Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's Wrong With Me, Anyway?

I'm cursed. It's a terrible curse, too. It's The Curse Of Always Having To Do Things The Hard Way. Woe is me.

So, I'm wandering around, minding my own business, cleaning up the house after the Thanksgiving madness. I thought about putting up the tree, but decided to wait until next weekend because, really, I'm just too tired after all of that tryptophan to do anything strenuous.

And then it occurred to me; I have the weekend free. Why not do a little piecing? Yeah, that's it! A little piecing! I've got a quick and easy table runner pattern that I've been thinking about making for several years. The first time I bought it was at a great little fabric shop in Kenai, Alaska called Robin's Place. I liked it, I bought it, I brought it home, I put it in a safe place, and I never saw it again. About 3 years after I bought it, I thought to myself "Hey! Where's that pattern?" and I turned my sewing room upside down looking for it. Nope, not here. Dang! So I called Robin's Place and bought it a second time. Naturally, two days after I ordered it, I found it sitting right there on the shelf where a blind person would have seen it. If it had been a snake it would have bit me and I'd be dead right now. So, now I've got two of this pattern and it's high time I make at least one of them.

Santa's Midnight Runner by Mount Redoubt Designs

I started digging through my stash, since 2012 was the Year of the Big Stash Reduction (fail!) and I am not allowed to buy any new fabric (fail again!). As I dug, and considered, and dug some more, and considered some more, it occurred to me that this table runner only has three tiny reindeer. Three?!? Everyone knows Santa has eight tiny reindeer. Nine, if you count Rudolph, which I do. With as many little nieces as I've got, there's no way I'm going to get away with making a Santa table runner that only has three reindeer on it. Curses. Foiled again.

And this is where the trouble started.

In the space of 14 seconds I went from working on a project that would have been done by Sunday night to working on a project that's going to take all week. Quickly realizing that if I added six more reindeer to this thing I'd have to use my table runner to line my driveway, because it would end up being about 42 feet long, I decided to change it from being a 17x52 table runner to being a 29x45 wall hanging. I will redraw the reindeer so they appear to be curving away from Santa's sleigh and heigh-hoing off into the wild blue yonder, diminishing in size as they curl away into the sky.

And speaking of sky, I decided that the background of four inch squares is too boring and the large size of the squares makes it too difficult to color shade that sky from deep purple-blue through rich cobalt into the rich turquoise that will be the background for the large silvery moon that the reindeer will be flying across and that will need to be carefully hand shaded with gleaming iridescent silver paint. So now my stupid sky is made up of 2 inch squares. About 40,000 of them. Sigh.

See what I mean about being cursed? Why didn't I just make the table runner and get it over with?

Here's where I began this morning

And here's where I ended tonight.

Tomorrow I will finish the layout and begin to sew all of those seams. Please send help.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Craftsy's Big Holiday Sale

Craftsy is having a big Black Friday/Cyber Monday all rolled into one sale. If you'd like to get my new class for half price, or treat yourself to a great food crafting or decorating class for the holidays for a killer great price, click the link below!

Craftsy Holiday Sale: All online classes are $19.99 or less. Sale ends Mon. Nov. 26th, at midnight!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Big Reveal

Once again, I find myself apologizing for the gap in posting. After a year spent mostly on the road, I'm finally at home and am starting to get caught up. I just can't tell you how wonderful it is to wake up in my own bed every morning, with my dogs breathing their horrid doggy breath in my face, knowing that it's going to be this way for a while. Hooray!

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...The Big Craftsy Reveal!

After months of prep work, which included working with Alycia Carmin at Alycia Quilts, the wonderful Bruce and Diane Magidson of Sew Batik fabrics, and the great Craftsy peeps on a beautiful Quilts of Valor Mystery Quiltalong it was finally time to start filming. Handi Quilter graciously allowed us to film at their facility in beautiful Salt Lake City (if you've never visited that city, you should. Talk about a nice place to visit!) and provided us with a top of the line new machine for use during filming, enough food to keep us going for weeks, and the friendliest staff I've ever worked with. I just love Handi Quilter. They hire the nicest people ever.

