Monday, December 22, 2014

Keep It Simple Make It Fun #34

Hello everyone!  Merry Christmas this week!

Here's what I've been up to:

The White Stocking: A Quilted Satin Stocking Tutorial.  I wrote this post this week--how I machine quilted some Christmas stockings on white satin for a new holiday tradition for my family.  It's on a previous post for you to share.
This week's customer's quilts pile--all quilted and bound.  Pretty good stack.  The two bottom are king-sized bed quilts.
And..for my favorite project shared from last week:

This week I would like to feature Tanya Quilts in CO.  I loved her combination of hand embroidery and patchwork.  This post has a lot of beautiful features of different variations of this combination.  Great work Tanya!

Now it's your turn to share your latest and greatest projects.  Remember, if I choose to feature your project next week, you get a free PDF download of a quilt pattern from me (that I designed).  Thanks!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The White Stocking: A Quilted Satin Stocking Tutorial

Hello everyone!  I hope you are enjoying getting ready for Christmas.  I am!  I was inspired this year by the poem "The White Christmas Stocking" by Carolyn Cox Canaberra (shared below).  I thought I would try it with my children--which meant that we needed a special white stocking.

However, how do I make it special?  Muslin is so boring. I'm way tired of piecing--and piecing white squares on white doesn't have much affect.  Indeed, this project wouldn't require patchwork.  What to do?

 A few years ago, I had a customer bring in a quilt with a few satin squares on it.  I loved how machine quilting looked on it so I thought I would use satin to make some elegant machine quilted Christmas stockings.

I think they turned out beautifully.

To start, I used 1 yard satin and 1 yard muslin and loaded them on the quilting machine.

To get free-motion machine quilting to pop, a separator line is needed.  I do these lines first to divide my FMQ areas.

After the area is separated, fill in the the FMQ as desired.
Ooh, isn't quilting on satin dreamy?  I think so.

I used a 8 1/2" by 11" piece of paper to sketch out a stocking pattern.  This stocking measures 10 inches long with a toe depth of 7 inches.

I cut out the stockings on the fold.  Yield: 4 stockings with the quilting horizontal and 1 stocking with the quilting vertical.

Sew with right sides together.  I used orange thread so you can see the 1/2 inch sewing line.  Satin frays easily so a larger seam is necessary.   Also, I used contrasting thread in the bobbin so you could see this muslin is the wrong side facing up.
Bind the top with lace and whip-stitch on a gross-grain bow.
I sure had fun with it.  This was a fast 3-hour project.  Not bad (as long as you have a quilting machine).

Isn't that satin stitch definition grand?  Humm...for my next whole-cloth, I think I'll use satin.

(adapted by Carolyn Cox, Canberra)

‘Twas the night before Christmas as I walked through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The presents had been wrapped and placed under the tree
I paused, tired, excited, and then giggled with glee.

The stockings were hanging and were beautifully filled
No one had been forgotten, though the credit card was billed.

As I looked at the scene with the stockings on the ledge.
I noticed one was empty, the one on the edge.

Where's the Spirit of Christmas - What have I done?
The children's stockings are all full, except for this one

It was the stocking intended for the child of Bethlehem.
The White stocking for Jesus that was hung up by them.

Of all the people at Christmas, that might be forgotten
How could I not remember the Fathers Only Begotten?

Only He had been left out of the festivities.
As we planned and prepared all, for our families.

As I pondered, I realized this just was not right!
It was His birth that was being celebrated, after this night

I resolved then and there to remember the Lord
And quickly made changes that were easy to afford.

I hung the white stocking in a special place in our home.
And corrected the atmosphere to provide a more spiritual tone.

On Christmas morning I gathered the family together
And each of us wrote on a special piece of paper,

We gave Jesus a gift which we placed in the stocking.
A sincere change of heart, not there for the mocking.

The white stocking hung in our home as a symbol for us
Of the true meaning of Christmas - the Savior, The Lord Jesus

So take your white stocking and hang it with pride
Remember the Savior, put his gift inside

Merry Christmas!!!

BTW, I am sharing this with the Santa's Sweatshop Link Party and Porch Swing Quilts.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Keep It Simple Make It Fun #33 and Easy Bow Threadpath

Well, I don't have much to share with you from my own personal quilting adventures this week--all I have done are customer quilts.  A year ago I read that unless you have a customer's approval, it is considered a copyright violation to post pictures of their projects on a blog--so no pictures from me this week, folks.

