When a Quilt is so much more than a Pretty Blanket

This last six months has taken an unexpected turn of its own in my quilting focus and I just went with the ride. There was the time (and who knows ~ it may still come) when I really wanted to make a quilt or two for competition. Or a huge Thread Painted Art Quilt ~ wouldn’t that be fun? But after I set up my Etsy Shop to sell the patterns I talk and teach about throughout this blog, I started getting asked to make quilts that I wasn’t even advertising….

Memory Quilts

…quilts designed, created, and infused with memories and meaning for the person it’s being made for.

At first it felt pretty typical to get these orders… just like “Yay! I got an order!” And I set about making the quilts requested as best as I knew how.

But then as I communicated with the customer more and more asking about this and that for the quilts construction, more of a story started to come out…

Who the quilt was for… why they wanted this quilt… what it meant to them… and what they wanted included. All of a sudden it was so much more than a pile of pretty fabric cut into blocks of designs, batting and thread …and so much more than just a fun way to make a little income.

It started to become an unexpected way to touch someone’s life and share something special with…

…a grieving family who recently lost a parent

… a couple waiting for a long awaited child through adoption

… a friend who wanted to commemorate the miracle of a heart transplant patient.

So here are a few of the quilts I’ve done and why since my last post and only one of them is Thread Painted! But all of them are so much more than a pretty blanket.

It all started with these seven quilts…yes seven! I wasn’t the one to piece them this time around ~ I did the finishing with my long arm. And Ann was a first time piecer of quilt tops! But as a craftsman in other areas she just wanted the memory of her mother-in-law preserved in seven quilts with pieces of her clothing, one for each sibling, so much, that she took it on fearlessly. And it became a fun texting conversation helping her a bit here and there…especially after I received the first top… so she could learn a bit more as she went along… and I would have fewer wavy borders to quilt down! : )

kpvp4118  img_4380

But she got hooked and did so well she made three more tops for gifts after these!

Then one of my own quilts got ordered. And that was when I changed from thinking it was just another order to so much more because at delivery time I got into a conversation and found out this quilt was going to be part of making a very welcoming room for a special adopted child. Up until this time I was still thinking of the quilts I made as just great lap warmers and pretty bed accessories. But now I find out its part of a young couple’s way to make a warm welcoming room to help their new child feel special and loved. That’s so much more than a pretty blanket! And it definitely gave ME a much wider perspective for what I like to do.


I don’t do a lot with hand embroidery so the next quilt was a fun challenge. I was asked to design a quilt to preserve the handwork of someone’s beloved mother in her memory. By this time I was catching on and I started praying for direction because I really didn’t want to mess this up! I was now responsible for six hand stitched panels that could not be replaced if I did! This was probably the most pressure I’ve felt making a quilt, because on top of not wanting to ruin those six blocks, she had a request for Log Cabin blocks that I felt wouldn’t work! But she loved, loved, loved the simpler plan I showed her instead that showcased her mother’s embroidery nicely and kept it the focus without the busy log cabin blocks.


The latest twin size quilt I finished also happens to be a pattern of mine, called “Whooo Loves You?”  This will be the last time I’ll make a quilt thinking it’s just another quilt order (!) because this one too has a sweet story behind its choosing. My customer chose it for her friend’s 50th birthday ~ they have been friends since high school but even more special, she is the longest surviving heart transplant patient in the country ~ 30 years! What a wonderful friend she has, knowing she loves owls, chose my mine because it was colorful.

16807723_848500311954772_3846597931107848489_n  16831058_847906312014172_4142935201564792552_n

And if that wasn’t enough to change my thinking for good, she just let me know she also wants SEVEN MORE QUILTS! That number! I do believe it means they will most certainly be gifts and most likely be some kind of memory quilt… that’s my enlightened guess! She says she is working on her ideas …but I will find out soon because she needs them all by June! So I will keep you updated with that next big project!


Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Why Contrast Matters Part 3 …the quilt is rescued from NO contrast!

I must admit I had my doubts this quilt could be helped, but I do love a challenge! Let me say here that taking the time to plan  as I described earlier is a LOT LESS WORK than trying to save and redo something. Lesson learned! …I hope

So here it is! Before, After and Value Sketch side by side so you can compare. Click on them to make them larger.

IMG_0554  IMG_4250  Fall Quilt Black Black Line

Now lets get into how I replaced it.

