’m always glad for, because my pea brain talks smack to me about my quilting abilities.


This particular quilt was a good example of some of the strategies I used for getting a quilt squared up as it rolls on the frame for the quilting machine.  And, since you can’t see the quilting too much, I thought I’d add some tips here.

First off, this quilt has lots of straight lines.  I use those lines to guide me to getting the quilt straight.  I’ll explain the tape measure in a bit, but for now, take a look at the lower edge of the picture.  That’s where the lower roller bar lies.  I use the lines in the quilt to help me gauge whether or not the quilt is straight going across.


I’m sure I’ve showed you before the laser level I use to make sure the lines are straight as well.


I used to use these white clips on the rear roller bar to help me with placement of blocks and borders as I quilted, but, unless you find a way to make them stay put, they roll and move.  By the way, if you look closely at the edges of the quilt top, you will see a line of basting on the batting.  There are 3 roller bars on my machine’s frame.  The backing fabric is attached to 2 rollers; one at the bottom and one above this black roller you see in the picture below.  That roller is used to keep the fabric in place at it rolls. So, first, I attach the backing fabric to the canvases that are attached to those 2 rollers.  Then, I lay the batting on top of the backing fabric.  I use my channel locks to stitch a straight line across the top of the batting – it helps to have a dark thread for this so you can see it better.  That is my guide for where to butt the quilt top fabric up against.  I then pin the quilt top fabric in place and then stitch it down about 1/4 inch along the edge.  I’d like to make it 1/8 inch, but I’m just not that good.


As for the tape measure, I use that as a guide for where to stitch the sides in place.  When I get the top stitched down, I use my laser level to tell me where to butt the sides up to and then stitch the sides down to about 12 inches from the top.  Then I see where the sides hit the tape measure and write those numbers down.  I use those numbers for placement of the rest of the quilt along the sides.


A machine quilter’s job involves a lot more than just quilting.  The above tips are just a sampling of the many things we do when we work on your quilt.



Snowflake Avalanche

Aren’t the colors in this winter quilt refreshing? Do you see the white pinwheels within the blocks?  Seeing them now, with the whole thing on a design wall, gives me new ideas on how to quilt this.  I could have incorporated the pinwheels as wind mills with blowing snow.


Luann wanted snowflakes in the white squares that are on point.  Snowflakes are actually hexagon shaped, but it’s hard for me to get my brain stitching 6 sides within a 4-sided block.  So, I used the 8-sided snowflake design that was on the backing fabric, which is white on white, so it’s a little hard for you to see it in this picture.


Below you can see the snowflakes in the white squares and holly vines in the rest of the blocks.  Along the border, Luann wanted Snowmen to go along with the snowmen on the green border.

You can see the snowmen better on the back of the quilt (bottom and side).

I drew snow people playing together, with blowing snow.  Along the sides, I tried to make it look like the snow people were sliding down the quilt.  It was a cheerful and fun quilt to play with.

Christmas in June

I know.  I know.  It should be “Christmas in July.”  But, June is when I quilted this quilt for Betty.  Isn’t it adorable?  You can find the pattern from Bunny Hill Designs’ website here.  I’ve looked at their Block of the Month (and this one is listed as a Block of the Month quilt) patterns, and I think they are very reasonably priced – you get a lot of bang for the buck, in my humble opinion.  You can find more of those Block of the Month patterns here.


Betty gave me a lot of leeway on quilting this quilt, which can be dangerous.  I can’t believe my customers have so much trust in my quilting that they allow me free range.  😉  The only request she had was that she wanted it to look like swirling snow around the snowmen in the teacups (in the middle of the quilt).  She also was planning on adding buttons to the snowmen and other embellishments, so, for the most part, I left the appliques alone.  There were a couple that were large, and I was worried that they would poof out too much, so I added some stitching to them; the truck and the reindeer and sleigh.  Basically, I just outlined the flower on the sleigh and added some swirls.  I could have added body details to the reindeer to make it more realistic, but this quilt called for more of a “cute” theme so I went with a saddle blanket of sorts.

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I usually try to get the borders quilted first (the opposite of what I do on a domestic machine) and then work on the middle.  But, on this quilt, I Stitched in the Ditch around the blocks and applique, then filled in the backgrounds of the blocks and then worked on the border.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to put in the border.  I had some ideas, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

So, let’s start with the blocks.  Betty left the pictures that go with each block with me; the pictures were of an already quilted block.  For the most part, I followed what they had and mixed it up a little.

Falling snow


Swirling wind and snow around the houses and snowmen


In the pictures below, you will see that the designers of this pattern left some open sashings to play around with quilt designs.  I decided to add Christmas candy to the stitching.

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This one had falling snow in the original, but I added some stars to go with the one they are looking at.


This one was screaming “shooting stars” to me


And, here are the teacup snowmen with swirling wind and snow

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There were some little blocks in between the big blocks.  Some of them had snowmen peeking out, and some of them didn’t.  What else but snowflakes should go here?  After I finished the quilt and pulled it off the frame, I realized the snowflake on this snowman looks like a crown or something shooting out of its head.  <sigh>  I wish I had added the 5th prong of the snowflake down at the bottom.  Maybe then, the snowman wouldn’t look like that.


