Monday, July 1, 2013

Time Well Spent

 I love quilting, I am not an expert, but I love free motion quilting. No matter how hard I try my stitching never turns out "perfect" or at least good enough for entry into a quilt show. I have won ribbons at the state fair but I've never been able to get my quilts into a big show. My stitches are never all the same size. I usually make a mistake or two while turning or stop and starting. I keep trying, and I keep getting better. It is time well spent.

  I teach free motion quilting at our local quilt shop. Mostly I teach my students to have no fear of free motion quilting. Most quilting books will tell you that it takes a minimum of 10 hours of quilting to even start to get good at doing it or at least to gain enough confidence to continue. Practice, practice, practice, should be your chant! So I practice! I practice before I start working on a finished top. I practice on quilts for my friends and family. I practice on challenge quilts for The Quilting Project. I practice while I watch Leah Day's free motion quilting on youtube! I practice but it still is not perfect! Should it be?

  I also do thread painting and it doesn't need to be perfect and I love that. So although thread painting isn't quilting it does give me another chance to practice guiding my needle and thread where I want it. But that brings me back to the question, "Does Free Motion Quilting need to be perfect?" I have a friend who has won ribbons for her perfect quilting and she quilts perfect quilt designs that are all drawn out and she stitches so slow that I would go to sleep if I tried sewing that slow! Her stitches are all the same size and if one stitch gets out of place she fixes it right then and there. I am just not that kind of quilter. My quilting designs are free flowing and although they are planned out they are not drawn out on the quilt, they are not perfect! Should they be? 

  The judges at quilt shows are looking for perfection. Something they can point at and say "that is the best". I was in a quilt show once where I won third place and another wonderful quilt won first place. When I asked where the second place winner was the judge told me that there wasn't one because none of them were second place quality! What does that mean???? 
  I'll keep practicing because it is time well spent and I keep getting better with each new quilting project. Look out judges, here I come!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Cost of Quilting

  I am a quilter and I make quilts because I love to create them. I give most of my quilts away to friends and family because the fun is in the creation of the quilt. I have kept a few that I could not bear to part with, like all my Shop Hop Quilts! I rarely paid attention to how much it costs to make a quilt or how much fabric each quilt takes altogether, (that would be the front, batting, and backing).
  Today I started getting ready to do another Mystery Quilt on AQS, it will be a clue a month mystery quilt and I am really looking forward to it. Another friend of mine, Mychal, is also going to join the fun and he asked me a couple of questions so I was looking at the yardage requirements for the quilt, which were given as the first months clue, and DAMN they are asking for a lot of fabric!!!! 15 1/2 yds of fabric for just the top, that is only twin size!! A 72" by 90" quilt top is about 5 1/2 yards of fabric, if you just laid it out flat. How does it take 15 1/2 yards to make a 5 1/2 yards? A lot of waste or a lot of seams!!!!
  When ever I am asked how much it costs to make a quilt I always just say over $200. but I was including the batting and the backing, which can be a $100. by themselves, and they are always king size quilts!! I need to pay more attention to how much I spend on my quilts!!!

  My mom always asks me why I don't sell my quilts and I just shake my head, because it would be like selling part of me, but at these prices for making a quilt, who could afford to buy one???

  Let's add it up; King size is 110 x 106 (that's about 3 yds x 3 yds, so 9 yds total). So if it takes 3 times the finished size for the top fabric, that comes out to be 27 yds, with a yard of fabric costing an average of $10.00 a yard, that's $270.00, just for the top. The batting for a king size quilt is about $50.00, unless you get it on sale! That leaves the backing which is at least 9 more yards of fabric, $90.00.

 And don't forget the price of thread. I used 2 spools of 40 wt to sew my last quilt top and 6 spools of 12 wt to quilt it, that's around $50.00, just for the thread. Now our quilt costs $460.00!! WOW!!!!    

  Now how do you put a price on the time it will take you to make it? Do you keep track of the hours you spend on it? How do you charge for your creative process which is used for the quilting design part or the choosing the fabrics part?

