Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Not organizing your fabric scraps

Will you ever use fabric scraps if you can’t even tell what you have?  Our favorite thing is to organize scraps by colors.  If you don’t have them organized, you might as well throw them out because they won’t be used and they’re taking up precious space!

Overly criticizing your work

Do you nit-pick and over analyze your stitches and points?  Stop it.  Seriously, just stop.  You’re not doing anyone any favors and especially yourself by trash talking.  Why not celebrate that you actually made time to sew?  Congratulate that you finished a project.  Be happy that you created something that didn’t exist before.  That’s pretty cool.

Cutting the same place on your mat      

Want a quick way to wear out your mat?  Always cut at the same place.  Mats need time to heal. 

Sewing over pins

Sewing over a pin causes problems.  Needles bend, dull, or worse—break.  If you have a habit of sewing over pins because you haven’t experienced issues yet, please stop now.

Not maintaining your machine

Clean your machine regularly.  Change the needle when you see stitch quality decrease or hear a gentle thud sound.  Take your machine to the mechanic once in a while.  Be good to your machine and she’ll be good to you!

Not completing your projects   

Having too many unfinished projects is discouraging.  If you find you have a project you started, but haven’t returned to in years, probably you’re discouraged or simply not interested.  This is a great opportunity to donate your half-done project to your guild or a friend who might love a head start on a new project!

Unthreading the machine incorrectly

When you change a spool color, the first thing we normally do is just pull the spool off the machine and pull the thread backwards through the tension discs.  Easy? Yes.  Bad for your machine? Yes.  Time to break the habit and cut the thread at the spool and pull it out through the needle.

Using dull cutting tools

This is a no brainer, but sometimes you just hope our rotary cutter will make it a few more squares or that the frayed fabric edges from your shears aren’t that bad.  Sewing is much easier with crisp edges and choosing to using high quality sharps can help alleviate a lot of frustration and save time.

Using low-quality thread and fabrics

You knew this was coming!  Low quality threads shed lint, break, and may not stand the test of time.  Similarly, fabric quality will affect how long your quilt will last.  We recommend buying the highest quality you can afford.  This will make sewing and quilting much more enjoyable.
·       If you want to get good at quilting, quilt daily.
·       Stop stressing about perfection. Perfection does not exist past 25 inches! Actually, make that 5 inches.
·       Don't be afraid of your tension dial - it was put there for a reason.
·       Quilt because it makes you happy, not because you need to "finish this damn quilt!"
·       If you've never quilted before and are waiting for that perfect day when the kids are grown or you're retired,         STOP WAITING! Today is the day, now is the time, get off your butt and do it!

·       Eat, Quilt, Sleep, Repeat.

FIRE QUILTS - What I learned making a little quilt for my brother

My brother is a retired CalFire firefighter. My dad drove the boy up to Potter Valley in Northern California the night he graduated from San Marcos High School to begin working the summer as a summer job. He never got to go to the graduating party or, more importantly, to get into trouble the night of graduation. Needless to say, my dad felt this action was very important.

Forty-some-odd years later, he retired from CAL-FIRE (formerly the California Division of Forestry) and I promised him a quilt. All these years he said he always wanted an "original work of art" for his house. So, I decided I would make him a nice quilted wall hanging. Easy, right? Don't think so.

Shawnee always seems to difficult things up. I don't know why - it justs seems to be what I do. I take the simplest of tasks and complicate it beyond words. So, let me tell you how the infamous FIRE QUILT came into being - it's a good story of a quilter and her brother.

See, my brother, Brian, has always sent us photos he took while fighting fires. Some pictures of his colleagues working, others he got friends to take of him doing this and that. One particular photo has been my favorite showing him in front of a fire. I told all my friends one day I would make that into a wall hanging for my brother when he retired. Years I searched high and low for good FIRE fabric. I saw lots of fire fabric, but most of it was novelty fabric and it never achieved what I wanted the quilt to say. Then, there was the content of the quilt - well - I come and go on that subject.

Finally, after my brother retired, I decided to try my hand at dying fabric to get some decent fire fabric. Some worked, some - not so much. (Some of my efforts are on my Pinterest page.) Ended up with one pretty good piece, but I had no idea what I was going to do with it. At one point I thought I would just frame the fabric piece and let him hang that as "modern art." That hung on my bedroom door for a year or so - no forward movement on either finishing it or making it into something.

One day I got the great idea to make a Convergence quilt similar to Ricky Timms. I can't say I am in love with it, and it was easy enough to do, but it didn't thrill me. Then, one night as I was thinking about the convergence quilt as I went to bed, I must have dreamt about the FIRE QUILT. I got up the next morning and sent my brother an email asking if I could cut up the FIRE FABRIC panel I gave him, but kept here to finish. His answer was typical: "I don't care what you do with it." Duh. Doesn't he know NEVER say that to a quilter?

This was a beautiful piece of 'accidental art,' done for my brother and it had all the elements of fire, ashes, burned trees, etc. all in this dyed piece of fabric. He may not have cared, BUT I CARED! What if I made a terrible mistake and cut up the one piece of fabric that came out decent? What if I ruined the whole thing? what if, what if? I was a mess, but I decided to pair up a great piece of batik and the 'fire fabric' and cut it into a convergence quilt. Making that first cut terrified me.

What I decided was I would do it. If it was ruined, perhaps I could make another piece that looked like it. He would never know the difference (I would, but he wouldn't.). Regardless, I calculated the size of the piece of dyed fabric and then calculated the size of the pieces I was going to cut. I was almost sick cutting a stupid piece of fabric, but I did.

Convergence quilts are very simple. Whatever size strips the focus fabric is cut, the accompanying fabric is cut the same from the opposite side. The strips are sewn together attaching the largest focus fabric to the smallest accent fabric all the way across until they are all sewn together as a new piece of fabric. Dig around until you find a good border - and Ta Da! a quilt is born!

Not so quick (or easy). What in the world do you pick as a border? I thought I was going to go crazy over that dilemma. I think I picked out a good piece of batik. It was pretty O.K. Interesting. But I still wasn't in love with it. I sent my brother a picture of it and he named it the CEDAR FIRE. This was a big fire in San Diego County in 2003 which destroyed more than 1800 homes and more than 200,000 acres. Three people were killed and one firefighter died. I lived in Poway, California, and my brother came down from Northern California to help fight the fire. It took almost 3 months before the fire was considered "contained." This fire was horrendous. I lived in Poway, near Rancho Bernardo, California, and we were all traumatized for more than a week. The smoke was heavy and the ashes clogged our swimming pool filters, car filters, windows, and essentially everything!

As I loaded the CEDAR FIRE onto my Gammill, I prayed I wouldn't mess it up. I had no idea what I was going to do other than perhaps make a few "flame" quilt patterns on it. Let's face it - this was only a strip quilt, plain and simple.

Remember a convergence quilt is actually a simple quilt. I think the secret of quilting a simple quilt can be to keep the quilting simple, but add interest and depth. I figured a variety of threads mixed together or even on top of each other could be one way to go. I have a bad habit of being heavy-handed with thread, so I needed to tread lightly.

I found a website that actually talked about the analytics of fires. I know, who would write something on their website about how fires burn, move, and look? Either an arsonist or a firefighter, ha! But, I actually sat and read it all and took notes. Figuring flames travel upward, I actually started the quilting at the bottom of the quilt and moved my quilted flames upward I quilted 'fire flames' using a Superior trilobal polyester as a base over the body of the quilt - but not the borders. Not a heavy quilting, and actually that looked quite nice.

The next step I needed to convey the feeling of fire, so I used a Superior Metallic copper-colored thread. Again, I created more flames going from the bottom up to the top. Lastly, I added a dash of black metallic here and there as flames have black on the outsides (or so the expert says). Looked good - so I stopped. I used one of my friend's ideas to create swirls on the borders to represent the winds created by fire storms using Superior Fantastico and allow the flames to creep into the border area and the wind quilting to creep into the flame area. That was all there was to it. Nothing fancy. No spectacular free motion quilting designs, just simple flames and using great Superior metallic and Fantastico threads! Anyone can do this and the result is an exceptional quilt I hope my brother enjoys for many many years!

Future Fire Quilts: Valley Fire and Rim Fire (Yosemite, CA)


I BELIEVE I already posted about my sister-in-law, Nancy, a couple years ago. Keep in mind I have known her since she married my brother about 43 years ago. All this time, she knew I was a sewer and quilter. Never once in all those years did she even say she liked quilts. My mom made her a couple quilts - but she didn't seem to me to be excited about them. One went missing for a few years and found out her son had taken it. Luckily not to use for the dogs! My brother is a retired firefighter with CALFIRE (we used to call it CDF) up in Ukiah in Mendocino county, northern California, and they have all their children and grandchildren up there.

Well, she called me up one day and asked if she could come down for a week or so. Oh, and by the way, would I teach her how to quilt! Quilt teachers LOVE to hear the words, "will you teach me how to quilt?" We live to hear those words! I've taught a lot of people to quilt, but I never had to live them while I did it. Needless to say, we both survived the experience, and she has actually asked to come back. She did have to ask me to take a time out once or twice (which I deserved - remember this is family), but we are still friends and I am proud to say she has excelled at this new hobby.

Recently, visiting one of our longtime friends in north, Northern California (Weed, CA), she mentioned she was learning to quilt. Our old friend (not old person, but old in time we have known her) immediately said, "Oh, I have a quilt my mom started. Can you finish it for me?"

WAIT!! Come back and I will have this story finished - and I will show you her finished quilts!