Craftsy sent out a fantastic crew, who impressed the living daylights out of me every step of the way. There was Tonya, who kept us all focused and on track, James, who kept us all smiling and never once lost his cheerful grin (and has the ability to imitate numerous Oscar winning actors at the drop of a hat) and Nicole, the quiet genius who sat behind her computer directing us flawlessly and never losing track of where we were and where we were going.

The team arrived with cases and trunks galore, and immediately started unpacking and setting up, while I stood there with my mouth hanging open. It was absolutely astonishing to see how much expensive equipment they had shoved into those trunks! There were two cameras; a stationary master camera manned by Tonya and a moveable camera on a boom which was manned by James. There were big lights, little lights, and spotlights. There were microphones that hung from booms, microphones attached to cameras, and microphones attached to me. There were cables and cords and computers and monitors. There were washtubs full of water bottles, boxes of munchies, and a whole lot of chocolate. Which, of course, we needed in order to keep us from perishing. Film crews, it turns out, need almost as much chocolate as quilters do. Who knew?

This is what the set looked like through TOnya's master camera. On her various little monitors, she could see the set, her camera's view of the set, and James' camera's view. Very cool.

I knew that the only way I'd ever stay organized enough to shoot almost a dozen different episodes over the course of just a couple of days was if I made little kits containing every single thing I needed for each episode, along with a master list of which items in each episode kit was to be moved to a different episode kit when each episode was finished. Did that make sense the way I said it? Here is a shot of some of my kits lined up in the order they were to be used. (no, we did not shoot chronologically, which complicated things even further)

After being worked on for an hour by the makeup artist and spackled, scrubbed, powdered and primped, I was ready to step in front of the camera for the first episode. Take a deep breath, calm your nerves, try to remember your lines, and let's do this!

Filming took the better part of three very long days and, though tiring, was a total blast. Everyone was super professional and there to do the job and do it right which made it a joy for me. I LOVE working with people who share my work ethic! We all worked our tails off all day long, stayed on task, and when it was done, we all had smiles from ear to ear. What a great team!

Because I was waiting for my class to launch, I have only shared glimpses of what the final QOV quilt looks like. Are you ready to see a shot of the quilting? Here you go! Reminder; the quilt still needs to have the last row of quilting finished and needs to have piping and binding added. When this is done, I will take a better photo of it and post it so you can see how it looks with a shot of bright red piping, but in the meantime, here's the quilt as it looks so far.

And here is a close up

If you want to learn how to do these designs, here's a link to my Craftsy class. Click here to go directly to the class page at Craftsy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sneaky Peek!

Here's a sneak peek of the back of the Mystery Quilt of Valor that Alycia Carmin is presenting in conjunction with my Templates class on I can't show you the front quite yet because the Mystery is not complete and the final reveal has not yet been made. Patience, my friends, is a virtue. :)

While this may look super complex, IT IS SO EASY!!!!!!! I used a couple of templates (1 straight, 3 circles and 2 melons), some super simple markings (and I do mean super simple!), and filled everything in with very easy medium/small scale stippling and some pebbles. This is a quilt that any confident beginner could do.

Don't believe me? Take the class and I'll show you. We launch in a little over a month!

Monday, September 10, 2012


My apologies to those who were trying to access the tutorials on Practicing and Backing in the Pages toolbar just below my title bar above. I messed up the code on those pages while creating them so they either showed as gibberish or, depending on your computer, as being nonexistent. D'oh!

They're fixed now. Sorry!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Teaming Up With Craftsy!

If you've been following my blogs for any length of time, you'll know that I am a huge fan of Alycia Carmin. Alycia is unquestionably the coolest person in any room and not only is she a genuine horseriding Colorado rancher, she also manages to somehow find the time to provide literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Quilts of Valor each and every year for the wounded soldiers at Fort Carson Army Hospital, Angel Flight recipients, and military members of an Equine Therapy group. If you would like information on how to grow up to be just like Alycia, visit her blog at Alycia Quilts

A couple of weeks ago, Alycia announced that she is beginning a new QOV Mystery Quilt in association with I am VERY pleased to announce that I am the longarm instructor that Alycia and are teaming up with on this project! As those of you who have bought my first two DVDs know, I *LOVE* to promote Quilts of Valor in everything that I do and this time it's no different.

