A horse for applique and thread painting…and a request for feedback


Hi everyone.  I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and full of love and happiness.  For some time I have been working on an idea that I think may be something I could use for sale in my little shop.  In order to test this idea, I am providing a pdf file of a horse applique with instructions for printing it on fabric for use as an applique and the adding of thread work as a present for you.  If you would like to download this and try it for yourself without obligation, be my guest.

It would be great, however, if you would provide me with some feedback on your thoughts about this…how this worked for you and what kind of appliques you would like to see provided in this way, for instance…that would be greatly appreciated.  I am thinking of charging about $3 to 5 per pdf file, which includes the instructions, the schematic, the print file, and a pattern for the thread work as you will see in this pdf.  So here you are…what do you think?  Feedback please even if you don’t actually use it.

Instructions for Use of Downloadable Applique Images with thread objects

Sew happy everyone!


Creativity in the Face of Dark Times

Recent news is the kind  that makes you hug your loved ones a little tighter, think a little bit about the future, and thank God for your blessings and that you are safe today.  Gilbert Muniz, one of my extremely creative friends, had this to say on Facebook last Friday:

Going offline for at least today. I’m unable to process all the news coming in from Paris right now. I can’t process how sick and depressed this information makes me.
Paris is a living, thriving testament to how much beauty and creativity can exist in the world. I was honored to be able to visit Paris for a design competition in 1999. I met a collective of artists that both admired and respected the city’s ability to both recruit and nurture art, and that is the memory I’m holding on to right now.
No one should have to endure what befell last night. We as Americans are forced to recall memories of September 11th and the sorrow we all felt from that day. For what we have all gone through, today, we are all Parisian.
I encourage everyone to be creative today, if only for a day. Bring some beauty into the world with your art. I personally have to stay busy or the thoughts of this tragedy will drive me insane, and we all know that’s already a short trip. ?
I’m working with my new indigo vat all day today. I know it’s a small gesture to fill the world with something creative, and I know it won’t fix the issues we face today, but maybe, just maybe, someone will smile because of what I’ve made, and frankly, that might just be enough right now.
Be safe, everyone.

I particularly liked his point about making someone smile because of something he made.  I think about my youngest son, David, who writes fantasy/sci-fi novels that are absorbing and fun and he is close to releasing a new novel.  I think about my oldest son, his wife and son.  All of them make me smile with happiness, do what they can to help me in my life, as I do what I can to help them. Our family works well and it is a wonderful thing.

Sew I am working on my new storm-at-sea quilt that is the second in my “Waiting…” series today.  I have been a little off my game physically lately, but am getting much better.  During this time I have come up several quilts I really want to make (see this blogpost), and now I am beginning to feel like working on them again.

Sew in this time of bad news, make things that make people smile, feel inspired, or just takes their mind off of their fears and troubles for a while, or teach someone to do these things.  Keep on marching forward and being creative, lighting up the space near us with beauty and fun despite the dark times.

Sew happy everyone!  God’s blessings be upon you and stay safe.

Competition Quilting and Dealing With Judges’ Comments

Make no mistake.  I am competitive and it helps me to create my fabric art and improve it to have a show ribbon to reach for.  I also like to share my work with my friends and others who may find them fun, happy, uplifting or something positive when they see them and shows provide me with a venue in which to do this.  But after competing since 2009, and moving up in competitive venues, I have found it necessary to take the judges’ comments, and the lack of ribbons, with some humor and a certain amount of fortitude.

When I first started down this path, the judges’ comments were really helpful in figuring out where my biggest weaknesses were and how to improve.  More recently though I have reached the level where most of the comments are generally an opinion of whether or not the judge liked my design. I will say this is not always the case, but usually when they tell me something is wrong I already know it (like there is not enough value difference between the foreground and the background) or it is something that developed in the shipping from humidity, folding, or heat (like not laying flat).  So I have developed a pretty thick skin.  Nevertheless, when I read three judges comments on the same quilt that looks like they are talking about three different quilts, I have to wonder if maybe I should scratch that show off my list.  Afterall, competing is expensive and when I get no or very little prize money, almost ever, I need to carefully select which shows I will use. in the future.

