The Quilter’s Toolbox: Thread

There is nothing a quilter likes more than a new gadget! We love our tools and care for them with a reverence akin to a good friend. I broke my favorite acrylic ruler a few years ago and mourned its loss for weeks. Of course I still have the two halves and use them when I need a shorter ruler!

But a quilter’s tools can also be serious business. In this video, Barb Sackel presents a great list of the basic tools all quilters should have.

In the video Barb briefly discusses thread.  I would like to share some important information about selecting a good thread.  Polyester, Poly-Cotton, and Cotton threads which are used in quilt piecing and garment sewing comes in a variety of thicknesses, or weights. This can be confusing and choosing the right thread becomes easier when you know some of the qualities of thread.

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Thread is made of a series of filaments, twisted together and wound on a spool.  The number of filaments and the tightness of the twist all affect thread performance.  Typically quilters choose a medium 50 weight three-ply thread for most sewing tasks.  Here is what that means.

The most common weight system specifies the length of the thread in kilometres required to weigh 1 kilogram. Therefore, a greater weight number indicates a thinner thread. For example 100 weight thread is very fine. (100 kilometres of this thread is required to equal 1 kilogram) 50 weight thread is common for sewing and quilting. 30 weight thread is heavier and thicker.

Sometimes you will also see the work TEX is sometimes used to refer to thread weight. According to Wikipedia, “Tex is the mass in grams of 1,000 meters of thread. If 1,000 meters weighs 25 grams, it is a tex 25. Larger tex numbers are heavier threads. Tex is used more commonly in Europe and Canada.”

So which thread should I use? Many quilters prefer 50 weight 3ply cotton or poly/cotton thread for piecing. If you are paper piecing you may want to use a slightly heavier thread (40 weight) and a 14/90 needle to perforate the paper better and stand up to the tugging of paper removal. If you are doing a miniature quilt with tiny pieces, consider using 60 weight thread (and a size 10/70 needle) to reduce bulk in your seams.

Polyester thread is a synthetic fiber with great strength and durability.  Because it can be dyed easily it comes in a huge range of colors and is generally less expensive than cotton thread.  It tends to have a sheen, because the synthetic fibers catch the light and are slightly reflective.  It is the go-to thread for machine embroidery for this reason.

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Both cotton and poly thread can be variegated or striped to create a multicolor effect.  The better variegated threads have a shorter color repeat (from an inch to several inches).  Cheap variegated threads will have a longer repeat of 12″ or more and don’t blend in quite as well in projects.

silk

Silk thread is fine, expensive and lovely to work with.  It is great for hand applique and and machine applique.  It comes in a variety of weights as well.  50 weight silk is great for machine applique.  100 weight silk is very fine and is used for heirloom hand stitching or hand applique. Silk dyes beautifully so there are lots of colors to choose from, but the cost of silk often puts quilters off.

Each spool of thread is marked with the color, fiber, number of plys or filaments, and weight or TEX of the thread.  Next time you are shopping for thread read the label.  You will be amazed what you can learn from such a tiny circle!

Happy Quilting from QuiltWoman.com.

 

Posted in Helpful Tips, Helpful Tools, Notions, Techniques, Video | 2 Comments

Trends from Spring Market

What a feast for the eyes!  Spring Quilt Market is in the books but the sights and sounds will be coming to your local quilt shop any day.  What was cool, new and memorable?  Where to begin?!

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Brights are back!  Of course they never really left but they are back in force in vibrant batiks, bold prints, and shimmering textures.  You will be delighted at the sheer breadth of designs available this summer.

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Neutrals and grays were still in attendance, and some delightful modern looks were looking resplendent in muted yellows and edgy greens, but they were less prevalent than at Fall Market.

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I think the long cold winter had everyone battling back to life with vibrant, fun, and furry new trends.

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Speaking of furry– owls and foxes were there in abundance this spring, from whimsical to menacing these woodland cuties were donning every color and texture from dots to stripes.  Look for great patterns and fabrics featuring these and more woodland beasties this summer and fall. Add bunnies, deer and bears to the mix as well.  Critter lovers will have a great selection.  And check out this lion!!!

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Solid fabrics were a significant presence at Market with most of the big manufacturers showing off a line of saturated colors and coordinating pastels.  Lots of gray on the side, but not the main dish.  Other neutral players were stepping up to snag the spotlight, including pale peach, muted teal and lots of purples.

Other trends I spotted?

You couldn’t miss Nancy and the Ditsy Quilters showing off artwork from Nancy’s new fabric line in the booth.

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Lots of embroidery—both hand and machine, but especially machine embroidery and applique.

Many traditional designs and fabrics—lush florals in subtle colors and soft palates

Primitives and wool still have a strong showing, with wool applique making a very strong appearance.  Primitives are making a resurgence along with darker colored fabric lines and 19th century reproductions.  Several very nice 1930’s  lines were back in the line-up as well. Check out Robert Kauffman, Maywood Studios, Moda and Lecian Fabrics.

Hand dyes never go out of style and were shown in many booths and applications.   And organic cotton was featured in a number of booths.

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Gizmos and Gadgets—so many I will only mention a few but will give a much more in-depth discussion of new tools in my next post.  Gotta haves include our own Easy Binding Winder, demonstrated by inventor Rex Moreland and quilter and shop owner Peggy Benjamin. This was a huge hit at market and the first really useful new tool (that is not electric) in this shade of pink to come along since the lawn flamingo.