Craftsy approached me in February and wanted to know if I'd teach a class for their online learning platform. It took me about 14 seconds to say "YES!!!" When I started planning what I'd do for this class, the first thing I thought of was "How will I incorporate Quilts of Valor?" To me, there's not much point in being 'known' if you don't do something useful and worthwhile with that whole "Oh, I know who she is!" status and for me, the something that I've decided to do is to bring attention to the needs of our wounded military.

I used a Quilt of Valor to teach you how to deal with wavy borders on my first DVD, I used a QOV to show you how to use twirly whirly feathers as an allover design on my second DVD, and in my Craftsy class I'll use a QOV to show you how to use templates to create design perfection on your quilts. My hope is that you will follow Alycia's directions to create your Mystery Quilt (there's a finished version of the quilt on my machine right now, and it's super cool!), allow me to show you how to quilt it, and then send your completed quilt to Alycia so that she can deliver it to one of our heroes in time for Christmas. Alycia has shared with me that the holidays are an extremely difficult time for our wounded soldiers, as many of them are too badly injured to travel and many of their families lack the money to pay for a visit, so they sit by themselves in a hospital far from home. Let's change these stressful, sad holidays to a season filled with love and thanks by wrapping them in our quilts.

Here's the scoop on my Craftsy thing: The class will be on Templates, and will be approximately 5 to 6 hours long, broken down into 20 to 30 minute segments so you won't get square eyes from sitting in front of the computer all day long. We'll start with easy stuff and each segment will move progressively from easy peasy to more intricate and complex. If you've ever taken a class from me, you know the drill; start with baby steps and move forward from there so that even the most complicated designs seem simple and totally doable.

With Craftsy classes, it's basically like buying a DVD, except you store your DVD online instead of at your house. You pay for the class once and can watch it as many times as you wish; you can rewind it, pause it, insert placeholders in it that will allow you to jump back to specific spots in the class to refresh your memory on techniques, etc. There will be a little community of students with it's own forum where you can ask questions of me and of other students, make friends, show off pics of your finished projects, the whole nine yards. It's a totally cool concept that's going to revolutionize the way we share our skills and knowledge with one another, and I'm way beyond excited to be playing a part in it.

We will be filming next month and the class should go live in mid-October. I'll keep you posted and, in the meantime, please pop over to Craftsy and start working on your QOV Mystery!

I wish you Happy Quilting and little to no thread barf on the backs of your quilts :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Playing Catchup. Again.

Look! She's alive! It's a miracle.

As usual, the spring show season was nuts and I'm still sweeping up the rubble. The shows went well, as they usually do. However, I think I'm getting old. I did a lot of thinking while on the road and have decided that I'm definitely over this constant go-go-go schedule. There are 11 trips on my calendar this year and that's about 6 too many. I'll fulfill my 2012 obligations but starting in 2013 there will be far fewer shows on my calendar. There's a *huge* project in the works starting in late August and I'm hoping that this project will allow me to stay home a lot from now on. I think you're going to like it. Stay tuned :)

The black and white quilt was finished and named. 'No Grey Area' sold for $525 at the HMQS auction and is now in the collection of Vicki Anderson, owner of Meander Publishing. I liked it so well that I'm going to remake it in batiks and maybe make a pattern out of it if there's enough interest out there. Here are some pics of the finished product:

And, as an added bonus, it won third place! A very pleasant surprise, since I haven't even competed in over 7 years and certainly wasn't expecting to win anything.

In addition to No Grey Area, I was able to (at long last) finish Dresden Dahlias. This is the last of the quilts that I needed to make for the new DVD on borders, so those of you who have been patiently waiting for the DVD can sleep well tonight, knowing that I finally found time to finish the dang quilt! As soon as the photos are ready we can insert them in the filmed footage, wrap up the editing, and ship the whole shebang to the replicator. I'm crossing my fingers it won't take long.

These borders will be in the DVD...

...and these blocks will be featured in my mysterious summer project.