I made a pattern with red cellophane because I could easily see through it (and I happened to have some) and clear is actually a little harder to see (and I didn’t have any). A light box would have been useless with all the layers and tracing paper was not transparent enough. I also had that but it didn’t work.

IMG_4198    IMG_4203

I traced a pattern and cut the new piece out.

To fit it into place I had  to take out a bunch of hand appliqué stitching and the seams on all three side of the background piece. That way the new piece could go under the borders; the wool pieces re-appliqued and the seams fused down onto the background.

IMG_4207  IMG_4214  IMG_4215

I school glue basted the edges around the leaves, covering some of the thread painting. But no worries! I can thread paint over that new edge and you will never know it was restitched! (more on glue-basted appliqué here)

IMG_4210  IMG_4231  IMG_4232

If you’ll notice, the new fabric has a hint of blue in it that I liked to go with the teal I already have in the HST’s and a few leaves. They were looking a little out of place but a little more is also coming that you don’t know about. The grapes still need a layer of round pieces in teal and lighter purple that will add quite a bit of lighter color to that section and maybe a leaf or two that has the blue of the background… we’ll see.

Now all that is left is more stitching which will have to wait until my shoulder is completely healed from recent surgery. I was able to handle this much activity but not the rigors of maneuvering this quilt on a machine. I may even take it to the long arm!

And I am so pleased to say I really like my quilt again! I was hating it for sooooo long! So maybe that is a hint ~ is there a piece you feel “meh” about or bored with? Ask yourself “Why?” And don’t go too far forward until you figure it out. I kept going forward hoping the next piece added would “somehow make it better when really, all it did was complicate the fix.

An interesting note: I was inspired to replace this fabric after doing a lot of restoration to pieces in a vintage quilt where the hand pieced triangles had worn so badly they were crumbling and half or more gone. Essentially they had to be appliquéd back into place with healthier vintage fabric.

The blue in the background brings me to the next section on Color Contrast. One of the reasons I have it in this quilt to begin with is because orange and blue are contrasting colors. This quilt was way too analogous in colors as well as too middle valued to be of great interest or contrast. Orange and blue competes in a way that brings a little pop to the color scheme and blue typically acts as a shadow color in art. Although I don’t have any shadows in this composition, I still wanted to use it for the contrasting effect.

That’s all I’m going to say about color contrast here or this post will get too long. So see you next post for more on the topic! That’s where I will talk more about how and why I chose this fabric.



Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

 Why Contrast Matters Part 2 …Can This Quilt be Fixed?

We’ve all have had THAT quilt that we were sooooooo EXCITED about that we just couldn’t wait until we could get to cutting and piecing it and see it come together! And then… the moment we were waiting for… to SEE it before us in all it glory! But…but…but… what happened? It’s NOT like I imagined it! It looks… Meh. Where did it all go wrong?!

There’s nothing quite as disappointing to realize that the quilt you just KNEW was going to be SO amazing just fell flat flat as pancake. No “WOW!” NO  “Amazing!” No  “Best ever!”.

But the fabric was just perfect and so beautiful and your piecing and appliqué skills were right on. So what happened?

Well in my last post I started discussing how the lack of planning for contrast can really sabotage your best hopes for that most amazing quilt ever. The two types of contrast that flatten a quilt the quickest are VALUE contrast and COLOR contrast. Shapes and texture also factor in, and maybe I’ll add those in, but the two hardest in my opinion are value and color. And I gave you an exercise to try …did you do it?

Here’s mine! I did the value sketch I should have done BEFORE I started cutting and sewing it all together in a mad rush.


Fall Quilt Black Black Line BW Pumpkin

You’ll notice I did not stick to my original drawing totally either (don’t say it) and that’s ok…sometimes. But making too many changes can also cause problems (i.e.making the composition to busy) so do try to check it out with a new sketch first if you start changing the main elements and their placement. I changed the gourd on the bottom right to leaves and added a few more leaves to the upper right which did not mess with the main focal point. If I make this into a pattern, I will have to redo this master but for fixing this quilt we are OK.

The main difference between the two quilts is the massive improvement in the background of the value sketch compared to the actual quilt!

  • The grouping of pumpkins are much more visible
  • They sit on the darker bottom area of the background
  • The background still has three distinguishable parts – one dark, one light and one is just slightly darker.

I did not want three very distinct pieces in the background again – the two that read as (close to) one value keep it interesting …three very distinct values would make it too busy again and we need the lighter value behind the top pumpkin.

