Friday, December 6, 2013

It's not where you start, but the journey that matters. Are you enjoying your quilting path?

Recently I read an article asking, "Has your quilting path changed from where you began?" Consider this: when I began with my Gramma, I saw quilting only as some squares made out of ‘leftover’ ugly fabric sewn together (That’s why it was leftover; if it was pretty, we would have used it.). They were definitely higgledy-piggledy and I saw no redeeming quality to them. I was living in an age of “everything had to match; toilet seat covers, tissue boxes. Absolutely all living room furniture had to match and you were truly blessed if you had a bedroom “suite” that was purchased at one time with every piece matching the other.

Not only did furniture have to match, we all walked around with index cards in our purse with snips of fabric on them for each quilt we had in progress. Maybe that is where we all got the habit of not finishing one project and going on to another because we could not find the ‘matching’ fabric. Yes, I was one of those ladies walking into the quilt shop or fabric shop holding up my little pieces of fabric saying, “No, doesn’t match!”

Well, have I changed! Scrap quilts now grace my home everywhere. Each quilt tells a story in term of friends, places I made the quilts, and even down to where I got the fabric. I still haven’t cut into my “Liberty” fabric I bought at Liberty of London . . . I haven’t found the perfect pattern yet. One day I will find the best pattern for it and until then, I pet it every time I gaze upon its beauty in the closet.  Truly, every quilt tells a story, mine all do.

My house now looks like it was a collection site for the local thrift shop. I can honestly say there is not one piece of furniture that matches another! Where there is any doubt, I have artfully used those silly round wooden tables that are fortunately covered top to bottom with either an old quilt, or something I tried to make to spruce up the place. If I would only start decorating with more of my UFO’s this place would be outstanding! My quilts now are not just an art show; they are a peek into how my quilt path has changed from a beginner repeating everyone else’s quilt seen in magazines to ‘how did you think of that?’

But, I digress. Back to my original statement: Has your quilting path changed from where you began? I certainly hope so.  Somewhere along this path I discovered quilting boredom. It wasn’t just me, it was people who would come into the quilt shop and say they wanted to do something different, then turned around and walked out with exactly the same thing.  You see we are all scared to creep out of our comfort zone. What if our project looks like child’s art hanging on the refrigerator? How will we explain that was all we got out of class? Well, we wouldn’t look very proficient to our friends after taking all those classes would we?

Sometimes quilters worry about what the ‘Quilt Police’ will say rather than practicing something new. Or, worse yet, we take the class to learn something new and then never use it!!! As a quilt teacher, I see that all the time. Looking at newly finished quilts that looked the same as the last ones, I often ask why they didn’t consider using this or that technique we learned in class. The answer is always the same, “Never thought of that.”

In asking one question, it poses another question; how do we remember all the stuff from all the classes we take? I didn’t say I had the answer, I am asking for answers. The quilt path won’t change for any of us if we don’t exercise new skills. My problem now that I’m older is remembering new skills. It is so easy to just slip back into doing the same thing. If you are afraid of looking weird to your friends, quilting isn’t the hobby for you. All quilters look weird to their friends from time to time. That’s why we have friends (You know those are the people who like us in spite of ourselves!).

Push the envelope on occasion. Keep a file not just for future projects, but with skills you want to practice. Refer to this file when you are trying to think of a different way to put on a binding or a different foot to use. If you get into the habit of checking your New Skills file, you will undoubtedly begin to think of expanding your quilt path.

I had a friend who was about an advanced beginner level. Her best friend asked her to make her a quilt and she said she would. They went shopping for a pattern and what do you think the friend picked out? A very complicated quilt pattern done with circles! Not only was it all circles (which beginners haven’t done yet), she also did not like the cover photo and wanted the selected six different fabrics reduced to three. My friend wanted to make a quilt for her friend that her friend would value, and then came over to my house. First thing I did was laugh and ask if she was taken any strong prescriptions at the time. She told me she loved this dear friend, and if this is what she wanted, then this was what she wanted to make.

First, it took a month just to arrive at fabrics we thought would work. Next, I had to teach her how to sew circles. We cut up, like, a hundred “pie and crust” pieces of muslin. I told her to go home and stack them by the sewing machine. Every time she got 15 minutes she was to sit down and at least try sewing one circle. It took her a year to make this quilt. Her circles are perfect all through the quilt. He colors came out exactly the way her friend wanted (Not my colors, but that is what happens when you make a quilt for a friend.).

