Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today's a Packing Day....

Tomorrow I leave on a ten day teaching trip in North and South Carolina; I spend at least a week or so each fall in Bernina District O, which emcompasses NC, SC, TN and VA, teaching in the stores of the Bernina dealers who sign up for me.

This time I will be visiting four Bernina dealers located in Greensboro NC, Asheville NC, Greenville SC and West Columbia SC. This will be the fourth or fifth time I have been to Randy's Quilt Shop in Greensboro; Randy has what we call a "standing order" -- if I'm in the South, I'm going to teach in his shop! Love that! And it will be super to see Randy, Debbie, Denise, Ellen and the rest of the gang again....I'll do a lecture there for their quilt guild as well as a two day machine quilting workshop.

From Randy's, I go to the Asheville Cotton Company and reconnect with Robin, Chip and Michelle. They have moved, so I get to see the new shop and have dinner with them at yet another delightful place. I still have good memories of Madison's, the restaurant where they took me a couple of years ago -- yum!

The next two shops, Bernina Sewing Center in Greenville SC and Creative Sewing Machine Center in West Columbia SC, are new to me. I've talked several times on the phone to owners and store staff in both stores; everyone is so friendly and excited about my visit that I know these stores will go right on my "favorites" list! It's always fun to explore new places and meet new people!

As my trip progresses, I will post pictures of the stores and class projects so you can see everything that's going on!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wish I Had Taken Pictures of the Food!

The dinner party that my husband Dan and I gave Friday night worked out fabulously! We had discussed the menu a couple of weeks before and pretty much decided on it, then as the time grew closer we kept coming up with new ideas and didn't serve one dish that was in our original plan -- go figure!

As usual when we do these dinners, I cooked all day and Dan ducked the flying morsels of food as he made frequent sorties into the kitchen to clean up after me -- am I lucky, or what? I actually started the day before by making a New York cheesecake that chilled overnight; then Friday morning, I baked a loaf of challah as well as a loaf of sourdough bread and made the other dishes.

I purchased this coppery leaf-print sheer fabric at Nuttall's in Salt Lake City and told Rhonda that I was going to sew a table runner out of it for this dinner. As you can see, I totally lied about that -- the "table runner" is just the two yards of fabric flopped down in the middle of the table with the edges turned under so the selvage didn't show!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wow! Took the whole weekend off!

Actually, I took the weekend off from blogging, not from working -- well, maybe that's not true, either. I did some reading -- blogs, books and newspapers -- cooked a great dinner, went out to a dinner; you know, weekend things!

I have three more teaching trips left this year and have been working on all the details -- air, rental cars, hotels, etc. -- which take up more time than you'd think. One of the trips is like playing Whack-A-Mole; every time I think I have all the details nailed, something changes and it's back to the travel websites again. But I'm not complaining; I still remember when you had to actually call the airlines, hotels and rental car agencies -- it's a lot faster now!

When I got done with trip stuff, I grabbed one of two quilts that I want to get done by October 20 for Susan Moore who lives in Northern California and is one of the people who puts together the Alex Anderson Quilts retreats that Alex and I teach together every November in Livermore CA. Susan is the person who does all the liaison work with the hotel and the retreaters to keep everything running smoothly and she does a great job!

I've seen this quilt pattern before and my recollection is that it is called "Friendship Braid". Susan thought that perhaps I could quilt a diagonal grid through the interior of the quilt and then possibly feathers in the border. However, if you look closely at the braid (and I got out a ruler to make sure I was looking at it properly), the braid doesn't line up so that a grid can be quilted evenly -- not because Susan did anything wrong, but because the pattern just doesn't work that way.

Of course, I could stitch an uneven grid, but those never have looked quite right to me and I don't know that either Susan or I would be happy with that. So my thought was to stitch in the ditch in a zigzag pattern horizontally across the quilt, then put a simple cable in the outer pieced border.

I just posted this picture to Susan's wall on Facebook along with my ideas on how I wanted to quilt it. I just joined Facebook recently, but I can definitely see the possibilities in communicating ideas so that nobody will be surprised when they get their quilt back from me. They will know what to expect because we've been able to discuss it with photos right in front of both of us.

Cool innovation -- and I thought it would just be a big waste of time!

P.S.: To see if one of my three remaining trips is near you, you can go to my website lecture/workshop page.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Teensy Tiny Stippling -- My Secret Weapon!

Got back to my project for a little while today -- free motioned around the trapunto areas and now I'm ready to do stippling in all the cutout background areas to "pop" the trapunto out even more.