Now that I see a change in the background can save this quilt, I have to find a fabric to do that. There are a few ways to view fabric values before cutting:

  1. Place the fabric and view it through red and green lenses of some type to cut the color and reduce it to value (red for warm colors and green for cool). The glasses would be fun in a store! The photo on the end has red cellophane over it to give you an idea.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 5.33.44 PM     Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 3.18.42 PM          IMG_4194

  1. Place the fabric and take a photo of it together and desaturate it to the grays values again. Here you see my four fabrics that could work as far as value goes. The elements will show up more.

However when I compared the colors of those four, three of them did not have the right color contrast. I will get into color contrast in another post but for now suffice it to say one DID  work! I will explain why in that post but now at least we know I do have a light enough fabric to change the background out and we know how to determine the right value a little more easily and why it can make or break a quilt composition.

It’s a little hard to see the colors but if you enlarge them you might be able to see that the two on the left are too yellow and the next one is too warm (pinkish). the one on the left is the one I chose because it is the best transition to the light color already there with a touch of blue that really helps the odd looking teal pieces which I will also discuss more with Color Contrast.

In the next post I will show you the process I went through to replace the background! I did it and YES! It worked! Just hold on for one more post and you’ll see it!

Do you have a question about a quilt you are working on? I’d love to hear about it!


Posted in Applique, Art Quilt, Designing, Ideas For Art Quilts, Quilted Wallhanging, Quilting, Raw Edge Applique, Thread Painting, Thread Sketching, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s Wrong With This Quilt!…why Contrast Matters 

Have you ever had a project get away from you? It can happen easily especially when you’re working with many prints or colors and trying to get a limited amount of certain colors to work together if you forget one very important rule…

– contrast makes a big difference, an important difference, in a good composition.

This applies to a traditional quilt, a modern quilt, an art quilt or ANY quilt! They all have one thing in common ~ COMPOSITION!

An art quilt I have been working on, on and off, for a year has this problem. So I am going to humble myself and show you my mess, where I think I went wrong, how, and why. And then I am going to attempt to FIX it! This may take a few posts and even then, I won’t know if it will work until a few posts from now. Sadly …I really did know better but I just wanted to jump right in without any planning and get my hands on that fabric and start cutting! And sewing and thread painting! I KNOW you know that feeling!

So let’s start with where I’m at right now and why it is the  way it is.



Today we are looking at Value Contrast. To start ask yourself a few questions:

  • What stands out first? Second?
  • What do you WANT TO STAND OUT first? Second?

So …if what you want to stand out as the focal points of interest DOES NOT stand out or stand out enough and what you DO NOT want to stand out DOES…there’s a contrast problem!…or two.

I’ll run down what I think ~

  • The Borders stand out first!
  • The HST’s stand out next and then the large pumpkin.
  • I wanted the small pumpkin and the large pumkin to stand out together with the gourd as a third component ~ that relationship is broken…lost…caput!

I don’t mind that the HST’s stand out (although if I do this again they will have a less strong contrast so they become more secondary) because they actually point you to the middle ~ I just would have preferred them to do that more subtly!

The main problem ~ and I think you see it by now ~ is that very busy mid-tone fall color paisley background fabric! I just HAD TO HAVE IT in there! As as matter of fact it is what got me started on this piece because it said “fall” to me AND I was in a stash busting mode. So…

MISTAKE #1 – Let your stash busting efforts determine the right fabric for your composition ….No! Don’t do it!…even if you love it to death, if it really doesn’t work.

That brings us to what you can do to plan fairly quickly and tell fairly quickly if a fabric selection will work or not. You really Really REALLY neeeeeeeeed to do this! I didn’t AND I knew better and look where it got me!

Planning Exercise Numero UNO!

Make a small contrast drawing/sketch. There’s a few ways to do this. If you draw easily, draw out your design thumbnail size (2″x4″) so it doesn’t take long. If you don’t draw and you are using a pattern with a master, scale down the master with a copier to a smaller size. And for both ways, make a few copies of this line drawing. Then color it! But only black, white and grays. Do this a few times and compare them until you have the right values for the design to pop.

Decide what you want to be the darkest fabric and color it black and what you want to come forward and leave that white…generally. Sometimes the darkest shape stands out more depending on what is near it.  Then fill in other parts with different values of gray. I did not do this for this piece so I can’t show it to you for this piece yet! BUT that will get done for my next post for you to see what I should have done.