Next stop; the National Quilting Association Show in Columbus, OH. After that, I'll be home for 6 weeks and then it's off to Johannesburg!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slowly But Surely

It was a beautiful early spring weekend here in Minnesota. Temps in the upper 70s, birds singing wildly, neighborhood kids tearing around like sugar-fueled maniacs, and daffodil buds rearing their heads a month ahead of schedule. I spent it sitting inside on my fanny watching movies (did you know that Atonement is a *fantastic* movie?) and endlessly pinning blocks together.

But look! I have something to show for my efforts!

There are seven more interior blocks to go, which should be finished by dinnertime. Then I have to start on the border blocks, which are a completely different color. Can you guess what this quilt is going to look like when it's done?

My other project for the weekend was jewelry making. These pieces were made with Little Windows brilliant resin, little bits and pieces of Angelina Fibers, Angelina Film, foil, etc. left over from previous projects, and finished with the black glitter from the Little Windows Dichro-ish kit. I will use thin silver wire to create some filigree, wrap the beads in wire, and make a couple of necklaces and some earrings.

You would not even believe how easy this product is to work with. I bought it at Houston last year and it's been sitting on my desk ever since. I can't wait to make more stuff! I think some dichroic buttons for my new black cardigan sweater would be way cool.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Painted Lady

Okay, so it's not a lady. It's a quilt. But it's very ladylike, so I think it qualifies. (even though I may have used some unladylike language while piecing it. But I digress.)


The Last Shadow has been painted and is now awaiting it's new binding. Here's a pic of the quilt in it's Before state...

And here's what it looks like After...

I just LOVE what the paint did to this quilt. It didn't change it a lot, but boy oh boy did it ever jazz it up. I think my favorite part is the deep purple area near the center of the quilt. Look how cool it is with that subtle painted section! I will definitely do a lot more of this type of embellishment on my quilts in the future, as I found it to be extremely relaxing as well as very, very fun. For more info on what products I used, please refer to my March 6th blog entry.

The HMQS auction quilt is moving slowly but surely toward the finish line. The segments have become blocks and the blocks are now being joined to one another. I need more pins.

I've gotten several emails from people asking me if I am insane because I use so many pins. A few years ago I'd have agreed with them. However, as my quilts have become more and more complex, I have found that if you want accuracy and precision in your piecing there's just nothing that beats a whole boatload of pins. And, believe it or not, I actually find pinning to be relaxing! I just plop myself on the couch with a big glass of Cherry Pomegranate flavored Crystal Lite, my cell phone so I can play Words With Friends as I pin, and the TV remote. I plug in a good movie, and get to work. A movie or two later and all of the pinning is done and I'm ready to move to the sewing machine to stitch everything in place. See what I mean? Relaxing!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


One of the surest signs of the impending spring show season is when I start taking over the entire kitchen with 56 projects in various stages of completion. Once this starts, my poor family knows that they will not be able to eat dinner at the table again until late May. However, since I am by nature a caring and sensitive person, I do make sure that I leave at least one third of the island countertop available for their use so that they can sit huddled over their plates. See? I'm nice like that.

This particular mess is all the fault of Sherry Rogers-Harrison, who has gotten me totally hooked on her PaintFusion technique. She showed me how to combine these really cool LuminArte dry pigment paints with her PaintFusion textile medium to create a whole new world of color on my quilts.

Sherry uses this technique to transform a plain white piece of fabric into a painted wholecloth, but I'm experimenting with how to use it to subtly alter the colors in a pieced quilt. Because I love the piecing process and don't want to give up that element of quiltmaking, I've chosen to use the paints to enhance my printed fabrics and create added dimension in my work. I'll show you what I mean.

Here's a pic of The Last Shadow before painting

Here's what it looks like with a little bit of paint. Please note; I have a lot of painting left to do. So far, only the center is painted, but you can see how the addition of the paint adds a whole new look to the quilt.

When it's all done, I will apply a turquoise binding with bright orange piping. You'll be able to see this quilt in person at MQS in the special Teacher of the Year exhibit. And, of course, it's one of the quilts featured in my upcoming Bordering on Lunacy DVD which will, I promise, be finished someday. If I'm ever home long enough to finish it.

