July 01, 2015


I am working on a project (well, several!) right now, I can't wait to get everything in a place where I can share it, soon!!

June 22, 2015

Complex organic

These are the two words that describe the quilting that I want to do right now. Complex and organic. So when Hillary of Entropy Always Wins blog asked me about quilting her quilt "Batten Down the Hatches" I looked at all that negative space and thought, YES!

You can see fold lines in the quilt above, because I had it all ready to ship back to California and then realized I hadn't even photographed the finished quilting!

You can see the full, finished quilt, and read the story about Hillary's quilt in this post on her blog. The round "window" and the quilt's name reminded me of a submarine and I played that up with the quilting around the circle, and tried to integrate some of the feeling of danger and unpredictability into my quilting.

Later this week registration will open for Quilt Con, happening in Pasadena in February. I have three different classes to teach there. There are some easygoing all-day classes for beginners. And if you already have the basics down, there are classes for you too. Free-Motion Impact covers strategies for getting your quilting to pop and have that "wow" effect, even from far back. Wild Quilting will get you combining your free motion designs into complex arrangements full of interest. It's going to be so much fun!

I've arranged with Hillary to bring this quilt with me, so if you join me for those classes you can see it close up! Hope you all are having a great start to summer.

June 10, 2015

FMQ weekly: Asterisks* Quilting Design

Want to try an energetic design? A design that you make one starry asterisk* at a time, connecting each little asterisk** to the next into all-over sparkly garlands of love? You do? Wonderful!

This design is made through the magic of travel stitching, or stitching over what you've already stitched. When you try it, don't get worked up about that traveling. Whatever you're traveling on you already stitched once, you can stitch it again. And take a close look at my samples, I don't always hit my lines either and it still looks delightful I think.

Here's the down low:

a. Make a wedge shape, which is like a long skinny triangle but not completely finished.
b. Make another wedge shape, pivoting so it's angled in a different direction.
c. Continue with wedge shapes until you have come full circle to make an asterisk. NOW, think about where you want your next asterisk to connect to this one. In the picture above, I decided to go over to the corner marked by the red dot.

d. Now you can see in the picture below that to get over to that corner you travel a bit around some of the asterisk you just made, by tracing right over the line. Once you've reached your corner, you start a new asterisk. NOTE: Instead of starting from the inside of the asterisk, which is where the first one started, all your subsequent asterisks start on the outside of the asterisk, so you don't start with a wedge shape. This time you start with an "L" shape, ending your "L" where the center of the next asterisk should be.

e. Now that you're in the center of the asterisk you can complete that asterisk with wedges all the way around, just like before, finishing back at the corner where you started.

f. And that's the whole strategy; Finish an asterisk, travel around it to an open space, then make an "L" shape to get to the center of your next asterisk. Do that over and over!

You will definitely want to sketch this design a few times so you feel comfortable with where to put your next asterisk and the whole "L" shape thing. And hey, watching a video of me stitching it won't hurt either!

Well that was fun, I hope you think so too! Happy stitching everyone...

* I just thought it would be a shame to not have an actual asterisk in this post : )
** Don't hate me because I'm silly

June 01, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Bear Claws quilting design

When I was first branching out into all over free-motion patterns after (kind-of) getting a hang of meandering, this design clicked for me. It's all made from arcs and there is a lot of flexibility in the design, which is good for beginners. Actually I think that's good for everyone; I don't know any quilters who like getting stuck!

The design reminds me of the cartoony claws on the Berenstein bears, so that's the story behind its name. You can do it smaller or large, whatever your project needs. Here's how you do it:

a. Start with an arc, then echo back outside that arc
b. Echo outside that arc with a new arc, then echo back again.
c. Bounce back with one more arc. Now if you're where you want to start a new bear claw, go ahead and start a new small arc in a different direction. Otherwise you can echo back one more time and then start the next one.

If you prefer counting when you quilt, that's a total of 5 or 6 arcs before you go to the next bear claw.

Would watching a video help? Ok, here you go! It's super repetitive to watch me stitch this design for 6 minutes but if you're not sure how to move around the space or fill in tight little spaces, that's what these no-talking videos can help you with.

Hope things are rocking with you quilters. Happy stitching!

May 14, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Should you Stitch in the Ditch before you FMQ?

I had the good fortune of learning FMQ from probably the best possible teacher there was. Her name was Kathy Sandbach. She quilted professionally for other quilters, not on a long arm, but on her domestic machine. Can you imagine? She also wrote books for C&T Publishing and I can't tell you how many times I checked out "Show Me How to Machine Quilt" from the library because I was in nursing school and had no money and wanted to remember what Kathy taught me. 

Anyway, I'm telling you this because as a person whose business depended on doing good and fast quilting on her domestic machine, Kathy had developed a very practical and sound approach to free-motion quilting. When she taught us, she showed us how to baste and then jump right in freehand, without even marking designs. Notably, she did not teach me to "stitch in the ditch" before doing the FMQ. Stitch in the ditch (SITD) is what you call quilting along the seams of patchwork, right against the seam, ("in the ditch"). Some quilting teachers teach their students they have to do this before they free-motion quilt. I am so happy I learned from Kathy. If I had learned from someone who told me I had to quilt my quilt twice (once SITD and then again with FMQ) I would never have started free-motion quilting. I would have two unfinished quilts still in my closet probably. I didn't have time for that. In fact, I still don't have time for that. Who has time for that? 