This gives you the idea though. The shapes are a typical study in values one does in art school. In this case the triangle stands out because it is the darkest and your eye goes right to it.
9136521cf93572babe380ddaaac1704c         IMG_0622

The Pug is a digital version of this excercise if you are familiar with Photoshop and can desaturate a photo or a picture of the pattern you want to do. He has light, medium and dark values – so that art quilt worked very well because I planned it! You can see how that one was made in four parts starting here.

What I was able to do for us right now is desaturate the quilt as it is now and you can see a few things right away. The borders have the most contrast! The SUBJECTS fall mostly in the range of MIDDLE VALUE with a few darks that start to pop but not a whole lot or in any way that makes a great composition. So next time I will have a reworking of this as I should have done in the first place.

MISTAKE #2 – DON’T  do a value sketch of some kind before choosing fabrics.

BW Pumpkin

Meanwhile, please try this out on what ever you are working on and post it and ask questions if I wasn’t clear. Let’s help each other out!

Next time we will use these sketches to choose a new piece of fabric to replace the background and get into the effects of contrasting color!


Posted in Applique, Art Quilt, Designing, Ideas For Art Quilts, Quilted Wallhanging, Quilting, Raw Edge Applique, Thread Painting, Thread Sketching, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Machine Quilting Fabric for Sewing Projects

When I first started using a long arm quilting machine, I was intrigued by the many uses one of which is to combine different fabrics for sewing projects not just making quilts. It is literally a whole cloth quilting project…  and in todays example, two different types of fabric. 

I started by simply quilting a piece of terrycloth to a decorative piece of cotton fabric with just simple straight lines across the fabric… Just enough to keep the two pieces of fabric together so that I could make a blanket/towel. I was really impressed with the feel of this combination. It drapes well and even feels cuddly! 

The intention is for the one side that is cotton fabric to be decorative useful as a picnic blanket or floor Matt for a baby on one hand and the terry cloth  side being useful for pool and beach situations as a towel. Two uses in one! I don’t know about you, but when I am at the beach I prefer a smooth side to lay on that doesn’t trap a lot of sand.

Then as I was making my third towel/blanket, I threw it around me and was immediately impressed at how comfortable it felt. That got me thinking that would make a wonderful feeling bathrobe! And on this third trial I was using 4 yards of cotton fabric and 4 yards of terry cloth. And I also decided to use the decorative pattern for the quilting to complement the fabric pattern and color. I was afraid it would make it feel stiff so I chose a fairly open pattern and it worked out great! It stayed soft and supple.

I really think it would look incredible with cuffs turned up and a rolled collar which would show the complementary terrycloth, adding to the overall design. I can’t wait to find myself a four or 5 yard piece of fabric that I like to try this with

This pattern should work nicely.

Posted in Longarm Quilting, Patterns | Tagged | Leave a comment

Ever Use Gluebasting For Machine Binding?

If you never used gluebasting with school glue for machine binding a quilt, you MUST try it! I never liked machine binding until I did. Arthritis in my fingers got really challenging and so pushed me to try it, especially for the much used quilts I was making as gifts for children. But getting the binding to look really neat was almost as challenging! Pins! Clips! Nothing was really easy or accurate…. until…. gluebasting!

I use Elmers School Glue which is a starch based glue and will wash out completely.

Once you have your binding made, it’s four easy steps.

First sew your binding to the front of your quilt as usual with a 1/4″ inch seam (or 3/8″ if that’s your preference). My binding is 2 1/4″ and ironed folded before I begin.

After its all sewn on, iron it away from the quilt.

Then turn the quilt – you will be glueing and folding  the binding to the back. First apply a fine line of glue to the seam and then press the binding to it evenly. The hot iron sets the glue in a few seconds – this is a must or the glue will not hold. If you don’t like what you did it pulls up easily- then just redo it.

When you get to the corners carefully miter them, tacking them down perfectly in place with the glue. (You may see residue coming through the fabric- this WILL wash away. Just use a damp rag)

Continue all around the quilt until all the binding is glue basted down.

Turn the quilt front side up to sew the binding down using a stitch-in-the-ditch foot. The ditch guide should sit in the seam between the quilt and the binding as you sew in that ditch. Pivot at the corners. Once you get back to the beginning tack in place and Voila! You have a really evenly stitched binding with no frustrating pins or clips to worry about! Just continual sewing!

I hope you will try this and let me know how you like it!

Posted in Child's Quilt, Longarm Quilting, Tips and Tricks, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I. Love. Gluebasting!

…especially for matching triangle points!