The free motion stitching around the trapunto is done with a medium grass green 40 wt. rayon thread, but I will probably use a lighter thread for the stippling; most likely, a soft white for the two blocks with the white background and either a pale or variegated grass green for the green background blocks.

Stippling is a technique that I just love to see done in tandem with trapunto; in fact, pretty much the only time I ever stipple is to flatten out the background areas and make the trapunto stand out even more. I can't think of a quilt that I have ever stippled that was not done as an adjunct to trapunto. This gets into the whole concept of "quilting density" -- I'll have to do a post or two or nine on that!

That means that my main goal in stippling is to get it as tiny as possible in order to flatten that background area as much as I can.

To get my stippling as small as possible, I have started using the magnifying glass set that is available for Bernina machines. I have used them for other things over the years and started using them for stippling about a year ago. The main reason is that by looking through the lens, you are fooling your brain into thinking you are making larger hand movements than you actually are.

I honestly didn't think I would be able to stipple this small until I tried the lens trick. This is my view through the lens. I can see really clearly so that I am less likely to cross over and more likely to accurately fill in the stippled areas. At the very bottom you can see a little stitching that is not magnified -- can you see the difference?

In the above picture, part of the stitching is through the magnifying lens and part of it is out so that you can better see the difference in size that the magnifier makes. This is using the smallest magnification, which is D5. There are three lenses in the set: D5, D6 and D7. The larger the magnification, the smaller the stippling with the same hand movements on the sewer's part!

Here's the center of one of the green background blocks stippled using a variegated rayon thread and the D5 magnifying lens.

Today is actually a cooking day rather than a sewing day -- we are having friends over for our monthly "gourmet dinner and wine tasting" event. It's pretty cool: One month I cook a four course dinner and my husband Dan chooses the wines; the other two couples come over and eat and drink. For the next two months, Dan and I just show up to eat and drink and the other couples do all the cooking and wine matching. We've been doing this for years and years with the same group of friends -- way fun!!

Tonight I am making a spinach salad with toasted walnuts and pomegranate kernels (serving with Champagne), an eggplant and tomato tart (Chardonnay), salmon and potato/chard pancakes (Pinot Noir) and a killer NY style cheesecake that I made last night with a sauce that I made by reducing an entire bottle of dessert wine to syrupy yum-ness (served with a second bottle of the same dessert wine) -- can't wait!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Working on a New Trapunto Class (The End!)

So we are definitely on the home stretch here:

The trickiest part of this technique is to position the green fabric squares over the back of the blocks where I want that fabric to shadow through the white in the background areas. I've tried pinning, but then once you have the quilt top in place on top of the backing fabric and batting, you have to figure out how to remove the pins without disturbing everything.

I'm going to show you my method here -- if anyone out there has ideas on how to accomplish this that has worked for them, by all means, please share them!
So far, 505 temporary spray adhesive has worked better than anything else to stick down fabrics to keep them from separating and shifting as I was working with them. It used to be in a blue and yellow can and was called "505 Spray and Fix". My newest can, however, is bright red and all the labelling is in French!

The trick in using 505, whether in embroidery or for an interim step like this one, is to spray it very lightly. It holds well and can even be lifted a bit and repositioned without a problem. If you spray it too heavily, it gunks up your needle and really doesn't hold any better than if you had used a smaller amount.
After a light misting of the 505, the green fabric squares are smoothed down and the quilt top is ready to be very carefully turned over and placed on the backing and Warm & Natural cotton batting that I have prepared.

If you have questions about pinning up the quilt or other questions pertinent to the quilting process, I do have some online tips & tricks at my website that you can read and/or print out for reference.

All pinned up and ready to start quilting -- I can really see the difference between the blocks that have the green fabric under the background and the blocks that have it between the poly bat and the quilt top. At the bottom left is a piece of the backing fabric.

I probably won't have it quilted by the time I post next, but I will put it up on the blog when it is finished as well as on my Facebook wall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Working on a New Trapunto Class (Part 3)

There are two distinct things that you have to do to make a trapunto quilt. I call the first the "trapunto set-up" because this is how you lay the foundation to get that beautiful stuffed work. Once the set-up is done, you are ready for the second step, which is the layering and quilting.

For a "normal" trapunto quilt, in other words, one without color added, I would only be using a layer of polyester batting as the stuffing instead of the added fabric layer that I am illustrating here. I use poly batt rather than cotton because I know that it will not shrink or lose its loft over time and repeated washings; however, you can use anything that you know is colorfast and pre-shrunk. For instance, a double layer of acrylic fleece could be used if you want to add both color and loft at the same time.