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And check out the new Add-A-Quarter ruler.  It is going to be a big hit.  Yup, its new and you won’t need an index card any more to fold your fabric and paper.  Watch for a tutorial in a future post.

Wait. . . There’s more!  Ok, it can wait till next time.  Till then, keep stitchin’!

Reeze Hanson at Morning Glory Designs

Posted in Fabric, Quilt Market, Trends | 1 Comment

What I learned at Quilt Market

What I Learned at Quilt Market

nancy in booth

So….this spring I decided NOT to have a booth at Quilt Market, and kismet – an opportunity to work in QuiltWoman.com’s booth at market sprang up!  It was meant to be, right?  Of course!

As a (ahem) veteran vendor of Market, I didn’t necessarily think I knew it all, but I thought I had everything fairly figured out.  Life Lesson #1: You can ALWAYS learn something new.  And I did.  And in the spirit of paying it forward, dear fellow designers, aspiring designers, and the “maybe someday I’ll do that” folks, here’s a brief summary of what I learned this time around from working in Nancy’s booth (BTW – she is wonderful to work with – in the booth and as a distributor – just so you know).

  1.  Images

Your images, in catalogs, in posters, on covers, need to be clear, crisp and bright.  They are your shelf space and represent your pattern.  So showcase that gorgeous quilt that took up so much of your life to create!  Take the time to have a quality picture that highlights the quilt (i.e. most prefer a flat image of the quilt rather than a staged shot), and please, please, please – high res.

  1. Catalogs

If you are offered an opportunity to present patterns – new, old, a mix – in a catalog, say yes.  And do it!  Create your page (or pages) to the best of your ability and highlight your patterns.  Think outside yourself – if I were a shop owner, how would this page look to me?  Are the patterns attractively laid out?  Is the information easy to read?

Insider tip:  At market, most shops gather catalogs and brochures the first day, then go back to the hotel room the first night and peruse them to make decisions.  So being in the catalog is a definite plus!  Well worth the money.  Oops – did I not discuss costs?

You’ve heard the expression “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  True.  True.  True.  No free advertising.  No free exposure.  Everything, let me repeat, everything is a trade off.  So exposure – catalog, wall space, floor space – costs.  Exposure for money – there’s your trade off.  So back to catalogs – that would be Exposure #1.

But……not all shops/owners want to pick up and carry around catalogs.  That gets heavy.  So….on to Samples and Covers.

  1. Samples

It’s no different than your local quilt shops – samples sell patterns.  I saw it time after time at market.  Now, obviously you can’t have your entire line on display at market (space = $$), so choose your best sellers, or your newest designs, or maybe go with a theme.  That decision is up to you, and there isn’t really a right or wrong answer here, because what a shop owner is looking for at one show can be completely different at the next show.  (Sorry – my crystal ball broke at this point, and the repair shop is not optimistic on a quick repair time.)

Nancy uniquely offers two options – and I saw shop owners respond to both.  She offers digital images (blown up to poster size), or actual sample display.  And she offers reasonable rates for the display space.  Even more exciting, she will be offering up a very unique and innovative option this fall – so check out the recent email about the community of designers at Fall Market and read every line – really.  Read it all – carefully – so you can take advantage of the options that will work best for you.   So choose your option; refer back to #1 for digital images – or go with actual samples.  This is part of the individual “learn by trial and error” journey.  Either option – Exposure #2.

  1.  Pattern Covers

You can send Nancy up to 25 pattern covers and she will put them on a ring (grouping them to make it clear they are by a single designer).  Please note the word “covers.”  Yeah – I didn’t read carefully either…..but covers only.  Oh – and this was new to me.  You want to have the crystal clear pattern bags.  I thought mine were.  Nope.  So my next order will be for the crystal clear bags.  They really do make a difference in how crisp the cover looks through the bag (Nancy recommends G.T. Bag – crystal clear 6 x 9).  Exposure #3.

Now you may be thinking – well, if I take advantage of the catalog or the samples, then I don’t need to do the pattern covers.  Well, dear reader, here’s the hard cold truth.  You don’t HAVE to do any of it.  But the more you DO, the more exposure you’ll have.  I saw some shop owners “shopping” from the catalog primarily.  Others made decisions based on the samples in the booth.  Some looked through the pattern covers that were on display.  And still others combined all three to make purchase decisions.  So is one option “the” answer?  No.  Ultimately you have to decide what is important to you AND how much you are willing to spend.

What I hope I have shared with you in this brief summary is that exposure is everything! If you haven’t been to Quilt Market, it is difficult to adequately explain the magnitude of it.  There are 27 to 28 rows of booths, perhaps 20 to 30 vendors per row, sometimes more, sometimes less – and many small designers will rent a half booth.

So…..how many vendors?  Hundreds.  Maybe a thousand?  Possibly.  It is sensory overload.  So your job is to grab some of that attention in that mad crush of fabulous eye candy and options, which is why exposure is everything!  Gosh, I feel like I’ve said that before…….

Please note – these statements are my opinion and based on my observations alone, and again, are based on my experiences in QuiltWoman.com’s booth.  Other veterans of Quilt Market will have different insights, and it would be worth talking with them and getting their input as well.  The more information you have, the easier it is to make an informed decision.

I wish you the best of luck at your next Market!

Tammy Silvers

Tamarinis

www.tamarinis.com

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Quilting Fears – Do you defeat them or do they defeat you?

Today’s guest post is from Jessica J.E. Smith of The Quilt and Needle. A talented designer with a love of mystery quilts, Jessica hosts Mystery Weekends online and Mystery Retreats onsite, teaching at Lonestar Quiltworks in College Station. Her patterns are distributed by QuiltWoman.com. She’s here talking about overcoming quilting fears and how she helps her students do so.

Here’s Jess!

What is your quilting passion? Never mind, that’s an easy question. What is your quilting fear? You know, that quilt pattern you’d love to try but your inner voice keeps holding you back with:

“I am not good enough to make that!”
“I love that quilt! But I could never do that.”
“That’s just too much for me, I’ll stick with squares!”
“I’d never have time to do something like that!”
We all have one… that quilting technique or pattern that causes us to come up with any number of excuses to NOT try it because we are certain it will defeat us. Many quilters fail at a pattern or technique because they never give themselves a chance to try it. For me, once upon a time, that unclimbable mountain of a pattern was a Feathered Star. Determined to defeat my own self-imposed quilting obstacle, I set out to create a pattern that would help myself and others afflicted with the irrational Feathered-Star-a-phobia.

 

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Because I had postponed trying to make a Feathered Star for many years, I looked for a way to get other hesitant quilters to try my pattern. It finally came to me: create a mystery pattern! A well written mystery pattern is a great way to help quilters overcome their fears. Led through the process one simple step at a time, quilters don’t have a chance to feel overwhelmed or question their ability to complete the quilt.
For instance, it’s easy to make a few Half Square Triangles (HSTs).

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Scared yet? Nah! The next step is to to sew groups of HSTs together with simple shapes.

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Easy peasy. A few partial and several regular seams later…

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And BOOM! A Feathered Star is born.

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Obviously this is a simplification. A ton of color graphics and simple instructions demonstrate this technique for quilters who might need the extra information to stay in their comfort zone. The point is, if you don’t know the end product, you aren’t able to keep yourself from trying a fabulous design because of self-doubt. The above pattern is Bella Cosa. There are no ‘y’ seams or similarly intermediate level piecing involved, which is why this made a wonderful mystery pattern.

Over the years I’ve often experienced the power of mystery patterns helping other quilters achieve their own “unachievable.” During one of my first gigs as a mystery quilt teacher, I met “Square Girl.” It was a six hour class. The students came in with their fabrics cut, ready to sew and complete a small top in a day. The mystery I was teaching was Phire’s Radiance, which is my take on a Lone Star. While Square Girl was sewing, I overheard her murmuring “I like squares… I like squares… I like squares…” as she pieced together this quilt full of strips, and diamonds, and triangles (maybe four squares in the entire thing!). I was still pretty new at teaching and I remember telling my husband when I got home that I blew it… I would never see this girl again! I have to give her props though; she persevered and completed her small table topper in class.

This was her third quilt ever! Pretty amazing I think. Anyway, my next mystery program rolled around a few weeks later, and you wouldn’t believe who showed up to that class. Yep. Square Girl. And she was smiling. And she was motivated. She’d made a Lone Star and now she was ready to conquer the quilting world! She has signed up for every one of my mystery programs since then. She’s hooked. She’s a fabric addict. Now Square Girl is selling commissioned quilts to support her habit. She was recently commissioned to make the King size version of Phire’s Radiance.

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Whoa. Just WHOA.

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After all, you never know what you don’t know until you try something that you don’t know you are trying. (I’ll understand if you pause here to read that sentence one more time.) So that is why I design and teach mystery quilts. I don’t get that massive surge of teaching inspiration from a new quilter who just had a lightbulb moment like many teachers do. I’ve never really been passionate about taking intermediate quilters to advanced levels with highly skilled training and precision piecing. But I love, I mean I totally go spider-monkey crazy when, at the end of one of my mysteries, an established quilter exclaims, “I’ve always wanted to make that, but I was too scared!”

The important takeaway is that when we come upon a quilty mountain that intimidates us, we must find a way to make that climb. With a friend, with a mystery, or with a nice glass of wine and a box of chocolates – the reward is in making the journey and never looking back.

How do you overcome your own quilting fears? Is there one quilt-a-phobia that is holding you back? Today is the day; don’t wait any longer. Go climb your quilty mountain!

 

Piece out,

Jessica J.E. Smith

The Quilt and Needle

 

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Featured Designer: Meet Cary Flanagan

“Jack of all trades” is a fairly apt description for quilt designer Cary Flanagan. From jewelry to music to dance, to pottery, plus a stint raising pigs, (not to mention renovating a 140-year-old house and barn and a 20-year career in social services) she has tried it all! As quilters and quilt lovers, we’re thrilled that Cary has found a home in the quilt world, creating beautiful designs that we all can use. Keep reading to learn more about Cary and Something Sew Fine.

Cary

Cary with her “Moon Dance” quilt in the background; it’s the cover quilt for her “Moon Dance” book featuring 12 patterns for using large-scale prints.

 

QW.com: You came into quilting after dabbling in many different artistic pursuits. Can you tell us a bit about your diverse journey?
CF: Yes – VERY diverse! I sometimes feel like I have lived a number of different lives, but that’s what keeps things interesting.
I have been designing and making things since I was little, and I have tried about every craft imaginable. In my early teens, I designed enamel, copper and silver jewelry. My dream was to become a famous professional jewelry designer and have my own shop. I began college as a music major and thought I wanted to become a professional musician. Then I was introduced to pottery making and continued my work in silver in the college art department. I joined an International Dance group on campus. I ended up majoring in Sociology and Anthropology and spent the summer before graduation working at an archeological dig in northern California. I spent the summer after graduation at the School for American Craftsmen in Rochester NY, focusing on silver-smithing and pottery. Whew – that was all before I turned 22!
I married a year after college, and worked as a secretary (ugh) at MIT for several years until we decided to join the “Back to the Land” movement of the early 1970’s, as well as working as full-time professional potters. We raised most of our own food, including raising pigs for several years. We did that for almost twelve years.
Eventually, the business began to take its toll on us physically and we decided it was time to grow up and get “real” jobs. I received a Master’s degree in Counseling in 1987 and spent almost seventeen years on the staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Manchester. I loved the work but became thoroughly burnt out by the time I left in 2004. I have been running my own quilt design business ever since.

QW.com: What got you started in quilt design?
CF: I began making quilts around 1990 and joined the Amoskeag
Quilters Guild in Manchester, NH. I became involved with making charity quilts as part of the guild’s programs. Soon after leaving full-time work, I designed a technique that made it possible to cut all the blocks for a quilt in very little time, which was ideal for charity quilts. It is what I now call a “stack, cut and shuffle” design. That block became the basis for my very first commercial pattern, “Rule of Thirds.” I enjoyed the design process so much I just kept designing! For me, designing is a form of play. However, turning those designs into a finished quilt and salable pattern is hard work.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds” table runner

QW.com: What do you wish someone had told you before you started quilting as a pastime?
CF: Let me broaden that question. What I wish someone had told my husband and me before we became full time potters, was how to separate our business lives from our personal lives. With the pottery studio covering most of the second floor of our house (and a morning commute of “just down the hall”), it was too easy to allow our professional and personal lives to become all one. That turned out to be a serious mistake.
Because of that experience, when I established my quilt design business I knew the importance of keeping my business and private lives separate as much as possible. You have to set some boundaries and priorities so that the business does not suck you in to the point of neglecting home and family.

QW.com: Who taught you to quilt?
CF: I am primarily self-taught but have read many quilt books and taken many classes/workshops over the past 20+ YEARS. I learned to sew very early from my mother and have made clothes, curtains, slip-covers and so on before I discovered quilt-making.

 

QW.com: Could you share one of your favorite quilting tips?
CF: I would urge anyone who does not already belong to a quilt guild, to join one. I have learned so much from my fellow quilters, not to mention making many really good friends. For the past three years I have joined other guild members in making brightly colored and cheerful pillowcases for seriously ill children in several local and regional hospitals. Last year, as a group, we produced about 2500 pillowcases. Our goal for this year is 5,000 and we are well on our way, thanks to many individuals and quilt shops who donate fabric for the cause.
Being part of an active guild is one of the best things I ever did as a quilter. If you live in an area where there are no conveniently located guilds, start one yourself or join one or more online groups, of which there are dozens.

 

Moon Glow

Moon Glow

QW.com: A lot of our readers tell us they have trouble finding more time to quilt. What advice would you give them?
CF: This is one of those “do as I say, not as I do” responses. I am not nearly as organized or as disciplined as I would like to be. I have way too many interests and I become easily distracted. (True confessions).
So my advice is to get and stay as organized as possible (this is not to say you can’t have a messy studio – just don’t let the mess take over). Learn to stay focused. Make spending time in your studio (or wherever you sew/create) a priority, every day if possible. In my case I am either sewing, or designing, or writing most of the day, but I also make time for my husband and mother-in-law, (who turned 100 years old in March), and, of course, my friends and family. We have two dogs that we love and both of us enjoy going on long walks or playing with them every day. I also love gardening, reading for pleasure and for research, and so much more!
I am currently working on my first novel and hope to get that published in June or July of this year (2015), so that has been my primary focus for the last few months. The story is about a quilt maker growing up in the last half of the 19th and early 20th century in a small village in NH. Not coincidentally, the protagonist, Hannah, becomes possibly the first quilt pattern designer in New England and develops a successful mail order pattern business.
I am already planning a companion book which will showcase a variety of quilts that might have been made by Hannah and members of her Quilting Bee, along with diagrams and instructions for making these quilts.
One other tip – allow yourself time to do nothing, if that is what you feel like doing. Or do something for the sheer fun of it. I highly recommend it. As I get older I am letting go of the need to “do it all.”

QW.com: One more fun fact about Cary: Her “Take Four” Placemat Set is the top-selling Quiltwoman.com pattern of all time. Congratulations, Cary!

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“Take Four” Placemat Set

 

Want to learn more about Cary? Find her patterns here. Visit her website and follow her on Facebook.

NancySignature

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Featured Designer: Mary Louise Gerek Designs

MLG Designs

Seashell Quilt Patterns

Mary Louise Gerek has been involved in needle arts as long as she can remember. Her grandmother taught her to sew and she continued to enjoy needle arts for the next 35 years. We had a chance to chat with Mary Louise about what inspires her, what her best tips for other quilters are and her life outside quilt design. Read on for our feature on Mary Louise Gerek Designs. 

Featured Designer: Mary Louise Gerek Designs

QW.com: What inspires your art quilt patterns?

MLG: I really have dueling passions in quilting; art quilting and designing patterns. I started quilting after a trip to New Mexico and realized that it is all about the fabric. My art quilts are inspired by nature, music and poetry. I have a couple inspired by Grand Prismatic Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. Two were inspired by the poetry of Kitty Jospé of Rochester, NY. She even chose them to be on the covers of her two books, Mosaicq and Gathering Lines. My first art quilt was inspired by the music at the Rochester International Jazz Festival. Listening to the music, I could almost see the notes as they rose into the starry night.

For my quilt patterns, I love to see how secondary patterns appear when identical blocks are rotated and mirrored. This is really evident in Blue Angles and Seashell. The most interesting patterns emerge from non-symmetrical blocks, which make the patterns look complex. However, I try very hard to have all straight line piecing in my blocks, making construction easier than it looks. The major challenge is ensuring the patches and blocks are constructed in the proper order.

MLG Designs

Shades of Color Quilt Pattern

QW.com: Many of our readers tell us they have trouble finding more time to sew. What advice would you give them?

MLG: It is amazing what you can do in 10 to 30 minutes. If you have a project going, have it organized and ready to sew. When you find a few minutes between other activities, try a little chain piecing; or put a few blocks together. Your work will come together more quickly than you thought. Another way to gain sewing time is to make an appointment with yourself. Put dedicated sewing time in your calendar each week – and do not schedule over it. This time should have as high a priority as any other appointment. After all, it is an appointment with you to take care of yourself.

QW.com: You are an expert on Electric Quilt 7 software. Can you tell us more about how it plays a big role in your designs and teaching career?

MLG Designs

3-D Chevron Quilt Pattern

MLG: Electric Quilt 7 is my major planning and designing tool. I have designed many more quilts than I will every make as I explore ideas and color combinations. I can start with a few lines and create my own block, or extract a unit from a block that comes with the program. EQ allows the drawings to keep up with my thought process. It also allows me to change size of a project very easily, or engineer the patches to eliminate Y seams.

I enjoy teaching EQ because I see the creative process take hold as students master the tools. I will be teaching a new class “Digging Deeper into EQ7” at The Sewing Circle in Fort Collins, CO starting February 5, 2015. Please visit their web site for details.

MLG Quilt Designs

Blue Angles Quilt Pattern

QW.com: So many of us learned to quilt and sew from our family members. What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from yours?

MLG: I learned to knit from my grandmother, Louise Connell Robert. Along with my name, it created a closeness to her that I still treasure, even though we lost her when I was in college. My brother Shelby, started me in needlepoint after he picked it up from his wife. They both taught me the value of creating my own work and giving gifts from my own hands. I enjoy the tactile part of these activities; the feel of the yarn or fiber, and of course working with the colors. Quilting has allowed me to create pieces that are completed on a shorter time frame. It has also allowed me to work more with color and contrasting textures.

QW.com: Other than quilting, what else do you like to do?

MLG: My husband and I enjoy traveling both locally and internationally. Many of the pictures I take are for texture and interesting color/lighting on objects for quilting ideas. We also visit museums and natural areas which definitely adds to my inspiration.
Since we moved out west, we take walks in the foothills of the Rockies. But, when trapped inside, I love reading and cooking.

MLG Designs

Syncopation Quilt Pattern

QW.com: What are some of your favorite quilting tips?

MLG: If you find your tools moving from place to place as you work, you may want to create a basic tool set to have at each workstation. For example, I have small snips, ruler or measuring tape, pins, tweezers and large scissors at my sewing machine, ironing board, cutting table and serger table. There is a little extra expense, but having the tools where and when you need them really aids in productivity.

I really like to starch my fabric when I am piecing – especially patches cut on the bias. The added stiffness aids in accuracy and decreases distortion of the patches. You can starch each piece, or treat the fabric prior to cutting. There are many products you can use depending on the desired stiffness. Spray sizing and commercial spray starch have perfumes that may bother some folks. Your quilt store should have Best Press starch alternative. If using commercial spray starch, be sure to wash it out when the quilt is finished. Some bugs find starch great for lunch.

We hope you enjoyed our feature. Visit our website to find out more about Mary Louise Gerek’s patterns. Don’t miss any of our blog posts containing great tips for finding more time to do what you love! Sign up for our mailing list. 

NancySignature

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Featured Designer: Elaine Kosnac of Quilter’s Nook Studio

Quilters Nook Studio

Dancing Swords Quilt Pattern

Elaine Kosnac has been sewing since the 1950’s. She formed her quilt pattern company, Quilter’s Nook Studio, after her quilting co-workers encouraged her to try quilting. We took some time to chat with Elaine about her patterns and best tips.

Featured Designer: Elaine Kosnac of Quilter’s Nook Studio

QW.com: How did you get started in quilting?

QNS: I’ve been a sewer since the 1950’s. By 7th grade, I was making all of my own school clothes. Fast forward 25 years and I found myself working the stock room for a fabric chain store. The gals on the floor all quilted & encouraged me to give it a whirl. At that time, I leaned towards the camp of “why cut up that beautiful fabric into tiny pieces & then sew it back together again?” For my first project I thought, “What could be easier to make than a single shape quilt?” So I chose to make a 1000’s of Pyramids, in a queen size! Back then we were working with a lot of polyester and polyester blend fabrics – what a nightmare! I quilted it on a domestic (old Kenmore) machine. Even with all the issues, and believe me there were many – I was hooked!

QW.com: What are your favorite quilting patterns and why?

QNS: Over the last 14 years of having a brick & mortar store, quilting studio and teaching, I have found that patterns that appear to be complicated (either by design or fabric choice), but really aren’t, truly build enthusiasm & confidence in every quilter, no matter their skill level.

Quilters Nook Studio

3-D Explosion Quilt Pattern

QW.com: What is your favorite part of the quilting process and why?

QNS: Currently, I am enjoying long arm free motion quilting, especially when my customer allows me free reign to get creative with the quilting. Since I don’t use pantos and my machine is not computerized (by choice), my creativity just blossoms.

QW.com: You have a great skill for choosing fabrics for patterns. What advice would you give our readers about picking out fabrics?

QNS: Sometimes the fabric is the inspiration for a quilt. Sometimes it’s the pattern that initiates the hunt for the perfect fabrics! Work with colors, patterns and styles that excite you! If you don’t like what you’re working on, it becomes a chore and then it takes forever to get it finished. If after you have your fabrics, while you’re starting to work on the project, if some of your choices really aren’t working, don’t be afraid to change them out. After all, it is your quilt! I feel that done is better than perfect & never finished.

Quilters Nook Studio

It’s a Mystery to Me Quilt Pattern

QW.com: A lot of our readers tell us that they have trouble finding more time to quilt. What advice would you give them?

QNS: I think it all goes back to the old saying that if you value something, you find the time for it –even if it’s only a short time. Due to my current commitments, I can only block out three hours on Sunday afternoons for things that make me happy. It’s amazing how I look forward to that time each week, planning what I’ll do with it! Sometimes it has nothing to do with quilting – like painting the kitchen – but as long as it’s something that makes me happy, that energizes me for the rest of my week!

QW.com: What are some of your favorite quilting tips?

QNS: Have as many multi-purpose rulers, templates, etc. as you find useful. Single purpose items that might get used only once, waste space and money.

Quilters Nook Studio

No Way That’s a Sweatshirt Pattern

QW.com: Besides Quilting and Sewing, what else do you like to do?

QNS: Since moving to the south I am learning how to garden all over again! But that’s ok. In the evenings, while keeping my Mom company, I find myself crocheting prayer shawls, or knitting socks and finger-less gloves for the grand kids back north.

To learn more about Elaine and Quilter’s Nook Studio, visit her pattern page at QuiltWoman.com or website.

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Featured Designer: Nan Baker of PURRFECT SPOTS

Nan Baker of PURRFECT SPOTS

 

How does a talented quilter who also loves animals combine her two passions? Years ago,  Nan Baker of PURRFECT SPOTS decided to form her company for a special feline who inspired her, and to form a special cause to help animals at the same time. I sat down with Nan and was almost moved to tears when I heard the story of Casey. Nan also has some killer tips for getting organized so you can find more time to sew and for quilting in general.

Featured Designer: Nan Baker of PURRFECT SPOTS

Nan Baker of PURRFECT SPOTS

Casey: The Cat behind THE CASEY PLAN

QW.com: How did you come up with the name “PURRFECT SPOTS” for your quilt pattern company?

NB: When I sold my first design, it suddenly became crunch time to pick a name. I wanted something that spoke of my two passions – needlework and animals. As a disaster responder for The Humane Society of the United States for Florida and the rest of the country, I went from designing to disasters and I started my company in memory of my kitty, Casey.  I had to tie the two together.

While petting one of my kitties, I kept going over different names. I just wanted it to be the perfect name.  Rina had a very loud purr and her motor was really going that night. It just kind of came to me – PURRFECT and because I love Dalmatian dogs – SPOTS. Therefore the name stuck and it could be anything – no limitations. At the different needlework markets my company name and my other profession gave me a wonderful opportunity to educate shop owners about The CASEY Plan (explained later in this interview) plus I offered brochures for their shop.

Nan Baker of PURRFECT SPOTS

Memphis Ribbon and Blues Quilt Pattern

QW.com: What are your best-selling patterns? What are your personal favorites?

NB: My best selling patterns include Memphis Ribbon & Blues, Night Watch, Bullas Bears, and Splendour in the Grass. My two newest patterns Ruffles & Ridges and The Point of It All are looking very promising to be big sellers as well.  Also my cross stitch patterns are still selling as well, particularly my Christmas animal series.

It is difficult to pick a favorite quilt because they all have different meanings for me and I remember what was going on in my life when they were made. Having said that, I would have to pick “Denny’s Hopscotch Quilt”. This was a hand pieced and hand quilted quilt that I made for my husband. He loved it, but so did our cat, Denny. Finally my husband had to relinquish the quilt to the cat! Denny loved that quilt and spent hours on it napping. It brings back fond memories of a very special kitty when I see that quilt. RIP my dear sweet Denny.

Denny and the Original Hopscotch Quilt

Denny and the Original Hopscotch Quilt

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QW.com: Tell us more about The CASEY Plan and how PURRFECT SPOTS supports that cause?

NB: PURRFECT SPOTS was started because of Casey – a very special cat. He was a stray cat that hung out at the house next door. The owners were military and were deployed. He was not their cat but he just found a place to call his own where he wasn’t bothered by anyone. When I discovered him, I started feeding him every day, but couldn’t get near him. When we had to evacuate for Hurricane Opal, I took all my kitties with me except for Casey as I couldn’t find him and if I had, I don’t think I could have caught him.

After Hurricane Opal hit and we returned to our house, I ran next door and Casey came running to me and practically jumped in my arms. Thank God, he was not injured, just scared. He became my cat. Unfortunately as he was a feral cat, he hadn’t had the proper nutrition and had lots of medical problems. I lost him all too soon, but I am so glad that he had a loving home his last few months. When he died, I decided his life should not be in vain, so I started The CASEY Plan (Caring for Animals Safely in Emergencies during the Year).

As a member of the State and National Disaster Animal Response Team, I knew all too well what happened when pets were left behind in disasters. The CASEY Plan was a way to educate people how to make preparations for their pets in times of disaster. The CASEY Plan won an award from the state of Florida and also a National Award from The Humane Society of the United States.

A portion of sales from PURRFECT SPOTS goes to support that effort.

Casey

Casey

QW.com: Many of our readers tell us they have trouble finding more time to sew. What advice would you give them?

NB: This is the hardest thing for many of us, including me. There are always distractions, but I have learned to make time and set boundaries. I am blessed in that I have a sewing studio otherwise known as the C.A.T. House – Creative Arts & Textiles (but the kitties use to live there). Having this space, I can just close the door and start where I left off the next day. I know this is a problem for those who don’t have space as it is time consuming to take everything down and then set it up when you want to continue on your project.Sometime you don’t feel it is worth the effort because by the time you get it together, your sewing time is gone.  Again, you just must make your sewing time a priority for many reasons.

Cat House

QW.com: Other than quilting, what else do you like to do?

NB: I love to help animals and try to find ways to do that whether it is making Kennel Quilts for animal shelters or writing blogs for animal organizations.

I love cross stitch and almost any kind of needlework as I do needlepoint, crochet, knit and of course sewing for my home or dresses for my nieces. I also like to garden and decorate my house whether it is a re-arrangement of furniture or holiday decorations.

QW.com: What are some of your favorite quilting tips?

NB: I keep my projects organized as I am usually working on three or four at a time. I have boxes where I keep all the fabrics, directions, etc., for each project. I have found that it is easiest to do all my cutting first so when I have a few extra minutes, I can just start sewing. I print a copy of the block and tape or pin my fabric in the proper place so I can get right to work without having to review the project.

I keep a pair of scissors in my glasses case along with a couple of tapestry needles as the needles have big eyes. I use these when I pull my threads through after quilting. As I need my glasses to sew, I find it is very handy to have the other items next to me.

My ironing board is set up next to my machine and when I turn on the machine, I plug in the iron so it is ready when I need it.

I heard someone once say – “My day is not complete until fabric, thread and needle meet.” We need to make this a priority and we will be much happier which will be reflected in our actions and attitude.

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Featured Designer: Jude Spero of Little Louise Designs

Little Louis Designs

Little Louise is the adorable cat who loves fabric

Jude Spero, of Little Louise Designs has been quilting in some form or fashion since the 1970’s. Influenced by her Grandmother who worked in the textile industry, Jude designs original patterns for several companies including Timeless Treasures, Island Batik and Quilting Treasures. Her adorable feline, Louise, is the inspiration for her company name. Read more to discover her best advice and tips for quilters and to learn more about her quilting companion, Louise.

Featured Designer: Little Louise Designs

QW.com: How would you describe your quilting style?

LLD: I would describe my quilting style as rather eclectic. I love the Vintage Modern look and I’ve been working with a lot of Batiks. I do everything from Modern, Traditional, Folk Art, Northwoods to 30’s styles.

QW.com: You named your company after your cat, Louise. Can you tell us more about her?

LLD: Louise has always loved playing around with my fabric. Any time I would be working on a project she would come down to the studio to help. I love making scrap quilts and have many baskets of scraps of varying fabrics. Louise would dig around in the baskets and low and behold she always managed to pull out just the right piece I needed. Over the years this has escalated into her being an outright cat burglar! Every night Louise goes down to the studio and steals fabric. It could be anything from a bunch of pieces I have cut out for a project to a Jelly Roll or Charm Pack. She particularly loves Fat Quarters. Every morning when I wake up I find fabric or quilt blocks, you name it, all over the house. She has even per-washed fabric in the dogs water dish.

Little Louise Designs

Louise loves to pre-wash fabric in the dog’s waterbowl

QW.com: What are your best-selling patterns?

LLD: My best sellers are Danish Delights, Saturday In The Park, Gateway To Paradise and Monkey Bars to name a few.

QW.com: A lot of our readers tell us that they have trouble finding more time to quilt. What advice would you give them?

LLD: My best advice is #1, always do a test block before you begin. #2, organize yourself and cut everything out and have it ready to sew next to your sewing machine. This way you can just sit down and sew for a few minutes or a few hours and still accomplish something.

Little Louise Designs

Danish Delights Quilt Pattern

QW.com: What patterns would you recommend to beginning quilters and why? How about the more advanced?

