Metallic Threads on my Berninas

While in Houston, I bought some Wonderfil metallic threads.  It had some colors that were just a little bit different than those I find in Superior metallics, and a couple of my professional quilty friends have recommended it to me.  I just gave it a try and found that the tension settings are just about the same as for Superior threads for my machine.  I like the thread ok.  It has a nice sheen to it, and sews without breaking.  I still think I prefer Superior, but clearly this is a nice alternative.

Almost all the thread manufacturers recommend really lowering your upper tension when working with metallic threads.  Now this may work ok for most machines, but with my Bernina 830, I have found that the tension settings sometimes need to be even higher than for the standard 50 wt  that is the thread used for default tension settings for nearly all manufacturers.  This may be a surprise to you.

Here is a picture of the little stitch out I used to test the threads.  It has both Superior and Wonderfil metallics.

Top with mutlitple tests of tension settings look ok for all:

Right side, mutliple threads and tensions

Right side, mutliple threads and tensions all appear ok from the top

Bobbin side with 3.0 to 4.0 thread tensions…see how it pulls to the back.  The bobbin is threaded for normal tension.  Apologies for the slightly fuzzy, picture, but you can still see how bad the tension is.

Obvious poor tension

Obvious poor tension–bobbin side


It wasn’t until I went to 4.25 top tension that it began to look ok, but probably could go to 4.5 to make it work well enough.  I have used thread tensions as high as 4.75 on some metallics, especially when using them in the embroidery hoop.


Bobbin side at 4.25 top tension...see it still needs to be a little tighter on top

Bobbin side at 4.25 top tension (very close in picture)…see it still needs to be a little tighter on top

Sew what is the secret to sew with this high tension and not break the thread every few minutes?  Well, for me, besides using one of the better threads, I use a 90 embroidery/top stitch needle, a thread net, and set the speed down to middle or less, and sew a little slower than usual.  I also use the lubricant bar with the pink lubricant on my 830 LE, but if you don’t have this, I think it would work ok anyway.  I heard a rumor that Bernina discontinued this, but I have not checked it out yet.

On my Bernina 350, and my 1230, I have also found a tighter upper tension, bigger needle, thread net, and slow stitching helps to make the metallic threads work well, and if I sew relatively slowly, I have little problem with the threads breaking.

Sew happy everyone!




Progress and Plans

I’ve made a lot of progress on my little silk folk art Chaucer quilt, temporarily titled “Whan That Aprille”.  I have completed the central section, embroidered the text box, and assembled the top with the black border, which I also marked.  I am waiting on my order of additional black Radiance for the back and while I wait, I have been experimenting with threads and settings for the quilting.

I decided I really like the look of the antique gold metallic from Superior Threads.  Now I have discovered that my old Bernina 1230 “Betsy” has no problem with Superior metallics at all, and neither does my little B350 “E-Claire”, but my big old honking “Gibbs”, my Bernina 830 LE has some trouble with it.  It’s all related to the tensions of both the bobbin and the top.  It’s one of the best features of Gibbs, but also one of the most complex that it allows tremendous adjustment for both the bobbin and the top.  I really want to use the big machine to do my quilting so I can use the stitch regulator and the large table arrangement that makes quilting so easy.  I must have spent three full quilting days trying to figure out how to get the setup right and the gold thread to quilt without showing up as “tension problems” on the back that judges simply cannot abide.  But I finally got it, I think.  Here is the setup I have for the black borders that I plan to quilt in antique gold thread:

Silk-Cotton black Radiance for both the top and the back
90/14 Superior titanic top stitch needle
Superior 100 weight silk thread in the bobbin
Top tension 2.0
Bobbin thread for embroidery, but tension is loosened two clicks to the left (there is a special tool for this)
Bottom layer of batting is a thin polyester from Quilter’s Dream
Top layer of batting is Hobb’s wool.

Now yesterday I had no problem with this.  Both the top and the bottom looked absolutely even.  Today I had a few spin out loops on the back, but I think it is because I got overly confident and started sewing too fast.  So I slid the speed control to the left and slowed way down with no more problems.  My other two machines will not sew that fast.  It just needs time to make it right.  I have successfully quilted one of my five little practice mug rugs.  I plan on finishing up four of them and sharing them with some of my friends that I owe mug rugs to.  I will use them as practice painting samplers also, since I am planning on painting the border designs.

