Aprille with Chaucer…slow but steady progress

I probably quilted more than 40 hours for both the past two weeks, and all of it was on my silk Chaucer quilt.  I estimate at least another 50 hours of quilting plus the painting, beading, and binding that comes after that.  Do my quilting muscles hurt?  Truly!  Am I having fun?  Absolutely!  I have been making quilting decisions as I go along.

Some of you have asked how I was doing the text box, so I thought I’d show you.  I first digitized it in my Bernina v6 software, embroidered it on a piece of black Radiance, and pieced it into the quilt.  Yesterday I finished the quilting around all the words and the rest of the text box, adding some soon-to-be-painted flourishes on each side of the text.  Here is the result so far:

textbox quilted

textbox quilted

As you see I also have a 1 1/4 inch faux sashing.  I plan to edge this by couching some Ricky Tim’s Razzle Dazzle on either side, but I have not figured how I’m going to quilt it yet.

All the stitching around the embroidered vine and the appliques is complete, but I haven’t done much with the background stitching, nor have I completed the quilting of the appliques themselves.  I had to do a lot of frogging and restitching to get it up close like I wanted it.  I still see a few places where I still need to do this.  But here’s a sampling of the center:

Applique sampling

I still have a lot of stippling around the border and, after much thought and searching through books and Electric Quilt, I figured out generally what I will use for the background stippling of the central theme.  Originally I was going to do a diagonal decorative stitch  from my Bernina, but decided it just won’t work with all that stopping and starting.  So I THINK I’m going to use a nice vine/leaf style I found on one of my EQ designs.  I have to practice first to see if that works before I stitch that part.

I have been happy to see the waves and wrinkly parts go away the more I quilt, as I had thought they would.  Here’s a view across the quilt.

Across the quilt

Across the quilt

Sew I am making slow but steady progress on this challenge to myself.  I’ve also been enjoying a lot of music and audiobooks on my ipod as I quilt.  I just “read” the final in Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarian series “Crown of Renewal”.  I give it about 4 stars.  I thought the ending could be better, but I won’t say how here because I don’t want to spoil it for you in case you are reading it.

Sew happy my friends!  Teach the young and old alike to quilt and sew, men, boys, girls, women, dogs, cats!  😀



My Mentors


On a trip earlier this year, a friend of mine asked me who I considered my mentor.  I was driving and the traffic was heavy, so I didn’t give a very good answer to that question.  I have had many mentors, the chief one being my mother.  Sew I decided to pull an earlier post from my archives of my old blog, but looking at it, I realize I have added several additional mentors and so I put those into the post in blue text.  I am so thankful for all the wonderful quilters and sewists who have taught me so much across the years.  Many of them I have never met.


TITLE: Let us now praise famous women (and men)
DATE: 8/7/2011 9:35:54 PM
I don’t quite know why, but I have been thinking a lot lately about the
wonderful women and men who have handed down their skills and forged
paths in sewing, engineering, painting, fabric weaving and printing, and
development of all manner of tools and notions  that have brought us to
the fantastic opportunities we have now spread before us.   I thank God
for them.

Let us now praise famous men [and women], and our fathers [and mothers] that begat us.
The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through His great power from the beginning.
Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power,
giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies:
Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of
learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions:

Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing.
Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations.
All these were honored in their generations, and were the glory of their times.

There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.

And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though
they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born;
and their children after them.

But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.

With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.

From Ecclesiastics 44, King James Version

Several quilters and sewers have had a huge impact on my appreciation and love of sewing and quilting.  And you know, I’ve only actually met one of the most impactful of them besides my mother.

Zephana Bivens:  She was my dear incredibly brilliant talented mother, who was an advanced sewist and knitter.  She never made quilts to my knowledge, but she taught me to sew and knit and embroider from the time I was about 4 or 5.  I honestly can’t remember exactly when I began, but I do know I made my first dress, with a lot of help from her, at age 6.  Late in her life, she got interested in intricately carved woodworking using a scroll saw and made some wall art that I can only characterize as “wood lace”.  Sadly, she passed away at age 79 from cancer just as she was perfecting her woodworking, and she never got to see my quilting development.  How I would have loved to share it with her, but somehow I believe she knows about it.  She was not famous, but she was clearly an artist.

