Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #46


Hello Friends!  Welcome to my 46th Thread Talk installment.  It’s been absolutely fun to share with you all that I have learned in my machine quilting journey.

Some of you had written and asked me to share my thoughts on “evenness” in quilting.  I shall attempt…

winter traditions6

#1  Evenness, or rather the visual perception of evenness in quilting density, plays an important role in allover quilting.  Evenness in allover quilting gives the viewer a sense of continuity, and uniformity.


#2  The quilting density has to do with the spacing between individual quilting motifs.  The spacing can be tight or loose, but as long as the overall scheme in spacing is even, one gets the visual sense of a well-quilted quilt.

You can see that the spacing between motifs tends toward “loose” in the following image:


And this one tends toward tight in the spacing:


#3  I think the difficulty in achieving even allover quilting (quilted on a domestic machine) comes in when domestic machine quilters have to contend with the very limited visibility afforded by the small quilting area under the small throat area of the machine.


Here are a few thoughts that might help you achieve happy evenness result:

a.  Start with training yourself to quilt even echoes free-hand!  I have written specifically about echoes here.

learn to quilt6

I encourage beginners to start with mastering the technique of echoing.  To me, quilting echoes is the starting point for free-motion quilting — and it is a major point of emphasis in my online machine quilting class “Learn to Machine Quilt.”

Learn to Machine Quilt

Quilting echoes free-hand trains the quilter to master moving her quilt sandwich, as well as to use the eye to gauge distances.  If you haven’t tried this before, try quilting echoes roughly 1/4″ apart as a practice to get you used to gauging distance solely visually.  Now, you will notice that the spacing between your echoes is not always going to be exactly 1/4″, but close enough when you find that your echoing effect is starting to look good.

Being able to gauge the spacing between motifs when quilting will help you quilt your motifs evenly.

b.  You might doodle on paper the quilting motif roughly the same size as you would quilt on the quilt.  That gives you an idea how many repetitions of the motif you will be able to quilt in the quilting area afforded you by your machine once you get the quilt sandwich under the machine throat area.


c.  Make sure you know your motif well before you actually stitch/quilt it on the quilt.  There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing where to go next during the actual quilting process.  If that still happens when you know the motif on paper better than your own name, that’s not the end of the world — just stop and take a deep breath and do a bit of surveying as to where you would go to fill up the immediate quilting area.

d.  I generally have to spread my quilt out on the floor from time to time on to see if I miss any area that still needs to be quilted.  I see this as a fact of life when one quilts with a domestic machine.  I have made mention of this point in this Thread Talk post.


I hope this helps you gain more confidence in achieving pleasing quilting results in your quilting journey.  Click here, here and here for a few Q&A posts I have done in the past.

Thanks for stopping by!  I plan to share a recent magazine quilt before the weekend ends.  My latest featured projects are slowly making their way back to me!  Have a great day!


Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #45

thread-talk1Hi Friends, I hope you are well.

From my experience as a domestic machine quilter, it is easier to tackle quilting motifs in small scale when quilting using a domestic sewing machine.  The workable quilting area around the needle of the machine is generally no larger than 6″ or so – that’s why, I find quilting dense quilting much more manageable than trying to quilt “longarm style” on my domestic machine.  But sometimes, certain quilts just require longarm style quilting with the quilting motifs being quilted in a much larger scale and further apart…


I thought I would share with you a few thoughts on how I did the embellished swirly vine “longarm style” on this quilt I recently completed…

#1.  I made sure I mastered the basics first in small scale before moving up.  The “basics” in this case is my swirly vine.  I made sure I was able to quilt the motif well with all the curves being quilted without any jaggedness before moving up the scale.  You can read more about the swirly vine in a Thread Talk post here, or you can see it done in my “Learn to Machine Quilt” online class here.


[image source:  Swirly Vine from my Annie’s “Learn to Machine Quilt” class]

#2.  I made sure I also mastered totally free-handing the motif and am able to quilt the motif comfortably all over the quilt before attempting to add any fancy strokes.  If you aren’t comfortable in quilting free-hand, you might consider doodling on paper first.  I place great value in doodling on paper in my “Learn to Machine Quilt” online class.

Spice Garden6

Now, if you are past #1 and #2, and are ready to dress up the swirly vine motif and make a totally quilting motif out of it, here are the schematics.