I did the set-up on this quilt top as follows:

With the back of the quilt top facing me, I positioned one piece of the bright green fabric over each of two diagonally opposing blocks, then placed one square of poly batting on top of the green fabric. Straight pins were used to hold the layers together for the time being so they wouldn't shift out of place.

I turned the quilt back over to the front and safety pinned the layers securely together. Because I am going to be using the free motion foot for the machine sewing, the foot really doesn't touch the quilt and layers are more likely to shift; so I use a lot of safety pins to keep that from happening.

Once the safety pins are in, I can turn the quilt back over and remove the straight pins.

I thread the machine as follows: Water-soluble thread (such as Vanish Extra by Superior or Wash-A-Way by YLI) in the top of the machine and regular 50 wt. cotton (most likely, the stuff you're piecing with) in a pale neutral color such as ecru or light tan in the bobbin. Water soluble threads are fairly fragile threads that are just meant to temporarily hold fabrics together, so they do require a tension adjustment. I adjust the tensions as follows for my Bernina machines:

Vanish Extra: Loosen tension to 2.5 on all models except 830; on 830, loosen to 2.o

Wash-A-Way: Loosen tension to 2.0 on all models except 830; on 830, loosen to 1.5

What is really rad is that the 830's automatic needle threader works on both of these threads! I sort of expected it not to work with any threads other than cottons and polys, so I was pretty impressed that it worked well.

Once threaded up as above, I sewed the design, using the free motion foot with the feed dogs dropped, and then I was ready to start cutting the batting and green fabric away from the background areas that I didn't want stuffed.

In this photo, I have trimmed away all of the poly batt from the background areas and started cutting away the green fabric. You could probably do this in one step rather than two, but I'm a little wary of possibly cutting into my quilt top.

Here's one of the blocks with both the green fabric and the poly batt trimmed away from the background areas.

Here's a nice close-up of the trimming. It's always important to trim very closely, but even more so if you are backing trapunto with color as any untrimmed or, even worse, sloppily trimmed batting will show through.

The goal here is to trim away all of the batting from the areas that you don't want stuffed without accidentally clipping into the quilt top. The best scissors that I have found for the job are these, made by Nifty Notions and available at most quilt and sewing machine shops. They are called 3-1/2" Blunt Nose Travel Embroidery Scissors.

I want the green color to show in the background of the remaining two blocks rather than in the "stuffed" part, so I used straight pins to temporarily hold the last two squares of poly batt only , no green fabric this time. Then I turned the quilt over to the front, safety pinned the layers, removed the straight pins and sewed and trimmed the same way I did the first two blocks.

I folded the quilt to show two blocks side by side: the one on the left has the green fabric underneath the poly and the one on the right is plain old poly.

That finishes the trapunto "set up" part of constructing this quilt; now all I have to do is pin it up and quilt it!

But, WAIT, you say -- There are still two green fabric squares left!! You're right -- there are!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Working on a New Trapunto Class (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of "Working on a New Trapunto Class, here it is....

This class is tentatively titled "Positive/Negative: Adding Color to Trapunto by Machine". My plan is to have two of the blocks feature the green fabric showing through the white background and the other two having the green show through in the motif area of the quilting. Hopefully, this will make more sense as I work through it.

The first thing I had to do was to choose my fabrics: I already knew I was going to use the grass green and white solids, so I pulled a few other fabrics out of my stash to complement them. From left to right: Green fabric that will "shadow" through, white broadcloth, light green batik for sashing, variegated light/dark green print for border and small green print for binding.

Haven't decided on the backing yet, but I have a number of fun candidates!

The stencil that I am going to use for the trapunto is 7-1/4" square, so I cut my blocks 8-1/2" square to include seam allowances and to leave a little bit of room around the design; I decided that I wanted 1-1/2" wide sashings, so cut three 2" strips for that; for borders, I cut three 3-1/2" strips.

Using a 1/4" seam allowance throughout, I sashed my plain blocks and then put the border on.

The stencil that I have chosen here is HH2 from The Stencil Company. I'll center it in each square and mark it using water-soluble marker.

Once your markers are out of the package, the easiest way to tell what you've got is by the color of the barrel: blue is water soluble, which washes out; purple is air soluble, which gradually fades away (or not so gradually, depending on your climate, whether it's Tuesday and the phases of the moon).

The packaging usually says that air soluble marks will last from 24 to 48 hours, but my experience is that the marks fade away sooner rather than later and they most likely will not last through the entire quilting process. I used an air soluble one once for trapunto -- OOPS!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Big Change in How I Will Do Machine Applique From Now On

I've been a charter subscriber to The Quilt since Alex Anderson and Ricky Timms started the online show. There is a newsletter that comes in my e-mail every few days and today's had a real eye opener.