Sew what else have I been doing while waiting for the backing fabric?  I have been rejiggering my quilting plans for the rest of this year and beginning of next year.  I put them on my website (did you know I also have a website)?  I have also started updating my quilt show list I keep there, but I figure that will take me a few more weeks to complete.  I’ll let you know.  Anyway, here is my “current projects” list (actually it’s my current plans list, but I like the feel of “projects” as opposed to “plans”…seems more like I’m making lots of progress. 😉


  1. Whan That Aprille:  A folk art applique, embroidery and beading experiment.  I combined this with the illuminated manuscript project.  This is a silk and silk/cotton/Radiance quilt.  The main center section is complete, the black border is pieced on and marked, the text box is successfully embroidered and pieced in.  I am ready to make the sandwich and begin the quilting, but I decided I needed considerable experimenting, testing, and practice before I do this, and have put together five small mug-rug sized practice pieces for this purpose.  I estimate completion of this quilt by 1 August.
  2. **NEW** First Flight:  New blue print based whole cloth quilt based on Wright Brothers’ Line Drawings and an applique/embroidery rendition of a plane in the center.  Mostly designed, although not patterned out yet.
  3. Volcanic Fire with Flying Things:  Erupting volcano with dark mountain, smoky orange sky and fiery volcanic lava…in the near orange sky there will be a fight between phoenix and dragon in hopefully magnificent colors.  This was inspired in part by my recent storm-at-sea quilt “Waiting…” in which I placed a rocky lower border.  I enjoyed making that border and it made me think of volcanic rocks.  It was also inspired by my work on “Sky Horse” and I decided the phoenix or dragon should have a large component of Angelina Fibers and crystals as part of the applique.
  4. Peppered Ikebana:  This will draw from old Japanese Sashiko for the background, and will have a Japanese flower arrangement in the foreground.  I am planning on making this largely with Pepper Cory’s shot peppered cotton fabrics, both free motion machine quilting and Sashiko large stitch quilting, and a combination of applique and machine embroidery for the flower arrangement.  Remember, I have my fourth year flower arranging certificate in the Sogetsu School of Ikebana that I got in Japan and I want to use that in a series of flower-arrangements on quilts.
  5. Flower appliques and embroidery:  I am using Beth Tatum’s beautiful flower pictures to design both in-the-hoop appliques and embroideries and out of the hoop free motion embroideries as a joint quilt with her (my DIL).  Working on applique designs.
  6. Jazz On a Crystal Night:  A stylized nighttime city scene with musicians silhouetted in tall building windows and doors.  The music stream will be floating out of the windows and doors to the sky where it “explodes” into “fireworks”.  This quilt will have a lot of crystals. Set in the 1920s.
  7. Light in an Ancient Forest: Very dark forest with great old character and large wonderful trees.  Coming through the trees is a beam of sunlight that lands on the floor of the forest highlighting [something] in  full of color.  The something may be an ancient ruin of church with the light coming through the stained glass or a small patch of colorful flowers.  There may be a woodland creature or two peaking out from behind some of the trees.  🙂
  8. Perspective in Silk:  Second in series of perspectives in thread drawings…I will do this one on silk with colorful threadwork.  This may become the start of a series on American monuments or something else.
  9. Zephana’s (my mother) Gifts:  Using my mother’s unfinished hand-crocheted lace I found in her workbasket after her passing for embellishment and a key design component, this quilt is in her memory.  I will use a background of linen  and silk fabric.
  10. Dragon Dress for Competition: Black quilted silk sheath dress with flared skirt, will have appliqued trapunto dragon wrapped around the dress.  This is for competition and will include machine embroidery, hand embroidery, Angelina Fibers, crystals, beads and sequins.  I just have to figure out how to make the dragon wrap so it looks right.

Sew Happy everyone, and what are you working on or planning now?



Playing in My Studio: Combining Multiple Techniques

I really love taking the different techniques I have managed to gather over the decades and apply them to make an art quilt, a decorated vest, or a beautiful bag. Since my retirement a couple of years ago I have spent a lot of my time learning and perfecting new and old techniques with the goal of being able to call on anything to produce the look I want. In my quilt “Waiting…”, for instance, I used drawing, paper piecing, regular piecing, applique, trapunto, fabric painting, digital art printed fabrics, thread painting, free motion quilting, and embellishment.



