Good News on “Fast and Free” Volume I!

January 28th, 2007

I finally have some definitive news on this second DVD! This past fall was pretty rough. Our editor had a series of unexpected familial emergencies and this kept pushing our release date forward. Then, my dad became quite ill and died and this pushed us back again. I’m so sorry for all the delays, but know that these were situations that were out of our hands. I’m happy to say that the final DVD is at the DVD replicator office as we speak. Unless there are unforeseen problems, (I do NOT expect any!), we should have the packaged product in our hot little hands in 1-1 1/2 weeks! Stay tuned and I will post as soon as they are here! In the meantime, I am planning to dye some threads tomorrow, so I should be able to get some pictures and make a post this week that shows how easy it is to do this!

Just In Time For Valentines Day…

January 26th, 2007

I finished a new quilt, it measures 52 1/2 in H x 46 in W and it’s called “Falling in Love”


It’s a pretty simple quilt and took next to no time to piece but was fun for me to quilt. I used trapunto on the hearts:


I used the basic free-form feather with inlined hearts to create a blooming vine off one heart:


…and I used the whimsical feather with in-lining for the blooming vine off the second heart:


The background is stitched with an all over curvaceous heart design:


Not a big deal quilt to get all excited about, but a fun little diddie to quilt!

Trapunto 101

January 21st, 2007

I had meant to make a new sample wall-hanging for a trapunto/couching class I am teaching next weekend and I just now realized that I am running out of time! I spent my afternoon today working on one, so I figured it might be a good thing to post since all of us quilters love finding new ways to add texture and dimension to our quilts.
Trapunto means “stuffed work,” so what we are doing is adding one or more layers of additional batting to parts of our quilt in order to make parts of it protrude out. You can control how much a trapuntoed area protrudes by: 1. your choice of batting type and how many extra layers you place and 2. by how densely you quilt within the trapuntoed area. There are many different ways to do trapunto and what I am doing here is trapuntoing under the appliqued butterfly. Once it’s completely done and in a final quilt sandwich, (you won’t see this tonight because I didn’t have time to get that far today), you can stitch around the outside of the trapuntoed area with invisible monofilament thread and this will make the area pop out.
To start, applique the shape you wish by either traditional hand applique or fusible applique. The butterfly you’ll see later was done in fusible. There are 2 small areas of rust-colored applique within the butterfly that I wanted to have 2 layers of batt, so I begin my trapunto by pinning a piece of scrap batting under each of these zones and then stitching around the outside edge of these areas. You could do this with a satin stitch or decorative preprogrammed stitch on your machine or with free motion embroidery. I did it a different way, by couching a decorative fiber, just because I wanted to add another texture. (To couch, use invisible monofilament thread in top needle and a bobbin thread which matches the fiber being couched). You can couch with either a free motion foot or a couching foot and you may use a straight stitch or a zig zag. I used my free motion foot w/straight stitch today. This first picture shows the front of the center of the quilt after these zones were done:


(The turquoise “wiggly” thread is the part that was just couched down). Now, to get a better sense of what’s going on, look at the backside of this center section:


The piece of batt on the right is where one of the couched areas is. On the left is an illustration of how it looks once the extra batting outside the trapuntoed area has been cut away. (Be careful when you cut this away, taking care not to accidentally slice into the bakground fabric!) Also note the faint areas of yellow thread above; these are places where I did some free motion embroidery around the outside edges of the circles in the top wing. Since they were done in fusible applique, I did not need to use a stabilizer.
Next, I wanted to trapunto the entire butterfly, so I pinned a large piece of scrap batting behind this entire area. (You could use water soluble gluestick or spray baste this on, but remember, you’ll eventually need to go back and cut out excess, so pay attention to where you place any sticky stuff!) I couched down a yellow yarn around the base wings as below:


And after that, I couched down a rust colored decorative yarn around the perimeter of the upper wings, as shown below:


We’re almost done with “stage I” of the trapunto, we just need to do something to the body of the butterfly. It’s pretty small and I think couching a decorative yarn here would be overwhelming, so I just did a free motion straight stitch in an EKG pattern here:


Now we are ready to get rid of our excess baggage! Flip this puppy over and cut away all the batting outside the perimeter of the butterfly. (By the way, I actually use children’s blunt-edged scissors for this part because I think I’m less likely to accidentally cut through my background fabric with them):