These are the swirly vines drawn in a much larger scale.  The starting swirl at the top right corner is about 2 1/2″ in length just so you get an idea about the scaling.


2.  If you are comfortable quilting these swirls with no major hiccups, you can add some petal lobes at the base of the swirl before you head off again to start another swirl.  See if the following schematic makes sense to you.


3.  You only have to echo around the lobes to get out to start another swirl.  See what I mean?


4.  Repeat until the quilting area is quilted.


5.  Here, you see the quilted reality.



I hope this gives you an idea on dressing up the basic quilting motifs you have been using.Thanks for stopping by.  Hugs to you all!

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine # 44 / Interlock: Preview

thread-talk1Hello Friends, I finished a quilt for shipment over the weekend.  This quilt is a little different than the ones I normally do because it is a quilt without borders.  The border-less quilts have gain popularity lately, and I have been requested to make several of them this year — stay tuned for announcement of official features!


Quilting border-less quilts presents different challenges in that the assuring thought of trimming off the borders to square up the quilt after quilting is NOT there.  So it is of paramount importance that your pieced quilt top is squared up and flat even before quilting.

Here are a few tips for quilting border-less quilt using a domestic machine:

1.  I found that using batiks that are of higher thread count instead of regular cotton helps with maintaining the square-ness of the quilt.  I have made border-less quilts with both types of fabrics.  With the regular cotton fabrics, I just make sure I starch my fabrics and block patches during the construction process.

2.  Use a lighter weight batting for easy maneuver — I use silk instead of cotton (I actually already use almost exclusively silk anyway).

3.  Before I quilt, I also trim my batting and backing even with the quilt top, and zig zag around the quilt corners with loose zig zigs.  That tends to keep the corners from getting wonky being pulled in the quilting process.

4.  Simple quilting scheme that doesn’t require you to pull and scrunch your quilt in all possible directions that will end up distorting the square-ness of your quilt.  Simple grid-quilting along the major straight lines of the quilt works really well.  Normally border-less quilts tend to look more contemporary, so it is okay to not quilt feathers. :)  As much as I adore feathers, I become Ms. Practical when it comes to quilting border-less quilts. [Now, it is not the end of the world if your quilt is distorted in the quilting process.  You can always wet your quilt and tweak and pull and shape the squareness of the quilt that way.  I just choose not to have to fight that battle.]

5.  I quilt with slightly longer stitches when quilting in the ditches when it comes to quilting border-less quilts.  I find that there is less puckering, thus the square-ness of the quilt is preserved.

I hope these tricks make quilty sense to you.  I am sorry I don’t have any pictures to show you because none of my border-less quilts are officially published yet!

So, what is your feeling toward quilts without borders?

Before you leave, do also tell me how your Christmas is shaping up.  Guess what I will be doing burning the midnight oil tonight…


Miss Baby was funny earlier this week when she discovered there is something in her stocking.  Last year, I had to dump out the contents of her stocking for her.  This year, all she is concerned about is that “there is some-bing in my stocking!”  :)

Thanks for stopping by.  I shall catch up with you later.



Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #43

Hello Friends, I hope you are doing well.  I am sharing with you a quilting trick I fortuitously discovered when I was quilting my Home Sweet Home quilt.  [I love that word “fortuitous” — it was a word taught to me by a dear Chemical Engineering professor in college when I would go see him in his office.  More often than not, he would give me the “word of the day” after he was done teaching me engineering stuff.]

If you look at the image below, you will see that I added little “what-nots” at the tip of some feathers to fill in the geometry of either square or triangle patches.

The reason I did that is because I was trying to fit rounded feather lobes into the geometry of a square or a triangle, and sometimes it’s just impossible to quilt a feather large or narrow enough to fit the quilting area and have the feathers still look decent.  So I came up with the “what-not-companion” approach.  See the below images to see what I mean…

You can see in the following the aforementioned “what-nots” in action.  You will need to study the images a bit to find the “what-nots” since the quilting was done tone-on-tone.

I hope the “what-nots” trick would come in handy for you when you are quilting feathers to fit quilting area of fixed geometry.  Notice this post does not deal with how to quilt feathers — that topic is already covered here.

Thanks for stopping by!  A huge quilty hug to all my friends!