But...there were so many great projects linked up from last week that I chose 3!!!  Remember, you get a free PDF pattern from me if your project is chosen.

First, check out this beautiful wall-hanging from Jen at Jen's Crafts and Quilt Scrapbook.  She combined black thread on the applique and FMQ to create a sketchpad look.  What a clever idea!

Next to show is Emily's quilt from Katherine at Adventures in a Crafting Life.  I adore baby quilts and it was very clever to incorporate the baby's name in the quilt.

And last--but certainly not least--the type of plan we all need to get through our holiday sewing projects.  The MandM quilting theory by Val with Val's Quilting Studio.  This is so ("sew") much fun!  I need to do it.  Also, another fabulous quilt shared on her post as well.

FYI, all of my BROWN ones would be eaten first!!! LOL--What color would be gone out of your bag?

Just curious, when I started KISMIF, I shared a free-motion quilting (FMQ) thread-path every week.  Does anyone still want me to share those?  Does anyone want me to create them as a PDF to download?  If so, what kind?  Print and tape pantograph?  Just a FMQ how-to to apply to your custom quilting (which is what I initially created these for)?  I just don't want to do something no one finds useful.  Sometimes I don't know what my readers like.

Here is how to FMQ a bow: 

To practice these ideas, get a dry-erase board and a marker.  If you're using a long-arm machine, grab the marker in your fist vertically and repeatedly sketch out the motifs without lifting up the pen or doing starts and stops.  If you're using a domestic machine, have someone else grab that marker and you move the dry-erase board under the pen.  In no time, you'll have it down!

 First, start with learning how to do a basic clam shell.

Wait?  How can that turn into a bow?  On this diagram, the yellow star is the start point, the blue star is the repeat point and the green star is the exit or place to travel to the next motif.

1-Loop in
2-Start clamshell
3-Echo out
4-Repeat clamshell on other side
5-Echo out
6-Excit the motif and do your choice of back-fill over to the next bow (loop the loops or meander), or repeat another bow to create a bow border.  (Say "bow border" 10 times fast!  LOL)

Little bow

Big present bow.  This has 5 clam-shells around it instead of two.

Now, it's your turn to enter.  What have you worked on this week?  Keep It Simple and Make It Fun (KISMIF).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thank You!

Thank you so much for reading through my "Growing Pains" machine quilting posts.  I appreciated your comments.  They gave me a lot of perspective.

Shared courtesy of

Thank you for your support!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Another Candid Post: Edge to Edge Land & Crazy Customer Stories

Warning: LONG Word heavy--not many pictures post, but I loved your comments on my last candid machine quilting post.  They helped me so much.

Before I begin, I would like to add that Val at Val's Quilting Studio said she would be willing to take in my edge-to-edge quilt customer's projects.


So true....shared courtesy sewcalgal.wordpress

Last night, I finally get my youngest two kids to bed and my 13 year old son (who is remarkably mature and honest) comes in the room (while I am staring at machine quilting threadpaths on Pinterest) and says:

"Mom, we've gotta talk.  I don't understand.  You are quitting quilting?  But you love it--and you're getting published and a lot of good things are happening.  I don't get it."  (I guess it didn't take that much time away from family after all?)

He is right (yes, I got my first offer to contribute a pattern to a book just this week).

I answered that I would still design quilts, but I just didn't want to quilt for customers anymore.

But why?

Good question.

Shared courtesy

So I told him my crazy customer 3 weeks ago on "Black Friday" I had some shopping to do.  A customer told me she was coming to bring her 3 Christmas projects.  I asked her for a specific appointment time--which she would only do a ball-park time.  Then she NEVER showed up--the entire day and expected me to reschedule.  I almost missed the sales and finally went to ones in the evening.  This business is in my home, I have a family to manage.  It's not Billy & Joe's Fabric Shack that's open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. so you can come and go as you please.  I don't have a magic partition I'm quilting behind 9 to 5 with a cashier to take your order like the fabric stores.  If I'm on the phone or processing your order, I'm not quilting.  (Shockingly duh!  I know.  LOL--I can be quite sarcastic sometimes.) Yes, I've set up drop-off and pick-up days--but no one respects that.  Sundays are a sacred day for me and my family--and once they know your address, customers show up anyway.