So whether you are a traditional, contemporary, art, or modern quilter, I encourage you to gather your techniques and tools and put them all together to realize your own masterpieces. It’s really fun to not be limited by not knowing how to do some technique and you can end up with some delightful items while you learn. While it’s always nice to have a face-to-face class with an expert, one of the nice things today is there are many sources for learning these techniques online, sometimes with accompanying books.

First of all, If you haven’t already, I suggest you spend the modest amount of money to buy a membership on The Quilt Show and watch the shows, the classes, and the videos that accompany the BOM (Block of the Month) even if you are not making the BOMS. This has been a big resource for me in improving my quilt making, learning about who are the major quilters in the world today, and being inspired when I get discouraged.

Secondly, I discovered that Nancy Zieman has many of her Sewing With Nancy available free to watch on Wisconsin Public Television online website, many of which relate to quilting, but in fact, most any kind of sewing relates to quilting.  Also, you can purchase her dvds with accompanying books from Nancy’s Notions.

Sharon Schamber has dvds available now on some of her techniques from her daughter’s website that she used to have on a downloadable website. I subscribed to that website that is now defunct, and downloaded and watched everything available, even the long arm ones. I fortunately still have them.  Some of the videos seem a little primitive in format, but her techniques are wonderful. I particularly recommend The Quilt Fairy, which shows a painting method that has stood me in good stead for many places on my show quilts.  Now that brings up another point.  Fabric painting has different styles and materials just like applique or piecing, and each one has its place and learning as many of them as you can is helpful.  On “Waiting…” I used Sharon Schamber’s method presented in The Quilt Fairy to put the lowlights and highlights in the woman’s dress and cape.  I used my own computerized digital painting to paint her face and hands and printed them on fabric and appliqued them.  I used watered down Setacolor fabric paints to wash paint the sky fabric as demonstrated by Mickey Lawler show number 1305 on The Quilt Show.  Her hair is thread painted, which is another key technique especially useful for art quilts.  While I developed my own technique for this, it closely matches that shown by Nancy Prince on show number 1004 on TQS.


finished detail as shot 2

Wind-tossed woman showing the high and lowlights on her clothing, her digitally painted face and hands, her thread painted hair, and a little embellishment.



The clipper ship has wool batting between the sails and the quilt. Together with the dual bats (one 80/20 and one wool) I used in the quilt itself, this provided a wind look behind the sails.

If you are going to be at AQS Charlotte in July, my quilt “Waiting…” will be in the show and you can go see it for yourself.  It may not place.  I have had it in two shows so far and it did not.  One judge at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival thought my borders were too large.  Another judge at HMQS really didn’t like it.  She didn’t like my color choices, my overall design impact, and my quilting.  But hey, to each his own, right?  I would make it in the same colors today even after that critique, and I happen to like what I call “organic” quilting for a story landscape quilt like this.  The winners for that show are magnificent quilts, I will say.  Nevertheless, I am honored to have my quilt show in the big shows even without a ribbon.

I want to show you one other quilt, because it has a heavy dose of in-the-hoop machine embroidery, which isn’t used in Waiting…,  that I digitized myself and also motifs I used from my Bernina software that I enlarged and painted after it was quilted.

The touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The Storyteller…now touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The phoenix and dragon in front of the sun is the story she is writing.  The word on her tablet is “Betty” in Japanese Katakana.  I drew and painted her on my computer myself, printed her on fabric and appliqued her down.  After that I added some highlights with real paint.  Then I drew and digitized the tree trunk myself from scratch.  It was a bear to stitch.  I stitched it out twice on a piece of brown fabric.  It required two hoopings on my jumbo hoop on my Bernina 830 LE, and then I turned the edge of the brown fabric behind the stitching and appliqued it to the quilt.  Even though the tree trunk was tough to do, I like it so much I am planning on using this kind of tree trunk in a deep dark forest quilt that I am planning, which will have a beam of light making it through the trees to a color-filled spot on the forest (perhaps the ruin of a beautiful little church with the light shining through the stained glass window to the floor of the forest where flowers are blooming.  It’s been in my head for a long time now.

I am telling you all of this because I am thinking of writing a book about some or all of these techniques.  I am working on a book proposal now, but I can’t share much about this with you because of the publisher rules, who understandably does not want things published before the book gets published.  I have temporarily put aside the Bernina book because I understand that many of my frustrations have been dealt with in the latest v7 software upgrade, but I need to obtain this product before I can see for sure.

Sew happy everyone!  And pull those techniques together–even hand quilting and embroidery–to realize your dream quilts.