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #42

Dear Friends,  I hope you are doing well.  Life has been sort of a blur for me in the last few days as I worked to meet a few non-negotiable deadlines!  I had heard from some of you that you were not able to leave comments on my Cottage Chic Christmas quilt.  I am sorry about that.  I am not quite what was wrong.  I am guessing whatever it was, it was temporary on WordPress’ end.

Here is a snapshot of one of the three quilts I had shipped out in the last week or so.  You can see that it is quilted feather wreath, but with a lighthearted informal feel.  My feather lobes don’t all look the same in size or style.  They almost look like they are up to mischief or something – which is not totally outrageous in light them being quilt on my Monkey Business II quilt there! :)

You will see what I mean by comparing the previous photo with  this next one.  Since all the feathers are the same size, the feel is more uniform and more formal.

Moral of the story:  Experiment with the sizes and styles of your feather lobes to achieve different looks.

Thanks for stopping by!  I will see you again tomorrow, hopefully.

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #41

Rebecca had asked for a Thread Talk post on how I had quilted the feathers on these quilt sashings a couple of weeks ago…

And so, here goes!  The diagram below shows a quilt center.  Beyond the quilt center are two white and one red sashings.  The white sashings will be our quilting area.

So the way we way we will treat the quilting scheme is that the red sashing becomes our “feather spine”, and we will add feathers on both sides of the spine (i.e., the white sashings).  This is a free-hand exercise.  You will have to be pretty comfortable with the stitching path of feathers.  Click here to refresh your memory.  The way we are feathering the sashings all around is actually an extension of the feather wreath I had talked about here.  Instead of a circular feather wreath, we will have a square (also applies to rectangular) feather wreath.

So, we will start with a partial feather since we are free-handing the feathers in the outer sashing, and will be “winging” it when it comes time for the last feather to meet this first feather– click here to see visual illustrations.  The doubly-darkened stitching path denotes stitching over previous stitches to get from one feather lobe to the next.

So, we would just be filling the area with feathers, one after another.  There’s really nothing to watch for when feathering the outer sashing, unlike the inner sashing.  More about that later.

We have now come all the way around.  You see we are coming up against the first feather out with which we started.

Now we are ready to feather in the inner sashing.  I would start like I did in the outer sashing, and feather like normal.  Until….

… I come close to a corner.  You will need to miter your feathers – you will see what I mean.  For this, I could draw a line at the 45-degree, or just place a piece of paper at the 45-degree spot to avoid having to draw.  The 45-degree line shows the boundary of my feathers as I near and before I turn the corner.  So, the feathers will decrease in size, and will start small once the corner is turned before increasing in size again.  This is one crucial thing to be mindful of when feathering the inner sashing.

Here you see how the feathers look in another corner in the inner sashing.

And here we are, coming against that first feather…

And here you see the sashings all “feathered up”!

That’s all there is to it.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to know what to quilt on sashings.  I have found the feathers dress up the sashings rather nicely. :)

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope my Thread Talk post helped jumpstart some quilting ideas for you.

p.s.  Please know that I am not ignoring, or blowing you off – I have been extremely busy, and have had only about 7 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours.  I still have lots to cross out on my to-do list.  I do hope to visit or email you back soon.

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #40

Happy Friday, Friends!  I hope you have had a good week.  I want to thank you all for chiming in on quilting ideas for this image I had shown you earlier this week.   I enjoyed reading creative quilting ideas.

A quick recap on the quilting area:  it is rectangular, measuring 4.5″ (width) and 5.5″ (length) with a 1.5″ square in the middle.  So, while 4.5″ x 5.5″ sounds rather large, the “white” area is really not that large after it’s being “intruded” by that square in the center.

[Before I begin showing you the options I considered — please please note that I am learning with everyone else.  I have expressed to many of your privately, and I will do so publicly… I do NOT (ever!) consider myself some kind of expert or diva.   The quilting options I consider are always restricted by the fact that most of the time I only have about 5-6 hours to quilt a quilt due to magazine deadlines.  So, what I end up quilting and what I would love to quilt on a quilt are often different!  For that reason, I often feel like a “dollar store” free-motion quilter.]

With that in mind, here is option 1 – classic geometric with fillers giving the area the illusion of a separate pinwheel block in the background.

Option 2 – a fun free-motion echoing around the square with straight lines and circles.

Option 3 – dishes were used to mark the arcs for a floral motif, highlighted by McTavishing.  [Hey!  I have to somehow justify all those dishes I have are “essential” to quilting besides their intended purposes!]