Normally when I am making something to sell, I take the price of what it cost to make it and double that, with the thought that I can sell one and make two more. However when you start adding up the time it takes to make a quilt, (maybe around 300 hours all together) you have to think about what your time is worth! Who knew so much went in to making a quilt?
   When I agree to make something for someone else and they are paying for it, it can still be fun. When they start telling me how to do it, it can quickly become work. I usually work out of my stash, adding something bought new only if I need something to make the quilt fit my vision, so it is hard to know exactly how much fabric costs per quilt or how much I actually use per quilt.
  The real question for me is....Is it still fun or has it now become 'WORK'? Quilting should be fun.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quilt As You Sew

   I don't own a longarm quilting machine, wish I did, but I don't. Like many of you I started out piecing my quilt tops and sending them out to someone, who did have a longarm, so they could turn my pieced top into a quilt. I would have a vision of how I wanted that quilting to turn out and I would try to explain it to the person doing the quilting but even though their quilting was lovely, it wasn't what I had envisioned. It is hard as an artist to give your work to someone else to finish and I wanted to learn to do it myself.
   I bought books on how to quilt, took classes, bought a new Bernina, and practiced and practiced and I am still practicing. I'm not great at straight quilting but I'm pretty good at free motion squiggly quilting! Still a large quilt is hard to manuver through a home machine so I started to learn different ways to quilt smaller pieces and then put them together.
   I have been making a Modern Mystery Quilt, on the AQS site, My Quilt Place and it ended up to be in strips before the last step, which was to sew the strips together. When I realized that if I sewed the strips together, I would have a king size quilt, I would have to quilt in my machine, I decided to quilt it before I sewed them together, and this is how I did it.

   The first thing I did was add 5" background strips to each section to make them wide enough to make a king size quilt. Then I cut backing fabric to the same size as each section and also batting. Taking the first strip, batting and backing and make a quilt sandwich, using spray adhesive to hold them together, just as I would for a normal quilt.

   Choosing the thread was my next step. I decided to use 12 weight thread in a variety of colors to coordinate with the fabric. Now all I needed to do was quilt this one strip. As I said, I am still in the practice stage of straight or geometric designs so don't look too close!

    Now that section #1 is quilted, it is time to add the second section. I often use this method to add borders to quilts that I want to make larger. You can add borders to one side, two sides, three sides or all four.

                                                                                                         Place the backing RST against the back of the section, lining up the raw edges on the right side.

  Place the next section, RST, on top of section #1, matching the raw edges.

Now you have 5 layers, sew them together. 

Sew a 1/4" seam to attach these together.
  Then with the front and back still laying where they were, butt the batting up to the side and using a zig zag stitch sew the batting into place.
   Don't forget to put the right foot on your machine before zig zagging, I break more needles that way!

   Fold the front and the backing in place over the batting. Iron and using spray adhesive stick each side down on the batting. Now you are ready to quilt section #2. It isn't as easy as quilting each block and putting them together, but you only have to deal with one section in the machine throat at a time.
 After quilting this section add section #3 and quilt it, then#4 and #5. Noe you have a completely quilted quilt and you just need to square it up and bind it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