From the Archives: “Waiting…” The Saga Continues

(5/22/2014)  Hi, as promised I am continuing to republish the blogs I wrote as I worked through the making of “Waiting…”  Several times I had put this aside for some months while I made other quilts.  These posts talk about my experiment with piecing, and continues on about my work on digitizing this applique/embroidery piece in Bernina v6 software.  In the end, I did not use it.  It was too large for the hoop and I wanted a more delicate stitch-down of the sales.  Instead I worked freehand directly on the quilt and used trapunto to puff out the sails.  Nevertheless, it is a pretty  nice clipper ship that fits in my jumbo hoop. 


TITLE: Storm at Sea: Clipper ship applique and an idea
DATE: 2/16/2012 11:46:22 PM


I’ve been learning more about how to use Bernina 6.0 design software and was able to clean up my original in-the-hoop clipper ship considerably.  I found how to remove overlap, and fixed a lot of other little things that make it look a lot better I think (you can scroll down and see the original from an earlier blog if you want).  Here’s a pic of how the design looks now (it’s just an image, not the real applique/embroidery piece).  The sails and ship are appliqued and everything else is embroidery.  The ship fabric, of course, is not what I will use, but it’s what they have in the selection and I haven’t scanned in anything else.  I will probably hand piece or digitally paint a special piece of fabric for the boat to use with the in-the-hoop design that will show the wooden sides of the boat properly oriented.  I find it so exciting that I can put this together in the hoop.  We’ll see what it looks like when I stitch it out.Anyway, I plan on using this on my storm at sea quilt.  This fits into a jumbo hoop for the Bernina 830.  We’ll see how it stitches out.  Idea:  Eventually, I hope to have a variety of items like this for download from my website for people who have Berninas.  I haven’t figured out if it can be done for other machines or not, nor do I know what, if anything, I have to do legally before I can share or sell my own designs I make in Bernina software.  But I’ll find out both of those things and take care of any obstacles before or if  I do that.  I have in mind making in-the-hoop applique/embroidery items such as Nativity figures, old tall ships of several varieties, women and men in historic poses and costumes, and other items for others to be able to download and use on their own quilts and wall hangings.  Some would be accompanied by digital pictures that could be printed on fabric and used in the appliques (like the faces of the people or the boat sides, for instance).  What do you think about this idea?


TITLE: Traditional Block Inspiration: Storm at Sea, part 1
DATE: 8/27/2013 9:18:13 PM

I have started a new art quilt to accompany my work on the Horsehead Nebula quilt because I like to have several quilts going at once, and this one requires piecing some traditional blocks.  I have several of these quilts in mind to make over the next year–Storm at Sea, Jacob’s Ladder, Bear Paw.  All will be pictorial quilts, but somewhere in the quilt there will be the traditional block that inspired the quilt.  Sew I’m starting with Storm at Sea.

Now I have talked about this quilt before way back early in my blogging, but I have finally really started it now.  It requires somewhere between 6 and 11 of the traditional block, which is fairly difficult.  But I have been able to figure out how to do it with paper piecing, which is something I have always found difficult.  Thanks to a video posted on The Quilt Show this month by Carol Doak, I think I have finally figured it out.  Anyway, here is my first Storm at Sea block:


It’s square even though the picture doesn’t look like it.  It takes for-ev-er to make.  I got the foundation pattern from Electric Quilt 7.  I’ll show you more as I get more done.

Sew happy everyone.


TITLE: Storm at Sea: One of these things is not like the other!
DATE: 9/24/2013 6:15:08 PM


I have developed a keen appreciation for those of you who do a lot of piecing.  This has been one challenging project so far.  I finally have the wave constructed, though I must rip out one of the blocks, fix it, and put it back.  Can you spot the errant block and tell me what is wrong with it…hint…there is more than one thing?

Anyway, as you can see, I am making progress. Today I have been correcting a lot of little places where the points weren’t quite matching, and as soon as I fix the one block, I will have completed the wave for my storm at sea pictorial quilt.

Storm at Sea concept

Storm at Sea concept

Here is a picture to let you know how I am going to use this.  The ship is the wrong ship, and there is a lot more to the quilt, but thought you’d like to know how this is “the big wave” as I think of it.

Anyway, we are having one of those times when the weather is absolutely exquisite.  It’s clear, just the right temperature and altogether lovely.   Already it is well after noon and I haven’t had lunch yet.  Perhaps I will take a walk and then light late lunch on the deck.

