Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #61


Hello Friends, it’s so good to have you back.  I am passionate about wholecloth quilting when it comes to machine quilting.

However, I am keenly aware not all quilters want to do that kind of quilting — which is PERFECTLY okay!!  I am not in any way getting on to you for not doing wholecloth quilting that oftentimes requires very dense background quilting.  The background quilting you see in the following quilt images is quilted less than 1/8″ apart!

Plus to be honest, that kind of dense background quilting probably is not conducive to be quilted on quilt tops made with printed fabrics.  So, for a while now, I have been thinking about the matter of background fillers to go with feather quilting on “printed” quilt tops that are practical. One of these fillers is my Sand Dunes filler!


1.  So, first, we have a feather plume “quilted” here.  Click here to read about how I quilt my feathers.


2.  After the feather is quilted, I picked a spot on the feather to just quilt something curvy, but somewhat graceful looking toward the outer edge of the quilt top.

So you will notice I quilted my first Sand Dune pass (#1) beyond the edge of the quilt top INTO to the batting and quilt backing portion — assuming you baste your quilt sandwich with excess batting and quilt fabric around the quilt top, like I do.


3.  That’s because… it saved me having to cut my thread and restart on the pass back to the feather plume.  Notice my pass back to the feather plume is only somewhat echoing the first pass. My Sand Dunes are meant to be “liberated” echoes in the sense that they are not exactly echoed.  Another thing is that the Sand Dune passes are quilted far apart, unlike the 1/8″ or less distance in between echoes in my wholecloth quilting.


Once the back pass (#2) touches the feather plume, I would then follow the quilt feather plume outline for just a little bit, and then, I would quilt toward the outer edge of the quilt top with another Sand Dune pass (#3) and so forth to complete the background quilting around the feather plume(s) on my quilt.


This quilt back picture might show you exactly I meant.

I like the Sand Dunes for a printed quilted tops because this filler looks open and doesn’t have a suffocating feel on the printed quilt tops.  It is not demanding because it doesn’t require me to echo exactly, and veering off a bit on subsequent echoes actually adds to the overall textured look.


I would love for you to try out Sand Dunes with your feathers — and let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t checked out my other posts on machine quilting, feel free to do so by clicking here.

I will be sharing with you some exciting machine quilting news in a couple of months – can’t wait!!! But for now, if you haven’t checked out my online Learn to Machine Quilt class (that covers practical motifs for beginning machine quilting) here, I hope you will do so as well.  The class is also available on DVD here.

learn to machine quilt

Thank you for stopping by, Dear Friends!  Blessings to you all!

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #60


Hello Friends!  I thought I would spend a few moments responding to the free-motion quilting concerns you shared on my giveaway of my Learn to Machine Quilt post.  You still have till 12am EST 8/7/2014 to enter the giveaway.

1.  Runaway stitches – help!

Wendy’s 2 cents:  I remember the runaway stitches well, especially during my learning curve stage.  It still happens to me sometimes when my family startles me when I am quilting, or when Miss Baby decides to snuggle right next to me when I am trying to quilt a large quilt.  When runaway stitches happen, I would either leave them be or rip them out depending how bad they are (or how much time I have).

To minimize the running away of stitches, I would mentally brace myself when my stitching comes near a stopping point.  Then, I would slow down my stitching (very important!), and make sure I have my hands well on the quilt sandwich so that my quilt sandwich doesn’t veer in any direction — before taking a few tiny bites to tie off a particular stitching path if I am at a spot where I have to cut off my threads.

2.  Struggling with bobbin tension -help!

Wendy’s 2 cents:  I am thinking bobbin tension was raised as a concern because oftentimes quilters try to match their bobbin threads with the backing fabric they use, which oftentimes are of different colors they use for their top threads.   They then find out no matter how they tweak the settings (top and bobbin), sometimes, the bobbin threads would still show up on the quilt top.  VERY annoying, I know!

Instead of fighting, I take the easy way out.  I always use the same threads for my top and bobbin threads.  That way, I don’t have to waste my time trying to fine tune fine tuning my settings.  More often than not, my bobbin thread colors do not match my quilt backing fabric.  But the results can be visually striking on the back, as shown below.



