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!