I would love to hear your responses on the overall look and, of course, the identification of the mistakes.  Truly!

Sew happy!




From the Archives: The Designing of “Waiting…”

(19 May 2014)  The following five posts from the archives of my old blog tell the story of how and when I began the design work on my quilt “Waiting…” which I finished this year.  It so far has been a semifinalist in Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival 2014, was shown at HMQS 2014, and has just been juried into AQS Charlotte.  This is not the whole story of the making of this quilt, and my next “From the Archives” later this week will continue the saga.  Pay attention to the dates as you read through this set of blogposts.


TITLE: Buddings of a new idea for a quilt

DATE: 10/14/2011 1:31:01 PM
Sometimes a quilt concept is kind of like a flower.  It starts as a kernel of thought and grows until I start to really begin to see it in my head, but as I work through it, it takes on some different colors and shapes and ideas.  I have had this idea about a storm at sea for some time.  It seems really hard to do, but today I managed to come up with a beginnings of a concept.  I may change the stormy ship scene and I would add some angelina fibers along the edge where the pieced part joins the stormy picture to make it look like waves or something, but I drew this concept using a combination of EQ7 (designed the storm at sea using their blocks, placed fabrics I wanted in it, exported it as a jpg file) and Photoshop elements (using layers, erasers and so forth).  The sea picture is from Dover’s 120 Great Maritime Paintings, and is kind of an idea place holder at the moment.   What do you think of this concept?  Have I described it well enough?

Storm at Sea concept

Storm at Sea concept


Anyway, All I can say about the first week in this new adventure is that it is truly amazingly interesting and fun, even if I did cut my finger cooking and am disappointed with the sky quilting in my Knight quilt…I didn’t cut it badly enough for stitches, but bad enough to interfere with my quilting.  Still, altogether a great first week!
Have a wonderful weekend, and comment on my idea if you would please.


TITLE: Storm at Sea: Part 1

DATE: 11/25/2011 3:23:43 PM

I am still working on my fairy garden, but the wind storm we had the other day  made me consider starting work on my Storm at Sea also.

I like to keep about two designs going at once so if I get a little discouraged or tired of working on one, I can move to the other one. It works best for me to have two entirely different atmospherics for simultaneous projects.

I have several elements in my idea for this quilt, which will have both traditional and art quilt sections in it.  I hinted at it in a previous blog, even showing a concept picture.  The setting for this would be around the 18th or early 19 century.  These are the primary elements I am considering including:

  1. A tall ship fighting a storm at sea
  2. A small part of the waves in one of the lower corners of the central theme will be represented using  traditionally pieced  Storm at Sea blocks done in grays and blues
  3. A lighthouse somewhere in the distance or off to the side showing hope to the sailors
  4. The stormy sky
  5. The stormy sea
  6. An interesting border of some kind that I haven’t fully decided to include yet.
  7. And POSSIBLY, a woman standing on the bank very near the viewer looking out to the sea scene with her hair and cape blowing in the wind.  This may end up in another quilt though–perhaps a companion piece.

I pulled together a storm at sea in Electric Quilt 7 and gave it some colors.  I have made one of the blocks and it took me a couple of days!!!  Yikes!   It’s not an easy block, but then, I’m not a traditional quilter.   I would probably need about 10 or so of them to make the waves element in the overall quilt. Here’s the EQ7 design I am going to use part of:


I still have to find the right inspirational picture for the tall ship and the lighthouse.  I think I’ll have to draw the woman from scratch since I have looked high and low for a royalty free picture that matches the one in my head…but at least her back will be to the viewer, so that should help.  I wish I could just take a photo of the quilt in my head and digitize that. 



DATE: 11/27/2011 5:30:30 PM

Hope you have all been having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  I think I found the right clipper ship for my storm at sea quilt–it’s again from a Dover coloring book.  I am going to try something I haven’t ever done before and that is converting this into a Bernina applique with embroidery to create in my new jumbo hoop on the Bernina 830.

Clipper Andrew Jackson 1855

Clipper Andrew Jackson 1855

I will have to work through how to do this because it’s a new venture for me.  If any of you who have done this want to give me hints please drop your comments here or send them to me at  I believe this will allow me to have the kind of detail on the rigging and sails that I would like to see, and I think the jumbo hoop is about the right size for the ship, but I may need to do two hoopings to get it all done right.  I may also decide to do some of the rigging details when I do the quilting.