  Blogging is like writing in a dairy that the whole world can read. You want to share your thoughts and make it interesting at the same time. I don't know how interesting this post will be, but I need to write in my "diary" about how I have been feeling, just so I can get it out there and move on. I haven't posted anything in my blog because these last couple of months threw me over the edge! Let me explain.
  The last 4 years have been a whooper of a roller coaster ride for me. First, my husband, well, he got sick. Because of his illness my whole life changed. I lost my home of 15 years. I lost my furniture, my beautiful yard, my wonderful hot tub, my new sewing studio, my way of life, and the man I had loved for 30 years became a stranger to me. But I am a survivor and I stuck it out and worked to save my husband, who was also my best friend, and I thought I had it all under control, then death decided to start popping my bubbles! First my ex-husband died, we were friends, (in fact he was best man at my wedding to my current husband!) good friends! Not long after my girl friends son died. He died way too young and although my friend is still grieving, she had to step up and start raising her 2 year old grand daughter. Then my husbands brother died, this was hard on the whole family but especially on my husband who was trying hard to recover from his own troubles. Then my sister in law passed. It was a tough year but we made it thru, then his dad died, his "go to" guy was gone. Dad dying left a huge hole in everyones life but none more then his moms', who passed 8 months later! Then just days after, our nephew died in a car accident. It was like getting slammed up against a brick wall! So much sadness so many lives cut short. No answers as to why. No way to make it right. No relief from the awful pain of it all.
  I looked around and the world hadn't skipped a beat! People were still going about their lives like nothing had happened! They were still going to work. They were still falling in love, getting married, having babies, taking vacations, throwing parties and having fun. But my world was full of sadness. My world had changed. I didn't know if it would ever be the same. Of course it wouldn't. It never would be the same, but life went on for the living and life went on for me.
  I landed on my feet and here I am, writing in my blog, talking on Facebook, joining sewing groups, and carving out a new space for myself and my husband. Life is different and I am different, and this may be a good thing. Life should be about change and growth.
  Great things have been happening this month. My quilts have been featured on My Quilt Place for two months in a row! Ellen Anne Eddy wrote a blog about my art work. I actually got a personal letter from the president of the AQS, inviting me to enter one of my quilts in the next show. I finally feel like all my effert is being noticed and that always makes an artist feel good and I need some "feel good" feelings! So I am on to the next phase of my life, what ever that might be. Smile on my face, best friend by my side, and a song in my heart. Bring it on world, just try to be kinder to me! After all, enough is enough!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Creative Mind

A Walk in Paradise
Soon to be in the
collection of Ellen Anne Eddy
  I just read Ellen Anne Eddy’s Blog about hoarding and I began to look around me and see if I too was a hoarder. Well, yes, I guess I am, but why? What is it about a creative person that makes us keep everything?
  I still have a size 9 dress that I just love, of course I haven’t been able to wear it for at least 29 years! Why do I still have it? I am pretty sure, even if I lost weight, I would never again wear a size 9 or that dress, it is for a much younger woman then I. Why do I still have it? Maybe it can be used to make something new, something that I will love just as much, something, someday.
  When I was a mosaic artist, before my hands grew tired, I could see the possibilities of how different objects would look, mosaic. Like a tabletop, a flower pot, any piece of furniture, and even the pictures floating in my mind. Then I would see the ceramics and dishes that I used to create my tile pieces and I could see how I would cut them and remake them. The creative mind is an interesting study in eclectic thinking! I still have all those odd ceramic pieces and tons of beautiful dishes, that someday, I will find a use for.
  I now fill my world with fabric, threads, hundreds of patterns and books about sewing, and all the new gadgets I can get my hands on, because, someday, I will use them to create something wonderful and fulfilling. Yes, creating is fulfilling and for me the need to do it, is over whelming. My mind is constantly filled with ideas of how to make my world more beautiful to me and at the same time, I am hoping that other people will also find my world beautiful.
  Am I a hoarder? Yes! Are you? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's Your Style?

  There is nothing as fun as sewing with a friend. Weather it is one friend or a whole retreat full of friends or people about to become friends! I love sewing retreats because of the shared interests and the new ideas that are everywhere. Have you ever noticed that a group of sewers, when given the same pattern, all come up with their own unique way of interpreting it? You’ll see it done in different colors and different placement (if possible!). They are all the same but all different!
  These two pictures are of the same quilt, interpreted by two different people and both beautiful but so very different!