3.  Give your quilting some time to simmer!

French 75 Quilts left the following comment on the Learn to Machine Quilt Class giveaway post.

blog giveaway

Wendy’s 2 cents: Boy, truer words have never been said when it comes to evaluating your own quilting – especially for those who are braving the learning curve stage.  It is true!!!!  I have taught students who start out being really critical of their own quilting, noticing the uneven stitches here and there.  BUT after they have quilted a larger area, walked away, and come back to look at their quilting again – inadvertently, the comments are always, “It looks better than I thought”, or “It is actually not that bad.”  I don’t think that is falsely consoling oneself.  I think when we go back to look at our quilting after it “simmers”, we look at the big picture and are taken by the overall texture reflected by the light from those quilting stitches.

You can be sure I have BAD stitches in the quilting shown below…!  But you tend to see the overall big picture, don’t you?


4.  Uneven stitching speed – help!

Wendy’s 2 cents:  My stitching speed is actually not constant.  The reason being sometimes when rounding a corner or stitching in tight spot, I have to really concentrate – and so I slow down!  So, to those who struggle with uneven stitching speed, I say as long as your stitches are even, it’s okay to vary your stitching speed.  I mean, we don’t drive at a constant speed at all times because there are always unforeseen things on the road, and so we adjust our driving speed accordingly. I think that’s the same concept.  When I first learned how to drive, a friend advised me not to drive faster than I could see.  I have applied that same principle to quilting.  I never quilt faster than I can see!


5.  Struggling with quilting large scale – help!

Wendy’s 2 cents:  I actually think it is easier to quilt small on a domestic machine.  But it is possible to quilt large scale if — 1.  You have quilted the motif in small scale, and 2.  You are VERY familiar with the stitching path. Taking care  of those two variables first and foremost will really help in large scale quilting.

Candy Cane Angels_to be shared

Then, as you quilt, every so often, come out for air and survey the territory on your quilt yet to be quilted, and proceed from there.


Then, finally, don’t be nervous.  Just…. keep calm, and quilt on!  Don’t you love that mug?  I would love to have one.  You can purchase it here.  Image below is borrow from the purchase link.

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To read previous Q&A posts, click the following:





Thank you for stopping by!  Stop back by tomorrow for the announcement of the winner of my Learn to Machine Quilt class!  Have a blessed day, Dear Friends.

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #59


Hello Friends, I hope your week has gotten off a good start.  Thank you ALL for sharing about the challenges you face in domestic machine quilting in my Learn to Machine Quilt giveaway post.  I truly am appreciative of you for doing that. Due to the high volume of comments, I am not able to respond to most of your comments personally unless you have unique concerns.  I have tried to write you personally if you have expressed unique concerns.  I am going to share a few thoughts (hopefully encouraging and assuring to you) to address the concerns shared by many.


1.  I have never tried machine quilting.  I have put off quilting my own quilts.

giveaway comment

Yes, trying something new can be scary and very deterring!  I know.   However, my experience in machine quilting is such that once one gets over the learning curve, it will be easier.  But one needs to be determined to get over that initial hump.  My Learn to Machine Quilt class is designed to help jump-start quilters on quilting on their domestic machines.  I always start my students with echoing.  I believe if one is able to echoing echoes that are somewhat equally apart, one has gotten a good feel of moving one’s quilt sandwich.  And many subsequent motifs and techniques are actually extension of echoing, in fancier renditions.

learn to quilt6

2.  I struggle with jerky and large stitches.  Curves are angular rather than curvy.

Wendy’s 2 cents:  I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this while I was working to finish up a quilt over the weekend.   I mean quite a bit of time because except for church, I was home working on Iron Man II.  The quilt is done, and on its way to the editor as of this morning.  But I digress…


think… I suspect… the reason some struggle with large, jerky stitches is because they might be moving their quilt sandwiches too much spatially speaking while stitching.  I found that one does not have to move my quilt sandwich a lot while stitching – if my foot pedal is pressed down, a teeny amount of movement WILL result in my needle taking a stitch.  SO, I would suggest moving your quilt sandwich just ever so little (and slowly) to see if your stitches improve.  Hopefully, by slowing down and moving small will help you get into a nice rhythm of enjoyable stitching and beautiful stitches!