In other breaking news, the HMQS auction quilt has gone from this

to this

I am zipping right along. Lo, the wonders of a caffeinated lifestyle.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lots of Little Pieces

I'm taking a break from my crazy work schedule to piece a charity quilt and am wondering why I don't do this sort of thing more often. My usual mode of operation is to have about 8 million projects, all in various stages of completion and all going on at once, and in so doing I tend to lose sight of how much fun it is to just sit down and piece something simply because I want to piece it and not because it has to be pieced for this DVD or that class or this TV appearance. Whenever I do something like this, it reminds me of how important it is to just step back from my workaholic "I must not only succeed but also excel!" attitude and just breathe for a few minutes.

This quilt is being made as part of a double challenge. The original challenge is the HMQS Riley Blake Challenge. When you sign up for this project, you pay a little money and you get a nice big bundle of fabrics and a big piece of batting.

Your finished quilt must incorporate recognizable pieces of all of the challenge fabrics, and you must use the batting provided. If you wish, you may add up to four other fabrics, but that's it. The rest of the piece has to be made from the challenge fabrics. Finished quilts are the property of HMQS and are auctioned off at the show to raise money for this year's charity which just happens to be Quilts of Valor, one of my very favorite projects.

The double challenge came into the picture when I challenged my friends Carol Selepec (one of the pioneers of longarm quilting and the winner of the very first Excellence in Longarm Quilting award at Paducah) and Lisa Calle (amazingly talented quilter and owner of Stone House Quilting) to participate in the HMQS challenge with me. The three of us agreed that in addition to the rules of the HMQS challenge, we would have another rule; one of the four additional fabrics must be a certain color which I will reveal later. We could make whatever quilt we felt like making, in whatever size we wanted. We encouraged each other to try a new technique, to stretch ourselves and get out of our boxes and, most of all, to have fun. I absolutely LOVE doing challenges like this because I find that, when I'm doing this with friends, I feel safe and confident and empowered to step outside of my perceived limitations and try things I would not otherwise have tried. Of all of the projects I have worked on, it's the challenges with friends that have done the most to improve my skill as a quiltmaker.

On this project, I decided to try drafting a pattern, which has always seemed daunting to me. I also decided to use the opportunity of working with primarily black and white fabrics as a chance to increase my ability to manipulate light and dark color values in my quilts to create added drama. And last but not least I decided to experiment with using highly ontrasting thread while quilting to work on increasing my precision. On large quilts, these things would seem overwhelming to me, but this quilt is only going to be a large wallhanging/small throw, so how bad can it be, right?

I saw a photo of a quilt made using the old Chimney Swallows block, which dates back to Carrie Hall in 1882. Because I was unable to find a printed pattern for this old and obscure block I had to make my own. Jinny Beyer has a very small (less than one inch square) line drawing of this block in one of her books, so I started with that. Because the image was so tiny, I couldn't just blow it up to 8 inches because if I did so, the lines became huge and blurry and the pattern would have been completely inaccurate. So I started drawing. And I drew. And drew. And drew some more. And threw away most of my drawings because they weren't accurate enough. After going through a forest's worth of paper, I finally had an accurate rendering that I could work with.

Next, I printed that image out on a lightweight, transparent foundation paper. I don't enjoy paper piecing, but if you want accuracy, there's nothing like it and this block needs accuracy so I bit the bullet and started printing foundations.

Next, I cut the foundation patterns into pieces, turning each block into twelve segments. Here are the three segments for each quadrant of the block. One of the segments was only partially pieced in this pic, and that large open spot will be filled with white fabric. (I don't think I have ever used the word segment that many times in one paragraph in my entire life)

Next, I went to a quilting retreat with my quilty girlfriends. Our retreats always have a theme and the theme for this one was Princess Beatrice's Hat, which was inspired by the apparent intrauterine device which Bea wore on her head to the Royal Wedding last year. We all made hats that would have turned Bea green with envy, had she been there.

I set up my station and started to piece. Paper piecing goes so much faster when you have friends to laugh with.

Unfortunately, having friends to laugh with can lead to you not paying attention while piecing. This is what I looked like after realizing that I had incorrectly pieced a large number of segemts. At 30 stitches per inch.

After some swearing, a big glass of wine, the loving ridicule of my friends, and a lot of ripping, I finally had a block to show for all the trouble.

I spent the rest of the retreat (carefully!) piecing and then came home and set up my project in my cozy little sewing nook in the corner of my kitchen. Toby was very helpful.

