G Street Fabrics: Once a Mecca for Sewists

G street centreville
It was with real sadness that I read that G Street Fabrics was closing its two Northern Virginia stores concentrating all their efforts on their Rockville, Maryland store. It is my hope that they restore their Rockville store to G Street’s former glory.  It has been obviously in great decline for some time.  This includes the store in Centreville, pictured above, which is the one closest to me (and was also my Bernina dealer).

Today’s Rockville store is far from what it used to be just about a decade ago. I remember from its glory days when G Street in Rockville (at it’s older location) was a magical wonderland for those of us who love sewing and quilting.

You could find the most wonderful buttons, trims, and fabrics of all descriptions. They almost always had everything you needed to make sewing fun, special, and successful. They priced their fabrics fairly then…not the ten to twenty-five percent higher than the going market rate that I often found in their stores in recent years (thereby forcing me to buy elsewhere since I have a limited budget).


The old store had step-up stages of magnificent fabrics from all over the world. You could step up onto the stage for their specialty fabrics and enter into wonderland–silks, cottons, rayons, even high end polyesters, embroidered fabrics, and beauties you could only imagine.  There was another stage with fabulous tailoring wools, high-end blends, and other wonders for all seasons  where I used to buy the fabrics to make my late husband’s suits and coats, and my tailored suits for work when I worked in a job that needed professional tailored suits.  I still have several of those pieces in my stash.

They had laces, bridal hat forms, veilings, and everything one would need to build a fabulous wedding dress.

The remnant tables were really fun.  It was like treasure hunting to go through what was there and once in a while I would find a fabulous remnant of a specialty fabric for a bargain price that I could use for touches in clothes that would make them special.

It was there I learned that fake furs could be as beautiful and feel and look almost like the real thing, and I made myself a fur jacket. Even their non-natural fabrics were plentiful and gorgeous.

Downstairs they had a huge floor where half of it was dedicated to home decorating and the other half to quilting.  They often had some magnificent quilts on the wall as you walked down.  The quilting section was as large as any local quilt shop and it was where I first got interesting in quilting.

It was fabulous. I miss it.  Sew I wish G Street well  in this new direction.  I hope that this move will allow them to return the remaining store to the mecca for sewists to visit from all over the country (I started visiting when I lived in Ithaca, New York decades ago).  It would make the hour of driving through thick traffic to get there from time to time well worth it for me, and I am sure, for many others.

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.

Practice a Little Bit Every Day


Lately I have been taking a hard look at the direction I am heading in my fabric arts adventure.  Asking myself what do I strive toward in making a good wall art quilt worthy of ribbons or hanging on the wall in some particularly visible area of a nice home or office?  A timely and fascinating discussion about judging in shows lately also occurred this week on Facebook, begun by Marilyn Badger, an extraordinary long-arm quilt artist.  This discussion centered around a perceived recent trend toward judging decisions being based mostly on the quilting and a lessening of emphasis on good design and color decisions by the quiltmaker.   This has been remarkable to see what the top quilt makers and judges who chimed in on this topic had to say.  Most agreed that this has been the trend and most felt the pendulum needs to swing back the other way to better balance.

In my humble opinion, winning quilters should strive to gain a solid balance among solid design, artistic color and value, exacting technique for embroidery, piecing and applique, and beautiful quilting.  Unless the quilt is for a specific category that is well defined, such as whole cloth quilts, none of these should be rated above the other in a well judged show.  The artful impact should also be considered.  And also, I believe that if two people make a quilt…one the top and the other the quilter, or some other division of labor, they should both be considered equals in the quilt judging.

Art quilts should be no exception to these…although paint and other surface designs may replace applique and piecing in some cases, and if so, they should be exquisitely executed.   Art quilts may also call for different kinds of quilting than judges may think are the best, and sometimes this type of quilting is even harder than traditional feathers and other traditional patterns.

I am certain that I will not always agree with the judges decisions, but I do hope to see that I see better balance in the judging in the future and I end up agreeing more often.