Have you ever tried it? At first I thought it would take more time but really NOT true. It actually went faster than any struggle for perfectly placed points I’ve had so far. Here are a few photos to show the steps.

I have a cutting board,rotary cutter, ruler and small ironing mat and iron on hand, as well as the clear school glue, to switch back and forth.

Start by putting a dot of glue at the point on one side of the bottom piece to be joined, carefully place the  top piece matching points, and place the hot iron on it to set. This only works if you set the school glue with heat.

So I continue two points at a time because the iron will reach two points at a time.

I do trim my piece most of the time with this triangle quilt to be sure I have a 1/4″ seam.

Then off to the sewing machine to sew with the ease of no pins to remove and stick somewhere and no slipping or moving – for perfect points!

I think I love glue basting as much as I love spray starch!

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Lot of Changes going on!

When you decide to put up a shop of any kind all of a sudden there is so much more to do and think about!

Is the name just right? How do I display my wares? How do I price it? How do I get found? Are my photos ok? Does my description say enough?…too little?  So many questions!

          ?                                         ?
                          ?              ?                             ?           

And of course creating the thing you love to make! All of a sudden there’s so many hats to wear! Can’t  I have a few more of me???? 😳

But after my fun fabric shopping trip I have manged to start cutting for the next quilt. 

Thread Painting may take a back seat until I get some quilts make to put in the shop though …anyone know how to clone? In the midst of the changing and tweaking the shop, Instagram, Facebook and my logo, a quilt managed to get finished!!! 😀                            

The 60 Degree Quilt is done!

A New Name for FB, IG and Etsy

And Lots of cutting!

I will definitely try to continue designing and creating thread painting quilts because I love them but practically speaking, the “normal” quilts need to happen as well. So we’ll see in time where I take this blog ….. 😁

Posted in 60 Degree Quilt, Child's Quilt, Free Motion Quilting, Longarm Quilting, Stash Busting | Leave a comment

One of my favorite kind of days….

                                    …a quilt fabric Road Trip!

I was so sorry to hear that another quilt shop in (sort of) my area was closing! For me it meant an unexpected spending spree since the  fabrics were all 40% off! There are online deals to be had for sure, but I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised by the color I ended up getting. It’s just not easy to do unless you’ve already seen the line of fabric before.

This one corner of the store had enough fabric selection to make me happy (which was all that was left) as I hunted for the colors that will go into more triangle and chevron quilts to put up in my Etsy shop.

I love the Teal, Yellow and Gray but I am expanding the range to Coral, Teal and Gray and Pink, Lime and Gray. AND I just saw this room on Instagram and love the rug! It’s ALL the colors!!! I love it and the triangle type as well. So inspired to do something like it!


There they are!! The fabric selection for the day! I just had the greatest time putting up the bolt and saying “I’ll take it all!” 😆 And I did that several times! Whoo hoo! The fave of the day was the rest of the bolt of Cotton and Steel teal blue… You can see the fat one in the stack.

It was bonus to meet a quilter from Australia and exchange info …would you believe fabrics can start at $23 a yard???! Mouth open! No more complaining from me!

Well it was totally worth the hour and a half it to to get there to increase my stash… now I just need to hunt down the grays!

Thanks for letting me share my day!

Posted in Designing, Free Motion Quilting, Ideas For Art Quilts, Longarm Quilting, Quilting, Stash Building | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baby Dragon Quilt…

…and digital quilting.

My niece and great nephew inspired this quilt because …we love dragons! The Hobbit started that for me and I LOVE all the How To Train Your Dragon movies and series! So does my granddaughter, so I get to see them often.

I also love thread painting and free motion quilting and digital robotic quilting and designing and this quilt has ALL of that!

Dragon Quilt

With the 5D QuiltDesign Creator I scanned in a drawing of the castle in the background and drew the digital castle over it. I also created the digital grass by free motion quilting it with a setting on my Phaff Quilt Artist that saved it as I quilted!

So along with this pattern I will be able to offer digital quilting files for quilters and embroidery machines.

You can find the Pattern on my website store OR by digital download at my NEW ETSY STORE! Yay! I’m so excited because the Etsy store is immediate download!

Let me know what you think! I am happy to get feed back and improve things!

Posted in Applique, Art Quilt, baby quilt, Child's Quilt, Designing, dragon quilt, Free Motion Quilting, Longarm Quilting, Patterns, Quilted Wallhanging, Raw Edge Applique, Thread Painting, Thread Sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment