Friday, March 28, 2008

She's Baaaaaack :)

Audrey, my granddaughter, is back with me this weekend. I put most of the quilting stuff away and got out the camera. Knowing your priorities is a good thing. We're going outside to look for some mud puddles to stomp in. See you later!

Sharing Information on

I am, at times, overwhelmed with what is available for free on the internet. Squidoo is interesting to me because they give you a nicely formatted place to share information on subjects that you are passionate about - and they give you a choice of donating any profits from the page you create to charity.

I am pretty passionate about some aspects of quilting and I like to share information for free and I am a firm believer in helping others. looks like a good fit for me. Unlike a blog, where after about a week a post is lost in Label/Archive limbo - my topic is always there, easy to find and always available for anyone looking for it. That's kind of neat :)

If you are passionate about a subject and you want to share it with the internet world, head on over there and create what they call a 'lens'. Here's mine on different machine quilting systems.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Books are In!

I received an email from my favorite marketing gal at Krause that the first shipment of the second printing of our book (Crazy Shortcut Quilts) is now in the warehouse!! Yipee!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cure for Thread Backlash

I was having a heck of a time with my decorative stitching and thread backlash in the bobbin. I thought it was the thread (no) the stitch (no) and finally just assumed that the timing was off on the sewing machine (no).

I can't say I know what caused the problem, but I do know what backlash is: bobbin thread whipping backwards in the bobbin case & either bunching up or creating huge globs of thread clusters on the back of the fabric or quilt or winding itself onto the bobbin spring and shredding.

I had read a while ago about a teflon ring that was being sold as a 'cure' for backlash and in desperation, I cut a corner off my teflon pressing sheet and trimmed it to fit the bobbin case and guess what? No more backlash and I have been happily stitching ever since! Now, cutting up the pressing pad was an act of desperation - the teflon rings are available at quilt shops and online at Keepsake Quilting. But, if you're desperate for a solution and don't want to wait.......

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Quilting Tools that I Love

I just love anything that makes my sewing and quilting easier, and these 2 things do exactly that: Joan Hawley's Tips DVD and Prym-Dritz curved nickel pins in a size 1.

The first time I saw Joan at Quilt Market, with her booth & business sign that said "Lazy Girl" I stopped in my tracks. Here was a woman I could relate to! I watched her Tips DVD yesterday and it renewed my respect for Joan and my love of her tips. This DVD is mostly about zippers (she uses them in quite remarkable ways on several of her handbag patterns). Lots of sewers are afraid of zippers and Joan removes all the stupid rules I learned in home-ec, back when girls had to take home economics and girls had to wear skirts and dresses to public school (I'm old!). Joan's DVD shows how to put in zippers faster than putting on a binding, and easier too.

While I was watching the DVD I was also doing the boring task of pinning my squares for a new quilt. I had a few bad pins and I opened up a brand new package of Prym Pins. Heaven. Bad pins are worse than useless (into the scrap bin they went) because they pull at the fabric and distort the smoothness I worked so hard to get! These new pins were smooooooth and sweet and between them and watching Joan, made a boring task better.

BTW, if you like the background fabric on the pins photo, it's Cherrywoods hand dyed fabric from their 'Chestnut to Light' colorway. That's what I am working on now.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quilt Contest!

I just love the Jolly Jabber Blog by the Fat Quarter Shop. They are running a contest right now, using a Moda fabric called 'Simplicity'. Very pretty (for a floral). Hehehehe. Although florals aren't my favorite type of fabric, I really like this line and the contest pushed me over the edge on buying some. I have a new idea that I want to try and this will suit it perfectly.

Here's info on the contest (click here to go to the Jolly Jabber Blog about the contest) and I have received notice that it has been extended until April 6. My challenge shall be to make a small quilt in a day, from start to binding, although I will admit that I bought the Layer Cake, so my first cut is already made. If they send the fabric completely flat then I won't have to press it, saving another half hour or so. I will keep you posted!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Making cutting & pressing easier

As with my custom quilting desk I've improvised my cutting and pressing tables & surfaces. Here are the things I use and like, and why. This table (Sam's Club $42) has 3 height settings, so I can sew on it (sitting down) or stand comfortably and cut fabrics and battings at it's tallest setting of 36" high.
On the table you see my rotary cutter and my 20½" square ruler made by Omni. I just love this for cutting my quilt-as-you-go squares and for cutting batting squares.

I use this gripper stuff after trying several other brands and I just love it! (Walmart) I use it under my laptop, under cutting pads and under the wooden pressing surface that I improvised with a piece of plywood with Warm & Natural batting and muslin fabric. {Lowe's used to carry these smaller pieces of wood in bins in the plywood aisle, or you can buy a sheet of plywood and have them make the cuts for you}.

I just put the piece of gripper on the bare ironing board surface and then place the wood on it and cover it with cotton batting and then muslin.

Don't be afraid to improvise to make your sewing and quilting easier. I like the wood board because it is slightly larger than a fat quarter of fabric (18"x22").

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Audrey loved her new hat and although it is a bit big, it wasn't too big, it just has room to grow. We had dinner together, Sarah, Ryan, Tom, Audrey and I and it was the most fun I've had in a while. Audrey likes to take my jewelry and for some reason she decided that removing my eyeglass holder chain was the funniest thing in the world. She laughed, and I laughed just to see her laugh and then we were both laughing just because the other one was. Life just doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Easter Collection from TipNut

Wow. TipNut has got it all for Easter! I just love the site and visit it daily. I am in awe of the work that goes into collecting this much information and the fact that it is freely offered! One of my very favorite blogs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Audrey's Hat

I've been working on a secret project....Audrey's Hat. As you can see from Sarah's blog, Audrey loves to put things on her head. Her favorite thing is a tupperware toy that she pretends is her hat. That made me think that maybe I should make her a hat.

This hat had no design or pattern in mind, just play and relief for me after refurbishing kitchen floors everyday. So each day for the past 4 days, I've cut a little, sewn, agonized over fabrics, tossed my stash around and played. I didn't take photos of the process because I didn't think it would work, but I believe that I have a really cute hat here, and I can't wait to give it to Audrey.

It was hard to make it without her here, to test for size. I used the bear, but he's just not the same as a baby girl - lol :)

So, this weekend I shall see Audrey and give her my gift to her, her very own hat. It's a secret though, so if you see her, don't tell!

I am going to make another one and I'll take photos as I go on that one.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Alaska Fiber Festival

Sarah and I were invited to join the greatest group of gals for the opening night of the Alaska Fiber Festival in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. Here's Sarah Raffuse signing a book for Lee.

It was just so wonderful to see the artistic ladies who organize this awesome event and it was so nice that they remembered me, from the days when I attended meetings with the Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters Guild (and they remembered Sarah because I used to drag her along when she was just a kid). Gail Ramsey, Deb Hardman, Jane Odgers, Roxane Stoner, Mary Hertert are some of the artists and organizers of an event that is so well worth attending.

The Festival is presenting lectures and classes by Kenneth King and Jennie Rayment and the First Friday Gallery walk was just a HUGE success! The artwork will be up until the 16th of March and there will be a Merchant Mall at the Phillips Atrium downtown on the weekend of the 15 & 16th.

I only had time to visit one gallery, Virtu, on 4th Ave across from the Post Office Mall/Sunshine Plaza and what an outstanding display of art they had!! I was told that all of the galleries on the walk were just as exciting and I wish that I had been able to stay longer to visit them all.

(I put up the second photo because the colors are better, but the photo is a bit blurry. The first photo is sharp, but the colors are off.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Favorite Things

I am going to do the Martha Stewart thing and post a few of my favorite (machine quilting) things. I've been machine quilting (home machine, longarm & midarm) for 13 yrs and have been teaching for about 10 yrs. I've used a lot of products over the years and I have developed some specific preferences. I am preparing to teach tomorrow and that brought this list to mind:

I love Warm & Natural batting for MQ - it's flat and slightly stiff and that keeps it from bunching up when I'm trying to quilt. When washed it makes a nice soft quilt. I only use Sulky clear polyester for SID. The most important tool to keep nearby is a tiny screwdriver to change bobbin tension with and the cheapest one you can buy comes in an eyeglass repair kit. I love my Machingers Quilting Gloves - they are light, they let my skin breathe and the grippy tips are superb.

A flat surface is a must and you can build an area around your machine with many things. I've used heavy cardboard boxes with glossy surfaces and now I have my home-made dream desk and I wouldn't trade it for anything. (How to build it here). Good lighting is a must and it's cheap too. I buy 4' long florescent hanging fixtures (shop lights) and I put daylight rated bulbs in them. I have 2 of these hanging over my sewing area. You can see them in this pic.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


This has been a "do stuff I have to (because I've been putting it off) instead of having fabric fun" week. Web stuff (I struggle with it), working on kitchen floors (2 kitchen floors this week - trust me, you don't want to know the details). Yuk. My hands are sore & scraped and my attitude is not good.

Stashbusters group has a philosophy of "quilt (or sew) for 15 minutes a day, everyday" and it's a good one. I haven't touched my machine for 5 days and it feels like a year. Next week is all mine, with fabric fun every day - a promise to myself. I've been dreaming of those fabric bracelets and I have a few ideas I want to try out. Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fun with Flickr

I created a photo set (which can be viewed as a slideshow) on Flickr (click here to see it) of portions of quilts in our book - some photos are of 1 square of the quilt, some have 4 squares. The photos aren't great and I hope to re-do them soon.

Flickr is a photo sharing site owned by Yahoo! and I am learning to like it. Sarah uploads photos of my granddaughter (125 miles away) and I can see them immediately~~~I really like that!

Sarah Raffuse Blogs!

My daughter and co-author, Sarah Raffuse, has started a blog. Hehehehehe. I knew that if I stole her pictures enough she'd start blogging herself :) <----happy mom smile!

On her post today she shows off one of her most favorite quilts, made with the Bella Nonna pattern and silk flowers (check out their stuff here). Their patterns are cute, cute, cute! And they are nice people, we always say hi & chat at Quilt Market.

So stop on by Sarah Raffuse's Blog and say hi or just take a peek!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Eagles have Landed

Here are some eagles looking for food. The little bird in the middle is a dwarfed by the eagles.

The dark eagles are immature eagles; they have not developed the white feathers around their head and feet. They have sort of speckled brown feathers. The larger black birds in the photo below are ravens.

Here are a few more pics taken later in the day and with a much better camera.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cheap Fixes for Sewing and Quilting

Here's my solution for using cone thread with a DSM (domestic sewing machine). I bought a cheap toilet tank repair kit at the hardware store (I just love it there - almost as much as my LQS - local quilt shop) and I used this long part with the loop, taped to the top of the sewing machine to guide the thread off the cone. Works like a charm! If you are wondering what's up with the blue foam insulation - click here to learn about my homemade quilting desk.

This is the paper backing on the clear vinyl that I covered my homemade sewing table with. It is supposed to be window covering for storm windows or something like that (I have no idea) but it's slicker than an icy sidewalk after a downpour! Very slick. Meaning that no matter how heavy your quilt is (and I've made flannel quilts with Warm & Natural batting ~~ heavy enough to sink a skiff) the fabrics just glide over this surface like melted butter. No kidding.