A Marking Test on a Project Sample

I am continuing to work on my book Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 Software. I have eight of the ten projects worked out and written, and so I thought I would start testing them and editing the writing as I go. I must say that I have learned a lot myself in this process.

Anyway, One of the projects that uses the kaleidoscope digitizing tool is a little color wheel wall quilt. The user can decide to make just the color wheel or make it a little larger and add a free motion quilted border. I made a sample of this project last week and marked it heavily with Crayola Washable markers on my white fabric. I ended up ironing it before I washed it out also. Here is the little quilt all marked up. Now I have long used these markers for quilts I am going to wash (I am not in any way affiliated with this company…I just want to pass on my own recommendation for marking).

Color Wheel Marked and Finished

And here it is all washed and ready to hang on my wall (It’s whiter than the picture).

Color Wheel after marking is washed

I just hand washed it out in warm water in my sink and blocked it. If you are going to wash or even just soak your quilt for blocking, I recommend this for marking your quilts. As you can see the marks washed out completely. Crayola washables are cheap compared to markers designated for this purpose, and readily available, at least in the United States. You can really see them. They don’t come back in temperature changes either. The only drawback is that the mark may  not be as narrow as some other markers, though there are some finer pointed ones that aren’t too bad.

Sew happy everyone. Have a wonderful week.

Tackle Those “High Tech” Tools and Software and Soar…


App 9 from Outer Space (my personal app quilt for R2CA))

App 9 from Outer Space (my personal app quilt for R2CA))

A lot of you know I love software and high tech machines and gadgets. I have found them to save me time and give me additional abilities I don’t have on my own.This is to all of you out there who have a piece of software, an attachment for your machine, or a tool (or even a high tech machine!!!) that requires figuring out how to use it and you just haven’t, It’s time to pull it out of the closet or from under the bed or fire it up on your computer and learn to use it. I just saw the comment again on Facebook in response to one of my friend’s posts “I’ve had [whatever] loaded on my computer for a couple of years now and haven’t used it – fear of the ‘unknown’ I really need to find some courage and tackle the fear…” My response is yes, yes you do! You will be rewarded for doing so.

Most everything comes with online manuals and videos these days, and there are a plethora of videos on YouTube or for purchase for nearly every activity. Take this approach:


  • Decide you are going to learn to use “THE THING IN THE CLOSET [OR ON THE COMPUTER]” using simple practice or test projects for starters.  These would be items you would be willing to throw away or could put in a notebook for future reference…not a present, not something to display. I’m not going to tell you to sit down and read the whole manual,  because I never do and I know from my mother that this is a barrier.  So I say read the first chapter that has step by step instructions or watch the first how-to video and skim the rest.  If THE THING is a machine, you need to look through the manual and see what help it has.  You don’t have to read it in depth, just find the helpful pages and maybe put a sticky note on them.

  For instance, even though I took the free classes for my Bernina 830, I still needed additional help in learning to run it.  I found a whole set of videos on YouTube and over the course of a few days I watched every one. Then I made some test projects for future reference.  They were enormously helpful.  By the way, I still make test projects before I start a major show quilt, and write on the test with a Sharpie what settings, batting, thread, etc. I used.  I also keep a notebook handy with additional reference thoughts.

  •  Take your project one step at a time.  Tell yourself that each step is fairly easy and focus just on that one step.  When that is finished do the next.  It’s when you start thinking about the whole big picture that you might get bogged down.  This may seem intuitive, but you would be surprised how many students and friends I have had that have to make themselves look at one tree (step) at a time rather than the forest (completed project).  This is how I learned to tailor men’s suits.  I can make a tuxedo that is as fine as any fine tailor in Hong Kong or London can make, and it’s almost all self taught from books and trial and error.
  •   Let yourself have fun and just play.  “Playing” is really just practicing only it sounds more fun…and it is.
  •  Once you have sort of got a beginning understanding of THE THING…make a simple project for keeps that is just yours…no one else’s.
  • Don’t tackle anyone else’s until you are really comfortable with THE THING.