Martha Pullen: The other day, I was watching  “Martha’s Sewing
Room” where one of her guests (sorry don’t know her name), was showing a
way to sew something and turn it that was remarkable in its result and
simplicity, but required an engineering mind to figure out in the first
place.  Martha has provided some remarkable teaching from her program and I have learned a ton of new methods especially for heirloom sewing.

Sharon Schamber:  The first time I realized that quilts might be a fascinating “hobby” for me was about 7 years ago when I attended the Chantilly Sewing and Quilting Expo where they had one of Sharon Schamber’s quilts on display.  I was astonished and fascinated with her piecing and quilting techniques and, oddly, I didn’t even particularly like her overall quilt.  I realized, though, that she has a remarkable talent.   Since that time, I have studied many of her how-to videos on her network.  She taught me to improve my piecing, my quilting, and especially my binding. [Sharon’s videos are now available in DVD form on her daughter’s site Purple Daisies]

Alex Anderson:  Alex’s TV show Simply Quilts, which never seemed long enough to me but which introduced me to many new concepts and techniques piqued my interest.  Now she and Ricky Tims and their families and colleagues produce The Quilt Show, which has provided me with a huge amount of teaching through the shows, the classes, and the access to other quilters online.

Nancy Zieman: Over the years I have watched every Sewing with Nancy episode I could find and have bought a number of her dvds and books.  I improved my basic sewing skills from her teaching.

Diane Gaudynski: 
Diane is relatively new in my unmet masters.  I bought a couple of her books on machine quilting using a domestic sewing machine and they helped me to vastly improve my quilting. She helped me to realize I don’t have to have a long arm machine to do high-end quilting.

Laura Wausalowski, who I took a workshop from a couple of years back and she taught me how much fun quilting should be and how to improve my fusible applique.

Recently, I have developed a lot of interest in the techniques that are used by Caryl Bryer Fallert, which, remarkably, closely relate to many of my favorite methods, though our quilt subjects are so different and she, of course is the master, and I am just an explorer at this point.

Pepper Cory, from whom I have taken several workshops and with whom have an ongoing friendship.  Now Pepper is mostly a hand quilter, but her knowledge of quilt history, sense of design, and ability to deal with stencils (and other quilting design sources) have been an enormous help to me in seeing some directions I need to take in my future quilting.

Pat Holly and Sue Nickels, and their books Stitched Raw Edge Applique and Machine Quilting: A Primer of Techniques along with their video appearances on The Quilt Show.  I have only briefly met Sue Nickels at her lecture at The Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival this past February, but they are both such effective teachers that their books and videos have been enormous help in improving my quilts.

Everyone develops their own styles and methods, and often they are a mix of things learned from others…but it’s just wonderful how much is out there today to help us get there and we don’t even HAVE to go to their workshops to get that advantage…though it is much more fun if we can!

Have a great week everyone.


Betty Jo


Progress and Plans

I’ve made a lot of progress on my little silk folk art Chaucer quilt, temporarily titled “Whan That Aprille”.  I have completed the central section, embroidered the text box, and assembled the top with the black border, which I also marked.  I am waiting on my order of additional black Radiance for the back and while I wait, I have been experimenting with threads and settings for the quilting.

I decided I really like the look of the antique gold metallic from Superior Threads.  Now I have discovered that my old Bernina 1230 “Betsy” has no problem with Superior metallics at all, and neither does my little B350 “E-Claire”, but my big old honking “Gibbs”, my Bernina 830 LE has some trouble with it.  It’s all related to the tensions of both the bobbin and the top.  It’s one of the best features of Gibbs, but also one of the most complex that it allows tremendous adjustment for both the bobbin and the top.  I really want to use the big machine to do my quilting so I can use the stitch regulator and the large table arrangement that makes quilting so easy.  I must have spent three full quilting days trying to figure out how to get the setup right and the gold thread to quilt without showing up as “tension problems” on the back that judges simply cannot abide.  But I finally got it, I think.  Here is the setup I have for the black borders that I plan to quilt in antique gold thread:

Silk-Cotton black Radiance for both the top and the back
90/14 Superior titanic top stitch needle
Superior 100 weight silk thread in the bobbin
Top tension 2.0
Bobbin thread for embroidery, but tension is loosened two clicks to the left (there is a special tool for this)
Bottom layer of batting is a thin polyester from Quilter’s Dream
Top layer of batting is Hobb’s wool.