There was a segment in the newsletter entitled "Bernina: Temporary Altered Memory" that had the following description: Okay, we thought this was a video on being over 50, but it's actually a way to get the applique stitch exactly where you want it. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

I have always been aware of the feature that let me alter stitches to my heart's content and then the machine would remember them until I turned the power switch off. This has been a consistent feature on all Bernina computerized machines since at least the first one that I bought, a 1230 model in 1991.

I use this feature mainly to toggle between two stitches when I do my straight stitch machine quilting, such as "in the ditch" or when stitching a diagonal grid, but didn't know that it could get my applique technique more precise.

Here's the link to the video: Bernina: Temporary Altered Memory

So I took a look at the video and then went directly to the machine to try it out. Nina was using a Bernina 440 and stitch #7. Since I am using the 830, I tried out a couple of stitches and decided on stitch 1331 which is in the "quilting" folder.

Since this applique stitch takes five straight stitches between "bites" into the applique piece, I adjusted the stitch length to .8mm rather than the 1.0 that Nina used for stitch #7 so that the bites would be closer together.

Using Nina's easy method enabled me to "nail" the corner exactly. This is a much more precise way to applique -- hooray!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quilts as Incentives for Kids to Learn!

I love my Kindle e-reader -- love the books that I can download quickly when I'm on the road, the newspapers that I can read on it that bring my local news with me, and the blogs that are so much fun to read. I started out with news blogs and blogs about books (reading being a big way that I spend free time), but recently found a quilting blog that's delivered to my Kindle whenever Laurel Sons makes a post.

Laurel is a teacher and a longarm quilter and the blog post that I'm writing about today was pretty cool. The kids in her class (I'm assuming she is an elementary school teacher) color blocks with fabric markers, they are made into a quilt and the kids get tickets for various reasons during the year that are entered into a drawing for the quilt.

To read about this, you can go to her blog, One More Quilt, and go to the entry dated Wednesday, September 2, 2009. She talks about how everybody really gets into it and that the kids are more prepared for school because they never know when an opportunity to earn a ticket will come up. Reminds me of a "pop-quiz" when I was in school.

We're always looking for ways to motivate kids -- why not a quilt?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quilter's Coop -- Temecula CA

When my friend, Joanne Maxson, moved her shop late last year, I promised myself that I would get there to see it. Two things really worked to make this happen: 1) my lecture in Vista was over around noon, so I got to hit the road early; and 2) the shop was practically on my way home!

Other shoppers who had been there told me how much bigger the new shop was than the old one (which I remember was pretty darn cute) and that it was decorated differently, too. So off I went, camera in hand!

First I peeked in the window to see all the fun things within! The city of Temecula is strict about its signage regulations, so you won't find a sign other than on the windows. Quilter's Coop is located at 28677 Old Town Front Street in one of the old West style buildings there; phone is 951-694-3600.

What I could see from the window is that the shop is laid out in vignettes; each area has a specialty, such as holiday, or baby, or primitive.

Hanging from the ceiling is a string of small wool hangings; there are also some small wool quilts on the back wall. The white bookcase at the left of the picture is full of all of the supplies you need to work in this medium.

Bolts, bundles, rolls, charm packs -- everything to get ready for Santa!

There are beautiful pieces of furniture in the store, such as this dresser where a collection of framed embroidered samples are arranged.

And look at this great display -- in and on top of a PINK STOVE!

This new fabric line was interesting -- in each of the prints, there is a line drawing of a small animal concealed within the print; there are owls, butterflies, lambs, and so on. Some of them are done so subtly that it is fairly hard to find them, especially in the tone-on-tone colorations.

If you are traveling to Temecula and enter "Quilter's Coop" in your GPS, you will probably see two addresses: the one on Old Town Front Street and one on Main Street. The shop was moved not quite a year ago from the Main Street address to the current one and the new shop is so much bigger and has so much more "good stuff"!

I could not get over how much floor space there was and I was grateful that the classroom in the new store is not up a flight of stairs!

These fairy panel quilts are so pretty -- I really liked the Autumn Fairy.....

...but LOVED the Winter Fairy! I'm going to have to do a Google Search and see if there are other fairy panels in this series.

Most of what I bought after the workshop last Wednesday was Halloween themed, but the next day, I had evidently switched my holiday mindset to Christmas! Of course, I had to have that cute Christmas Fairy kit and three other Christmas fabrics -- just loved the holly print and, of course, Joanne had perfect coordinates displayed right next to it.