I have small hands.  The way I move my quilt sandwich is I would use my lay my left hand on the quilt sandwich (like a webbed feet) to keep the quilt area taut, and use my right thumb and first finger to slightly pick up the other side of the quilt.  I find that I am able to move my quilt with small movements that way. But I also realize different people find different ways that work for them.  So, I am just throwing this out there as food for thought!


As for smooth curves, I think the sample principle applies.  Don’t move your quilt sandwich and force the needle to take too big a “bite”. You might try that and see if moving your quilt sandwich in small spatial amount helps.



3.  How to handle large quilts?

Wendy’s 2 cents:  My Learn to Machine Quilt class does NOT cover how to handle large quilts because it is meant to be a primer class to get quilters to learn the basics of machine quilting.  The class sample finishes at 24″ square.   In my experience, I can comfortably quilt quilts on my domestic machine up to about 80″ square. I have done one that is over 90″ square, and that was pushing it.  All that said, I think it is definitely do-able if you are quilting a large throw or even a twin quilt.


To handle large quilts, my suggestion is to make sure you have a large surface that is flushed with your sewing surface.  That way, you can keep all your quilt ON the surface instead of having it drape and drag below your sewing table.  Having an L-shape sewing surface helps too.  It is important to keep the weight of the quilt ON the quilting surface and not below.  Then, you just need to fan out for yourself an area about 8″ x 8″ around your needle area so that you can quilt nicely without any puckers.

The other thing I would suggest is to use light batting (silk is great!) to reduce the overall weight of the quilt.  It makes me a difference for me when I am trying to move my quilts sandwiched with silk batting instead of the heavier cotton.  Click here for my Thread Talk post on silk batting.


4.  I have difficulty deciding what to quilt.

Wendy’s 2 cents:  That is a very common challenge faced by quilters.  I try to decide what to quilt on my quilts based on the general geometry, the feel, and sometimes believe it or not, the clue is on the fabric prints.  Check out my other Thread Talk threads — I have written quite extensively on what to quilt on quilts.

I recently taught a class illustrating quilting can be more than stitching in the ditches and cross-hatching on 9-patch blocks.




Thanks for stopping by.  I hope the thoughts I have shared have empowered you rather than scaring you off concerning machine quilting.  It is possible!!!  Meanwhile, you still have time to click here and enter the giveaway for a free copy of my online Learn to Machine Quilt class.


Click here for other past Q&A posts on machine quilting using a domestic machine.




Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #58


Some of you are probably like me… I love the look of contrast quilting, but sometimes, I am a little hesitant to use really contrasting colors on my quilting because contrasting quilting means easily spotted mistakes!  I have in the past done some contrast quilting, as shown in the following from Out of the Nest:


More often than not, my preferred color scheme is tone-on-tone quilting, as in Coxcombs and Berries.

Coxcomb Berries9

BUT…. I have been experimenting with “subtle” contrast quilting in the last 6-9 months or so, and I am REALLY liking the look!  The resulting look is such at the quilting is emphasized without being overpowering and taking over the overall look of a quilt.

Here you see a beige on white color scheme in Rising Stars:


And more recently in a couple of “yet to be official” quilts — variegated gray on beige, and light brown on beige.



My favorite Aurifil thread color remains 2310 – I wouldn’t know what I would do without my 2310 spools!  But if you are wanting to try out how you like “subtle” contrasting quilting, may I suggest the following colors from Aurifil — 2843, , 2324, 5011, 2600, 4060, 2770, 2000, seen below on beige solid fabric.


I know we are already into April in this year.  But perhaps it isn’t too late for you to try out some subtle contrast quilting?

I am eager for your feedback, and know I will love reading your comments on this post!

Thanks for stopping by.  It’s back to work I go.  Hugs to you all.