Now yesterday I had no problem with this.  Both the top and the bottom looked absolutely even.  Today I had a few spin out loops on the back, but I think it is because I got overly confident and started sewing too fast.  So I slid the speed control to the left and slowed way down with no more problems.  My other two machines will not sew that fast.  It just needs time to make it right.  I have successfully quilted one of my five little practice mug rugs.  I plan on finishing up four of them and sharing them with some of my friends that I owe mug rugs to.  I will use them as practice painting samplers also, since I am planning on painting the border designs.

Sew what else have I been doing while waiting for the backing fabric?  I have been rejiggering my quilting plans for the rest of this year and beginning of next year.  I put them on my website (did you know I also have a website)?  I have also started updating my quilt show list I keep there, but I figure that will take me a few more weeks to complete.  I’ll let you know.  Anyway, here is my “current projects” list (actually it’s my current plans list, but I like the feel of “projects” as opposed to “plans”…seems more like I’m making lots of progress. 😉


  1. Whan That Aprille:  A folk art applique, embroidery and beading experiment.  I combined this with the illuminated manuscript project.  This is a silk and silk/cotton/Radiance quilt.  The main center section is complete, the black border is pieced on and marked, the text box is successfully embroidered and pieced in.  I am ready to make the sandwich and begin the quilting, but I decided I needed considerable experimenting, testing, and practice before I do this, and have put together five small mug-rug sized practice pieces for this purpose.  I estimate completion of this quilt by 1 August.
  2. **NEW** First Flight:  New blue print based whole cloth quilt based on Wright Brothers’ Line Drawings and an applique/embroidery rendition of a plane in the center.  Mostly designed, although not patterned out yet.
  3. Volcanic Fire with Flying Things:  Erupting volcano with dark mountain, smoky orange sky and fiery volcanic lava…in the near orange sky there will be a fight between phoenix and dragon in hopefully magnificent colors.  This was inspired in part by my recent storm-at-sea quilt “Waiting…” in which I placed a rocky lower border.  I enjoyed making that border and it made me think of volcanic rocks.  It was also inspired by my work on “Sky Horse” and I decided the phoenix or dragon should have a large component of Angelina Fibers and crystals as part of the applique.
  4. Peppered Ikebana:  This will draw from old Japanese Sashiko for the background, and will have a Japanese flower arrangement in the foreground.  I am planning on making this largely with Pepper Cory’s shot peppered cotton fabrics, both free motion machine quilting and Sashiko large stitch quilting, and a combination of applique and machine embroidery for the flower arrangement.  Remember, I have my fourth year flower arranging certificate in the Sogetsu School of Ikebana that I got in Japan and I want to use that in a series of flower-arrangements on quilts.
  5. Flower appliques and embroidery:  I am using Beth Tatum’s beautiful flower pictures to design both in-the-hoop appliques and embroideries and out of the hoop free motion embroideries as a joint quilt with her (my DIL).  Working on applique designs.
  6. Jazz On a Crystal Night:  A stylized nighttime city scene with musicians silhouetted in tall building windows and doors.  The music stream will be floating out of the windows and doors to the sky where it “explodes” into “fireworks”.  This quilt will have a lot of crystals. Set in the 1920s.
  7. Light in an Ancient Forest: Very dark forest with great old character and large wonderful trees.  Coming through the trees is a beam of sunlight that lands on the floor of the forest highlighting [something] in  full of color.  The something may be an ancient ruin of church with the light coming through the stained glass or a small patch of colorful flowers.  There may be a woodland creature or two peaking out from behind some of the trees.  🙂
  8. Perspective in Silk:  Second in series of perspectives in thread drawings…I will do this one on silk with colorful threadwork.  This may become the start of a series on American monuments or something else.
  9. Zephana’s (my mother) Gifts:  Using my mother’s unfinished hand-crocheted lace I found in her workbasket after her passing for embellishment and a key design component, this quilt is in her memory.  I will use a background of linen  and silk fabric.
  10. Dragon Dress for Competition: Black quilted silk sheath dress with flared skirt, will have appliqued trapunto dragon wrapped around the dress.  This is for competition and will include machine embroidery, hand embroidery, Angelina Fibers, crystals, beads and sequins.  I just have to figure out how to make the dragon wrap so it looks right.

Sew Happy everyone, and what are you working on or planning now?



Playing in My Studio: Combining Multiple Techniques

I really love taking the different techniques I have managed to gather over the decades and apply them to make an art quilt, a decorated vest, or a beautiful bag. Since my retirement a couple of years ago I have spent a lot of my time learning and perfecting new and old techniques with the goal of being able to call on anything to produce the look I want. In my quilt “Waiting…”, for instance, I used drawing, paper piecing, regular piecing, applique, trapunto, fabric painting, digital art printed fabrics, thread painting, free motion quilting, and embellishment.



So whether you are a traditional, contemporary, art, or modern quilter, I encourage you to gather your techniques and tools and put them all together to realize your own masterpieces. It’s really fun to not be limited by not knowing how to do some technique and you can end up with some delightful items while you learn. While it’s always nice to have a face-to-face class with an expert, one of the nice things today is there are many sources for learning these techniques online, sometimes with accompanying books.

First of all, If you haven’t already, I suggest you spend the modest amount of money to buy a membership on The Quilt Show and watch the shows, the classes, and the videos that accompany the BOM (Block of the Month) even if you are not making the BOMS. This has been a big resource for me in improving my quilt making, learning about who are the major quilters in the world today, and being inspired when I get discouraged.

Secondly, I discovered that Nancy Zieman has many of her Sewing With Nancy available free to watch on Wisconsin Public Television online website, many of which relate to quilting, but in fact, most any kind of sewing relates to quilting.  Also, you can purchase her dvds with accompanying books from Nancy’s Notions.

Sharon Schamber has dvds available now on some of her techniques from her daughter’s website that she used to have on a downloadable website. I subscribed to that website that is now defunct, and downloaded and watched everything available, even the long arm ones. I fortunately still have them.  Some of the videos seem a little primitive in format, but her techniques are wonderful. I particularly recommend The Quilt Fairy, which shows a painting method that has stood me in good stead for many places on my show quilts.  Now that brings up another point.  Fabric painting has different styles and materials just like applique or piecing, and each one has its place and learning as many of them as you can is helpful.  On “Waiting…” I used Sharon Schamber’s method presented in The Quilt Fairy to put the lowlights and highlights in the woman’s dress and cape.  I used my own computerized digital painting to paint her face and hands and printed them on fabric and appliqued them.  I used watered down Setacolor fabric paints to wash paint the sky fabric as demonstrated by Mickey Lawler show number 1305 on The Quilt Show.  Her hair is thread painted, which is another key technique especially useful for art quilts.  While I developed my own technique for this, it closely matches that shown by Nancy Prince on show number 1004 on TQS.


finished detail as shot 2

Wind-tossed woman showing the high and lowlights on her clothing, her digitally painted face and hands, her thread painted hair, and a little embellishment.



The clipper ship has wool batting between the sails and the quilt. Together with the dual bats (one 80/20 and one wool) I used in the quilt itself, this provided a wind look behind the sails.

If you are going to be at AQS Charlotte in July, my quilt “Waiting…” will be in the show and you can go see it for yourself.  It may not place.  I have had it in two shows so far and it did not.  One judge at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival thought my borders were too large.  Another judge at HMQS really didn’t like it.  She didn’t like my color choices, my overall design impact, and my quilting.  But hey, to each his own, right?  I would make it in the same colors today even after that critique, and I happen to like what I call “organic” quilting for a story landscape quilt like this.  The winners for that show are magnificent quilts, I will say.  Nevertheless, I am honored to have my quilt show in the big shows even without a ribbon.

I want to show you one other quilt, because it has a heavy dose of in-the-hoop machine embroidery, which isn’t used in Waiting…,  that I digitized myself and also motifs I used from my Bernina software that I enlarged and painted after it was quilted.

The Storyteller...now touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The Storyteller…now touring with Hoffman Challenge 2013 show

The phoenix and dragon in front of the sun is the story she is writing.  The word on her tablet is “Betty” in Japanese Katakana.  I drew and painted her on my computer myself, printed her on fabric and appliqued her down.  After that I added some highlights with real paint.  Then I drew and digitized the tree trunk myself from scratch.  It was a bear to stitch.  I stitched it out twice on a piece of brown fabric.  It required two hoopings on my jumbo hoop on my Bernina 830 LE, and then I turned the edge of the brown fabric behind the stitching and appliqued it to the quilt.  Even though the tree trunk was tough to do, I like it so much I am planning on using this kind of tree trunk in a deep dark forest quilt that I am planning, which will have a beam of light making it through the trees to a color-filled spot on the forest (perhaps the ruin of a beautiful little church with the light shining through the stained glass window to the floor of the forest where flowers are blooming.  It’s been in my head for a long time now.

I am telling you all of this because I am thinking of writing a book about some or all of these techniques.  I am working on a book proposal now, but I can’t share much about this with you because of the publisher rules, who understandably does not want things published before the book gets published.  I have temporarily put aside the Bernina book because I understand that many of my frustrations have been dealt with in the latest v7 software upgrade, but I need to obtain this product before I can see for sure.

Sew happy everyone!  And pull those techniques together–even hand quilting and embroidery–to realize your dream quilts.


From the Archives: “Waiting…” The Saga Continues

(5/22/2014)  Hi, as promised I am continuing to republish the blogs I wrote as I worked through the making of “Waiting…”  Several times I had put this aside for some months while I made other quilts.  These posts talk about my experiment with piecing, and continues on about my work on digitizing this applique/embroidery piece in Bernina v6 software.  In the end, I did not use it.  It was too large for the hoop and I wanted a more delicate stitch-down of the sales.  Instead I worked freehand directly on the quilt and used trapunto to puff out the sails.  Nevertheless, it is a pretty  nice clipper ship that fits in my jumbo hoop. 


TITLE: Storm at Sea: Clipper ship applique and an idea
DATE: 2/16/2012 11:46:22 PM


I’ve been learning more about how to use Bernina 6.0 design software and was able to clean up my original in-the-hoop clipper ship considerably.  I found how to remove overlap, and fixed a lot of other little things that make it look a lot better I think (you can scroll down and see the original from an earlier blog if you want).  Here’s a pic of how the design looks now (it’s just an image, not the real applique/embroidery piece).  The sails and ship are appliqued and everything else is embroidery.  The ship fabric, of course, is not what I will use, but it’s what they have in the selection and I haven’t scanned in anything else.  I will probably hand piece or digitally paint a special piece of fabric for the boat to use with the in-the-hoop design that will show the wooden sides of the boat properly oriented.  I find it so exciting that I can put this together in the hoop.  We’ll see what it looks like when I stitch it out.Anyway, I plan on using this on my storm at sea quilt.  This fits into a jumbo hoop for the Bernina 830.  We’ll see how it stitches out.  Idea:  Eventually, I hope to have a variety of items like this for download from my website for people who have Berninas.  I haven’t figured out if it can be done for other machines or not, nor do I know what, if anything, I have to do legally before I can share or sell my own designs I make in Bernina software.  But I’ll find out both of those things and take care of any obstacles before or if  I do that.  I have in mind making in-the-hoop applique/embroidery items such as Nativity figures, old tall ships of several varieties, women and men in historic poses and costumes, and other items for others to be able to download and use on their own quilts and wall hangings.  Some would be accompanied by digital pictures that could be printed on fabric and used in the appliques (like the faces of the people or the boat sides, for instance).  What do you think about this idea?


TITLE: Traditional Block Inspiration: Storm at Sea, part 1
DATE: 8/27/2013 9:18:13 PM

I have started a new art quilt to accompany my work on the Horsehead Nebula quilt because I like to have several quilts going at once, and this one requires piecing some traditional blocks.  I have several of these quilts in mind to make over the next year–Storm at Sea, Jacob’s Ladder, Bear Paw.  All will be pictorial quilts, but somewhere in the quilt there will be the traditional block that inspired the quilt.  Sew I’m starting with Storm at Sea.

Now I have talked about this quilt before way back early in my blogging, but I have finally really started it now.  It requires somewhere between 6 and 11 of the traditional block, which is fairly difficult.  But I have been able to figure out how to do it with paper piecing, which is something I have always found difficult.  Thanks to a video posted on The Quilt Show this month by Carol Doak, I think I have finally figured it out.  Anyway, here is my first Storm at Sea block:


It’s square even though the picture doesn’t look like it.  It takes for-ev-er to make.  I got the foundation pattern from Electric Quilt 7.  I’ll show you more as I get more done.

Sew happy everyone.


TITLE: Storm at Sea: One of these things is not like the other!
DATE: 9/24/2013 6:15:08 PM


I have developed a keen appreciation for those of you who do a lot of piecing.  This has been one challenging project so far.  I finally have the wave constructed, though I must rip out one of the blocks, fix it, and put it back.  Can you spot the errant block and tell me what is wrong with it…hint…there is more than one thing?

Anyway, as you can see, I am making progress. Today I have been correcting a lot of little places where the points weren’t quite matching, and as soon as I fix the one block, I will have completed the wave for my storm at sea pictorial quilt.

Storm at Sea concept

Storm at Sea concept

Here is a picture to let you know how I am going to use this.  The ship is the wrong ship, and there is a lot more to the quilt, but thought you’d like to know how this is “the big wave” as I think of it.

Anyway, we are having one of those times when the weather is absolutely exquisite.  It’s clear, just the right temperature and altogether lovely.   Already it is well after noon and I haven’t had lunch yet.  Perhaps I will take a walk and then light late lunch on the deck.

I would love to hear your responses on the overall look and, of course, the identification of the mistakes.  Truly!

Sew happy!




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 bjfabricartist@gmail.com.  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: The words section

I am currently in the process of stitching down all those little applique pieces on the red section of my little Chaucer quilt. I’m about halfway through that and my shoulders and neck are kind of hurting now, so I thought I would stop for a bit and work on the words section. Think of this as a page in a Medieval illuminated book. The red part is in the upper center and below that is the verse in a Medieval style text box. The border around the edge is probably still going to be black, but will be quilted in metallic threads (I think…may change my mind on that). I did a mock up of what I am thinking as far as the text box. I am planning on trying a tea-dye on some white silk/cotton Radiance and will try adding some additional aging with a very thin bit of watered down brown Setacolor inks. Here are the words I am going to include. I am going to try to digitize this in Bernina v6 so I can get it embroidered in the hoop.

text box for web

The “W” has to be fabulous and I will probably color it somehow (I’m thinking fabric markers). I have one choice in the mock up, and here are 4 more. If I use the first one, I will probably not use the mermaid somehow, but I kind of like the rest of it. With that in mind which one do you like? (Reference as “Mockup”, Top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right)

Whan Ws

Just so you get the idea for the look I’m kind of going for, I thought I’d include this example–I probably will add a decorative border down the side, and maybe even the man on the horse…in keeping with the Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales…if it doesn’t fight too much with the red floral center, which represents the opening prologue:


Anyway, as you can tell I am adding a bit of difficulty to the overall quilt, but I think it should be splendid if I can only realize the vision I have in my head. Then there is the matter of quilting it…. 😯

Sew happy Everyone! 😉

Whan That Aprille: Machine Applique

Fused and Ready to Stitch

Fused and Ready to Stitch

I have all the appliques cut and fused down. They are made from silk/cotton blend Radiance that I purchased at a quilt show. The appliques are tiny with little pieces, so I was able to do all of them from the 10 inch squares I bought in a collection of colors. I even have enough left to do a second quilt like this.

I love doing machine stitched appliques both fused stitched raw-edge, like I am doing here, and turned edge, machine stitched. Since these are so tiny with complex edges, I decided on the stitched-raw edge for this quilt. The stitch I use depends on the look I am going for. In this case, this folk-art influenced quilt works well with the blanket/applique stitch. Note that satin stitch, double blanket stitch, and some decorative stitches also work well. Here’s a little example, and I do mean LITTLE!  The flower here is a little more than one inch across.

It always interests me how I can miss problems when I’m looking at what I have done, but see them when I photograph them. I had a little tension trouble when I did the black perle cotton number 8 bobbin work at one point. I thought I had found it all and fixed it already, but here you see I missed a couple of spots:

Sew remember to use the photography test for your own work.  I’ll fix this.

I am experimenting with a new setup for my stitched-raw edge applique because it is SO SMALL and requires so much turning to keep the blanket/applique stitch at the right angle. I took an old super slider I had that was a little worn around the stitch hole and cut it so my feed dogs are exposed. I think this will help me move the quilt top around easier and more accurately. You see the disadvantage, though is I have to change thread colors a lot for this quilt, which means taking it up and putting it back every bobbin color change.  I’ll let you know if it makes enough positive advantage to use it despite the thread changes.


Sew happy everyone, and happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there.

From the Archives: First entry –5/29/2011 Let Me Introduce Myself

TITLE: Let Me Introduce Myself
STATUS: publish

DATE: 5/29/2011 10:19:53 PM

Hi there.  So glad you stopped by to pay me a visit.  I have established this website to share my quilting and sewing journey and techniques with anyone who may be interested.  Eventually, I may sell my quilts and other items I make from this site, but not yet.

I love fabric art of all kinds, including art quilting, traditional quilting, wearable art, bags, heirloom sewing, and even basic sewing and tailoring.  I love looking at it, making it, wearing it, hanging it on the wall, photographing it, and studying it. 

Years ago, I had my own fashion design and tailoring business where I designed and made clothing for both men and women.   I made everything from men’s suits and tuxedos to bridal gowns and tailored women’s clothing.  In more recent years, I have taken up quilting at the urging of my delightful daughter-in-law, Beth, who is also a quilter.  It was a wonderful solace for me following my dear husband Marvin’s passing a few years ago.  I now find that I have a real and abiding passion for making wall art quilts of various sizes primarily for competition and have spent the last couple of years honing my techniques and turning my fashion making skills into quilt making skills.

I have a long background of work with fabrics and threads, having learned to sew from my mother, who started teaching me when I was 5 or 6.  She also taught me to knit, hand embroider, and crochet, though I was never very good at the latter.  She was a very advanced fabric artist herself, although she trended toward the traditional highly advanced needlearts.  I wish she were still here today to share our needlework.

Now, I love the new techniques, supplies, and technologies that have enabled me to go so far beyond what I ever thought I could, even though I have a full time job elsewhere.  But I am nearing my retirement, and hope to dedicate a lot more time to play with fabrics and thread and even paint on fabrics.

I have a bit of an art background, though not as much as I would like.  I took many art classes in both high school and college and occasionally private lessons.  Perhaps I will take more such classes after I retire.  I studied music at the University of Iowa and also graduated from George Washington University in International Affairs.  I have traveled all over the world and the United States to many interesting places over the years  But now, my favorite place is at home in my small, but almost adequate, quilt studio, or at quilt shows.

I have two wonderful grown sons, one of whom is married to Beth, and one who still lives with me.  I have a grandson, Kevin, who is eight at the time of this writing.  I believe that the Lord has given me the talents and the opportunities I have to be creative, and that belief is often reflected in my art quilts in particular.  Some of the quilts I have made are actually banners designed for churches.

I hope we will have a lot of fun together, and I will be able to provide a little help to other fabric artists and also hope I will learn from you all.  My favorite websites for these pursuits include The Quilt Show, MQResource, and Ravelry.

I also love photography and writing.  Oh my, there just simply is not enough time in a day!!!





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!  🙂