Now I want to stitch some antennae on this butterfly and again, my goal in this quilt is to create some interesting textures, stuff that will make the viewer want to touch it, so I am using size 12 pearl cotton black embroidery thread, (available at Michael’s, Joanne’s, everywhere just about except a quilting store), because once this baby’s in a true quilt sandwich, I’ll stitch just outside the antennae with invisible monofilament thread and this will make my heavy black embroidery thread REALLY pop out! I mark 2 faint chalk lines so I’ll remember where to stitch, throw it into a hoop and place some stabilizer underneath as shown below:


(I had to use stabilizer and put it into a hoop because this part of the quilt is not stabilized by fusible web, this is just plain old fabric here!) Once done stitching, remove the hoop and tear away the stabilizer as shown here: (By the way, I used sandwich paper purchased very cheaply at Sam’s for my stabilizer, a trick for cheapskates like me that I learned from fiber artist and fabric dyer extraordinaire, Nancy Bruce!)


Now your “base” butterfly is done. You could finish piecing your top, lay it all out in a quilt sandwich, and begin your quilting by stitching around all parts of the butterfly w/invisible thread. Or, you can quilt the “insides” of your butterfly now, which is what I I did. Unfortunately, the picture really doesn’t show it too well:


Notice the large knots seen on the back-one of the nice parts of trapunto is that you don’t have to worry about making a mess like that that because no one but you will ever see them!

At this point in the process, I spilled a can of diet Sunkist orange drink on my sewing table…No Joke!! This brought a halting end to my afternoon of fun and I didn’t figure the cleanup would be of any interest, so I didn’t take any photos for posterity! I’ll post how to finish it off once things have dried and I have the time to get back to it!

Little Tidbits of Fun!

January 15th, 2007


Don’t you sometimes feel like you just need a quickie little project that lets you play with color and fabric but takes next to no time? Well, that’s what all these eyeglass cases/cell phone cases are good for! They’re quick, they’re colorful, and they’re FUN! Besides that, they make great last minute gifts for people!

The way to start is to pick your base fabric and lightly spray baste a small quilt sandwich that’s 9 in x 9 inches. Use either the same fabric on both sides or use something pretty nice on the back side since this will be seen as the inside of your case. Quilt this using any design you wish but remember that the more densely quilted it is, the stiffer your eyeglass case will be.

Once quilted, you’ll want to cut this into your template shape. To make your template, cut a piece of scrap paper into a square, 8 inches on each side. Fold this in half. Using scissors, gently round off the squared edge of the bottom of one end into a gently rounded end. This will leave you with a template similar to the one pictured below.

Pin your template to your newly quilted sandwich and cut your sandwich to match.

Next, pick out a border fabric. Prints with graphic kind of designs work great but this is where the fun comes in because this is like picking all the fabrics that go together for a quilt. Cut a strip of this that measures 4 in by 8 1/4 inches. Mark a line about 1/2 inch from the edge of the 8 inch length, (do this on the GOOD side of the fabric) and then iron this underneath. Your border is now prepared to be applied to the eyeglass case.

Pin the GOOD side of the border to the upper end, (this is the end that’s NOT rounded off) of the BAD side of the eyeglass case. (Note, you may not have a BAD side…I did because I am cheapo and used a crummy solid thread in my bobbin as opposed to the beautiful variegated thread I used in my top needle.) Sew this seam using a 3/8 inch seam.

Next, iron the border fabric over to the good side of the eyeglass case. Pin it down and topstitch the edge 1/4-3/8 of an inch from the edge. Now, you have a lot of options when you go to sew the bottom of the border fabric down. You could just topstitch it just next to the edge or you can take this opportunity to throw in some type of decorative element. The green piping here isn’t a very dramatic color choice, but I didn’t have anything around that sang out to me and I wanted you to see how easy it is to do. Instead of piping, you could put a line of sew on beading, rick-rack, etc. This is where you get to play!


Iron the piping or whatever you are using and just pin it under the border fabric and topstitch along the edge. Easy, n’est pas?!

You’re almost done…just fold the case in half with good sides together and pin. Now, you could just sew the edges together with a 1/2 inch seam and be done. I do something a little different because I feel this need to control the role of batting in my life. I love batting and the effects it creates in my quilts, but I abhor the way little pieces of batting have intruded into every room of our home and cling to my clothes and etc, etc, etc…I know you know what I mean! Check out the picture below:

If you cut a strip of fabric that’s 2 inches by 8 3/4 inches, you can use it to trap the batting so you won’t have to see it. (Reading this, I’m realizing what a control freak I must really be if I’m trying to control little pieces of batting!) Anyway, pin this so that 1-1 1/2 inches overhangs the top edge of the eyeglass case and fold the excess at the bottom in. Stitch the 1/2 inch seam all the way down.


Remove your pins and fold the excess fabric at the top in so that no batting or raw edge of fabric is exposed, then pin the fabric under all along that side:


Sew this very last seam and you are done!


The Skinny on Fat Threads

January 11th, 2007

I get asked a lot about the heavy threads I use on a lot of my quilts, so I thought this might be a good topic for a post. These threads are not threads which were devised for use in the top needle, but they actually DO fit in your top sewing machine needle. For those of you who are starting to shudder and get scared, remember that you can add a lot of interest to your quilts by throwing in more sources of texture and visual interest, and using these threads is a great way to do this. Think of using these in quilted motifs, (or free motion embroidered motifs) which are important or significant to your quilt. Because these threads are so heavy and large, they draw the viewer’s eye to wherever they are used. Let me show you some examples of commercially available heavy threads. The photo below is of some variegated threads from the Caron Collection:

heavy threads

The Caron Collection makes 2 lines of threads that fit in your top needle. The line pictured above is the “Wildflowers” line and it is composed of 100% cotton. It comes in variegated colors and solid colors. To sew with these, hand wind the thread onto an empty spool or empty cone and use a size 100 Topstitch needle. Wind a medium weight cotton thread or even Dual Duty Plus thread on your bobbin, trying to match the top thread color as closely as possible. It is not mandatory, but I usually run a few rows of Sewer’s Aid, a commercial liquid silicone, along the length of the spool, and this allows any type of thread to flow through your machine more easily. (I do this for ALL heavy threads and also for ALL metallic threads). There is a second line of threads by the Caron Collection and this is called the “Impressions” line, shown below:

heavy threads

Notice that I have placed 1 skein of the Wildflowers line as the 2nd skein pictured; I did that so you’ll have a reference point to judge size. This Impressions line is an entirely different animal…it’s composed of a blend of wool and silk and it’s kind of a “fat” thread, much plumper than the Wildflowers. It’s also as soft as a baby’s bum and has a bit of a furriness look to it. I’m telling you this so you’ll appreciate the neat textures it will add to your quilt. Stitch with it the same way as I described earlier, but remember that it has wool in it, so if you plan to launder this quilt…wool + water + agitation=felt=possible heartbreak! You generally don’t see these threads in quilting or sewing stores, so look for them in embroidery stores or cross stitch supply stores, and be prepared for heart palpitations as you walk through the aisles and spot all kinds of other luscious fibers that you could couch down on your quilts! If you STILL can’t find them or just don’t have access to these stores, go to

Another great quilting thread for use in the top needle is the beautiful hand dyed size 12 pearl cotton available from, as shown below:

heavy threads

These are just a bit smaller and if you are skittish about trying heavy threads, try these first because their smaller size will probably make them easier for you to use. They come only in variegated colors but you will LOVE these scrumptuous colors. Stitch them with a size 90 Topstitch needle and then fall in love with your work!

Now, let’s say that you’re trying to save yourself some money and have a blast along the way, well, that’s when you go and dye the threads yourself:

caron collection-wildflowers

These were dyed using size 12 pearl cotton embroidery thread by DMC, but you can also use 100% cotton size 30 mercerized crochet thread as your base:

heavy threads

I’m not sure that the picture shows this point well, but note that you may use the pure white or the off-white thread as your base as each will dye up into a brilliant and vivid color. Also pay close attention to the finish of the base thread. The DMC has a slight sheen to it whereas most of the others available have a flat or a matte finish. I dye both types because I like to use different threads in different applications. Can you see the deep royal blue and deep purple threads off to the side? I threw those in to let you know that you can also over-dye already colored threads. These last 2 are also examples to show you that size 12 pearl cotton will look different when you compare 1 brand to another. The blue pictured here is by Presencia and the purple is by Anchor and both are FAR smaller than the other size 12 pearl cotton threads I’ve shown. Someday I’ll post the steps taken to dye these threads…it’s much easier than you think!