Friday, December 28, 2007

Address book cover

As part of my end-of-year organizational activities, I went through my old Rolodex to update and purge addresses and phone numbers. Seems like everyone I know is moving every few years or so, and I had a lot of work to do. I decided to give the updated information a new home. I purchased a binder-style address book, and made this quilted cover for it this morning.

I started with a piece of felt, covered it with fabric scraps, and quilted them down. Then I tucked under the edges, sewed them down close to the edge, and folded under about 3 inches on both ends to make the sleeves to hold the binder. Voila!

I have purchased a small photo album "brag book" and intend to put photos of some of my art quilts in it. I sometimes meet people and end up talking to them about what I do, and a lot of them have absolutely no idea what an "art quilt" is. I figure a picture is worth a thousand words, so I intend to make a cool cover for my brag book and pop it in my purse, just in case I run into someone who is curious... or maybe someone who just happens to want to commission a large work ... :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Making paper snowflakes

I grew up in Pittsbugh, Pa., where there never seemed to be a shortage of snow by Christmas time, but here in North Carolina (where it was 80 degrees several days last week!) we haven't had a decent snowfall in years. Gosh, I'm tired of dragging my kids around on their sled in the mud and about 1/4 inch of snow! So my daughters and I decided to make our own blizzard this weekend – with paper snowflakes.

We stuck them up on our front window using double-sided tape and now we feel frosty even when the thermometer is not!

Here are my directions for making them:

Start with a piece of white paper, the thinner the better. Fold up one end so that the edges meet along one side and you have a nice point at the corner. Crease very well with your fingernail. (Sharp creases and presise folds are the keys to making nice snowflakes.)

Trim the excess paper so you have a triangle (a square if you open it up).

Fold the triangle in half again and position your new triangle with the longest side down, so it looks like a little mountain, like this:

Here's the trickiest part. You now have to fold this triangle into thirds. Start on one side and give it your best guess. Fold it gently, without creasing, because you will probably have to adjust it a bit before you get it right. (Don't worry, you'll get the hang of this after you've done a few snowflakes.)

Now fold in from the other side. Inspect it from both sides. You should have it folded into thirds. If not, go back and adjust it. Then crease well. Make sure the point at the top is sharp and precise.

Here's how it looks from the other side (I think it resembles a rocketship):

Trim off the "tails" (or the flames, if you are envisioning a rocketship) so that you have just a triangle again.

If you open it halfway up, you can see how it is folded into thirds (sixths if you open it all the way up):

Now, cut your design. Use the sharpest paper scissors you have. You can also use hole punches to punch circles in the interior. Remember that the shapes you cut into the folded sides will be doubled (a semicircle becomes a whole circle). You can cut smooth curves, or sharp angles. Have fun and experiment. Here's my design:

And here's the most fun part! Unfold your snowflake and enjoy. Don't you feel the chill in the air?

You can do this activity with fairly young children. My seven year old enjoyed it, although she had a hard time cutting through all the layers, so we had her draw her design in pencil, and then I cut it out.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! pleeeeeeese!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Machine quilting motifs

Some of the students in my Beginning Machine Quilting class today asked me to post some of the free-motion quilting motifs I have used in my quilts. So here goes...

Here's a square spiral. I used a wonky variation of this in my quilt "Harbinger's Hope" (second photo).

Here's a meander:

A spiral:

A star:

A loop-de-loop:

Here's a list of some good books on the subject of free-motion machine quilting. These first three books are on my bookshelf, and I can recommend them:

Mastering the Art of McTavishing by Karen McTavish. A good book to read and study if you want to develop your own free-motion quilting motif for an all-over design to use in open spaces between appliqued shapes.

Coloring With Thread: A No-Drawing Approach To Free-Motion Embroidery by Ann Fahl. Great tips on threads and troubleshooting thread and tension problems, with an emphasis on art/pictoral quilts.

Guide to Machine Quilting by Diane Gaudynski. Diane walks you step-by-step through every aspect of free-motion machine quilting, with an emphasis on spectacular traditional designs (like feathers).