LLD: For beginners, I would recommend Danish Delights, California Dreaming and Gateway To Paradise. These patterns are easy, straight forward and are a great introduction to pre-cuts. For more advanced quilters I would recommend Twisting With The Stars, Celtic Landing, Outside The Box and Monkey Bars. These patterns are a little more challenging but a lot of fun to do.

Little Louise Designs

Monkey Bars Quilt Pattern

QW.com: What are your some of your favorite quilting tips?

LLD: I love any kind of quick piecing techniques. Some of my favorite tools I use are the “Quilt In A Day Flying Geese Ruler” and “The Angler 2 by Pam Bono Designs”. For half square triangles I like to draw a grid on the wrong side of the lighter fabric. I then draw diagonal lines across the squares. Place the right sides together with the darker fabric and sew ¼” seams along both sides of the diagonal line. Cut it out on the drawn lines and presto, you have a whole bunch of half square triangles in no time!

Little Louise Designs

Saturday In The Park Quilt Pattern

QW.com: Besides Quilting and Sewing, what else do you like to do?

LLD: Besides quilting and designing I play the guitar and mandolin. I also do Tai Chi and am beginning to learn to do the Chinese Swords. Sounds kind of crazy but it’s really cool to watch, it’s like a dance. These activities are great for my mind, body and spirit. Kind of a mental health break!

QW.com: Where can I readers lean more about you?

LLD: I am having a new website built ,www.quiltpatternsplus.com, where I will finally have my own Blog. I plan to possibly have a weekly “Little Louise Cat Burglar Challenge”.
This would involve the challenge of making something with Louise’s stolen goods.

Thank you for joining us for uur interview with Jude Spero of Little Louise Designs.

NancySignature

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Featured Designer: Sandi Colwell of Quilt Cabana Patterns

Quilt Cabana Patterns

Sandi proudly poses with her book, Little Quilts for Big Occasions

Sandi Colwell is a talented quilt designer who also enjoys working with polymer clay, crocheting and scrapbooking. Read on to discover how Sandi’s love of paper piecing led her to try her techniques with fabrics and ultimately resulted in the founding of her pattern company; Quilt Cabana Fabrics.

Featured Designer: Sandi Colwell of Quilt Cabana Patterns

QW.com: How did scrapbooking lead to designing quilted wall hangings?

QCP: In all the years that I have been scrapbooking, the one technique that I continuously go back to is paper piecing. I find such joy in cutting pieces of colored paper into shapes and making little scenes on my page with them. Most people can tell which scrapbook pages belong to me without hesitation. I guess that is my “style”. I realized early on in my quilting career that I could transfer these design ideas to wall hangings and table runners. Instead of paper and glue sticks, I am creating with fabric and fusible web!

Quilt Cabana Patterns

Happy Cupcakes Quilt Pattern

QW.com: You feature a lot of fusible applique in your designs. Tell us more about that.

QCP: I find fusible appliqué to be creatively freeing. It’s a fast process and you can try out your design before you fuse and commit to it. I enjoy machine appliquéing with a beautifully practiced blanket stitch. Neat stitching around the edges of the appliqués add warmth and charm to any design. Fusible appliqué is a wonderful technique for new quilters and experienced ones as well.

Quilt Cabana Patterns

First Seasonal Trio Quilt Pattern

QW.com: How did you break into the world of designing projects for magazines?

QCP: My first published craft project was a polymer clay covered pen with a S’more on top of it! I submitted the design idea to Sculpey Clay and it was accepted! I couldn’t believe that I could make money from an idea (at the time we weren’t required to submit the finished project just the instructions). I went on to make and submit many clay projects and had the good luck to be published in several issues of Pack-O-Fun magazine. This gave me the confidence to submit quilt patterns to magazines and also to Leisure Arts who published my book, Little Quilts For Big Occasions. I have also enjoyed writing humorous articles about crafting that were published in Polymer Cafe magazine. You can read one of my articles here. 

QW.com: What are your some of your favorite quilting/crafting tips?

QCP: The quilting tip that I like to share the most is to urge quilters to pull fabrics and get the first step of a new project laid out as soon as you finish your current project. This gets you excited and inspired to get back in the sewing room without delay! My favorite oganizing tip is to keep a hamper in your sewing area that can hold batting, rolls of fusible web and stabilizers. The hamper keeps them neat and all in one place.

Quilt Cabana Patterns

Third Seasonal Trio Quilt Pattern

QW.com: What is something you wish you had known about sewing and quilting before you began?

QCP: That I would need a bigger house! I had no idea how fast and to what extent multiple hobbies can take over a home. I have a beautiful sewing room that also stores most of my scrapbooking and clay supplies. My fabric stash currently lives in cabinets in the master bathroom, extra scrap and clay supplies live in a closet in my basement and quilting templates hide under my bed.  I even have a Featherweight machine set up in my dining room so I can stitch while I wait for dinner to cook.

QW.com: Other than quilting, what other crafts do you like to do?

QCP: All of them! I mostly enjoy scrapbooking, crocheting and working with polymer clay.  I have an on and off again love of garment sewing.  When my daughters were younger, I made them many outfits but as they have grown older, they aren’t as interested in a handmade outfit.  Once in awhile, I will sew a garment but I’d rather be quilting.

Quilt Cabana Patterns

To learn more about Sandi and see her quilt patterns, visit our website.

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