Probably how some of my customers feel when they bring their quilts out to get done.  Image courtesy

Speaking of another sacred day is CHRISTMAS!!!  Yes, this really did happen.  In 2012, I had a customer call on December 23 asking if I was still in business.  She said:

"Great--this is what we're going to do.  I am piecing a top right now and it will be finished sometime tomorrow.  This is YOUR chance to be Santa Claus for me and create a dream come true.  I will bring the quilt top to you when I get it done tomorrow (Dec. 24), then YOU can stay up all night quilting it.  I'll come get it like 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and YOU will get a chance to fulfill a Christmas miracle!"

Me: "Wait, you expect me to finish a quilt for you and skip out on my family and children's Christmas Eve parties?"

Customer: "Yes, you ARE professional, aren't you?"

Me: "Yep, I am a professional so I can say no.  Merry Christmas!"  And I hung up the phone.  That lady was so mad she never returned.

I had another customer bring in a custom order as a gift for graduation for her granddaughter.  She chose custom work.  When it was done, she came to pick it up with a family member.  The family member was gushing over it and how grateful the granddaughter would be.  This woman turned with sharpness in her eye and anger and said, "I'm not giving it to her, not for a few more years!  Yes, she deserves it, but I am entering it into this competition because it will win!  That way I can recuperate the loss of the expense if quilting it."  The family member was ready to climb in a hole at that point.  I asked what competition, and she told me and I told her to check the rules as some competitions won't allow you to enter if you did not complete the entire project.  You can't hire out someone's work.  In an offended tone, her response was, "Who cares about the rules!  I am going to win."  At that point, I didn't say anymore.  However, most competitions require a signature from the machine quilter saying it is okay for their work to be shown publicly.  From then on, when she called to schedule a quilt, my schedule was too full.

So...back to my 13 year old.  He is right, you do need to do what is in your heart and he knows me well enough that I love to quilt.

There is something so special when a customer comes and picks up their quilt and their eyes light up.  When a Newbie sees it with a hush and says, "Wait, I did that?  Whoa!"  It gives me chills just writing it.  I also remember the days when I couldn't afford machine quilting so I did them all--even 100 inch King Size quilts on my little $100.00 home sewing machine.  So I like to be affordable out of compassion for customers.  Yet, that was one of the drives for me to learn to longarm.  Affordability and I wanted it done a certain way.

The drive to learn to quilt a certain way led me to buy a used longarm from a local classified add and then to attend HMQS where I spent A LOT of money--almost $400.00 a class to study hands-on with some of the biggest quilters in the business to learn their techniques.  Some of the greats like Pam Clarke  (Quilting Inside the Lines), Kimmy Brunner (ruler work, I need more practice in design with ruler work), Irenea Blum (every kind of possible feather variety) and every online Craftsy courses from greats such as Angela Walters (Dot-to-Dot and FMQ backgrounds).  So if I've studied all of that, why am I still in Edge-to-Edge land--competing with the computerized quilting market that can't do the things these ladies have taught? 

Close-ups of antique quilt tops quilted by Pam Clarke and shared in her hands-on class "Quilting Inside The Lines".

Another heirloom block from the same quilt done by Pam Clarke.

Good question.

Quite frankly, edge-to-edge land pays the bills for the courses--if you don't fall asleep there.

The other problem I explained to my son is when customers come to set up their order.  They see your quilts and your work (which is a good thing in some ways).  In a shop, they just see fabric panels hanging and if you're lucky some printout of what designs can be done.  I actually quilted an entire quilt, well multiple quilts, free-hand and specific blocks to create a quilted portfolio, cut up those quilts (which was painful, so much work!) it into 10 inch squares, zig-zagged all the edges, so my customers can see and feel the actual quilted piece.   I ask them to choose one quilt/page for their project since they selected the edge to edge price. I am honest, I do not want any surprises.   However, this little porfolio instantly transports me from edge-to-edge land to a custom job.  I explain it costs more, and the customers have a fit!  But--I want this here, or that there and yes, I can do it all but not for $0.01 per square inch (the going rate around here).

It actually is cheaper than that. I had a friend invite me to the local county quilt guild meeting to meet a machine quilter.  She charges ONLY $25.00 to quilt ANY SIZE of quilt.