Here are a couple examples:


Canterbury Knight just returned from Houston IQF with these comments or marks that stood out (I am not giving the judges names because I happen to like these quilters and think they have a huge job looking at all these quilts.  Maybe they just had an off day or didn’t know they were looking at a representation of an illuminated manuscript.  Maybe they didn’t even know what an eleventh century illuminated manuscript looks like:
Judge 1:  pluses on use of color; + on integration of all design elements, best features circled were “Appropriate use of embroidery and/or embellishment; Pleasing overall appearance; Bindings full and well applied”; suggestions for improvement circled included “More uniform quilting stitches”, “Quilt should lay flat” [note, I can only think it was the humidity there, because it lays flat here now and I can’t really figure out what they were seeing] and written comment “Very nice storybook arts classic.”

Judge 2: minuses (no pluses) on Visual impact, use of color, balance of design, integration of all design elements, overall appearance; No best features were circled; suggested improvements circled included “color impact could be improved”, “quilt should lay flat”.  Written comment “Outer border overpowers center; surface distortion on center”.

Judge 3: no pluses or minuses at top section; Best features circled:  “Very original, Stood up well against strong competition”; nothing circled in suggestions for improvement.  Written comment “Outer border overwhelms the center design.”

Those were all about this quilt:

Canterbury Knight - F - 2015 web

I also will show you these comments, or lack thereof, about Sky Horse from last year.  Now I freely admit Sky Horse is such a different kind of quilt that it has real trouble being recognized as a deep space nebula unless you are someone who is interested in astronomy and have viewed some of the great photos available of these great natural wonders God created in the heavens.  And also, you may not be a magpie, which I am sort of…so you may not like this kind of approach at all.  Anyway, here are the Houston comments from last year on Sky Horse:

Judge 1: minus on visual impact, no other pluses or minuses, nothing is circled in the lower section and no written comment.

Judge 2: no pluses in top section, minuses on “use of color, balance of design, and overall appearance”.  Nothing is circled in lower section and no written comment.

Judge 3: no pluses or minuses on top section, nothing is circles, no written comment.

OK, so here are the comments from the judges at PA Nat’l Quilt Competition on Sky Horse:

All written:  “Congratulations. Use of Angelina Fiber very effective. Outline of horse head with bobbin free motion well done. Quilting well done. Quilt hangs flat and square. Great use of color and design.”  They awarded the quilt “Best Use of Color” in its category.

Tatum_SkyHorse_Full 2014

This quilt is hard to catch the full impact in a photograph. The Angelina Fibers are so light reflective that, even after obtaining a special filter, I was unable to get a great photograph, but you may be able to get an idea here.


Sew what is the point here?  Take away the things you, yourself, think are helpful from judges comments and ignore the rest.  Prepare your quilts for really tough use if you are going to show them, because things affect them (like humidity, folding, shipping, heat, etc), and choose your shows to fit your lifestyle, quilting style, location, etc.  Compete with yourself rather than anyone else and enter shows just to show off what you have done, without worrying about ribbons and comments too much (easier said than done, but it is doeable).  Sometimes one judge will hate your work and another will love it.  You can get panned in one show and awarded a ribbon in another.

Sew here is what I have planned for next year…though I admit they may change:

I plan to skip Houston next year and save myself the money and stress.  It just doesn’t seem to fit me and they require months with your quilt. I have decided to participate in the shows I can drive to for the most part and a few others.  So this coming year I have my eye on:  Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival in Williamsburg, VA; PA National Quilt Festival in Philadelphia; AQS Chattanooga; MQX Midwest and maybe NE, depending on what I finish when.  I have the two quilts above entered into Road 2 California, which is just a short distance from some of my family members. Oh, and Hoffman Challenge 2016 because I like the fabric.  I don’t have anything for Paducah this year, though I have entered that show for five years now and never gotten a quilt in, so I’m probably dropping the effort.  This will probably be all and depends on what I really get done when.  I am writing, working on developing classes; and continuing to make quilts for competition and for sale.

Sew happy everyone!  Keep on making everything as great as you can and improving throughout your sewing and quilting life.  Creating beautiful and/or cozy things can help friends and family and even strangers in times of stress and horrible events like the Paris terrorist attacks.  Keep on praying and sewing.



Video Classes and Online Programs I Recommend

031OK, I couldn’t go to any quilt shows this year because of big unexpected expenses this year.  So instead, I have taken several excellent video classes to help me improve some of my techniques or just for fun and practice.  These are not all quilting classes, but all the techniques learned are things I use in my quilt creation.

I have five classes I particularly recommend and I see a bunch more out there I would like to take.  I love this way of learning.  It is there for me to refer back to and take again if there is something I forgot or just wanted to see again.  So here are my recommendations so far:

  •  Step by Step Quilted Landscapes by Kathy McNeil was part of the launch on 3 November of IQuilt by American Quilters Society (and I see “Bernina” also on the page, so it is probably a joint project).  Kathy McNeil does a superb job covering the range of complexities involved in creating a landscape quilt. I found I learned a lot even though I am an advanced landscape/art quilter myself. I particularly liked the way she covers building a depth of field in a landscape scene that is not visually flat and her discussion of values and colors throughout the class. She also adeptly covers a lot of the basic techniques required to build such a quilt in a way advanced beginners through expert sewists that might be moving from garment sewing to landscape quilting would need to know. I highly recommend this class for any sewist or quilter interested in building landscape quilts to decorate their walls or give as memorable gifts. Many of the techniques covered would also be useful in additional types of pictorial or other styles of art quilts.


  • Learn to Hand Quilt by Pepper Cory found on Annie’s Craft Store, may seem outside of what you may think I am interested in, but I found this class really fun, and yes, I have an interest in all kinds of quilting.  Pepper is a friend of mine too and I have taken several classes in person from Pepper, and this online class is an excellent addition to my studies with Pepper. I am encouraged by this to add some hand quilting to my repertoire of quilting techniques, but the class is also a good review of the use of stencils and of the marking and threads for any quilt project.


  • The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt by Susan Stewart is so much fun for those of us with embroidery modules or machines.  Susan is a fabulous sewist and heirloom quilter who uses machine embroidery in her award winning quilts in a way few can reach.  This class provides some of her techniques that I am interested in using myself.  Here she provides a clear and excellent class.  I only linked her name to her site instead of to the class because right now there is a discount if you use the link she provides from her site.


  • Photo Challenge Class by Ricky Tims has finally gotten me over the mental block I had against learning to how to properly use my camera and taught me a lot about using Adobe Photoshop as well, which I can also use in my digital fabric design work.  I took the 52 week challenge he offered this year, and he has recently launched his photo class website where he provides his planned classes for 2016.  I found this class really important for my work, but I also found it really difficult to try to meet the weekly challenge through several physical challenges that happened this year that I am making progress on getting over, but still have a little ways to go.  I think I may be his worst student, but I still managed to learn a great deal so far and there is the rest of the year to go.  So if you want to learn a lot, and I mean a lot, about using your camera and processing your photographs I really recommend this class.


  • Corel Painter classes and instructional videos by Aaron Rutton has taken my ability to use Corel Painter from very amateur to wildly fun abilities to paint what I want to paint for fun and also for my digital appliques for my quilts.  Aaron’s classes require that you watch a little, stop and work a little, and then watch a little, etc.  But there is no question he is a master digital painter.  I have really enjoyed learning from him and also have downloaded his workspace that provides his own set of brushes and so forth.  If you want to learn Corel Painter, I highly recommend his classes and videos.  Some of his videos are free, but if you support him with just a few dollars a month through Patreon, you will get a lot more access to his videos and extras.  I found his classes well worth the price, and he is very responsive if you have a question.  I’d really love to see the quilting world incorporate digital art more into their work and also support this young painter.

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you have the opportunity to explore some of these classes.  If you have one you took and really would recommend, please add them in a comment.  Cheers.


Playing With Digital Drawing Programs

I upgraded my Corel Painter to Corel Painter 16 about a month ago and had run into a problem with it not behaving well.  Working with Corel tech people I finally got it running right and it is so much fun.  I also took a class from Corel Painter Master Aaron Rutton on drawing Nebula using the program.  This class came with a bunch of his brushes he developed, and the class was really good.  You had to stop it and go back to Painter and do the next step, and then go back to the video and watch it…it worked well though.  Here’s a little design I worked on to make sure the program is really working right.  It has so many possibilities for me to use to make my own printed fabrics.  This took me only about 15 minutes to make using the kaleidoscope function within the program.

stars and butterflies

And here’s a line drawing I drew with the kaleidoscope.

kal design 1Sew happy everyone.  If you have Corel Painter or other similar drawing program, draw a design and send it to me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com and I will post it on my next blog unless you ask me not to.  Cheers.