Here are some other books that were highly recommended on that I'd love to add to my bookshelf, but have not yet read:

Machine Quilting Made Easy by Maurine Noble

Quilt As Desired: Your Guide to Straight-line & Free-motion Quilting by Charlene C. Frable

Continuous Line Quilting Designs by Pat Cody

Easy Machine Quilting by Jane Townswick

Heirloom Machine Quilting, 4th Edition: Comprehensive Guide to Hand-Quilting Effects Using Your Sewing Machine by Harriet Hargrave

Machine Quilting: A Primer of Techniques by Sue Nickels

Show Me How to Machine Quilt: A Fun, No-Mark Approach by Kathy Sandbach

250 Continuous-Line Quilting Designs: For Hand, Machine & Long-Arm Quilters by Laura Lee Fritz

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DeLane's version

My friend, DeLane Rosenau, is making up my Bohemian Bouquet Mystery Block-of-the-Month blocks (see my Nov. 19 post) using different fabrics. She is fusing and doing satin stitch, instead of needleturn. Doesn't it look fabulous?

Sunday, December 9, 2007


This morning, I made this set of pincushions using a pattern in the December 2007 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. Stacked up like this, they remind me a bit of the holiday puddings I saw the Christmas I lived in Scotland, right down to the button cherry on top!

The designer of the pattern, called "Petal Pincusion Stacks," is Roseann Meehan Kermes.

Here are three more I made for some of my quilting friends:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Perfect Circles

I used to think my appliquéd circles were pretty good. Then I tried out a product by Karen Kay Buckley called “Perfect Circles” (about $12 retail) and discovered how much better they could be. The product consists of a bunch of heat-resistant plastic circles of different sizes (four of each size) and a metal ring on which to store them.

The first step is to find the circle the right size you need. Simply place the circles on top of your pattern until you find the right size.

Next, find a circle that is about 1/2 inch wider than the finished circle size you need (so you have 1/4 inch more all the way around).

Take this larger circle and place it on top of your fabric, and trace around it. I love using a quilter's sandpaper board (see photo above) for this step, since it holds the fabric in place while you trace around the circle.

I have tried a million different kinds of quilting markers. The ones I like best are shown in the photo below. All are mechanical pencils. The colored ones are by Clover, and are available at many quilt shops and online. They come with a set of leads, and you can buy refills once they run out. They are a bit on the soft side, and tend to snap easily, but if used with a gentle touch, they leave nice dark lines that are easy to see. And the lines are very thin, which is important for accuracy. The yellow and pink ones are marvelous for marking dark fabrics.

The one on the far right is a regular mechanical pencil with a 2B 0.5mm lead refill. 2B is the softest lead you can buy for mechanical pencils. It is hard enough that it doesn't snap, but it leaves a very dark, crisp fine line. You can buy the leads at office supply stores next to the mechanical pencils. If you don't use the 2B leads, you'll be frustrated with a regular mechanical pencil; the leads are too hard and they snag in the fabric and don't leave dark enough lines.

Now cut out your circles on the line. Here is a photo of the circle I used to trace (on the right) and the fabric circle with the plastic circle (the right size you need to applique) on top of it.

Take a fine needle and strong cotton thread (I use hand quilting thread). Thread your needle and knot the end. With the fabric right side up, sew a running stitch about 1/8 inch from the edge. Note: with the bigger circles, you can actually machine stitch with the largest basting stitch, around the edge.

Place the fabric circle right side down, and place the plastic circle in the center of it. Pull on the thread, until the fabric pulls up around it.

It should be very snug. I usually take a few stitches through the little pleats to secure it before the next steps.

Spray some Magic Sizing or spray starch into a small bowl. It is very foamy at first, but will eventually turn back into a liquid. NOTE: I do have some concern about Spray Starch, as I fear it might attract moths or silverfish, which can eat holes in fabric. Magic Sizing works just as well but does not contain starch.

Using a clean brush, brush the pleated surface with the Magic Sizing until it is wet.

Make sure the thread is pulling the fabric up tautly, into a perfect circle, and then iron it until it is dry. Use a medium high heat; if you are too hot, the plastic WILL melt. It is heat resistant, not heat-proof, I discovered!

When the circle is completely dry, use a seam ripper to cut some of the threads, just enough that you can get the plastic circle out.

Pin the circle down and appliqué it. Voila! A perfect circle.

I have been using Perfect Circles for my Bohemian Bouquet designs (see post below) and have been very pleased with the results. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Karen also has “Bigger Perfect Circles” with even larger sizes.

For more information about Perfect Circles, go to