Option 4 – geometrical lines are used to give the illusion of a paper-pieced block.

Option 5 – A free-handed floral motif radiating from the center of the square.

Now I will share with you how my little brain synapses processed those options.

#1: Quite a bit of marking, and the pebbles will take a bit of time to quilt

#2: No marking required (yay!), but since it is rectangular, it will be hard to make sure the echoes around the square to evenly fill the rectangular quilting area.  The schematic showed that toward the top, there is a gap.  Would be perfect for a square quilting area, but not rectangular.

#3.  Love this, but the marking will require some time.

#4.  Love, love, love this – how I wish I had six months to quilt this quilt, and not just 6 hours!

#5.  Definitely a viable candidate as there is no marking involved, and the symmetry issue isn’t too much of a concern. But might not go with the general feel of the quilt.  Unfortunately, I can’t show you the entire quilt for now.  I will though, soon enough!

The suspense is over — this is what I ended up doing… a spineless feather wreath to fit the rectangular area. My first attempt at quilting rectangular feather wreaths turned out to be more than satisfactory in the visual effect department.   [You can click here to read about how I free-hand my feather wreaths.]  Quilting went really quick, and with minimal marking.  I used a wine glass to draw a symmetrical boundary around the square so that I know where to start and end my feathers.  That was the only marking I had to do.  The feathers were all free-handed.

I hope this post gives you a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes where Ivory Spring quilts are concerned!  So much of what I do at this point in my life is directly related to time management… and I do sometimes look forward to the day I can finally spend 6 months quilting a quilt!  But until then, my world is constantly whirling at top speed.

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you have a lovely weekend ahead of you.  I will see you again on Monday.

p.s.  Can you believe we are at #40 for my Thread Talk posts?!  WOW!!  How time flies…

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #34.2

Happy Thursday, Friends!  I had scheduled something else for today’s post.  Due to the questions I received via SewCalGal regarding my Jester’s Hat motif featured on FMQ Challenge August 2012, I decided to move back the originally intended post a little.  Again, the following is a quick pictorial recap for Jester’s Hat in case you are wondering what we are talking about here:

SewCalGal sent me pictures of Jester’s Hat done by quilters Diane and Mary:

[Images used with permission from SewCalGal]

Mary expressed, “Here’s my August “Jester Hats”. It wasn’t a natural pattern for me, but eventually I got a rhythm going. My main problem at this point is how to avoid stitching myself into those blind alleys in order to fill the good sized empty spaces. I get stuck at the end and can’t get out without it looking right. Any suggestions on how to get out gracefully…or to keep from having the blind alleys to begin with?

Diane wrote, “Here is my August challenge piece. It took me a while to get the pattern motion, but I really struggled with getting “lost,” or stuck in a corner. I would like a little more instruction on that aspect, but I just have to keep practicing.”


I think those are definitely valid observations.  Following are my 2-cents on what to do when you quilt yourself into a corner:

1.  I try to always divide a quilting area in to smaller areas, and make sure those are filled before I move on.  That seems to help reduce the number of times I quilt myself into a corner and can’t get out.  

Some think that free-motion allover quilting is random.  I don’t quite think that way.  Perhaps it’s my engineering background, I see allover free-motion quilting as a motif being evenly repeated and distributed over a given space.  It is only random as much as the actual quilting of the motif isn’t (entirely) planned out for a particular spot until I reach that spot. But when I reach that spot, I still have to decide how best to execute the quilting to best distribute the motif in the area at hand. 

So to tie in with what I said in the beginning…. if I am quilting an area of 8″ x 8″, I would mentally divide my area into 4 – 4″ x 4″ areas, and decide how best to quilt, repeat and distribute my motifs within the areas. I try to fill the first 4″ x 4″ area before moving to the next 4″ x 4″. If that still seems daunting, I try sub-divide a 4″ x 4″ area into 4 – 2″ x 2″ areas, and go from there.

2.  If, for some reason, I stitch myself into a corner and can’t get out – that’s not the end of the world.  I think it’s a natural occurrence (and something bound to happen) because of the limited visibility when quilting with a domestic machine.   It is okay when and if that happens.  In situations as such, I just pick a spot in the un-quilted area to start and repeat the motif again until the area looks quilted evenly and blended in with the rest of the already quilted area.  This principles doesn’t only apply to the Jester’s Hat, but all types of filler motifs.

