October 06, 2015

Peace, uncertainty, and beauty

Someone asked me recently "What do you want most in the world, and what are you most afraid of?" What I want most in the world is a peaceful home. Sometimes to promote that peace I quilt. Sometimes to provide for that peace I don't quilt. Maybe I take a nap or take the kids camping. Maybe I handle errands or play too many games of Uno. But the quilting and the not quilting are two sides of the same coin. Peace. I guess that's my way of saying this quilt is taking a while to finish, and I'm ok with that. 

If you had told me two years ago my quilting would look like this I'd have thought you were dead wrong. But we keep learning, surprising ourselves. I'm glad to have this outlet for experimentation, revolutionary shifts and whimsy. My work in health care is not like that. It's careful, practical, double checking, safe.

In art there is no safe. If I'm where it's safe, it doesn't feel like art anymore. And that's fine, quilting doesn't have to always be in art territory. When it does feel like art to me, I feel a little naked. A little like I've swum out too deep. I can feel like that in the middle of these stitching sessions, when I don't know what I will stitch next. And then I keep going and step back to look at it and I like it. That's the real magic of stitching like this. Seeing how without premeditation a story appears in thread, uncertainty becomes beauty.  Straw into gold.

If you're in Portland and want to try it out yourself, come be a part of my class at Modern Domestic. I'll tell you all the little tricks I use to make this kind of magic happen. And you can turn your uncertainty into beauty too.

September 18, 2015

Quilt as you Go tutorial: Joining your quilted pieces by machine

Today's my stop for the Back to School Blog Hop organized by fellow Portlander, Sam Hunter! 

Oh quilting friends, do you hold onto beautiful little possibly-useful bits of things because you can't bear to throw them away? Do you stash and squirrel things away until that magical day that you know what to do with them?

Well me too. Exhibit A.

I do these quilted samples to record video tutorials for the blog, or they're samples from books, or Craftsy classes, or whatever. I create them to help me teach FMQ but after they're photographed, then what? I save them. The piles get bigger and then I realize, if I don't do something useful with these, you won't be able to tell me from a crazy hoarder! Am I crazy? Of course I am. But am I a hoarder? Not yet. 

So if you are also trying to be a resourceful not-hoarder, my treat for you today is showing you how you can join your quilted pieces in a quilt as you go method, using only your machine. What, no hand stitching that last seam? That's right, you're welcome.

In this tutorial you use 1" strips on the front and back to join the two quilted pieces. This has all been in my head for a while and luckily Sam Hunter got me off my booty to actually make the tutorial happen by inviting me to her Back to School Blog Hop.

So here's how you join two quilted pieces.

You need:

  • a walking foot (use this for all the sewing in this tutorial)
  • 2 quilted pieces that are the same length on one side
  • 2 1" strips of fabric, cut these 1" longer than the side you are joining. 
  • a bias tape maker (the 1/2"/12mm size) and a sturdy pin (or a stiletto as I have here)
  • temporary (wash-away) glue (I use Aleene's but you could use regular white glue or a glue stick)

Start by running the 1" strip for the top of your piece through your bias tape maker (Don't do anything with the back strip!). You might have to trim the edge a little as shown and use a pin or stiletto to get the leading edge through.

Press it, keeping the iron right next to where the fabric comes out.

Now the sewing starts. Make sure you have your walking foot on. Use top thread that matches the color of your top strip and bobbin thread that matches the color of your back strip (in case they're different like mine are). Lay the unpressed back strip face down on the back of your first quilted piece. Join the unpressed strip to the quilted piece using a 1/4" seam.

Trim the excess strip, then open the strip and lay the second quilted piece right side UP, aligning edges with the strip. Join the strip and the second quilted piece using a 1/4" seam.

Open the joined pieces and press. You should see that the raw edges of your quilted pieces just meet on the other (front) side.

Now let's step away from the machine and do some gluing. How back to school is that? Very back to school indeed. The glue I use is Aleene's temporary hold glue. But when I can't find it I use white glue. I put a little glue on those seam allowances (inside the stitching!) and lay the pressed strip down on the glue. I use the stitched lines as my guide to know I'm keeping the pressed strip centered.

Let that dry, and take it back to the sewing machine. Now for the the final step: topstitching along the inside of both sides of the top strip.

When you turn it back over, you'll see your stitching is right on that back strip too! Here's the lamentably unfocussed picture I took of that moment. Trust me though, it's magic.

You can keep doing that over and over, building your piece bigger and bigger, until you have an entire quilt! In the piece I am working on I am using different colored strips for the joining strips on the front so they don't look too predictable. The back I'm happy to leave all the same color so I don't need to change the bobbin thread.

Variation: You could also do this with larger strips and larger seam allowances for a different look. If you used 2" strips, a 1" bias tape maker and 1/2" seam allowances you'd have something like this quilt from my book First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting.

Hopefully someday I'll have a few quilts to show from all these smaller pieces I've been stashing.

Don't miss the other helpful posts on the Back to School Blog Hop, I've linked to them all below! Best wishes to you all.

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com – The Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of JemJam – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3LittleBrds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

August 31, 2015


How long has it been since I had a quilt finish here? Many moons, that's for sure. Well this is my new baby, "Superstar" that I designed for Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine. The pattern for this 66" x 66" quilt is in their most recent issue. It has two things I love: improvisational piecing and novel (to me at least) construction.

I made the pattern so there are no Y-seams. Not because I avoid Y-seams, but because I know some of my fellow quilters won't even consider them. So I figured out a method that worked without them. It was fun!

And of course I quilted it like a maniac. Also in the magazine is an article I wrote called "The Five Distinct Skills of Free-Motion Quilting". All well and good, but then I saw this (below) on the cover of the issue and just wanted to cry. 

I would really love people to stop using the word "perfect" with the phrase "free-motion quilting". And I would extra love if that could not happen, say, to the things that I wrote! Less perfection and more snuggling quilts please. Less perfection and more people creating with joy and self acceptance. 

And in the interest of joy, here is a photo of some of my latest FMQ, a sample for my class "Wild Quilting" that I am teaching locally and will also be doing at QuiltCon. I've been really impressed at how well my students have done in this class, even ones pretty new to FMQ. It's really fun to quilt this way and every class I hear my students tell me "this is fun!" and I truly love hearing that.

Hoping you are getting some quilting fun lately! I'm going to be a part of Sam Hunter's Back to School Blog Hop so I'll be back soon with a tutorial on joining quilted pieces by machine. Looking forward to showing you my method!

July 24, 2015

Wedge Quilts for everyone!

I gave my first webinar this week and it was so fun! During the webinar I showed these quilt tops (still in need of quilting!) and explained how I made them with wedge rulers.

If you're a member of the MQG you can see the archived webinar on the MQG community site. I currently have some adventurous pattern testers taking a crack at that star quilt at the top, I'm interested to see how it goes for them!

I really hope to start seeing more quilters play with wedges. They are truly fun, and generally simpler than they look. If you make some wedge quilts I hope you'll share them with me!

July 16, 2015

Watch my free Wedge Quilting Webinar on Tuesday!

Hey everyone! I finally get to announce that my first-ever webinar will be this coming Tuesday, July 21st, 6pm Pacific, 9pm Eastern. This is a free webinar for members of the Modern Quilt Guild! To register for it you should sign up on the community site.

In this webinar I'll explain what you need to know about making quilts using wedge rulers. I'll go over how to pick your wedge ruler, and share tips for design, cutting, piecing and finishing. I hope to see some of you over there. I can't wait to share what I've learned!

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!