I hope you will try this.  I hope you don’t feel I am talking condescendingly to you.  I really want you to find comfort with the tools you have at your disposal.  These advanced software tools, attachments, and machines have magnificent features that can speed up your work and allow you to accomplish things you would be very surprised that you can do.  You can soar, but only after you practice.

Please put a comment on my blog if you have THE THING hiding out in your closet or computer or some such.

Sew happy everyone…and go take out THE THING and let yourself play.

Ikebana for a Quilt

As some of you already know I am currently making a quilt that has a Japanese Sashiko emboridered background with a Japanese Ikebana foreground.  I am machine embroidering Sashiko blocks of various sizes for an irregular layout based on a five inch grid.  I am almost finished with the embroidery, but I discovered I needed a little more gray to make it have the look I am after.  I am inspired by antique Japanese fishermen’s and firemen’s coats for the background, and that part of the quilt is coming along nicely.

Sew…now I have to come up with the foreground appliques.  This will be somewhat like actually building an Ikebana arrangement with real flowers, but I will be using fabric flowers.  I found slumbering in my stash a wonderful piece of hand-dyed silk dupioni, very slubbed and with rusty and brown colors that looks a lot like an ancient Japanese ceramic for the vase.

The actual arrangement needs to be done on the quilt top much as I would do in a vase with real flowers.  Sew I found a lot of flower fabrics that I could use for my embroiderie perse flower arrangement, but I may not use them.  I am also drawing from photographs or changing and coloring in some vector flower designs in my Corel Painter 15 from Dover Pictura which I might print on fabric and use for my appliques.  Here is a sunflower that started out as a black and white line drawing from Dover.  It needed a lot of editing before I started the coloring.  If I use it, I will do some substantial thread work after applique to bring it alive.  I might separate the flower from the stem and leaves so I can print them larger.

Sunflower ready to print.

Sunflower ready to print.

One of the arrangements I did way back when I lived in Japan that won a ribbon in a contest in Kanazawa, used two giant sunflowers, some greenery and some broom straw, which, when held properly, can be bent into swoops and swirls that hold their shape.  If I use that as the basis of my Ikebana arrangement, I will couch on some thick decorative threads and cording to replicate the broom straw.

It’s great fun. When I get to the flower arrangement, I’ll take some pictures and share with you some basics on Ikebana. I hope to complete this quilt by the end of July.

Sew happy everyone!  Try your hand at some broiderie perse.  I found this very interesting article talking about it.  http://www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/broderieperse.htm  Mine will not be using chintz, but it’s still the same concept, although I will be using machine applique with a very narrow edge stitching.


Lessons Learned About Quilt Entries and Photographs

Last night my oldest son Ken and his wife Beth invited me over to assist me in getting better photos of Canterbury Silk. Canterbury Silk received a very nice ribbon at MQX Midwest last year…Best Surface Design. It was shown at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival. But it was rejected by AQS Paducah, AQS Syracuse, and AQS Grand Rapids. I think it may have been because of the not very good photograph I had sent in with those entries. I had used the same photo, and I didn’t realize how poor it was until a friend of mine on Facebook told me privately that the quilt was out of square and had some waves down the side. I still have it entered into AQS Chattanooga, and asked if I could replace the photo for that consideration. Fortunately, I slipped under the wire of being able to do that if I could get the photo there by this morning.

I spent several days trying to get the photo right. It was a lot better, but it still did not show the quilt as well as it should. It looked square, but if I got it so you could see the quilting, the colors seemed off elsewhere and the white bird washed out. So Ken, who has a really fine camera and a really keen eye, photographed it last night until he got a very good photo. He also did Canterbury Knight for me. So here is the result. I thought you might like to see the difference in the photo I submitted at first and the updated photo Ken took last night. Here is the original photo:

Canterbury Silk

Canterbury Silk

And here is the new photo (it actually is even  better than this, because I had to reduce the size for the blog): Canterbury Silk - retake I hope this makes enough difference for AQS to jury it into AQS Chattanooga. I love Chattanooga. I went to junior high and most of my high school there so many years ago. It would be a real honor for me to have my quilt there. Whether it does or not, it is clearly a better picture and should assist in other show entries. This is still a relatively new quilt and I plan on showing it and its brother quilt “Canterbury Knight” for several years. That is, if the shows will let them in.