Cheryl had NO IDEA what she was in for.
Cheryl's one-year quilt! Viola!

The point is, sometimes you have to practice a particular skill until you are ready to introduce it into one of your quilts, or not. But you do have to practice one way or another. I tell my students that all quilts are art. That is what our foremothers gave us. Not just thriftiness, not just utilitarian, but how to take our imagination and make art to enliven our lives. I then remind them of what I learned a long time ago: BAD ART IS BETTER THAN NO ART.

Art isn't a neat project.
So, take out those magazines and tear out the things you want to learn. They are never going to happen collecting dust in the closet. Start a “New Skills” file folder and put things to be learned. Once a new skill was practiced in a class, place a photo of the skill inside so you will be able to recall the skill and practice it.

Now, let’s get out there and start practicing! Let’s make our Quilting Path start to curve or wobble, or even change a bit. Quilting changes. Don’t stay stuck in the same old Sunbonnet Sue path; enjoy!
...and definitely not for the faint of heart...even the dog gave up on me!

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Not More Shoes – More Feet!

This month the fabulous Thrilling Threads Ladies helped me work through a class on how to use sewing machine feet. We made a wall hanging which exhibited many of our machines’ utility stitches as well as decorative stitches quilters seldom use. The goal of having a “Foot” class for quilters was twofold: (1) it demonstrated many of the clever feet that could be used for various quilting needs; and (2) many of the stitches which have wonderful and exciting effects for quilts, we never consider using. When these two elements were brought together with many FABULOUS SUPERIOR THREADS, the effects added to quilts and other sewing projects were endless! The ladies left thinking about how they would use all the various feet, stitches and THREAD for their next project.

Sew, what were the winners after two full classes on feet? I am going to list all the feet used on a special page entitled FANCY FEET. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • ·        The humble Standard Foot (especially if it has that little black button) is actually an amazing “go-to” foot for quilters. It has a wide footprint which helps hold a wide area of fabric down against the feed dogs. The button (if you are lucky enough to have one), can hold the foot ridged and flat for use going over fat, raised seams. It also has a fairly deep tunnel to allow a fat seam to travel easily beneath the foot. The Standard Foot (A-Foot for many), is one of the best feet to use for many decorative stitches because we now have such versatility using needle positions. Our quilters discovered that re-visiting this often-neglected standard foot offered some great uses for quilters. One other added benefit to the standard foot would be to check and see if it or the ankle has that little hole in the back allowing one of those quilting bars often coming with walking feet to be attached. This expands the use of the standard foot to allow for even placement of decorative or regular stitches in quilting.

  • ·         In comparison, using the Open Toe Foot (which is a foot commonly used for decorative stitches) is NOT THE BEST selection for decorative stitches. While the open toe foot provides great visibility, it actually does not press down on the feed dogs as firmly as the standard foot. This information means consideration for the type of stitch to be used on specific fabric thicknesses combined with the type or weight of thread used. There will be occasions to go to the open toe foot on a thick quilt, but not necessarily on a single, or thin piece of applique. While the “tunnel” beneath the foot is decent, the foot itself may not provide enough pressure against feed dogs to allow control of movement. What is a great foot to go to for applique? Find out if your machine company makes a specialty “Applique” foot. That foot has a deep tunnel to allow thick thread to travel easily beneath it, is clear plastic for easy visibility, and is incredibly “stubby.” Yes, stubby is great! This allows the foot to negotiate curves and corners much easier than the typical open toe foot we all thought was an applique foot!
  • ·         THREAD. The right thread for the right stitches makes all the difference. Most quilters are so set in their ways, they just pick up the thread they are using at the time to use specialty or decorative stitches. Often the stitch may look skimpy, not filled in correctly, or over-filled. Thread makes the difference and sewers need To remember when selecting thread that it is ALL ABOUT THE PROJECT, or “stitch” in this instance. Specifically, if using a beautiful, artsy stitch with a lot of flowers or detail, don’t use a thick thread. A thick thread won’t make all the delicate turns as sharp as the sewer would like. On the other hand, if sewing a simpler design perhaps with filled-in effects, using a thicker thread will ensure filled-in elements are in fact, filled-in completely.
  •  Using the right thread was also most apparent when using the “Hand-Look” stitches. These stitches are the triple-stitch, saddle stitch, and perhaps more, depending on the machine. These stitches work well when tension is tightened and a fat, thick thread is used in the bobbin (such as So Fine #40ä, or another SUPERIOR #40 thread). Using a strong polyester monofilament like MonoPolyä through the needle to “draw-up” the bobbin thread to the top of the project completes a perfect hand-look effect.  Also remember to think about what effect shiny or matte thread would play on the project.
    Just think about it. For years quilters and sewers just picked up the thread they were using last, or the most convenient spool or color of thread without giving a bit of notice to the type or weight of thread. STOP DOING THAT

    Think about the project, which foot would be the best (or which foot could do it better?) and which thread is going to provide the best effect. With all the threads rolling around in most quilters’ drawers, settling for skinny, dull, unappealing stitches is no longer necessary. 
  •  STABILIZER. The very last thing we all discovered was using stabilizer for quilting projects. No one gives a thought to "stabilizer," because many believe stabilizer is for garments and embroidery. There are so many times that using a sheer, all-purpose PELLON® will change irregular stitches, eyelets, satin stitches, and decorative stitches into perfect works of art! Quilters have forgotten that mystery element we all used when we learned to sew. It doesn't take much, just the right kind of stabilizer placed in the right spot to support those beautiful thread works of art. ALWAYS keep plain old PELLON in your stash for emergencies when no matter what you do; the right foot, the right thread, and the stitch is still miserable, a little PELLON®  goes a long way to fix lumpy, bumpy stitches! Personally, I make sure I always have Pellon® 910 Sew-in Featherweight or 911FF Fusible. I pick it up at least 5 yards when it goes on sale. Watch for more about stabilizers in my upcoming blogs. I will set up a special page when our class does the "stabilizer" class.

    THINK about the project, THEN reach into the thread drawer and select the right thread, the right needle, and the foot that works best for the project.

Sew, I leave you with this today . . . THINK
about the project, THEN reach into the thread drawer and select the right thread, the right needle, and the foot that works best for the project. Who knows? You may find out a dab of stabilizer helps too!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

SUPERIOR THREAD - Inventory your thread STASH!!

On the Page called "Patterns & Instructions" I have listed the link for Superior's inventory lists in both PDF and XLS for the insanely anal thread collector. I hope you take a look at it. 

Attached is the link to Superior's downloadable inventory lists for all your SUPERIOR THREADS!!
These are obviously for the truly anal thread lovers...and guess what? I have friends who sit and inventory every spool of thread they have! Sheez...I just go to my cabinet and hope and pray I haven't given the one I want away!  I hope the overly obsessive of you enjoy these spreadsheets and inventory lists! Personally, I want to have a WALL OF THREAD, don't you? I would like to sit down and sew and not have to worry about not having the right thread. Buy one or two spools a month I always say. No one can have too much thread! 

I highly recommend the new Magnifico, Fantastico, and Twist threads. Our class has been using them with wonderful success on many different machines, even one old Singer (but don't worry, she finally bought a new Pfaff! She said now she feels like she has been sewing on a covered wagon. What a difference a new machine makes.)

I also recommend the So Fine #40 variegated. It is a polyester that has many of the same colors as King Tut. If you are ever doubtful about what color thread to use on a particular quilt, So Fine #40 makes a great piecing thread. It is a 40 wt., but not too fat to piece with. 

You can use our inventory list to keep track of your personal thread supply, business inventory, or to plan for your next order.
In order to open the files, you will need software to open Microsoft Excel files or Adobe PDF files.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Next Class is how to use FEET!

Our next class is going to  be how to use sewing feet. We are going to do a sampler using all the regular feet that come with a machine. We will also use a few specialty feet. This is going to be a great class because I have learned so much about these feet I can hardly wait to share with the class.

One of the most important things about sewing a SAMPLER with many different stitches and decorative stitches is what THREAD to use for each. When going to our decorative stitches, we often just leave the thread we were sewing with in the machine and then complain if the machine's stitches weren't as pretty as we thought they should's the thread you are using that makes or breaks the beauty of all our decorative stitches!!

If you are going to use a "pictograph," or a heavily filled-in stitch, you want to adjust your thread accordingly. Remember, all decorative stitches are EMBROIDERY stitches just like the big fancy embroidery machines! Think about the size and the type of thread you want for a decorative stitch and then remember to stitch it out on a Thread Journal first. The thing you need to think about on the Thread Journal (please read my page entitled THREAD JOURNALING) is that is backed with Pellon stabilizer. We forget when pushing the button to use a decorative stitch that we have to remember to stabilize it. There are many ways to do this, and I will put some of these techniques in my THREAD JOURNAL page.

So, I will let you know how the  FEET CLASS goes. Just remember to adjust the type and size of thread to the decorative stitch being used and don't forget to stabilize it! The machine embroidery sewer wouldn't think of NOT using stabilizer, yet us quilters forget it all the time. Give it a try and let me know what you think of using a #50, #40, or even a #30 thread on certain decorative stitches. Often we use decorative stitches on bindings and children's quilts, go to your thread stash! Play with the threads you have and pick the decorative stitch that seems to go with that quilt. 

TaTaForNow - Shawnee

My First Quilt - Every Quilt Tells a Story!

My first quilt was made in 1973 with my Gramma. Gramma was a seamstress from England who taught me to sew when I was a very little (can’t remember how old I was, she gave me a needle, thread, some scraps, and taught me to make doll clothes.). Since I was too young to use her Featherweight, she taught me to hand sew everything. To this day, I still know how to hand stitch in many different styles with perfect hand stitching. I always wanted to please my Gramma, so I worked hard and ripped a lot of unsatisfactory stitches out. 

In 1973, after making my clothes for Jr. High and High School Gramma said I was ready for my FIRST quilt! Since Gramma grew up in England, and then raised her family during the Depression, Gramma taught me how to use all my scraps. She never wanted any fabric (or thread) to go to waste. It was not a quilt from a pattern, just blocks sewed into rows and hand-tied. Each block was either from one of my dresses, or Gramma’s. It is not beautiful, nor perfect, but it stays in my bedroom reminding me of all the visits that turned into sewing lessons with my Gramma. 

We would sit and stitch by hand or on her Featherweight while she told me all the stories about life as a little girl in England and what a pain in the neck my mother was when she was little. Her patience, her dumb cat named “Butter” (who wouldn’t stay off whatever we were working on), coupled with tea, biscuits (they were cookies to me), and stories are my precious memories of quilting and sewing with Gramma. That ugly little quilt is a treasure of memories that makes it a priceless work of art, albeit not perfect. 

I learned to sew first, then to quilt, and I haven’t stopped quilting since! I am now a quilt teacher and lecturer and I always give credit to Gramma when I teach students how to hand-stitch a binding with perfect stitches. My ugly first quilt reminds me constantly of Gramma's abundant knowledge and even more abundant patience. She always encouraged me to keep sewing (even though I only had boys). She never criticized my work, but always found something positive to say about it while telling me how to make my next project better. To this day I encourage my students to finish their project, even if it's not perfect - just try to make the next one a little better. My ugly first quilt keeps Gramma close, she, who taught me to love sewing, quilting, thread, stories, cookies, and tea!  But, oh, how I really LOVE THREAD!!! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cotton vs. Polyester - What's wrong with cotton thread?

We began Thrilling Threads' classes 3 years ago with the blessing of Superior Threads. I figured we would cover all the threads in about 6 months . . . well, little did I realize there were so many projects waiting for us as well as our friends at Superior introducing more new threads. This combination has kept us going for 3 years, and we still have more projects waiting!

Most of the projects at our Thrilling Threads classes are challenges. We challenge ourselves to come up with something that exercises our use of thread. Thread is the key to revisiting all kinds of projects, using the proper or sometimes, new thread. It has been so much fun!

The most common "thread" issue I have had to deal with as an instructor is reminding sewers to think about the project they are beginning. All are quilters, and as such, they instinctively reach for their good old cotton thread. Not that there is anything wrong with cotton thread, we all use a lot of it. But when you have spent years using cotton thread for quilting, it is a hard to get out of that rut. 

The worst thing I would see back in my shop owner days, was walking into a purse class and seeing all the sewers gleefully sewing a challenging handbag or tote with cotton thread. Can you tell me what is so wrong with that? Use polyester! It is stronger and you can match those wonderful colors. Why would anyone start an item that is designed to be schlepped, tugged, pulled, tossed, or 'over-loaded' without using the strongest thread? Why? Because many sewers simply grab a spool of thread without giving a thought about how the project will be used. Each sewer would answer, "It's what I always use." Not giving a thought to the difference between the two threads...

So - my point is: STOP! Think about the project before beginning it. What is it going to be used for? Do you need shiny thread, strong thread, fat thread, fine thread, cotton, or invisible thread? This means retraining our thought process as sewers or quilters not to just reach for the same old thread.

That reminds me, when is thread too old? Why do we use cotton thread for quilting? Will polyester ruin your quilt? These questions go on and on. I will endeavor to answer them all in upcoming blogs.

Ta Ta For Now - Shawnee

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to copyright a Quilt Pattern

How to Copyright Sewing Patterns

Copyright law protects creative works that are put into material form. You can use copyright to protect written works such as books, poems, musical scores and essays, as well as visual works like paintings and photographs. You can also copyright a work that is a combination of text and illustrations, such as a sewing pattern. Although no action is necessary to copyright your works, you can achieve an extra degree of legal protection by registering a copyright for your sewing pattern.


Things You'll Need

  • Sewing pattern
    • 1
      Do nothing. Copyright protection is automatic as soon as a creative work is put into material form. A pattern idea in your head is not protected by copyright, but as soon as you commit the pattern to paper, or draw it on a computer screen, it is automatically protected.
    • 2
      Register a copyright for your sewing pattern online at the Electronic Copyright Office web page of the U.S. Copyright Office.
      You can achieve an extra level of copyright protection by registering your sewing pattern and creating a formal record of its existence and authorship. You register by providing your basic identification information and uploading an image file of your work. Online registration costs $35.
    • 3
      Add a copyright notice to your sewing pattern. In a readily visible location, add a C-in-a-circle copyright symbol, the date the work was first created, and the author's name. This copyright notice lets people know that your work is protected by copyright.

Tips & Warnings

  • The Copyright Office publication, "Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts," specifically mentions sewing patterns as works that are protected by copyright.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Great Rolled Bowl Class

What we learned about those wily "rolled bowls"

Last class was going to be very easy. We were going to make a few simple, small rolled bowls. Well, we found out there is a LOT more to making a rolled bowl than we recalled from First Grade clay making. First, I discovered there are different size fabric strips depending on how you wrap the cord. Second, discovered there was more than one way to wrap the cord. Third, there are many different kinds of cord that can be used, and fourth and last, what about the THREAD? So, once I realized all of the variables that could influence one little bowl class, I forged on to try and get at least one student to complete at least one bowl. The lesson I learned about variables in a project is the same one that slaps me every time. They all came out to play in one class. Oh boy!

I am going to do a page on the the rolled bowls. Actually the pattern is taking a little of this and a little of that, depending on different looks. They all came out. Everyone loved the bowls and I recommend the project for anyone looking for something different to do this summer. The bowls make great little gifts and you can use pretty ugly fabric that turns out cute. Just go to the page, "Rolled Bowls."

Credit Due

CREDIT - where credit is due!

I was doing some pinning today on Pinterest and realized I have made one of the worst mistakes in quilting! That is not giving credit to others for their work. If yours happens to be one of the photos I have pinned without credit, please email me and I will correct it right away.

Sometimes as we hurry along through the day and grab something here and there, we forget to gather data and information. As quilters who each produce one of a kind projects, which is usually all we ever receive for our work; credit that we made it. The problem with not giving credit to others, is sometimes it can get mixed up with someone else's work. Worse, it could be assumed the user is trying to take credit for another quilter's work. 

I can go on and on about copyright, infringement, taking someone's idea, copying patterns and much more. The world of quilting is very sensitive about giving credit to other's ideas, and not stealing someone's patterns. There, I said it out load. Don't steal other quilters' patterns!

The next post I do is going to be about copyrighting your own ideas. Once you start, you will never again want other's to take credit for your work or ideas, and you will not want to take others'.  I just wanted to lead with this for a while since I did pin some miscellaneous quilt photos without proper information. In my defense, some did not have the information from the original locations, but still, we should all be much better about giving credit where credit is due. Especially me! TTFN

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics | Academic Reviews

Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics - Academic Reviews
Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics | Academic Reviews
The site link is located on the right under "Reference Sites" (be patient, I'm just learning!)
This is an excellent site to visit if you are interested in the "philosophy" of quilting. Who quilts? Why do we quilt? Are quilts art or craft? All very unique questions that many of us wonder about and others discuss openly. We all have our opinions. Click on this site and see what others think about the whole quilting experience.