 This quilt pattern is from the North Central Washington Quilt Shop Hop of 2010. Two different shops each with it’s own style just like quilters all over the world. We are all so unique in our presentation of our artwork. Have no doubt about it, every quilter is an artist!
  So what is your style? It is the first question that I ask of my students. The ones that worry me are the ones that want the exact same material I used for a project instead of using their own inner eye to find their own! Even if they love my choices they should change it up a bit to make their art, THEIRS!
  I know that sometimes that can be over whelming and there are sooooo many choices out there, however, as you are browsing thru the fabric store you will find that certain colors and designs just start to jump out at you!! Those OMG I just have to have that moments are to be nurtured and fed! You may not even know what you are going to do with it at the time you buy it (buy 3 yards! Cuz you’ll be sorry if you don’t!!) low and behold, when you get it home you will start to see that you have other fabrics that look great with it! Then you may notice you have a style, you just weren’t paying attention to it!!!
  Having said that I would like to add, don't be afraid to change your "Style" because we are always changing and even if you love the look of a black and white decor, how long do you want to live in just black and white or just blue and yellow or, well, you get the idea. Change can be good but keep it only as long as it works for you then change it up again. Life should be fun and exciting and ever new, with just a bit of the old and familiar thrown in for security purposes! So take a look around you, What is your style?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thread Painting

Let’s talk about Thread Painting. There are many books out there that show you various ways to thread paint with your machine.

My favorite book is Ellen Anne Eddy’s book, Thread Magic. And I hear she has come out with a new book called, Thread Magic Garden.

 Libby Lehman also has a great book out called Threadplay, showing how to do her ribbon pattern.  
 Both are great reference books.

  I like using a hoop. You can purchase an embroidery hoop that is thinner then a regular hoop from Quality Sewing. The thinner hoop is necessary because it fits under the presser foot of your machine. If you can’t locate one buy a 10” wooden hoop and sand down a 2” area so it will fit under the presser foot of your machine.
  I usually make a drawing of what I want to thread paint. Then using some Super Solvy, water-soluble stabilizer, by sulky, in medium weight, which is translucent, I trace the design onto it. I use a permanent black extra fine sharpie to trace with.
  Some times I find a piece of material that has a design that I want to use to thread paint and if that is the case, I cut it out so it fits in the hoop (about a 12” square), and proceed to sew it as I would a design of my own. Note though, that if you thread paint very thickly you will need to cut the fabric around the edge off so it will lay flat.

  As you can see that is what I will have to do with Threader, my dragon.
  Threader, was a panel, which you often see for sale at quilt shows and some shops. I did not use a hoop because my thread was too thick, so instead I backed it with Deco Bond. It was just a matter of going over the picture with the thread, in my choice of color, then cutting him out and sewing him to a piece of my hand dyed fabric.
  But I digress! After I have the design just the way I want it, I start building my hoop sandwich! I lay the outside hoop down on the table (that’s the larger of the two pieces), then I place one or two layers of tulle down, then top that with the stabilizer that has the design on it. Now I take the inside hoop and place it in the center pushing it down so all the layers are flat on the table and then I tighten the hoop so everything is secure. This is opposite of how you would set up a hoop for hand embroidery because you need what you will be sewing on to be flat against the bed of your machine, just as you would fabric you are sewing on.
  At this point I need to say a word or two about thread. There are many kinds of thread and the thread you use will determine the look of your finished product. As a base I usually use Rayon thread. Rayon thread is not as strong as other threads so it isn’t often used for sewing but it has a nice sheen to it and I like the results. The finished product won’t have any tension on it so you don’t need a strong thread.

