How Would You Fix This?

Rummaging through my closets this week I came across an embroidery project I worked on back in high school…yes high school.  I think it was for an art class.  It’s actually pretty big, 18 x 24 I would guess, with a large wood frame.

high schoolHave to love the signature.

carolAt any rate, back in the day that I stretched and framed this thing, I obviously had no stabilizer behind it.

You can see that after moving, I don’t know, 5 or 6 times since high school, somewhere along the line I managed to poke a small hole through the muslin.

the holeThe weave on this fabric is amazingly loose.  I thought about just adding another tree.  However, now that it’s stretched on a frame, it’s very difficult to embroider–but probably not impossible.

I hate to just give up on it, as the details are interesting.

close up2stitchesI’m open to suggestions.

I think the best I can do is to finish the edges of the tear with Fray-Check, and then somehow add another tree on top of the hole.

It may not be perfect, but, hey, after 40 years (or 50 or 60), how many of us are?

Missouri Star Quilt Company Birthday Bash

Guess where I was last weekend?  Guess where we brought 43 of our best friends?

Our shop organized a bus trip to Missouri Star Quilt Company and it just happened to be the weekend of their 7th Birthday Bash!  What a wonderful time we had — wonderful weather, great people and fabric, fabric, fabric!

Missouri Star Quilt companyAs you can see, the tiny town of Hamilton was hoppin’ the weekend we were there!  MSQC sponsored events like layer cake walks, a Pinata (filled with Aurifil thread, no less!  If you want to see quilters really go at it, dangle some Aurifil in front of them!)

Local vendors were out, with the local Lions Club fixing hot dogs and sandwiches on the grill, antique shops and 77 cent fatquarters, which MSQC kept filled to the brim!

They actually have 6 quilt shops in town, and if you’re thinking about making the trip, I will give you some tips along the way!  Here are the six quilt shops:

  1. Main Shop, has modern fabric, notions etc.
  2.  Mercantile has reproduction.
  3. Sew Seasonal had, you guessed it, seasonal fabric…every holiday you can imagine.
  4. Novelty. A whole shop of it.
  5. Solids and modern: think chevron fabric, Moda bella solids, Robert Kaufman, Stonehenge, etc.
  6. And the JCPenney shop carried wool, Snuggle, and other basics, as I recall.

We had a trunk show with Jenny Doan, host of MSQC tutorials. And may we just add that she is just as delightful in person as she is in the tutorials.  No difference!

msqc1IMG_4310She does the show with her husband, and the two of them are such a great partnership!

msqc3Some teensy little tidbits from Jenny:  this turkey MAY appear in an upcoming pattern and tutorial.

She also mentioned that they will soon be opening another 6 stores!  (Likely within the next month or so! (The new stores will include a machine shop, a wool specialty shop and one store with all wideback fabric!)

My tips for making this trip:

  1.  You won’t find any hotels in Hamilton, but you could consider their retreat center.  For us, the sleeping arrangements were a little too cozy and dorm-like for a bus load of folks. And the retreat center only holds a maximum of something like 37 people?  Not sure about that number, but not enough for us.  I HIGHLY recommend (and so does MSQC) GuestHouse Acorn Inn in Cameron, about 10 minutes away. It was clean and comfortable and the breakfast was outstanding…real eggs!  If you have a group, call the manager ahead of time to make arrangements, they are very accommodating.

2.  If you have a large group, by all means, set up a trunk show with Jenny…she’s a hoot and it’s wonderful!  Yes, there is a fee, but well worth it.  Call the store and tell them you’d like a trunk show.  They will put you in contact with the right person.

3.  Make arrangements for your group to have a meal at Blue Sage Restaurant in town. No kidding. Just do it. The food is fabulous!  Our group thoroughly enjoyed it at the end of a bustling day! The chicken pot pie is amazing. Just sayin’.

msqc4msqc5Had to share with you some of the murals MSQC had done in the town.  They are just beautiful.

msqc2IMG_4351IMG_4374IMG_4360This small town experience is one to be savored.  Take your time and enjoy your surroundings. I know our group really enjoyed themselves (and they MAY have purchased a little fabric too.)

Things that go bump in the night…

ornamentsI have always enjoyed Halloween more than Christmas, or whatever mid-winter holiday you celebrate.  Too much pressure, too many gifts, too much hype.