I declined going to the meeting because the only thing going through my mind was "She's under-cutting the market."  Of course, she will only do clam shells as that is all she knows how to do as it is the only pattern track she has purchased to clamp into the bed of her track.  I don't think I'll fit in at that quilt guild's meetings.

However, edge to edge quilting does have a lot of good things going for it.  I can time a certain threadpath going from one edge of the quilt to the other and measure the entire top.  At the end I know EXACTLY how long it will be to execute a certain pattern per square inch.  I can divide that number by my desired hourly wage and figure out what to charge.  I can't do that very well with custom work, I can only set up a ball-park.  I can also calculate the exact number of bobbins per square inch and know the EXACT cost of thread and the EXACT yardage used.  This is great for budgeting.

There are also times when the quilt top's piecing isn't of enough quality to do custom work.  For example, the last 3 full size quilts I did the last 2 weeks had seams in them where the customer simply  missed the under-lying fabric.  Of course I don't find it until the quilt is on the frame, half-done and I can't remove it to fix it, so all I can do is hand-stitch it closed.

Also, free-hand (not pantograph) edge to edge is useful when the patchwork has been stretched.  This customer obviously put the bias edge of the triangle against the feed-dogs and the entire quilt was full of ripples.  They always say, "But you're a professional, it'll just  quilt out."  Ummm, no, not really.  All I can do is either tuck your top into the seam (which means you loose your carefully sewn points), or have you buy more batting and do edge to edge so the batting puffs up and fills out the ripples once removed from the quilt frame.

So much to think about!

Which brings me back to my 13 year old.  What kind of message does it send if I quit now?  (Will I be Michael Jordan bowing out at the top of his game?)  No, and I do have so much more to learn.  And what does it teach my children if I quit when I got stressed?  What example is that?

I was on Pinterest, realizing that the next creative quilting step for me is to apply ruler work to divide my custom quilt areas into spaces and do only custom work.  And when I get a new technique to work out, I get excited and my passion returns.

But I had some set-backs.  Recently I had a major magazine return my Nordic Sweater Quiltt I submitted for publication because I custom quilted it and they only wanted edge-to-edge work.  I was heart-broken.  They said edge-to-edge work is what is considered professional, not custom work.
This isn't "professional" quilting according to a major magazine.  Oui!  But it wasn't in my heart to scribble all over this top.  I loved designing the piece.

Experiencing this set-back, I really felt like my custom work wasn't good enough.  I felt trapped in edge-to-edge land.  After my 13 year old son's psychoanalysis of me, I kept scrolling through machine quilting negative space ideas/curved cross-hatching and found these pictures someone else had pinned:

My first though was, "Oh, those ARE good."  Followed by, "Wait, isn't that the quilt that is on your daughter's bed?"  Yes, these are close-ups of the Quilting Bee Sampler quilt I did for Moda Bake Shop over a year ago.

If my initial reaction is that my custom quilting is good enough, who is someone else to say otherwise?  (Which is what my husband said as soon as the Nordic Sweater Quilt was "rejected"--smart guy, I should listen to him more often.  LOL)  They probably rejected it because they want the style of quilting to be easy and simple--stuff that their readers can execute, which makes sense, but I wish I would have known that before.

I also appreciate your comments on my last candid post. Thank you for all of your support. Helen said she was in my shoes 2 years ago and said she converted her business to custom work only.  It lessened her workload dramatically and allowed her to raise her prices. If someone wanted edge to edge, then they needed to go to someone else.  Thank you for your advice Helen!  It's great advice.

That is good advice, and it sounds like my family thinks I spend plenty of time with them.  I will be doing my master's degree while they're at school in the mornings, which means I can quilt in the afternoon.  I do not get satisfaction from edge-to-edge land.

Perhaps these are the growing pains of a business--the signal of when to change to custom work only.  I feel at peace with that after all I do love a nice custom quilt.  My background is in hand-quilting--as a matter of fact, the first time I won a blue-ribbon is for my hand quilting work.

The real question then becomes, what do I charge?  I've never seen a quilting business book for custom work?  Any advice here?  I'd love it!

Thank you everyone, for your support!

What does someone charge for these techniques?  They are a lot more time consuming, but well worth the effort.

These are a lot more time-consuming work but well worth the effort.

Humm...what if I just do custom work only?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Keep It Simple Make It Fun (KISMIF) Link Party # 32

Hello all!  Here is a picture from my previous post this week about a new Layer Cake pattern I've been working on: Scrapadealy-O.