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #57


Hello Friends, I hope you are well.  I am happy to share a little more about my “Roundabout Feathers”, as dear friend Joyce calls them.  Joyce gave me her permission to coin the name “Roundabout Feathers” for these fun feather wreaths with a twist!  These feathers are free-hand quilted with very minimal marking, as shown later.


[Sorry about that little piece of lint in this following picture!]



SO — you have this open space that is perfect for quilting something feathery!  For this particular quilt, I have A LOT of open space that I needed something feathery…. but I wanted to add visual interest to the feather wreaths, and not have all of them look identical… so I thought off-centered and concentric wreaths would do the job.

First, I looked through my piles of dishes, and found two bowls – one large, and one smaller.  You can decide what sizes work for you – just make sure one is smaller than the other.  And I then trace the circles on the open space.  The circles then form the spines of the wreaths, and are the determining factor of the placement of your wreath.


The key is to remember the inside feathers of the inner ring MIRRORS the outside feathers of the outer ring, as shown.  You can definitely mark the orientations of the first feather on each ring before you start if the feather wreaths on your quilt are direction-specific.


Then, you would start filling the outside of the outer ring, and inside of the inner ring with feathers!


Then, it’s time to feather the inner feathers of the outer ring.


For the outer feathers of the inner ring, I don’t do “full” feather lobes on some of them just to give the eye a bit of rest — instead I quilt the effect of overlapping feathers, as shown in the schematic.


I find these roundabout feather wreaths to be very versatile.  I can place them wherever I want on an open space, and I can decide how large or small my rings would be, and thus further customizing their appearances.  I hope you can see what I mean with the pictures of the wreaths quilted in real life that I had shared with you earlier in this post.

I hope you will give these wreaths a try!  Curious mind would love to know what you think of them! :)


Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you have a lovely week!


Click here, here, and here to read my other Thread Talk posts on quilting feather wreaths.

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #56 / Priscilla’s Garden Party Final Sneak Peeks


Hello Friends, it’s lovely to have you visit again.  For some reason, I just felt the traditional feathers won’t work on Priscilla’s Garden Party.  So I experimented with square/flat tipped feathers, and I loved the effect.



To quilt the square tipped feathers, I start with a spine as usual… except my backtracking quilting path won’t work like it does in the traditional round tipped feathers, described here.  The following shows the general idea, and once you get the general idea nailed down, you can easily add your own embellishments to spice things up a bit!



After that first feather, I proceed to add more feathers.  The overall look gives an open and airy feel, and reminds me of Chinese firecrackers.  I shall affectionately call these feathers my firecracker feathers!


Food for thought, and for further experimenting… what if we quilt swirls overlaying the firecrackers in contrasting threads on a solid background, perhaps on an Amish quilt?  I tend to think the visual effect would be quite interesting.  What do you think?


Thanks for stopping by, Friends!  I hope you have enjoyed my latest Thread Talk installment.  I hope you have a lovely rest of the week!  I shall catch up with you later.

Visions of Azure: Sneak Peek / Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #55


Happy Monday, Friends!  I hope your week got off a great start.  I look forward to visiting your blogs to see what you have going on this week.  I was able to finish off a quilt to send off before the weekend… here is a sneak peek of Visions of Azure:


Oftentimes, my planned quilting scheme doesn’t work out when the actual quilting starts… and such was the case with Visions of Azure.  I had planned to quilt formal feathers.  But in the end, I decided that I needed an airy feel for the spinner blocks, and the feathers would end up making the overall look too stuffy.   The new quilting scheme turned out to be a fun way to quilt spinner blocks,  and I share with you the schematic in the following.

Starting from the spinner center, I quilt a curve to about the mid-way of the long side of a parallelogram, and then round off with a tip at the top of the parallelogram, before curving back down to about the mid-way of the long side of the parallelogram – at the other side, before curving back down to the spinner center.  I then echo once.


Then, it’s a matter of filling in with fillers like tendrils, swirls etc.


See what I mean about the airy feel when quilting my spinner blocks this way?

I look forward to be able to show you the quilt in its entirety.  Stay tuned for details.  Hugs to you all, and have a very lovely week.