And when you work in retail, Halloween isn’t much better.  Most chain stores start putting their Halloween decorations out July 5.  But when that first crisp fall breeze rolls in, and those first few leaves begin to fall, I get inspired.  Many people do. Once the kids are all back in school and the “official” fall season starts, it’s amazing how many of us turn to our craft, our hobby or our passion once again.

So this year I am teaching some students to use the cross stitch program in Bernina Embroidery Software 7.  I am not a big fan of cross least not actually DOING it.  However, I love the way it looks, and I love how easy it is to get some things done in software (which I DO love to use).

I stumbled across some lovely cross stitch designs in Just Cross Stitch Magazine.

They always include many  many patterns for people to use.  I scanned a few of their Halloween “ornaments”, and brought the jpegs into the cross stitch software.

Then you can use the software to create stitches following the image in the background.  I wanted to keep these very simple so I could make many, but not take a lot of time.  The cross stitch program within Software 7 saves the file as .arx extension.

pumpkimcrossstitchThe next step of course, is to bring the cross stitch design into the actual embroidery software.  I love this technique because it turns all those little x’s in the Cross Stitch program into machine-readable stitches.  And then it’s just an embroidery design.

pumpkinspngOnce one file is in the software, you can repeat it multiple times.  I also rearranged the color film, along the right, to stitch all of one color at once instead of all the colors in one pumpkin at a time.  This is a huge step and really cuts down on thread changes.

At the end, I added a double run stitch around the outside of the ornament, leaving the bottom open, so the little critters could be turned inside out and stuffed.  Before that last double run thread stitches, I added the backing, with right sides together. Under the backing I taped down some ribbon, so that they could be hung.  As you can see, in the hoop, they look like little ravioli.

inthehoopWhen all is done stitching, I cut everything out, clipped corners, turned it inside out, stuffed them with polyfill, and used the machine to stitch along the bottom closure.

cat doneVoila!  Six or eight of them will fit into the jumbo hoop.  I managed to create a cat, a witch and a pumpkin.  I also made some larger ornaments with regular embroidery on them.

pumpkin hoopI bought a cheap Halloween tree for the house and one for the shop…these will be on display for awhile!  And if I have time, I’ll make more…it’s a little addictive.  And really pretty fast and easy when you make use of technology!  Gotta love it.


More Bags

IMG_4216Now that I’ve made 8 or 9 more of these little bags, I think I have them out of my system. This batch was done with the new line from Bonnie and Camille, Hello Darling.

I was a skeptic, but these cheerful, cheerful colors really inspire me to keep going.  Mood-lifting, without a doubt.

May you find the thing that inspires you to keep going, and may it make your world more colorful.

Bag Obsession


I’ve been making these little cosmetic/chotchke/jewelry bags now for a couple of days.  So easy and fun to make.

They’ve become an obsession.

All the ones I’ve made (8 of them in total, so far) are made from Art Gallery Fabric, Sketchbook.  The look of the fabric is artsy and lends itself well to these small bags. They are approximately 6 x 8 in. finished.

These are all done in embroidery, by the way.  I digitized the lines for the bags, and all the work is basically in the cutting of fabric.

First stitch is a placement for the zipper, then you lay down the zipper, then folded fabric with batting in the middle across the top of the zipper, stitch a line, same thing with the bottom layer of fabric, stitch a line, then lay the lining/backing down (a quilt sandwich) and stitch around the outside.

bag4Voila! That’s it. You’re done. Trim and turn it inside out.

You use a sticky back stabilizer, so you end up picking that off the back at the end, but other than that, these bags go REALLY FAST.  Use batting in between every layer to give the bags a nice hand.

I’m thinking these would make great holiday gifts. I have gone through my stash and have come across some old home dec fabric that I think would be fun.  Denim would also be great.  Who doesn’t have an old pair of jeans that need to be repurposed into new life?  Add some embroidery or a little bling…anything is possible.

These in-the-hoop projects are great stash busters.  Gotta run, I need more zippers.



Messin’ with Minky

I love minky.

I hate minky.

I have a love/hate relationship with minky.

It started with this little box of pre-cut minky fabric I bought in Shipshewana.

minky in a boxYummy, right?  Like a box of candy.  They came with a matching backing in a textured grey.

Now, just like everyone else, I had read a little about working with minky. It’s hard to describe.  You want to forgive all its faults and difficulties because it is so delightfully soft to touch.