Over a yummy lunch (thank you, Joanne!) we got caught up on our families, friends and projects -- Joanne will be a new grandma soon. I'll bet that baby will have a few quilts!

To see the class schedule and keep up with what is going on at the shop, you can go to the website,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Starry Night Hollow -- Encinitas CA (Part 2)

Here's the second post from my visit to Starry Night Hollow -- the one you really wanted to see, the quilts!

Andie Carlin with a quick-to-put-together, colorful scrap quilt -- hmmm, maybe I need to go back to the scraps in the bathtub?

This quilt really caught my eye because -- duh, it's Halloween -- but also because the quilt was so different from the pattern due to the background fabric change. The pattern, which you can see a few pictures down, is done with a cream-on-cream polka dot background fabric; the Hollow's version uses a bright fabric that is shaded from selvage to middle and back again out to the selvage. There were a few colorways, but this is my favorite. The fabric is "Gradations" by Caryl Bryer Fallert for Benartex.

The pattern is from Crab-apple Hill, #313 Hocuspocusville, and is 68" square as pictured on the pattern cover. I love designer Meg Hawley's attitude -- on the back of the cover, it says "Crab-apple Hill - whatever strikes my fancy!"

A close-up of my favorite block: The Black Cauldron, which features authentic witch cuisine. The specialties, as advertised on the signs, are Spider Soup and Worms Alfredo, and there are bats in the sky -- what's not to love?

This is the same block with a fun, colorful, scrappy fabric border added.

I bought the pattern -- of course! -- and some of the fabric used as the background for the embroidered blocks in the big quilt. It shades from a yellow-gold through orange to fuschia with a little bit of dark purple thrown in.

As if I needed any more inspiration to get in the mood for Halloween!

I can't say enough about Kim's series of quilts based on children's stories -- Here is a close-up of the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale quilt (know how to say it, but don't know if it is spelled correctly)...the princess' hair is made of lots of jumbo rick rack!

Alice in Wonderland with the caterpillar and his hookah....

And the Princess and the Pea....

Andie told me that there was a fourth fairy tale quilt that was not in the store at the time. I definitely want to come back to this store earlier in the day so that I can spend some time really studying these quilts. The applique and embellishment are exquisite and Kim's interpretation of the fairy tale themes into fabric are beautiful. Pictures don't really do them justice, especially since there are so many wonderful things in the shop, I couldn't get far enough away to photograph the entire surface of the quilts.

I sent an e-mail to my goddaughter asking her if she wanted to do lunch and the quilt show next month, so we'll see what she says. Maybe I'll get back here soon!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Starry Night Hollow -- Encinitas CA

For those of you who know me, and who know that my business name is Batts in the Attic, the fact that my favorite holiday is Halloween would probably not be a huge surprise. That makes traveling around this time of year especially fun as everywhere we go there are decorations to celebrate the season.

My "guide" on this mini shop hop, Linda Pupols, was most likely amused at my delight as we walked through Starry Night Hollow. It seemed like pretty much the entire store was given over to Halloween projects, quilts and decorations -- I took so many pictures that I am breaking this up into two posts: One is a overview of the shop and decorative items that I saw there and the second will be pictures of the quilts.

Starry Night Hollow is located at 895 Saxony Road, Encinitas CA; phone is 760-044-3700. You can also visit their website Kimberly Rado is the owner, and while she wasn't there during my visit, Andie Carlin showed me all around and gave me Kim's business card. On the card, I read "A unique quilting and crafting haven off the beaten path...nestled behind a big white gate." Wow -- I could hardly wait!

Just outside the door....

The pretty quilted banner that hangs outside to greet you.

And that's the truth!

If there was any question about being in a spooky place, this would have answered it! It's the back of a hand mirror that was part of one of the displays.

Fell in love with the Halloween ruffle purse; in fact, don't you think I need one of these?! Really wanted to buy it, but it was a sample and not for sale -- perhaps I can persuade someone to make me one?

This was the best!
It was on a mantel all decorated in witchy things!

Boy, oh boy -- do I wish I had had this sign in my house when my son was growing up!

As an adult, I think this is pretty good advice; as a child, I was considered to have no art talent or interest because I not only colored outside the lines but often chose inappropriate colors. Therefore I didn't take art classes. I took more suitable things like economics, physics, chemistry and French.....

So when I saw this up high on a wall, I had to take a picture.

Even the bathtub was put to great use -- just $5 for a bag of scraps that you are invited to fill as full as you can.

Don't forget to check back for the next post -- Halloween quilts and Kimberly's fairy tale art quilts!! Not to be missed!
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