Sew happy everyone. And get those pictures right before you submit them for a contest…ask your friends to tell you about the pictures. You may be surprised, because you are so close to working with your quilts sometimes you don’t even see the flaws on the picture.

Postscript: Several people have asked me about his camera setup. He had two diffused light sources designed for photography, his camera was further away than I could get mine, he used a remote to shoot with so he didn’t shake the tripod, and the quilt is pinned to Beth’s design wall rather than hanging, like I had it. Here are the settings from the image file:
camera data

Putting Aside a Bogged Down Project to Draft a New Sea Themed Quilt

tatum-detail-waiting-AQSI got bogged down on designing my deep forest quilt with woodland creatures. I won’t abandon it, but will put it aside for a while. So I have decided after some encouragement from my friends and family to make another waiting-at-seaside quilt as quilt 2 in the clipper ship/sea series.

I think the original Waiting… has been my most popular quilt as far as positive comments from people…not so much from judges. This time I am planning to pay particular attention to the details of the clipper ship and to the family member(s) waiting for their loved one to return from sea, and greatly narrow or eliminate the borders. If I can successfully digitally paint a nineteenth century woman and child looking out to sea in anticipation, I will use them. This will again be my own original artwork except for the clipper ship.

Here’s how I approach a new wall art quilt that I am making in cotton (the silk based quilt process is different:

  1. I get an idea and lightly draw up a design concept on paper or in Corel Painter 15
  2. I put it aside a day or two and start hunting for royalty free images for elements I am going to need a reference image for drawing…in this case the clipper ship.
  3. I paint the elements for fabric prints…in this case the family member(s) waiting at sea side and the detailed drawing of the clipper ship.
  4. I then put the idea together in Corel Painter 15 and save it as both a .rif and a jpg.
  5. I take it to Corel Draw and size it to full size.   Corel Draw will automatically separate the pattern into printable sized sheets…usually I use 11 x 17 inch paper for this.
  6. I print it out and tape it together, providing me a full-sized pattern to work from.
  7. I crop out the elements that need to be printed on fabrics…in this case the family member(s) waiting at sea side or just their faces and hands, depending…and take the full sized element back to Corel Painter 15 to reference for matching the .rif format size and finalize the digital painting in the correct sizes.  I intensify the saturation by 25 percent and save as .rif or tiff file, which have fewer printer problems than jpg, and print these parts on fabric.  I have been known to send it through the ink jet printer twice, lining it up carefully, with very good results, and thoroughly saturating the fabric with the inks.  I then iron it to heat set it, rinse it in really hot water a couple of times, wring it out with a towel, and iron it dry.  This removes excess ink and makes it reliably permanent.   If it makes it too light, I will print another piece after raising the saturation level another ten percent. Occasionally, I will touch it up with real fabric ink and heat set again.
  8. In this case, I will paint the sky with Setacolor fabric inks…so I get some prepared-for-dye fabric, which I lay flat and spray with water, and wash paint it with the watered down fabric inks.  I heat set and hot rinse and iron it dry like I do with the printed fabrics.
  9. I prewash all the other fabrics involved.  I spray starch and iron everything before I start to construct the top.
  10. I then set about putting it together, confident that all the fabrics are washable and I can lightly wash and block the finished quilt before I bind it.
  11. Note that I use Crayola washable markers on the washed and starched fabrics to mark the top as I go.  It has always always come out in the blocking process for all my cotton quilts even if I iron over it.

I love clipper ships, and I plan on doing careful applique, trapunto work on the sails, and detailed stitching for the ship’s rigging. I am on the hunt for just the right royalty free picture of a clipper ship to base my quilted ship on. Copyright is always an issue when I am using someone else’s artwork or photography even as an inspiration for part of my quilts. Fortunately, I have a lot of resources for clipper ships that are royalty free now. it’s a matter of finding the right one and then redrawing it as a pattern for me to use.