Also, I have begun drawing the woman. One of my friends suggests she looks more like she’s wearing a smock than a cloak and that she needs a hood on the cloak.  I think she’s right.  Here is the draft.  I drew this all on my own without an inspirational picture because I couldn’t find anything close to what I wanted.  I gave her a little background so you could see her better.  What do you think?


So, you see, one of my methods for developing an art quilt design is to keep working through each problem set in individual segments and then put it all together into a whole design.

This is possible to do with paper and tape and so forth–it’s how I used to work–but the computer helps a lot, easing the resizing and changes for me.  For instance, her hand was too small, and I was able to cut it out and resize it without redrawing it and then put it back in place, fixing the few lines around it.

Once I have the whole design put together I will spend some time perfecting it and fixing little problems and deciding how to make each section in fabric, thread, and maybe a little paint.  I will make notes on my decisions.

After that, I will make a pattern, and print it out.  I usually start with three copies.  I will run a blog once I complete either the fairy garden or the storm at sea design on my pattern-making method using Excel spreadsheet and freezer paper.

Have a wonderful week.


TITLE: Digital Applique: If at first you don’t succeed…
DATE: 11/30/2011 4:43:21 AM

Today I played around with my Bernina 6.0 design software to see if I could turn the clipper ship into a digitized applique with embroidery for details.  I have gotten far enough to determine that it can be done, but I have also found it requires a bit of learning.  In fact, I am kind of excited about the prospect and began dreaming about all I could do with it…digitizing the knight, the Geisha, the mermaid and her shell all as digital appliques plus all the neat new ideas this engenders.But in the end, after about three hours of working to that end on the clipper ship, I made a wrong turn and lost it.  Though discouraging, it wasn’t quite right anyway and I learned a lot in the process.  I then turned to the Webinair they have online at BerninaUSA and went through that plus printed out some instruction sheets they have.  I should have done this in the first place.  Hahahaha…silly me.  .

I’ll try again with this little bit more how to instruction, but I have to go out to the fabric store tomorrow to pick up some quilting fabrics…some more blues and grays for the Storm at Sea and some dark background fabrics–perhaps dark greens and purples for the fairy garden.  The fairy garden is going to be my Hoffman Challenge quilt for 2012, I think, if I like the design when it’s done.

I’ll get back to capturing the journey toward drawing up the quilt designs in this blog  later this week.  I hope you are working on your designs too.

So here’s my question for you…do you read the directions or watch a how-to video BEFORE you start playing with new software or do you just plunge in like I do?  Most of the time that works, but in this case….I should have prepared better.

Still, I find the idea of digital applique  exciting.  I think I need to work on a simpler sewing/quilting project also just for relaxation.  I could use it to learn to quilt on my new Bernina before I tackle the competition pieces.  Hmmmm…any ideas?

Have a great rest of the week.  I hope you find some time to do some playing with fabrics and threads.



TITLE: Storm at Sea Part 3

DATE: 12/1/2011 4:18:38 AM
Well, after a lot of hours learning the software and working through things I managed to work out the in-the-hoop applique with embroidery in my Bernina software.  I will say it was a little tough to learn but once I figured it out it wasn’t very difficult.

It really helped a huge amount to have my Wacom digital drawing tablet, but it would be possible to do with just a mouse.  And, it would also be possible to make such an applique and do the embroidery freeform by machine if you don’t have an in-the-hoop option.  Here’s an image of the design.  Note that the fabrics shown are just selected from what they had available.  I will have different fabrics for the boat, perhaps even paint it a little, and more off white for the sails.  But this at least gives an idea of what it might look like.


I’ll do a stitch out test soon and give you an idea and picture of how it comes out.   Cheers

Whan That Aprille: Basic Embroidery Completed

I’ve been making some progress.  I completed the basic embroidery, fixed the spots that didn’t quite work in the hoop computerized embroidery, and even sewed the thin vines using free motion bobbin embroidery in number 8 Perle Cotton.  Here’s a picture:


Ready for the applique

Ready for the applique

Sew next I started testing out the applique methods.  Here’s my first test–stitched raw edge applique using Bernina’s single blanket/applique stitch set at 1.5 width and 1.5 length,  The blue thread is Superior Rainbow, and the Black is Superior Bottom Line.  Wing details and the like would be quilted in, and the eye would be a bead.  I put some items in the picture so you can see how really small the bird is.  For some reason close-up photos like this don’t show the nice sheen that the silk dupioni and the Radiance has, but you can get the idea I think.


Sew Happy Everyone!  🙂

Subscriber news

News:  I figured out how to transfer my subscribers list…a few were lost in the process because I failed to copy one of the pages before the old blog was deleted that I didn’t realize I had, but it should not have been more than 3 or 4.  I hope you catch it if you were one of those.  If you don’t want the subscription click on your profile link under the subscrib2 section on the right. There is a button to click to unsubscribe.  Hooray!  That makes it all complete.  The old back blogs will start appearing this Thursday as “From the Archives” posts.

On Managing Stashes for Busy Sewists


I hear a lot of embarrassment out there from my sewing friends about the size of their stashes, but I say don’t be embarrassed, but be grateful and manage those stashed right into productivity.  It just needs a realization that there is a huge value to having well-stocked stashes  collected over time and properly managed.  I began this practice decades ago when I first used sewing as a supplemental income when my children were very small and improved it substantially since retiring a couple of years ago.

Since retiring and reorganizing my stashes I have found the value of spending just a little time each week making sure things are put where they belong and taking note of what needs replacing.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not very good at this.  Instead of carefully ironing and folding my fabrics and organizing them carefully on shelves, as some of you do, I sort of fold them straight from the dryer, and then stuff them into my generically labeled drawers.  I just dump my threads in similar plastic bins according to type.  Libby Lehman, bless her dear heart, had a magnificently organized studio, properly labeled (I would guess it sits there waiting for her full recovery still in its organized splendor).  She was my inspiration, but I will never reach her level of organization.   Still, she helped me see that at least SOME organization is needed.  I’m sure some of you would be horrified if you saw what I considered “organized”…LOL


Imagine that you have a great idea, found that perfect pattern, or have designed a special project in Electric Quilt whatever version and want to get going on it.  In your dreamworld, you go into your studio, select your fabrics from your impeccably organized stash, and get started.  Then you pull the perfect threads out of your thread stash just right for your project.  Your small amount of time is well spent and you make significant progress on your project in that little bit of time.  Now I know it is fun to go shopping in your local quilt shop, but my time and budget is limited even since I retired, so I needed to develop a list of what I needed for several projects ahead.   Since retiring to full-time fabric artist, I have had to organize my projects, deadlines, show quilt schedules.  It saves me far more time than it cost to set this up initially and keep it going.  I use simple computerized spreadsheets and it seems to work.  I also put deadlines on my computer calendar so it reminds me when I need to do something to help counter that vanishing-time problem.  🙂

What kinds of stashes do you have?  I have several types of stashes–quilting cottons, various types of silks, light woolens, denims, etc. in the fabrics sections.  But my thread stashes have significantly grown since I retired.  My favorite threads are #30 and #40 polyester solids and variegated embroidery threads,  #100 silk threads, #12 and #16 perle cotton threads, and #8 perle cottons and Razzle Dazzle and other decorative bobbin and hand embroidery threads, and hand quilting threads that I use for hand sewing beads onto my creations.  I also have a collection of buttons, beads, sequins, fabric paints and markers, brushes, stabilizers, interfacing, bag making specialty parts, and needles of all descriptions.  I also have a very nice collection of tools.  I did not collect these all at once, but over the course of many decades and some of these items are inherited and older than me.

In the past few years I have given away a large amount of fabrics for clothing that I know I will never make.  I had decided I need to give away a lot out of my quilting fabrics stash because they no longer appeal to my tastes (funny how that happens), but instead I decided to design several very quick to make quilts that are still pretty, and take those fabrics and make them into pre-cut kits, using my die cutter, that I will either sew up myself or convince some of my friends to sew for people in need.  We’ll see if this works  or not.  I’ve only just started this. 

My ultimate goal is to reach a point where the fabrics in my stash are the ones I will use so my stuffed full drawers will once again resemble a nicely organized stash, that I have the stabilizers, battings, beads, buttons, and threads I need most of the time and don’t have to delay a project to order them (my “local” quilt shop is 45 minutes away, and the brands I like are not often available, so I buy my threads online).

Sew I have learned that a small part of my in-the-studio time has to go to managing my projects and stashes in order to keep more productive  and the costs spread out across time (as you know threads and fabrics are so expensive…it just helps to have built a stash and keep it stocked so I don’t have to spend a big amount at the beginning of each project), and my fabric art humming along.  I realize a lot of you are far better organized than me, but I encourage you if you haven’t done so to take a look at your own stashes and projects and do a little managing and organizing and your productivity and imagination may just take off and soar in ways you don’t expect.  And you’ll probably save a little money too.

Sew happy everyone!

Now that Sky Horse Is Complete…

Detail from Sky Horse
Detail from Sky Horse

As some of you know, I finished Sky Horse and sent in my application to try to get it into IQA Houston this year.  I am not posting a full photo of it until after its first show debut, but thought since I had spent many hours archiving the old blog and figuring out the new blog that I would celebrate by posting a picture of the horsehead itself.

I also decided not to use the start I made on my little Jacobean birds-in-a-tree that I am using with opening words to Chaucer’s prologue to The Canterbury Tales embroidered around the border.  Now I am fully aware that the two periods of history in which Chaucer lived and wrote, and the Jacobean period are separated by several hundred years, but somehow the birds in a tree with all the flowers embroidered on silk seemed just right for Chaucer’s “Whan that Aprille”, which is the name of the quilt.  And besides, I am embroidering and appliqueing the quilt by a modern high-tech computerized sewing machine, and plan on adding buttons and beads and maybe some hot fix beads.  It’s going to be quite an elaborate little quilt.  It clearly is way away from my normal style of quilting, but will be using the same techniques.  You have probably seen my design before, but here it is in case you haven’t:


Whan That Aprille Design

Whan That Aprille Design


You may not be aware, or perhaps you are, that decades ago I had my own fashion design business during which I designed and made a number of elaborate wedding dresses and special occasion dresses.  I worked a lot with silk, and embroidery, and beads.  I would have LOVED to have had the equipment I have today to work with.  So in its way, this little quilt is a nod to that period of my life when I lived in Ithaca, New York, my children were little, and I did a lot of singing, sewing, gardening, and fashion design.

Well, let me tell you…that first piece of silk that I embroidered the vine on was just poor quality.  I washed it and found it ran and ran and it had way too many slubs, so that it looked almost like raw silk, and clearly was not going to take the heavy amount of work I have to do to accomplish this quilt.  Plus, I decided I wanted a darker shade of red.  So I put it aside and am starting afresh on a gorgeous dark red dupioni that I already tested for color fastness, and even though all dupionis are slubbed, this one is much more refined.  Besides, that other fabric was going to fight me the whole way.  You know, you can tell these things when you start to work with a piece.  You can’t tell the problems in this picture, but you can see it is not the darker red I wanted:

Original piece

Original piece

Sew sometimes you have to start things over…blogs, quilts, plans for the future…either to keep moving forward or to make things come out right in the end.

Unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to restore the list of those subscribed to this blog, so if you want to receive an email when I post a new blog, PLEASE resubscribe.  Thanks!

Sew happy everyone!

A Fresh Start

writing wizardWell here we are with a whole new blog.

I am still struggling a bit with the new blog software. There is a lot to learn to provide a nice looking, easy to read, and easy to operate blog.  Nevertheless, I am glad to get this up and running.  I will tell you that it was most definitely NOT my choice to change.  Indeed, it was a bit of a blow to my time space continuum management plans.  😀  But I do appreciate the fact that GoDaddy gave me adequate warning and have been very helpful in getting this done so far.  Truly, I understand the need sometimes for a company to make some changes to improve their bottom line, but when they do, I just hope it doesn’t impact mine.  🙂

I have decided that beginning next week I will bring in one of my older posts from the other blog every Thursday for a while.  It has taken me some effort to archive it all, including the pictures.   In the process of archiving everything, I found several series on making specific quilts and a few independent posts that I think may be kind of fun for our throwback Thursday “From the Archive” posts.  If you remember a specific post you liked to reference and have a request, please let me know and I will post it.

Sew let us begin anew.  Actually it feels kind of nice to have a bold new start.  If you have any requests for topics to cover, suggested ideas for this new blog, or other comments toward improvement, please add a comment.  I read all the comments I get and try to answer them in a timely fashion

Coincidentally…or perhaps not…I have also restarted my little Jacobean-like folkish birds-in-a-tree silk quilt.  I was unhappy with the silk dupioni I was originally using and so I have changed to a lovely darker red dupioni that my test indicates will not run or fade and is soooo much prettier.  As soon as I get this up and running I am going to re-embroider the central big vine and leaves in black, and rework the thin vines with bobbin work using number 8 perle cotton.

Sew happy everyone!   Let the fun begin on this new playground!