So where do I think I stand in all of this?  My designs are unique but are artistic…whether that’s a good thing for a show depends on the judges tastes, I think.  My quilting is above average, but it needs to move higher.  My embroidery, applique, piecing when needed, color and value choices are either very dramatic or very muted, but overall pretty good.  Occasionally I see where I could have improved in the value selection, but overall, my tops are pretty good.  Sometimes I have trouble getting things squared up, especially when making silk quilts, but I am aware of that and do what I can to fix it when it occurs.  My painting is pretty good for how I use it.  Borders sometimes get me into trouble, because I like wide dramatic borders if I have them at all, and some judges think they overpower the central theme…but I think they are part of the overall theme.  It’s a matter of opinion.  So given all that, when a quilt of mine does not place in a show, I can pretty much pinpoint a disagreement between my tastes and the judges (something I can’t help) or my quilting as the culprit.

Taking all of this into consideration I feel for my show quilts I need to improve my quilting a lot.  So I will start practicing like I did my music back when I was a semi-professional musician…almost everyday for at least an hour.  And I will pay closer attention to the color values and the balance between borders and central themes. At least I have decided after all of this to continue making show quality quilts and for a while, at least, to continue showing them in the national shows if they will have them.  😀

But my question still is…How do I balance quilting of an art quilt between the traditional tastes of the judges and my more organic tastes for pictorial art?  What do you think?

Sew happy everyone.  Practice your art a little bit most every day.




Peppered Ikebana: Starting the Journey

For several years I have wanted to make a quilt based on the two Japanese arts of Sashiko and Ikebana.  As some of you know, I hold a fourth year certificate in Sogetsu School of Ikebana that I received in Japan decades ago and have continued to try to practice.  I also have studied the fine art of Sashiko not only by observing it in museums and other exhibits, but also I took a Sashiko workshop with Pepper Cory, quilt historian and hand quilter extraordinaire.

Melding these two great Japanese arts together should produce an interesting and beautiful wall quilt.  I have worked out a design in EQ7 for the pieced Sashiko embroidered background.  The picture below shows only place-holder Sashiko designs. I purchased a couple of books on Sashiko that have wonderful designs in them.  Here’s the background concept which I plan to piece in Peppered Cotton:

Peppered Ikebana background

The foreground will be an appliqued or embroidered or both flower arrangement, Sogetsu Ikebana style.  I will have to digitally or truly paint a vase applique.  The foreground arrangement may have to be done without a drawn out plan and may include some 3 dimensional stumpwork.  I haven’t made all the decisions on how this will play out.  This is a kind of design-as-I-go quilt.  I believe I will face it rather than bind the edges, but we’ll see.  Sew you just have to imagine that one.  I’m thinking of replicating a sunflower/broom arrangement that I won a ribbon on in Kanazawa Japan.  It was fun and happy.  Broom stick will bend like wire and you can sweep it around your arrangement in very interesting ways.  Now where is that sketch of that?  My teacher made me sketch every single flower arrangement I did while studying with her.

If you want, you can make one along with me.  I will be blogging this whole quilt.  This design is currently 54″ x 54″and I used one of the EQ7 predesigned layouts and just removed the outer border…I may adjust that a little.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new and creative.


Filling the Art Quilter’s Toolbelt–a Friend’s New Book and DVD

Developing a toolbelt full of different techniques and the accompanying supplies has added a lot to my quilts especially in the past couple of years.  I have done this primarily over the Internet, Books, and from DVDs, as well as workshops at quilt shows.  This week I received a new book and DVD that provides an excellent clear overview of techniques needed to make wonderful landscape quilts.  Even as an experienced landscape quilter I found a host of new techniques and tips I have not yet tried.  If you are interested in making your own landscape quilts, I highly recommend Kathy McNeil’s new book Landscape Quilts with CD and the DVD Learning Landscapes.  It’s almost like having her come and give you a private workshop.





New Online Storefront All Set Up

I have finally gotten everything in place to start selling some of my fabric arts and downloadables.  In case you are considering doing something like this, here are the steps I have taken so far:

  1. Obtained my county and state licenses (I used Legal Zoom.com to do this).
  2. Set up my online store front through my website supplier (GoDaddy)
  3. Used one of the storefront themes available with the software and customized it myself.
  4. Added four of my show quilts and the categories for my downloadable products.  These will include embroidery designs for you to buy and use on your own embroidery machine; Prepared-for-applique downloadable images with instructions for how to use them; Free videos showing techniques and product reviews; and finally books I am currently writing on digitizing embroidery using Bernina v7, machine applique using different techniques for different types of applique, and surface design for fabric art.

So here it is…Ta-daaaaa…



Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know when I have the downloadables and the books ready to go (I estimate a week or two for that to start happening).

Sew happy everyone!

Smaller Wall Art Quilts as a Valid Show Quilt

I usually make my show quilts sized to comfortably  fit the design I envision rather than stretching to make them really large.   I believe smaller quilt (not miniatures)  have become more acceptable as show quilts in recent years for most shows, as they should be.  I don’t normally work in quilts over 60 inches in either direction, and mostly my quilts end up fitting within the lower end of the small wall quilt sizes of most quilt shows. I believe this slightly disadvantages them because the bigger the quilt the more it seems to have impact, though that just makes me work all the harder on my smaller quilts.

Impact is one of the most important parts of getting the attention of a judge.  When they are looking at miniatures, they are expecting to see small, and miniatures are frequently impressive for how intricate they are in such a small space.

I was hoping to complete my most recent quilt Canterbury Knight by the entry deadline for American Quilter’s Society Grand Rapids, and then subsequently to enter it into the other AQS shows.  I almost made the deadline.  I probably would have if I had not discovered that it would not qualify for the show.  There is a gap of six inches between the smallest of their small wall quilt size and the miniature, and my quilt was only 27 inches wide, right in that gap.

So yesterday I said something about it on my Facebook, and got a response from AQS that lead to an email exchange with AQS’s quilt show coordinator Andrea Ray.  She contacted me and asked what my question was.  Here is the exchange:

From me to Andrea:

Hi Andrea,

Actually, I first asked through the website contact page, because I am wondering why there is a gap on sizing between your small wall quilt and your miniature quilt, so that anything between 30 and 24 inches wide or long is not enterable in an AQS show.  I just completed a 27 x37 inch quilt that took me about six months to make, and I must say was probably my biggest challenge yet in quilt making…but it is not enterable.

I have two points on this. The first is that my 27 x 37 inch quilt is 999 square inches and a 30 x 30 inch quilt is 900 square inches.  The second is that this is not a miniature quilt in the usual thoughts about miniatures, and such a size is wonderful for a small home or office wall.  I make wall quilts for people’s homes or offices.  It just seems right to include this size in a major show like the AQS shows.  Besides, I love to go up to Lancaster, in particular, and now you’ve opened one in Chattanooga where I grew up and in Syracuse, close to Ithaca NY where I have many friends.  I am sorry I can’t show my quilt in those locations in particular.

From Andrea to me:

Betty Jo,

Thank you for your feedback. You are not alone. We have heard this about the sizes before, which is why we included the Wall Quilts- Fiber Art category (Width 24” – 40” and Length 24” or more). This category is available in Paducah and Syracuse in 2015.

We are currently working on our rules for 2016 where the size question was brought up again. I hope to include this size range in Des Moines as well.



I appreciate the very nice rapid response, but I urge AQS to consider adding this new smaller size category for all of their shows.  The final point about this is that some very talented quilters live in a small space and have a small sewing space where making a larger quilt is physically taxing or even next to impossible.  Opening this smaller size is not compromising in any way.

Such quilts should be beautifully created…good in design as well as construction techniques and fabulous quilting.  It would also help spread the joy of beautiful quilts for decoration of home and office.

Sew happy everyone!

Merry Merry Blessed Happy Christmas to All of You!


Thank you all my friends and family who take the time to read my mutterings on this blog.  Merry Christmas to you and to those of you who do not celebrate Christmas, have a blessed week. I am greatly looking forward to the new year and all our adventures together…quilts, books, family, music, love, faith, and joy…may they all be part of your life and mine.  We are going to the candles and carols service tonight at church at 7, and then come home and have the chicken and dumplings I have cooking away in my slow cooker.  Thank the Lord for slow cookers and sewing machines, and computers, and all the material blessings that make my life easier and more fun.  And thank Him especially for His coming to save me and mine and fill me with happiness and for my family and friends.  Merry Christmas to all and let the celebration begin!   Can I say it again?  Merry Christmas to all!


Printing on Silk/Cotton Test Results

In preparation for some of my planned quilts using silk/cotton blend Radiance by Kaufman fabrics, I decided to try some printing on the fabric to see how it came out. I chose a picture from Dover Pictura Fantasy collection because it is rich with colors that could fade or bleed. Here is the picture as it appears on the screen:

Test:  Screen shot

Test: Screen shot

I ironed two layers of freezer paper onto the back of prepared for dye white radiance and using a rotary cutter and ruler, I cut the edges carefully to fit a letter size 8.5 x 11 inch sheet. I set up my printer as described in The Quilt Show episode 702 and taking into consideration some information that Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero provided on TQS–increasing the saturation, contrast, and darkening the picture a bit. Then I printed it in my Epson Workforce printer. Here is how it looked after printing and removal of the freezer paper:

After printing and before rinsing

After printing and before rinsing

Then I heat set it, rinsed it in cold water. squeezed it out, and ironed it dry (thereby adding to the heat setting). Since silk is easy to over-press and damage the look of the sheen, I pressed it from the back placing the right side on a fine piece of cotton on the ironing board. Here is how it looked after all of that:

post rinse and heat set

My eye cannot see a difference. My camera shows a very slight difference, but my camera skills may be responsible for some color differences, so take that into consideration. I believe this is a successful print test. I have not washed it with soap or hot water, but rinsing in cold is sufficient for my purposes, because that allows me to soak off glues and markings and properly block my quilts I might use this method for. More wash testing should be done before using it in a quilt that will be washed repeatedly.

I think it is necessary to use “prepared for dye” fabric, and back it stiffly and all over with freezer paper and set the ink intensity up to make this a success. Also be prepared for slight lightening of your printout on the first rinse. I did repeat rinse and had no additional lightening that I could see.

Sew happy everyone! Hope you find this of some use.

Working With Hot Fix Fibers (Angelina Fibers)

Stellar Nursery, inspired by NASA photos of "Mountains of Creation".  My first deep space quilt.

Stellar Nursery, inspired by NASA photos of “Mountains of Creation”. My first deep space quilt.

I have made two deep space quilts that used large “appliques” of Angelina Fibers…or holographic fibers that make a “fabric” when ironed together and their sister fibers that do not iron together.  I used these fibers to try to represent the exquisite colorful gas clouds pictured in NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescope photographs.  I also have used this product to represent foamy tops of waves on a stormy sea on other quilts.  I believe they would also make wonderful steam clouds from a steam locomotive, wings of butterflies, dragon flies, fairies, or angels.

Working with the fibers is not really difficult, but I have discovered some things that make them work better for my purposes.  First of all, one cannot simply place a pile of fibers down and iron them flat if they are to look right. It’s more like painting with your fingers.

You need the following tools:

  • sheets of either a teflon pressing cloth or a saved sheet of backing paper from fusible webbing (note the hot fix fibers only stick to themselves and the bottom of your iron…you can work directly on your ironing board, though I cover mine with backing paper).
  • an iron
  • a pointy something, like a chop stick or a bamboo cooking skewer or a sewing awl to move the fibers around.
  • a hard pressing surface works better than a well-padded ironing board
Set up ready to start

Set up ready to start

Working with very thin layers, I laid the fibers on a backing paper and arranged them as much like I wanted them as possible with such a lively set of fibers, and carefully placed the teflon sheet over the top.

Really thin layer

Really thin layer

Blues change color the most

Blues change color

Sometimes, sliding the pointy thing under the pressing sheet, I made a few adjustments.  I then  ironed over the sheet, drawing the iron across slowly but steadily and without stopping.  That is all it needs to turn it into a “fabric”.

Carefully cover with pressing sheet

Carefully cover with pressing sheet

Here are some of the other things I learned about it:

  • If you iron the fibers too long….and that may be just a few more seconds…it will darken.  This can be useful if you are making a dark nebula, for instance, like the Horse Head.
  • They tend to change colors a bit.  Blue fibers are the hardest to keep their colors.
  • Not all Angelina Fibers are hot fix, but if you are going to cover the fibers with a nylon veiling and sew down, you can use them if they are the color you need by sandwiching them between a very thin layer of the hot fix crystal colors.
  • Work like you are finger painting…round shapes, good for cloud puffiness, are best done in circular motions with your fingers, and carefully laying the pressing sheet over them and pressing. ‘
  • You can kind of comb the fibers with your fingers and the pointy thing if you need them to stretch out sort of straight.
  • The only way to get a hard edge is to make a flat sheet of the fabric and then cut it.  If you want a soft edge (in appearance), don’t cut it, but pull it straight out flat with your fingers until it  tears  off in order to fit into your desired shape.
  • Once the fiber is made into a fabric, this fabric cannot be pulled into any additional shape…there is absolutely no stretch.
  • Sometimes it is possible to remove a layer if you haven’t over-melted your fibers together and don’t like what you have done.


layer ready for horsehead

layer ready for horsehead

If you are working out a pattern of some sort, you need to realize you will not be able to mark it except perhaps with a soft chalk marker that will just go away while you are working with it.  I worked on black fabric and printed out a smaller picture of what I was trying to accomplish in color.  Laying it next to my work, I referenced it.  I did mark approximate sections within the nebula on my black fabric using a chalk for sizing purposes.

The resulting artwork should not be washed after completion, so you have to be aware of that during the entire time.  It is possible to block your quilt by laying it on the floor and spritzing it with a fine mist of water, but do not wash it in your washer.  Also, once quilted, don’t pull your quilt too forcefully to try to block it.  So I use a quilt sandwich somewhat larger than I need and square it up by cutting rather than blocking.  The blocking is so it lays nice and flat.

I also printed the horsehead full sized and cut it out like a pattern.  This enabled me to cut out the horsehead part of the nebula by holding it together with the fiber applique before applying it.

Horsehead cut out after making as close as possible with fiber "painting"

Horsehead cut out after making as close as possible with fiber “painting”

The background needs to be completed before you start adding the Angelina Fibers.  In the case of the Sky Horse, I painted some of it first, sandwiched the quilt, spray basting it together, then laid the appliques on the background and covered them with black nylon veiling.  Black veiling virtually disappears in this case.  Then I placed my pressing sheet over that and did a light ironing to join all the appliques together.  Once I did that, I pinned it together with safety pins and did the quilting.

Horsehead layer in place

Horsehead layer in place

I used both black 100 wt silk thread and Superior’s Glitter.   This thread looks almost like the Angelina Fibers and works well for special places, such as the horse’s head.  I heavily quilted it.  Once it is quilted together with the nylon veiling it is much less fragile and I found it went through the shipping to and from and the showing at the Houston show with no apparent damage at all.  Before it is quilted, though, it is kind of easy to crease it.

You can't mark this, so lay a picture beside your work.

You can’t mark this, so lay a picture beside your work.

When used as just a small accent on a quilt, you don’t necessarily need a veiling, but you do need a heavy amount of quilting.  I found that Superior’s Glitter works very well for this also, since it looks like the fiber, but it sews easily.

Tatum_SkyHorse_Full 2014

Sew there you go….that’s how I work with  Angelina Fibers.  It’s harder to describe than it is to do, sew give it a try.  I’d love you to let me know how you find working with it yourself and if you have any tips to add.

Sew happy everyone!