 Sometimes I want a shine to my piece, like in my dragon, “Threader”. I did the whole piece with rayon, and then went over it lightly with a metallic thread. I also like to out line my work with a Madeira thread called Super Twist. Which can also be found at Quality Sewing Stores or ordered directly from Madeira, at, it comes in lots of colors although I mostly use black. Super Twist is a polyester thread with a metallic thread twisted around it. I find it is much smoother to sew with then regular metallic thread, especially if I am satin stitching the outline, and it has a nice sparkle to it!
  I know that some sewers hate to change thread and often use a neutral color thread so they don’t have to change it every time they change fabric colors. I use to be one of them! If you want your thread painting to be beautiful, you’ll just have to get over it! I use up to 20 or more different colors on some pieces and that means changing the thread! Some times it means changing the bobbin thread also! However if the bobbin thread isn’t showing on top you can stick with a thin, bottom line thread, in a neutral color.
  Now, about needles, all needles are not the same! I use a top stitch 90/14 for most of my stitching and a metallic 90/14 needle when sewing with metallic thread. This seems like a “no brainer” when using metallic thread but you would be surprised how many people don’t use the right needle. The faster you are sewing, as you will be while thread painting, the more friction will be put on the thread, so the bigger the eye of the needle should be. An 80/12 is a normal quilting and piecing needle size. I use a 60/10 when I am sewing on beads and a 100/16 when using 12-weight thread. The main advantage to using a metallic needle with metallic thread is the shape and the smoothness of the eye. I prefer Klasse’ brand needles because they carry a Titanium needle that bends instead of breaking as a regular needle might when thread painting. They also line the metallic needles eye with titanium for added smoothness! And for every two packs of needles you buy you get the third one free!
  Ok, so now you have your hoop sandwich, your threads, and your needles, you are ready to get started. DROP THE FEED DOGS!!! This is a must, so you don’t snag the tulle. If for some unknown reason your feed dogs won’t drop, you can get out the masking tape and tape over them.
  Hold your hoop lightly on each side while you are sewing, as in any quilting project the design stays in one direction and you move it so the thread goes where you want it. That means that you are not subject to just sewing in a straight line, so instead of moving the hoop around and around, you move it so the needle hits where you want it to. I always start by outlining the piece then I fill in the color and outline again. You need to be sure that the threads lock together so when you are done you have a solid piece to cut out. Think of this as an appliqué that you might purchase to sew on something. It will be just thread. Wash it in very warm water to dissolve the solvy and you can shape it at this point because the solvy acts like a starch. I often do butterflies this way so their wings can stand out away from the piece. This is a postcard that has one of my butterflies attached to it. 

  I usually start new students out with a blank piece of fabric  that has been backed with some Deco Bond stabilizer in the hoop and have them practice moving the hoop around so they can see how the needle and thread can easily travel from one spot to another. Take note of how the fabric reacts to heavy stitching, see how it warps it? That is where the zigzag stitch can be used in the opposite direction to help smooth it out.
  The zig zag stitch is good for filling in spaces and for writing words and for outlining your piece. You can change the width of the zig zag but remember you are the feed dogs, so you control how close the stitches go. You can also get an interesting effect with the zigzag stitch by moving at an angle.
  Practice, practice, practice! They say you should have 10 hours of quilting practice before you even consider quilting a quilt. I’m not really good at waiting. My first free motion, quilting attempt was a Lewis and Clark quilt I was making for a Quilt Contest at Hancock Fabrics. As luck would have it, the quilt turned out very nice and Hancock canceled the contest because of financial problems! 
  I recommend that you start small and build on your skills and practice as much as you can. It is important to relax while you are sewing. Put on some music that will help you relax, not go to sleep kind of relaxed, something that inspires your creativity. Make sure you have a comfortable chair to sit in. Even if I travel somewhere to sew, I always take a chair. One that is adjustable and has wheels so you can maneuver and has a padded seat! There is nothing worst then having to use a metal or plastic folding chair that is too low for the high table that your machine is on!
  I recently invested in a Sew Ezi sewing table that is a great fold up table that has wheels and a drop down for my machine. They sell the slide in to fit your machine exactly, by brand and style. They also sell a solid drop in, that is great to use as a light table. You can order one from,  Light is the other necessary element to sewing; a good light source is a must! Try to find one that shows true color. Ott lights are really good for showing you the true color of what you are sewing. The replacement bulbs can be quite expensive! Good use for your Jo Ann’s 40% off coupon!!!
  Your machine tension is another element to consider. I work on a Bernina sewing machine and I usually set my thread tension at 2 and completely dial back the presser foot tension. Not all machines offer this option so check your owner’s manual and see what you can change! You should be able to move the hoped fabric freely and no bobbin thread should show on top.
  Gather all your equipment, put on the music, load your hoop with a blank piece of fabric and practice, practice, practice! Don’t forget to have fun.