I see a whole long series of historic ships, storms at sea, and waiting at sea side drama in my future. I plan on addressing some of the issues highlighted by judges for Waiting… as I reach for a higher level of quilt making.

Meanwhile, I am making progress on embroidering the Sashiko on the Peppered Cotton for my Ikebana quilt, which is kind of an ode to my years of living in Kanazawa, Japan and studying Ikebana. The biggest challenge of this quilt will be the Ikebana applique arrangement. The background is going to be simple embroidered and printed fabric blocks based on a five inch grid. Some of the blocks are 10 x 10, some 10 x 5, and the rest 5 x 5 arranged after embroidery and cutting on my design board. And I’m still working on my books.

Sew happy everyone…Hoping you have some fun in your sewing space today.

Quilter’s Block…Does It Exist?

quilters block

As many of you know, my youngest son David is a fantasy/sci-fi writer.  This fact has made reading about writing very interesting to me.  Today I read an article about writer’s block, and it made me decide post about “Quilter’s Block”.  I believe many creative people face a block in their ability to move forward from time to time. I have just been through a period of about three months of this myself.  I finally think I got over it just a few days ago and have become productive again.  I simply could not get going on a project, any project.  My work on my books crawled, my design work was never even approaching right, and my mind flew around from one concept to another.

In my humble opinion, uneducated in the ways of psychiatry, but having figured out what I think makes me have such problems, I believe that quilter’s block may be brought about by negativity about one’s work, or stress in other parts of one’s life, or letting the deadlines–some of which are self-imposed–become overwhelming.  When I finally realized this is what I was facing, and not that I was having some kind of illness or something, I started trying to break it down in several ways.

  • I took some judges negative comments and tried very hard to look at my quilts objectively and see if they were right  I think that some of them were well justified and some of them made no sense.  So I discarded the ones that made no sense and tried to see what I could to fix the existing quilts and put the comments on my list to watch for for future quilts.  Then I took their positive comments as truth.  🙂
  • I finally got my oral surgery issue put behind me when I got my stitches out last week.  That was probably contributing.
  • I spent some time to unsubscribe to all the email lists that build up from websites I never really subscribed to, but may have either searched on them or bought something from.  So my junk email has been greatly reduced.  I also unsubscribed to groups on Facebook so I could see what my friends wrote..though that was only partially successful in that I still miss stuff.
  • I did a little cleaning…not enough, but it took care of some of the things that were particularly bothering me.
  • I put aside a quilt project I was trying to get started that I never could get going…my dark forest three dimensional quilt.  I will come back to it later maybe, but maybe not too.

After this, I started my Sashiko/Ikebana project by finally deciding to embroider the background Sashiko blocks by machine. I got reassurances from OESD that I can use this embroidery in for quilts I compete with or sell.  The background is based on a grid of 5 inches to come up with an irregular layout in acknowledgement of the origin of Sashiko…to mend fisherman’s and fireman’s jackets in old Japan that sometimes required irregular sized patches.  This layout will have 5 x 5, 5×10, and 10×10 inch blocks of various colors of Peppered Cotton.  Once I complete the background layout, I will reverse applique in a moon or fan  in front of which I will applique a large Japanese Ikebana arrangement possibly based on the one I did in Kanazawa that won me a ribbon.  I will digitally paint the vase and use applique or even broiderie perse for the flowers.   I will probably work out the Ikebana design using Corel Painter 15, but maybe not.  This is a kind of design as I go quilt and I am not sure whether it is a show quilt or not…I’ll make it as if it were and decide later.

Since the Sashiko/Ikebana quilt requires a LOT of machine embroidery, I am able to work on my book and my design for another quilt while I do that.  It only slows me down slightly.  Gibbs (my Bernina 830 LE) is ok as long as I don’t get too far away.  If I go downstairs or am unreachable, he throws a tantrum and breaks a needle or gets the thread all discombobulated.  LOL So staying close by while at my computer is a good plan.

Sew happy everyone!  If you get into a quilter’s block try to figure out what is causing it and find a way to fix it.  Maybe it’s just you are frustrated with the quilt you are working on and need to give yourself permission to leave it behind.