Someone asked in my Craftsy class about whether they need to SITD before they FMQ and I typed up such a long reply I thought it was basically a blog post, so I wanted to share it here too, because I while I bet some of you have never even heard of this "Stitch in the ditch before free-motion quilting" idea, some others of you think it absolutely has to be done, all the time, for "every stinking seam". So let me share my thoughts on this.

Stitch in the ditch (SITD) is an option, not a requirement. It has two effects. One is to stabilize your quilt so you have less shifting around as you quilt. That's certainly something we want, because it means our quilt isn't distorted and puckers are prevented. But, stabilizing the quilt is really the function of basting, which we are already doing anyway, so there's no reason we need SITD for stabilizing the quilt. 

The second function of stitching in the ditch is to hold down seam lines so they don't puff upwards when the quilt is quilted. You're most likely to see this with dense, shape-filling quilting. Since anything that's not quilted pops up a bit and the things that are quilted push back, the unquilted seam lines will pop forward a bit if you are quilting each shape in a block individually. Here is a block I quilted without stitching in the ditch. Can you see the seam lines popping forward a bit? 

If this would drive you crazy you should maybe stitch in the ditch. If you can't see what I'm talking about, or if you're thinking "the quilt is going to be more rumply than that after I wash it!" then there is no problem and you should probably not stitch in the ditch.

If you can kind of see what I'm talking about and don't love it, but would prefer not to stitch in the ditch, you might consider all-over quilting designs instead of shape-filling designs. Here is the same quilt block quilted with an all over pattern. Again, I didn't stitch in the ditch, but now you don't see the goofy seam thing happening. Cool, right?

Now, if you are sending your quilt to hang in a quilt show where you might win money or fame or free burgers or something, SITD may make the difference between getting a ribbon and not getting a ribbon. People spend so many hours quilting for show that a few extra hours stitching in the ditch may not be a big investment compared to the dismay it may save them. I find that it's almost always quilters who quilt for show that recommend SITD before free-motion quilting. 

I don't quilt for show. And every shred of time I get quilting is a hard won triumph after tending to the needs of my family, my job and my household. I really don't like to waste that time on 
unnecessary tasks. Also, I use a lot of all over designs, and I know my quilts are going to be washed, which is going to give them plenty of bumpiness anyway, and at that point a little puffiness at a seam line will be darn near unnoticeable  So it's the right choice for me to just dive into the FMQ. And I've been happy with the results. 

Based on your plans for your quilt and your quilting you can decide what you'd like to do. You could make a trial block and quilt it with your chosen batting and quilting design to help you determine if SITD is worthwhile for that particular quilt or not. If SITD makes you feel safer and more confident with your FMQ, then go for it, I definitely support whatever makes you feel ready and excited to quilt. If you prefer the way SITD looks and you want to do it you should!

I hope that was helpful to some of you quilters out there. I like to take the voodoo out of free-motion quilting so you feel good about what you're doing and why you're doing it. Happy stitching!

May 11, 2015

Free-Motion Quilting Essentials starts today at Craftsy!

This is the day I've been waiting for! My beginner's free-motion quilting class, Free-Motion Quilting Essentials, is now available on Craftsy! I got the chance to watch the lessons the other night and I am very happy with it.  This is a great way to bring my style of teaching to you wherever you are, so you can start your FMQ adventure with confidence. I've had a good time teaching with Craftsy so far, and I look forward to connecting with more of you over there! 

My three favorite things about this new class are: 
  1. I lead you through a bunch of free-motion exercises on screen. You can watch me do them, then you can do them yourself, getting hours of practice one step at a time.  
  2. In the course materials there is a "Free-Motion Quilting Cheat Sheet" to take with you to your machine to remind you of the steps to take as you get started. 
  3. You get to see me quilting on an actual quilt in the final lesson. And...I do that on my grandma's old Singer Featherweight!

And here's my treat for you, blog readers: a special link to get the Free-Motion Quilting Essentials class for $20 off, which makes it less than half price! I hope that makes you smile. Thanks for being so supportive of me and my teaching, telling me where you get stuck and what you find helpful. It really keeps me going.

Want a preview? Here's a little video to watch. 

Well that's my big news, what a great way to start the week. If you take the class I'd love to know what you think! Happy stitching everyone. 

May 07, 2015

The FMQ Challenge

Darlene at QuiltShopGal is having a Free-Motion Quilting Challenge and it's going on for the rest of 2015 with monthly challenges. If you're learning FMQ this is a great way to give yourself exposure to lots of different teachers and styles and also keep yourself motivated to regularly exercise your FMQ skills. She has really gathered the top resources out there and points you to both free and paid options for participating in challenges, each of which is inspired by a different free-motion quilting teacher. There are even prize drawings open to people who post photos of their finishes!

QuiltShopGal featured me as her free-motion quilting expert for April. What an honor! I feel quite grateful to Darlene. She's been so supportive of my FMQ teaching since I started sharing tutorials on my blog years ago, and she even suggested long ago that I teach for Craftsy, which helped me gather the courage to make a proposal to them, bless her!

Anyway, you might enjoy a peek at the beautiful work the participants in the April challenge did. I feel so inspired looking at these beautiful entries.

Oh and a quick mention, if any of you are podcast listeners, tune in to hear me on Pat Sloan's American Patchwork and Quilting on Monday May 11, I'll be on sometime between 1 and 2pm Pacific time. Here is the link to listen: http://www.allpeoplequilt.com/magazines-more/quilting-podcast 

Finally, there's still time to enter the giveaway at Craftsy for my upcoming class FMQ Essentials! The giveaway will stay open through Sunday May 10. Good luck!