Augie was helpful, too.

Oh, sorry, Augie. I didn't mean to make the flash go off right in your eyes.

There. That's better.

I am now finishing up the last of the segments for the interior of the quilt and will then start working on the scallopy border. I'll show you more pics when I get the blocks put together!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What It's Like To Film A TV Episode

I've been asked by so many people to describe what it's like to film TV and DVDs that I figured it's probably time to do a blog post on this subject. First of all, lest you be disappointed later, let me come right out and say that it's nowhere near as glamorous as you'd think it would be. You do not get to sit around like Ginger on Gilligan's Island waiting for a makeup person to come over and run a powder puff across your nose. In fact, you work pretty darn hard, or at least you work pretty darn hard if you want your episode to be any good at all. However, having said that, let me also say that it's a complete blast and I love doing it. Words cannot describe how much fun it is to be part of a team of pros who are all working together on a common goal.

Work begins well before the taping date. If you ever hope to do something like this, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be prepared. As in; prepared beyond any reasonable person's description of prepared. The first couple of times you do this, you'll find that the instant the camera turns on you will forget every single thing you've ever known in your entire life, and that's where the preparation comes in handy. You must, and I do mean must, know your material inside and out because that intimate knowledge of the project in front of you is what's going to kick in and save you from looking like a deer in the headlights and babbling like a goon.

So, weeks before the taping you start working on samples and more samples. You stitch things out and discard them because they're not perfect and then you stitch them again. You write up scripts and rehearse them and then throw them away because you sound like a complete dork when you read them, and then you write up a new script and do it all over again. And then, if you're like me, when all of your samples are perfect and your script sounds Oscar-worthy, you get a new idea and start all over from scratch at the last possible moment. I'm not kidding! I had everything perfect last week and then I watched my episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 and started thinking "Hmmmm..." and then Jodie made an offhand comment to me about how I maybe didn't need to finish quilting a sample quilt and I went "Hmmmm..." some more and before I knew it I was rewriting my entire script and making all new samples and completely redoing everything between Tuesday evening and late Friday night so that the all-new plan would be ready when I left for SLC on Saturday morning. So, basically, you start weeks ahead of time and it's all for nothing because your best work will be done frantically and at the last minute so really, it's probably best to just sit around eating Gummi Bears and watching Real Housewives in the weeks before the taping date. I will have to try to remember that next time.

When you get to the set things move pretty quickly, so be ready. There are camera guys, and a director, and sponsors on set, all of whom will be watching you, so get over your shyness! If you're very fortunate, there will also be a hostess like Jodie Davis, who is a riot to work with and makes everything seem like a piece of cake.

First thing on the list is to dress the set. You don't want to just stand there in front of a blank wall, so bring some quilts to hang in the background and make sure your clothes don't clash with your quilts.

Next, the director and the camera guys will get the introduction shot lined up. This part's easy; you just stand there and they say "Move to your left! No, wait, your other left!" and you just keep moving back and forth until they say "Okay, stay there!"

Next, the director yells "Rolling!" and you desperately try to remember what you'd planned to say in your intro. Of course, you can't remember a single thing because the red 'On' light on the camera is glaring at you like the Dreaded Eye of Sauron and you're lucky if you can even recall your own name at this point, so you frantically make something up and hope it sounds good, or at least sounds like you're not a village idiot.

Having survived filming the intro, it's smooth sailing the rest of the way. You realize that the camera will not in fact kill you and miraculously you start to remember all of that great stuff you'd planned to say. All of the prep work you did kicks in and you realize that "Hey! I really do know what I'm talking about!" and it all starts to become not just easy, but fun! Miracle of miracles! The director sits at a little table filled with TV monitors so he can watch you to make sure you look good, and he wears a pair of headphones so he can make sure that everything you say makes sense, and once in a while he yells "Cut!" and makes you say things over again so they are more understandable. This can be frustrating at first, but then you quickly realize that he's not trying to annoy you, he's just trying to make sure that you come across in the most professional way possible, so you start liking him again after all.

When you're done, you attempt to strangle the hostess.

That's it! That's what it's like to film a TV episode. A lot of work, A LOT of fun.I can't wait to do it again!