Repetitions : Sneak Peek

Hello Friends, I am happy to share with you my “blueberry pie filling” quilting motif.  Don’t the quilted pebbles look like blueberries nestling oh-so-snug in a pie crust?  This motif illustrates another application of “pebbles”.

Click here to read about how I quilt pebbles/circles.

Click here to view the quilts on which I have quilted pebbles.

Click here for my “Learn to Machine Quilt” class (online or DVD) that covers how I quilt pebbles.


I quilted “blueberry pie filling” on a recently completed quilt, Repetitions.  It should already be at the editor’s by the time this post goes live.  Here are a couple more sneaky peeks for you.   Can you see the very light gray threads I used for quilting the quilt?



The quilt uses fabrics from an upcoming Lynette Anderson‘s fabric line Quilters Garden.  It is Lynette’s debut line with RJR Fabrics.  I have MUCH more to share about Quilters Garden.

6a00d83455610269e2019affed3f6f970c-400wi[image source: Lynette Anderson]

Be sure to check back early next week for details!  Thanks for stopping by.  God’s blessings on you all!

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #54

thread-talk1From my experience, feathers are probably one of the least forgiving quilting motif.  Sometimes I look at the feathers I quilt, and I can instantly tell whether they are on or off.  I have discussed the anatomy of an “on” feather here.  And I think the key is really that curvature that we round off in forming those feather lobes.



So, the question becomes how does one practice this almost mystical rounded curvature?  I personally don’t really like to practice for just practice.  I like to actually still achieve something when I am practicing.  I had a light bulb moment when I was quilting these “pseudo” informal feathers on my Woodland Snapshots quilt a few weeks ago.


These pseudo feathers are much more forgiving and much easier to quilt, and I think they provide the perfect opportunity to practice that rounded curvature in the midst of the quilting process.  I hope the following schematic helps.  The basic idea is to form a feather lobe (solid line), but after the rounded curvature is formed, I would echo along the previously stitched lobe (dotted line) to return to the spine before forming the next lobe.


The goal is to form the lobes with a curvature as gracefully round as possible.  I have shown in the following some lobes that are kind of “off”.  Hopefully you will be able to compare the shapes of your feather lobes when they are “off” and see what I mean about the rounded curvature… and more excitingly you are on your way to quilting more “on” feathers than “off”.


Here you see more of the pseudo feathers in action.  You will notice that not all are perfect, but as a whole, these feathers are forgiving.  I gained some insights as to how to better round off that curvature when I free-hand quilt my future feathers.


Also, I have meant to mention to you that my online “Learn to Machine Quilt” class has been made into a DVD.  For those who find it a little tedious to have to follow the class via the internet on a computer and prefer to pop the class into a DVD player – it is available for you now!

Click here to read more about the class.

Click here to purchase the class online, or DVD.  By the way, the online class (NOT DVD) is offered at 50% AGAIN!  Do take advantage of the great deal.

Click here, and here to view students’ projects from the class.  I will be posting more pictures from students in the very near future.

Thanks for stopping by!  Happy Quilting, and Happy Weekend – everyone!

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #53

thread-talk1Lookie here, cross-hatching (with the hand quilted look) is vogue!

article-2416433-1BB8BC06000005DC-237_634x778[image source: Daily Mail UK news article]

Of course, cross-hatching is not new to us quilters.  Many traditional and antique quilts were quilted cross-hatch.  Though simple, cross-hatching gives the look of order and textured elegance that withstands the test of time.

Following you see cross-hatching on my own quilts, quilted anywhere between 1/4″ to 2″ apart, straight and curved.

Ivory Spring, Quiltmaker’s Quilting & Embroidery (Summer 2008):

 Quilting Around the Pieced Block, Quilter’s World (February 2011):


Quilting Around the Applique Block (Quilters World, April 2011):


Thanksgiving Topper (Quilters World, October 2011):

Thanksgiving Topper3

Kitty Collage (Quilting & Embroidery, Spring 2007):

Farm Crossing, publish pending:


I have learned a few things about cross-hatch quilting using my domestic machine:

1.  Make sure the lines are marked as accurately as possible for maximum visual effect.  This it the part I tend to not do a good job because all I want to do is get to the quilting part.  But the time invested in marking is always time well spent.