But it behaves like a knit.  The gal at the store recommended a stretch needle.  I armed myself with a 90/14 stretch needle and some So Fine thread from Superior Threads.  I’m sure this seems like a mismatch because a 90/14 is a pretty big needle, and So Fine is, well, so fine.  Yet, when working with minky, you have some bulk to contend with, soft as it may be.  By the time I was adding the binding, I had 4-5 layers of minky with batting in between.

Assembling the strips was easy enough, and not too messy.  Apparently, the textured minkies are the ones that do most of the shedding.  It wasn’t until I cut the binding that I really started to see it begin to shed along the raw edge.

minky assembledminkymess3The trick to working with minky is to clean up as you go.

Even yourself.  Believe me, every time I turned around I had more minky on myself than there was near the sewing machine.

Two tools you won’t be able to do without:  a vacuum, and a lint roller.

I used them both basically every time I moved the quilt before the binding was finished.

minkymessminkymess2Another trick is to make sure the area you work in is already clean.  In other words, don’t have a stack of your favorite fabric underneath the sewing machine where you are working on minky.  In fact, move everything away from the area, so that you can see the fuzz and get at it.

I used the lint roller at least 20 times, each time taking off another layer of paper so that it would still work. I cleaned up after every cut so that I did not spread the little fuzz all over the place.

The whole process is not for the faint of heart, and I basically cleaned the entire sewing room afterward.

I used an older machine, just in case it dirtied my larger one too much.

minky cleanupLuckily, as you can see, my machine got dirty, but it’s not the machine that takes in the most fuzz.  It’s everything around you.

I used a walking foot for everything – stitching and quilting. Minky is slippery.  Many people suggest pinning everything, but in a strip quilt like the one I just did, the walking foot did the job completely.

minkysewI know all you Pfaff people and even Bernina 7 Series and 8 Series folks will think you can get away with just your IDT or dual feed.

I wouldn’t try it.  Minky likes a walking foot.

When I finished, I immediately marched out the back door and shook the quilt out over the back lawn.  Then went straight to the washing machine and washed and dried it. Once the raw edges are sewn in, no more fuzzies!

If you are good at cleaning up after yourself and taking care of your machine, you will do just fine. If I were going to do this again, I would likely only put minky on the back of a quilt, and I definitely would not use it for binding–even though it looks great when you’re done.

No matter how you feel about minky, this is the truth: it makes the snuggliest, cuddliest, most huggable quilts ever.

finished minky


Quilting Using Machine Embroidery

machine embroidery quilting4I have wanted to try this technique for a long time now.  And I’m going to teach a class on it in the fall.

If you have a sewing machine that is capable of embroidery, you can do it too.

Many people love the look of a quilt that has long-arm quilting.  It gives a very polished, professional look to a finished quilt.  Most of my quilts I use free-motion and do them at home.  As you know this is awkward with larger quilts, twin size and up. But using your embroidery module to quilt is really worth trying, especially if you are someone who is comfortable with embroidery (hooping and hooping over and over…and if you’re not familiar, what a great way to get good at it).

embroidery quilting 1For this particular technique, I followed along with this book from Amelie Scott, “Edge to Edge Quilting on Your Embroidery Machine.” 

She provides special quilting embroidery designs that have an easy start and end point.  All the work is in the positioning and the time invested in the stitch-outs and hooping.

machine embroidery quilting2As you can see on my quilt, you will still be hefting around a a lot of fabric.  And by far, the trickiest part is calculating the number of hoopings and working out the positioning.  But that’s just a little bit of math and little bit of decision-making.

machine embroidery quiltingYou use 2 different files…an “A” and a “B” file.  You alternate them in rows so that the design looks randomly spaced. This really does work and the finished quilting technique is lovely.  While I can free-motion some great spirals or stippling or loops or hearts, I know I would never be able to get the perfect consistent quality of these daisies.

This 60 x 60 in. quilt took 32 hoopings, and my time invested was somewhere around 7-8 hours at the machine.  I love the way the quilting looks  — whimsical, yet professional.

machine embroidery quilting5 Would I want to do this for every quilt?  Of course not.  I like to be able to customize some of my quilts.  Is this great for gift-giving and finishing some of those UFO’s?  A resounding yes!  And a terrific way to get more use out of your embroidery module.  Your local quilt shop should be able to get you the book.

What are you waiting for?  Let’s get those quilt tops quilted!


Shipshewana Dreamin’ – Part 3

Don’t worry, this is my last post about Shipshewana.  I’m not a travel brochure.  But it was a peaceful getaway not far at all from home and so I just wanted to share.