The borders are where I got a little crazy.  The top and bottom was easy enough. But, if Betty was going to hang this quilt, how should I quilt the sides?  Facing inward towards the middle of the quilt?  Or, facing outward?  I wanted to put some more snow scenery into the border.  How do you do that on the sides?  I don’t rotate quilts to do the side borders, so I would be looking at those side borders at an angle when quilting.  Finally, I decided that I’d put snowmen sledding and skiing and down a ski slope.

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And, here is the bottom and the top, in that order.

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Snowball fight!


This was too much fun!  Betty knows I like to draw (with thread) on quilts, and she let me!






Kansas City Star Quilt 2015

For those of you unfamiliar with Kansas City Star Quilt patterns, they started out as quilt block patterns published in Kansas City’s newspaper, the Kansas City Star.  From 1928 to the 1930s, they were a weekly hit.  After that time, they were published less frequently, with the final ones being published as a Block of the Month in 2015.  You can read more about it here.  With so many of us getting our news from TV and the Internet, the Star newspaper has been slowly losing its popularity and customers.  Many quilters were saddened when the newspaper no longer added quilt patterns to their Sunday House & Home section.  But, I am going to share with you a quilt made from the final Kansas City Star’s year of quilt patterns.

If you remember me posting before about Wilma, you will remember how she has a gift for putting colors together.  Wait til you see this quilt…


The colors just popped right off this quilt.  But, what color of thread would YOU choose for quilting it?  Wilma decided on a medium gray thread, and I think that was the best choice!  And, how would you quilt it?  She didn’t want feathers, so I took the flower and vine applique that goes around the center medallion and, drawing it on onion skin, made a design from that.  Then, I stitched right over the paper (onion skin).


Before I go on the rest of the quilting, I want to show you one of the strategies I use for getting the quilts squared.  First off, let me explain that I load the quilt backing first and make sure I have it rolled on there, smooth and with no creases.  Then, I lay the batting on top of the backing and use my Horizontal Channel locks (channel locks “lock” the carriage in place so it only moves side to side) to stitch a straight line across the top, attaching the batting to the backing.  After that, I run the quilt top along that stitched line, pin it in place and then baste it to the batting and backing. I like to baste about 1/4 inch from the edges of the quilt top to hold it in place.  The clamps on my quilting frame hold the backing and, with the basting along the edges, I am more confident the quilt will not stretch out of shape.  Note: I leave the clamps off the backing until after I’ve got the top stitched down.

This next picture shows a very long pink tape measure that I stretch across my quilt frame and attach to the sides of the quilt frame with Velcro.  As I roll the quilt forward with each pass of quilting, I make sure the quilt top is in the same place on that measuring tape all through the quilting process.  I don’t have Vertical Channel Locks, so I cannot use them to help me keep the sides straight – the measuring tape helps with that.  In this picture, I am at the bottom of the quilt.  I have, again, stitched a straight line across the bottom, using my Horizontal Channel Loks.   I am about ready to take off the measuring tape, so I put a pin at the corner to mark where that side should be.  And, then I pin it and stitch the final basting lines along the bottom and sides.


So, on to pictures of the quilting…

Corner, with the applique flowers stitched in place.  I used swirls for the black sashing.


Here’s another shot that also includes the swags quilted into the inner border.


The middle medallion… see where I got the idea for swags in the inner border?


One of the blocks, but it shows what I call “eyelet lace” quilting.  This would be a bed quilt, so I didn’t want to put too much quilting on it.  If I had mashed it down with tight background filler, it would have weighed a ton.  As it was, it was pretty heavy.


I added swirls and leaves to the vines… and bugs.

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There were cornerstones and half-square triangles that needed to be filled, so I used the flowers in the rest of the quilt to make quilting patterns, like I did when tracing the flower/vine.

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Here is the back of the quilt.  Wilma machine embroidered a special label for it.  That fabric running down the length of the backing is red.

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What “fitting” colors for the final year of Kansas City Star quilt patterns.  “Sorry to say good-bye” (grieving) black along with a lot of cheerful colors for the cheerful memories.  I really like this quilt and the quilt pattern!


Sue’s Birthday Gift

Sue has been working on a birthday gift for her brother for a very long time.  If you have ever done embroidery, you know how long it takes.  Personally, I have recently re-discovered (my mother embroidered, and I also did a bit of it as a child when I was in Girl Scouts) embroidery, and I LOVE it! Embroidery is something to keep my hands busy when I am travelling or in the evening when I feel like I need to be doing something.

Here is a full shot of the quilt.  The  pattern for this is called Vintage Tin by Crabapple Hill Studio.  You can buy that pattern here.


There are so many little things you can add to embroidery with quilting.  For me, I’m delighted when a customer brings me an embroidered quilt and wants me to add special details to it.  So, this is what I did.  First off, I added gears to each corner.  The flying geese were simply outlined with another triangle in between.