2.  The effects of cross-hatching 1/4″ and 1″ are vastly different.

3.  I love to use wool/silk batting for dense cross-hatching because the individual diamonds just POP!

4.  For cross-hatching far apart, I think I still prefer to use a cotton blend (80/20) because cross-hatching on silk/wool batting looks a bit “loose” and unkempt to me.  Don’t get me wrong, the cross-hatching on silk/wool batting doesn’t look bad at all.  It is just a matter of personal preference.

5.  Cross-hatching over applique pieces gives a rather soothing and blended look.  I like it.  Don’t get me started on cross-hatching on a whole cloth quilt – the effect is simply divine!

6.  I can quilt straight lines  (almost!) free-motion, but I still like to use my walking foot to quilt straight lines because I demand the look of uniformity when I quilt straight lines.  That makes the needle down function come in really handy!

7.  When I quilt cross-hatches, I try to pin my quilt as close as possible in the basting process.  Free-motion quilting is great to quilt down any slack on the quilt top if a quilt isn’t properly basted, but not so when I quilt straight lines with my walking foot.  I also starch press my quilt top pretty well before I baste when I know I will be doing cross-hatching.

Anyway, those are a few tips and tricks in my quilting toolbox concerning cross-hatching.  I would love to hear your additional tips for cross-hatching!

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you are enjoying your week.

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #52

thread-talk1Hello Friends, every now and then, I receive questions on how close I pin baste my quilt sandwiches.  I thought I would share with you an in-action photo from a quilt I completed a couple of weeks ago.


My general approach to pin-basting is “pin it to death”.  My pins are about 1 1/2″ to 2″ apart, closer if the quilt is to be a special heirloom or show quilt.  I probably don’t need to have my pins so close, but I like to be safe than sorry.

Now, if you look at the photo again – you will see I take out enough pins to make an area (~4-6″ radius) around the needle for quilting.  I often stop while quilting to take out pins.  If in doubt whether a pin is going to be in my way, I’d go ahead and take the pin out.  I always regret it later if I don’t…. ask me how I know, ha!

If you have any basting tips (not necessarily pin-basting), please feel free to share.  I am always ready to learn something new, and there is plenty to be learned for sure in the vast world of quilting.

Thanks for stopping by.  I’d better get back to work.  Till later!


Click here to read my other Thread Talk posts.

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #51 / Virtual Trunk Show #11


Hello Friends, this is a lumped together “Thread Talk” and “Virtual Trunk Show” post.  I am subtitling this post, “Pebble Power” – you shall see what I mean!  I hope you will be able to see just powerful these pebbles are in adding to the look of your quilts!  Feel free to click on the quilt names for further pictures of the quilt.

1.  Flower Duet (American Patchwork & Quilting, June 2012)


2.  Starry Pursuit (Fons and Porter Easy Quilts, Winter 2011)

starry pursuit6

3.  Solace (Quilt Trends, Spring 2012)


4.  Quilting Around the Applique Block (Quilter’s World, April 2011)



5.  A Tale as Tall as a Tree (Quilter’s World, October 2012)


6.  Garden Mist (Quilter’s World, Summer 2013)


7.  Winter Bouquet (The Quilter, December 2011/January 2012)

winter bouquet13

winter bouquet4

8.  Sweet Meadow (The Quilter, August/September 2012)


9.  Pumpkin Patch (Log Cabins Today, House of White Birches, 2011)

pumpkin patch1

pumpkin patch7

10.  Christmas-tide, publish pending


I hope these pictures give you some ideas on how to use pebbles in your quilting.  I also covered the pebbling technique in my online “Learn to Machine Quilt” class.  You still have time to enter my giveaway of a free class here.

Learn to Machine QuiltClick here to view my previous Thread Talk posts.

Click here to view my previous Virtual Trunk Show posts.

Thanks for stopping by.  As always, I appreciate all your comments!  Hugs to you all.