Welcome to KISMIF (Keep It Simple, Make It Fun).  I am enjoying seeing all of your great projects.  And as always, I choose one a week to feature and you get a free PDF quilt pattern from me!  Thanks for sharing!

My favorite this week was hard to choose, there were so many great quilts!  However, I did choose Lyn's Jovial, by Lyn at What A Hoot Quilts! I too can't wait to see how you quilt around those 3-D pinwheels.  I also like the photo you took with the Christmas-light reindeer.  Nice picture!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

7-Hour Layer Cake Quilt, Scrapadealy-O

Hey all!  I hope you are having a great week.

I was getting burned out from all the machine quilting for customers this week and it reminded me of a time when I was in college, studying Physics.  It was a Saturday night around 7:00 p.m. and some guys called to invite me to go swing dancing with them.   I decided not to go because I just couldn't get the Physics assignment.  It was at that point, my father came to my room and said, "Sometimes you just need to take the time to sharpen the knife."  He took my Physics book away and sent me out dancing with my group of friends.

It was some of the best advice I had ever had!  Make sure to take the time to enjoy life.

So...Friday I skipped out on my machine quilting orders (thankfully I'm ahead of my due dates), pulled out a layer cake and came up with a new pattern.


7-hour project (no kidding!) start to finish!

I love all the fabrics designed by Bonnie and Camille.  For this project I used "Miss  Kate".

The layer cake was cut into a 6  1/2" square, a strip 3 1/2" by 6 1/2" and a strip 3 1/2" by 9 1/2".  These were then sewn together to make a 9 1/2" block.

Then, my favorite part of quilt making--playing with the colors.  Here is a random color placement.

Making a blue pinwheel.

Putting red in the corners.

Ultimately, I settled on the random color placement as there were a lot of small scale prints in this layer cake bundle.

I like how it turned out, but I wish the bundle had more large-scale prints.  The small scale prints just washed out.  As I live 30 minutes from the nearest wal-mart and an hour from a decent fabric store, I had to order the borders online and will be putting them on once the fabric arrives in the mail.

I also have another variation I am working on. I can't wait to see how it turns out as well.  By the end of next week I should have a PDF ready.

Taking time to sharpen the knife feels great!  Rejuvenate!  I am ready to get back to the long-arm.  I just needed a break.  I am finishing closing out my machine quilting business and won't take any orders in January.  I was accepted to my Master's Degree program and will work on that--and spend more time with my mini-monkies.  I love my kids.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Running A Machine Quilting Business Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Running a machine quilting business isn't all it's cracked up to be...

Okay, long title for a weird post.  Usually you get design ideas from my blog.  This will be a very candid post, and I'm not normally personal on my blog.  However, when I first started writing this blog, it's purpose was to educate my customers as to my policies and costs of machine quilting...then I posted a quilt design to attract returning customers, and voila, I suddenly became a quilt designer.

Crazy turn of events.

Shared from "Sprout Social Photos"

I've juggled a machine quilting business while raising my 4 children for 5 years now.  At first it was fun and a great way to get some experience on my long-arm machine. 

After a while, it became annoying--none of my customers could understand my policies (or visit my blog to pre-read what they were_  and want custom work (which is what I am known for) at edge to edge prices.  It doesn't matter to them if it takes 3 times as long, it's just the "cost".

The costs of batting and thread continue to rise...but folks don't want to compensate you for your overhead--or the time to load the quilt, or so and so down the street is having a sale, why don't you?  It is tough to break even, and since I insist on "staying in the black" I keep getting beaten by those computerized machines.

While I like the extra income, I am tired and I am finally ready to admit that I am ready to move on. It's not worth the time involved.

I'll keep blogging and designing quilt patterns, but I think it is finally time for me to bow-out of the machine quilting for customers race.  I just don't have the drive for it anymore.

I hope to use this extra time to enjoy more things as a family.  Here are some things we like to do.

Hiking the trail to Silver Lake.

I need to practice!   Maybe I can make it out of the 8 year old recital class.

More hiking.

Working the horses (I know she's sitting on a pony).

So cute!   Of course I want to spend more time with this princess & her 3 older brothers.
I'm grateful for families.  Aren't you?  I do my best to spend time with them, but I think I can do better.