For the top row of oil cans, etc. I made it look like a wooden wall and wooden shelf in a garage or work area.  I added more oil cans and put more interlocking gears in the block under it to the right.

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In the 3rd row down, I basically outlined everything, but added grass and gravel to the driveway.


And, in the bottom row, I basically outlined once again, adding some texture to the already awesome picture.


Sue told me her brother loved it.  I can’t see how he wouldn’t.  She did a fantastic job and spent a lot of time on this.


Cindi’s Fassettnating Fish

So, here is Cindi’s fish quilt made with Kaffe Fassett fabric.  I finally got to work on this and finish it for her in early January.  She had taken a class with one of my other customers, Joan, on how to make a One Block Wonder (also known by some as a Stack & Whack quilt/block), and this is how it turned out.  Pretty cool, huh?


But, how on earth do you quilt a One Block Wonder quilt?  It’s busy enough on its own that Custom Quilting would just get lost in it.  Cindi chose to have an allover, ocean-type E2E design in the middle with a separate border (Semi-Custom).  The only specification she gave was that she wanted a mermaid in there somewhere and would like some sand dollars and also the fish outlined in the border.  Sand dollars would be perfect in the corner, so I put them there and also a couple inside the middle.


I didn’t know what to do with those fish other than to outline them, so I just went with what the fabric provided and outlined Kaffe’s designs.  I started out putting scales around those dots on the big fish, but they looked funny, so I decided to make bigger circles around those dots.  As for the E2E, it was mostly filler that looked like water,  but with added sea-life.

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I thought Cindi’s choice of fabric for this One Block Wonder was ingenious.  I loved the colors, and the designs in the fish were funky cool!  What do you think?


Animal Parade… quilts for a baby

Before I get started, please let me apologize for a couple of the pictures being sideways.  I have fixed them in the editor, but they keep changing back when I update and re-post this.  My apologies!

Remember a couple of years ago when I was doing book reviews? Well, one of the books charmed me so much, I used a couple of patterns in it to make baby quilts for my new grandson. The book’s title is Animal Parade by Cheri Leffler.

My grandson’s mother, my daughter, has always loved owls so in the autumn I made an owls quilt for him. This is a picture of the original in the book.

And, here is the one I made.



You can’t tell that the fabric is turquoise in the above picture, but it is. I loved the fabric Cheri used in the bellies of her owls, but I couldn’t find any of that kind of fabric at the stores I visited, so I had to substitute. And, how did I miss those eyes in her owl on the upper right of Cheri’s quilt? They look so cute. Mine just look surprised like the others in the diagonal row that goes down to the left of it. LOL

You know how I love to be artistic with my quilting, so here are some close-ups of the quilting I did.


That’s supposed to be a tree trunk on the left with a baby owl peeking out about the midway point right next to the left side of the picture.


In this one you can see the leaves that I added to the branches. Basically, the quilting included tree trunks, extra branches and lots and lots of leaves.
Right side of the quilt with another tree trunk…


Middle with lots of leaves…


I know that a lot of stitching makes a quilt stiff. Some quilters put so much quilting on their quilts that they are like boards and are very heavy; too heavy to sleep under. That is the kind of quilting that you see on a lot of show quilts. When I quilted this, I put too much quilting in it. Yes, I was trying to “paint” a more complete picture, but for baby quilts, you really only need enough quilting to hold it together. They need soft quilts, and soft quilts have very little quilting. Lesson learned… again… with this quilt. So, on to the next one…

Another quilt from Cheri’s book in a penguin quilt with red borders and sashing. I like the red, but, to be honest, the red scares me due to bleeding issues. My son-in-law likes penguins, so for winter I made a penguin quilt from light blues. I also used a flannel backing and used the green color in the backing and purple to round out the colors. And, this time there was a lot less quilting. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get it done in time for Christmas, and I didn’t. I normally do a little piecing at a time when I’m working on my own quilts. So, I was able to finish up the piecing a few days before Christmas and finish up the quilting several days afterwards.


For this quilt, I just did an allover swirl to make it look like swirling wind.



There were several places that was supposed to have embroidery, but I have to admit that I cheated.  I knew if I took the time to embroider everything on there that i wanted, the quilt probably wouldn’t get done for years.  So, I used a permanent fabric ink pen and drew in some of the embroidered areas, such as the black dots for the eyes below.


I thought the dotted fabric reminded me of snowflakes.


And, here is the flannel backing.


I needed to get back to work on customer quilts, so I cheated once again by rolling the backing fabric around to the front to make the binding.  Can you see it?  No, I didn’t cut the flannel fabric first; I just rolled the extra backing flannel around to the front side and folded it over again and then machine sewed it down.  I’m a better thread artist than I am at making quilt tops.


If you’d like to take a look at Cheri Leffler’s book, you can do so by going here:

And, guess what? I saw that Cheri has a second Animal Parade book now, too. It looks like it’s got some adorable animals also. This one’s got hedge hogs, raccoons, dear, etc. You can find it here: