Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Pressing Matter

Today I’m going to nag you about pressing. Not ironing, pressing.

A lot of new quilters are unaware that there is a difference ironing and pressing. But there is, and it is huge. Ironing involves sliding the iron about the fabric in any random direction. You just keep sliding until the fabric is smooth. This is great for hubby’s shirts, but not so good for quilt blocks. Pressing on the other hand involves setting the iron down on the quilt block, lifting it up, repositioning it and pressing it back down. There is no sliding! Sliding causes distortion of your blocks, especially any that might have bias edges. Lift and set, lift and set. Sliding is for the playground.

Check your seams after you PRESS them. I always press from the back first, then flip the block or quilt right side up and ensure that the seam is indeed open all the way. Recently I taught a beginner class. I watched one student iron her first block, then complain that the seams did not line up as well as she had hoped. When I checked it, all the seams had tiny folds. We measured to be 6.25 inches. I walked her through proper pressing and when she was finished, it was a full (and correct) 6.5 inches. That’s quarter of an inch in one six-inch block. After the pressing, her seams did indeed line up correctly, the folds had disguised her accurate piecing. Over the course of a full quilt quarter of an inch in every block makes a huge difference. When you check your seams they should have no folds or overlaps. They also shouldn’t be stretched out of shape.

I’m also a huge fan of Mary Ellen’s Best Press spray starch. I give each block a light spray during the final pressing to give it a little extra firmness. This helps keep the blocks from distorting while being handled in later parts of the piecing process. I use it now at all stages of the pressing process. I even give the completed top a quick spray during the final pressing. As a bonus it comes unscented and in a variety of scents to make your studio smell lovely.

When piecing rows of blocks together its always a good idea to press the seams in even numbered rows to the right. Then press odd numbered rows to the left. This allows your seams to nest and catch together when sewing your rows to each other. It helps keeps blocks aligned properly. Don’t cheat and neglect to use pins. Yes in know: PINS is a four-letter word. That said, as I progressed on my own quilting journey, I learned that pinning actually saves time (less un-sewing) and that says nothing about those perfectly aligned corners.

Pine Freckle Forest has 15 new Designs. Okay, they really aren’t all that new. I previewed them at Quilt Canada. You’ve already seen Sundreams in a previous posting.

Next came Radiant Sky, a New York Beauty style quilt. Foundation piecing gives this quilt perfect points every time.

But my favorite are the Long Fellas, thirteen small wall hangings. Thirteen is my lucky number! Each is only 4 by 12 inches. Perfect for that tiny space in the hall! Each and everyone has a dimensional aspect from the fuzzy sheep of Lamby Long to the spiky leaves of Flora Long. And let us not forget the perfect Christmas gifts, Santa, Reindeer, Frosty and Penny (the Penguin) Long. Oh yeah, Holiday Long and Long Pine. They all whip up quickly and use up batting and fabric scraps. If you like the size, but not the dimensional aspect, simply trim the extra parts off before adding your binding. Need a hostess gift in a hurry, whip up something Long.

You can find these patterns and many more on my website at

Happy Quilting!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Creativity: The Force That Drives Us

As a quilter and pattern designer, I find inspiration in many places. Now, not all inspirations make it into a quilt. Most of them never hit the design board and are destined to remain nothing more than a pretty picture or hastily scratched drawing. Some make it into rough designs but not into an actual quilt. Sometimes the initial inspiration sparks one idea that quickly becomes a run-away and morphs into numerous other ideas with the first spark lost in the dust.

I collect images from magazines, newspapers, book covers, catalogues. I take photographs and make rough sketches. Occasionally,words spark an idea. Sometimes a quick turn of a phrase sparks a design.

Like Neapolitan. I used to work in a local quilt shop. One evening a customer came up to me with three bolts of fabric. She had a brown, a pink and a white. “Does this look like Neapolitan?” She asked. That touched of the inspiration for my Neapolitan quilt. Right after work I hit the computer, fired up EQ and started designing. I didn’t stop until the final design for my Neapolitan quilt was finished.I had the design complete, the sample quilt finished and the instructions written and ready for my testers within 48 hours. WOW. Now that's inspiration.

Talking of inspiration, let's not forget flowers and trees and all of Mother Nature’s wonders. They are always inspiring. But so too are the works of man. Towering skyscrapers and elaborate architectural curves delight the eye and stir the mind. Perhaps my favorite inspiration has come from a visit to Banff, Alberta. It hit me just outside our hotel.

My husband was attending an engineering conference and we were staying at the Banff Springs Hotel. For me the trip was a boondoggle. It was just some free time away from the kids and pets. Time to relax and revitalize myself. Touring the hotel grounds I happened upon an inspiration. It was perfect. I had to record that image so I could use it later.

But alas, I had no camera. Some silly woman left the camera at home. Sigh. So I scurried into the gift shop and purchased a disposable camera (for about the same price as a real camera, I might add) and hurried back to take pictures of my inspiration.

Yup, it was still there. It hadn’t moved. What was this wonder? The perfect design for an all-over quilting motif, or perhaps for an intricate applique design. I tilted that camera too and fro. I moved back and forth getting many angles. I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss a detail. Finally, sure I had it all I stood back and tucked the camera into my purse.

That’s when I heard the whisper. A small girl asked her mother, “Mom, why is that lady taking pictures of that garbage can?”

That’s it. Find your inspiration where you can and pay no heed to the critics and those funny little voices.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Advice from your Longarm Quilter

This is my Radiant Sky quilt. Just a quick-pick for your enjoyment.

Ladies (and gentlemen) take your longarm quilter’s advice to heart!

As a longarm quilter, I see many quilts. So here’s some free advice for those of you who use a longarm service…….

If your quilter seems hesitant about your choice she probably has a reason. We don’t like to tell you that you are wrong. Maybe our vision for your quilt differs from yours. But if we repeatedly suggest other designs to you, let that be a clue. Your selection is probably fine, but consider our suggestions as well. We are striving for the best possible choice for your quilt and you.

If you cannot understand why we made that suggestion, or if you are curious as to why it is also an option ask your quilter what makes that design as a good match for your quilt. Sometimes it is in the scale of the design. Sometimes it is the density of the quilting. The scale and density need to match the quilt top. Does it need more curves to make it flow better? Does it need something geometric to add zip? How about themes to match or accentuate? ABC’s? Animals? Shoes? Swirls?

We want the designs and threads you choose to accent your work, not take it over. The wrong choice will make your quilt less than it might have been with a different selection.

We see quilts of all shapes and sizes and of all skill levels. 99% of them are quite lovely. Occasionally a quilt will have some technical difficulties. If we ask about your borders or your seam allowances, there is usually a reason. Many quilters, myself included have information packages on different techniques. If you are given one, or offered one, accept it and peruse the information it contains. Perhaps it is our way of helping you improve your techniques and make your quilts better.

The most common mistake I see is poorly added borders. When you lay your quilt on a flat surface, it should be flat. No ripples, bumps, waves or puckering in the borders or center area. If you have these, you need to revisit your techniques. These flaws will NOT “quilt out.” Ask for help! We want your quilt to be the best it can be, for you and to make our work easier.

Remember that we see hundreds of quilts every year. Our experience has taught us what may work and what may not. Remember too, that we were once beginners who had things to learn. Quilter’s are a group of generous and helpful souls… we want to share what we know.

Visit for some free downloadable tip sheets. If you cannot find what you want there, drop me a line and I’ll help you out.

Keep on quilting.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Studio Design

I thought I might go a different way today. Studio design.

I have a fantastic studio. It is about 450 square feet. I have taken over the formal living room and dining room of our house. We put up French doors to keep the cats out. Because I am a longarm quilter, I always have other people’s quilts in my studio. While I love my cats, not all my customers are completely enamoured. I cannot guarantee that the space is cat hair free, the cats never come into my studio, so the only pet hair is what blows up through the furnace vents or comes in on my clothes and that is precious little. So, rest assured that your quilt is safe in my care.

Darling Hubby designed and built a lot of the furniture for me. He made the quilt hanging closet where work waits to be completed, stands to hold batting rolls, a jumbo ironing board with cupboards underneath it, and my cutting table (also with bins underneath it to store fabric in.) Oh yeah, let’s not forget the bookcase and the folding, two-sided design wall.

The rest of the furniture we picked up in a second-hand shop while on vacation in Saskatchewan. This includes a great trunk, two old heavy wooden dressers and a lovely buffet. In the corner is the spinning pattern rack DH made for Quilt Canada, and my Grandfather’s antique table. Oh yeah, the quilt hanging racks are also DH’s handiwork.

I’m still mentally designing the sewing table I want. I keep changing my mind. Once I have the idea perfected, he’ll get busy and build it to match the rest of the room.

My friends and clients tell me they envy my space. That thrills me. Especially since I spent seven years sewing on the kitchen table. It’s nice to have a dedicated space that looks professional when my clients stop by for a quilt drop off or pickup.

Now, if only someone would invent a way for my studio to self-clean. I am not a tidy sewer and things are always a little higgety-piggety. I clean up regularly, but just can’t seem to keep it clean while I work.

Tell me about your studio. Where do you work? What would you most love to have? Dream big ladies and let me know your dreams.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Clean Up!

I am amazed at how much time it can actually take to clean up a studio. Yesterday I spent almost five hours cleaning! Generally it does not take that long. I admit, quite freely, that my studio is never really clean. There is always some portion of it that looks like a fabric store exposion. But wow. The aftermath of Quilt Canada.

All the quilts were in piles on the floor. There was fabric everywhere. Before the show I was racing to finish quilting Sundreams (picture in corner), so there were threads everywhere. And dust bunnies, were there were no dust bunnies. There were however dust hippos. Yikes. I had to sweep three times to catch it all.

But you should see it now. Its almost perfect. Everything in its place. I even CLEANED OUT SOME DRAWERS! Now, the quilts are hung or put away neatly. The threads are re-wrapped and put back on racks or in drawers. The fabric has been sorted. I've dusted and swept. I even did the paperwork.

Now, I'm off to quilt a customer quilt.

But before I go, I want to know about your studio. Big? Small? Clean? Organized chaos? Let me know what kind of place you have to work in.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wow: The most beautiful things at Quilt Canada

Wow, wow, and again wow. I have never been so inspired in my life! Just finished the week at Quilt Canada 2010 in Calgary. It was the first time I've ever had the oportunity to check out the National Juried Show in person. What stunning beauty and creativity. I knew the quilts would be impressive. I often drool over the show books from previous years. But let me tell you a photograph does nothing to do justice to the real thing. It can't possibly relate the subtle shades and echoes of quilting and the fine details of the applique. We won't even get into the thread painting and beadwork. If you ever get the chance, take in a juried show. I highly recommend it. You will be inspired.

As for my booth at the show. It was fantastic. Thanks to all those smiling faces who stopped to visit and to brighten our day and to chat. We appreciate your business, but more than that we appreciate the positive feedback and the companionship. We consider you all friends.

Special thanks too to all of you that helped out with the booth. Without you I would be lost.

I'll try to post some photos later in the week. For now, its nap time. As soon as I'm done soaking my tired feet.

Keep stitching.