I had the opportunity to meet an Amish woman who sells hand-quilted Amish quilts from her basement  —  some of them she works on herself, some of them she contracts out from others, and some she sells on consignment.

(An aside: the stark contrast between an Amish basement and my own is embarrassing. Hers was empty, with a few things on shelves, not a dust bunny or piece of anything unnecessary in sight.  Mine is filled with boxes from outdated electronics, old toys, old furniture, old books, old pictures.  What a cluttered, junk-filled life we live. )

Here are a few of the quilts she showed me.  This is just a sampling as she had many more. Make sure you scroll to the bottom, because at the end is an absolute masterpiece.

While she gave me permission to take the pictures and put them on a blog, she did not want her name given.  “What if someone sees a quilt and cannot live without it?”  I asked, in my total blundering non-Amish way.

She smiled and gave me a card.

So if you cannot live without one, leave a comment and I will privately give you her info. The prices are very reasonable for the amount of work.

While I did purchase a piece from her smaller-sized collection, everyday I think about driving back out to get the whole cloth quilt.  And who knows?  Maybe she already sold it.

But we can all still appreciate it.

This is one she did herself.  She pieces by machine and quilts by hand.

This is one she did herself. She pieces by machine and quilts by hand.

SHe chose the colors for this, but asked others to do the piecing and quilting.  She said she's not good at curves.

She chose the colors for this, but asked other Amish women to do the piecing and quilting. She said she doesn’t like curves.


Hand appliqued and hand quilted.  A beauty.

Hand appliqued and hand quilted. A true beauty.

This one is a masterpiece.  She told me an Amish woman in Pennsylvania gave it to her to sell on consignment.  It is a whole-cloth quilt, and the hand quilting is so perfect it almost made me cry.

This one is a masterpiece. She told me an Amish woman in Pennsylvania gave it to her to sell on consignment. It is a whole-cloth quilt, and the hand quilting is so perfect it almost made me cry.


THe whole quilt was for queen size but with overhang, so very large.  the entire edging was in scallops with these lovely feathers.

 The edging was in large scallops with these lovely feathers.



Shipshewana Dreamin’ – Part 2

My first stop of the the day was Yoder’s Department Store which opens at 8 am.  Honestly, they have a TON of fabric, and every book, (including modern quilting books) imaginable. I love this place.

yoders3 yoders4I had vowed to myself during this whole trip that I would only purchase items unique to the area.  I love Moda fabric, but I can get that at home.  So I began hunting for “local” goods.

First thing I ran into was this display of reproduction toweling.  I could purchase by the yard and got myself a vintage-looking design.  They had some very cute tablecloths in carriers that looked like handbags and I’d really like to use the toweling to make a handbag…add a little ricrac and I’m good to go!  Also in the display was a special edition “Yoder’s 70th Anniversary” hand towel.  While waiting in line to check out, another woman told me she was going to use hers to create a quilt around it.  What a great idea!

yoders2Of course, I purchased a little bit of anything that had some local charm.

yoders1Do you collect Row by Row?  Get your Shipshewana version at Yoder’s.

rowbyrowNext stop is the Davis Mercantile where you can find many stores, but I just had to see the famous Lolly’s Quilt Shop.

lollysLolly’s is another wonderful place with everything you could want or need — current fabric lines, reproductions, batiks galore, and plenty of solids, books, patterns. Found a wall of Kaffe Fassett florals, with an opposite wall of all his colorful stripes.  Really the largest selection of Kaffe I’ve ever seen.

Lolly’s has a “sister” store downstairs at the mercantile, called Cuddle Corner.

Don’t miss it.

I was amazed at the wonderful things being done with minky!

cuddlecornerFresh textures, colors and patterns…all in minky!  If you have a baby in your life, you need to stop here.  You won’t believe how soft and cuddly this stuff is.  If you’re like me, you’ll want one for your own home for winter snuggling.

Special tip from the gal at the counter: a stretch needle works best with minky.  We have this discussion at work from time to time…what needle for minky?  This gal says stretch is best and I believe her, but I will try for myself as soon as I sew up my quilt.

cuddlecorner2cuddlecorner3Around every corner in Shipshewana, you’ll find merchants that are selling hand-quilted quilts.  Having done a bit of this, I fully understand the time, effort and work that goes into these kinds of handmade masterpieces.

wallofquiltsIn the next post, I’ll share a few Amish handmade quilts I was shown when an Amish woman showed me the quilts she sells for herself and for other Amish women from her home.

Hint: absolutely breathtaking.