3.  The other point I thought I would bring up (even though it might really obvious to many) is that free-motion quilting doesn’t mean you have to just keep going and going and going while you quilt.  I often stop to consider where I should head next with my quilting path.
I received a most kind email from a Jacque of Spain, and she wrote: “Thanks for the great tutorial of this August, I really enjoyed it while I was doing it from the pictures in the paper to the sewing machine. Thanks to this project of SewCalGal my quilts this year are improving…”

[Image Source:]

I couldn’t agree more with Jacque regarding my gratitude to SewCalGal for organizing the Free-motion Challenge!   And I am most thrilled to hear from quilters like Jacque that her skills are improving!  Well Done and Happy Quilting to all the Free-motion Challenge quilters!

Now one more thing for those who are trying out Jester’s Hat — from the pictures I have seen, many have done their “jesting” on the small-scale.  Try enlarging the scale, and you will see that Jester’s Hat transform itself to a rather different look. 

In this picture below, each “hat” is ~1″ or slightly smaller —  giving it a more “compact look”:

But for this quilt, I quilted each hat about 2.5-3″ in size — a more airy and open feel starts to come through:

With that, I bid you a lovely day!!

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #39

I received the following email from Jean in Arkansas.  Jean graciously allowed me to share with you our conversation:

“Hi Wendy, I’m one of your former Rogers Sewing Center pupils & follow your blog regularly.  I’ve been working on my free-motion quilting, this is my first “feathers” on a quilt.  Main body of the quilt has over-all design of flowers, leaves, few jester’s crowns, few squiggles.  Outside border is diamonds of the on-point blocks plus some leaves/vines through them.  Anyway, some questions— you told me once to reduce the speed of my machine when using BSR, I set it on 400 instead of default 900; do I need to go slower?  [Wendy’s note:  Jean uses a Bernina machine that has stitch-regulating capability <BSR>] Also I have trouble when I back track, don’t go over the previous stitches, feel like I can’t see where to back track.  I’ve tried all the BSR feet, this quilt I used the big, clear plastic foot of the BSR.  Do I just need more practice?  I seem to get some funky plumes & not sure where to go sometimes & get funny ones.  At least I’ve progressed from “in the ditch” and stippling on every quilt… Thanks for any advice.”

My answer to Jean:

To answer your questions:
1.  Reducing the machine speed wouldn’t really help because the machine is not feeding the quilt anymore, you are!  So try reducing the speed with which you move your quilt so that you are literally stitching one stitch at a time.  That should help tremendously.

2.  Re: backtracking – I will really slow down the way you move your quilt (see #1).
The other thing is to watch where your needle lands when you are stitching slowly.  That will train your eye to eventually anticipate a couple of stitches ahead of your needle – that will help you know where to go, and that will help with the accuracy of your stitching path.

3.  Re: quilting foot – I almost exclusively use the open toe foot because it gives me the best visibility.

4.  Re: funky plumes and not sure where to go – Keep doodling on paper until you get a nicely formed feather plume, and then move the “doodling” to your quilt, except this time use the needle to doodle instead of a pen/pencil.

5:  Re: more practice – Absolutely!  Keep up with the quilting, and you will for sure improve!


All those 2 cents said, I think the quote of the day is Jean saying “At least I’ve progressed from “in the ditch” and stippling on every quilt…”!  I absolutely LOVE the fact that Jean stepped out of her comfort zone, and did something different and brave.  For that, Jean deserves a huge round of applause.  We are ALL learning in this quilting world, and in life!  So I say to Jean, “Keep up the good work!”.

I hope Jean’s story encouraged you today to try something new and daring, not necessarily “quilty” in nature.

Have a marvelous day!

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #38

I caved… I gave in and succumbed to your request to see the schematic of that leaf/petal quilting motif combo!  THANKS EVERYONE, for all your kind words on that motif.  I won’t be able to respond to you personally due to the time crunch I am in right at this moment.  I hope you understand – please know that I truly truly appreciate hearing from you.

It all started with the leaves on one of the fabrics I used for my “Charmed” quilt.  See how cute those leaves are? [ This is another example of using fabrics at as starting point for quilting motifs. Click here to read more.]

I adapted the center using a swirl because I thought I would just start out with something familiar to me — I only have about 6 hours to quilt the entire quilt. So here is my stitching sequence.  I started out with a swirl, up and down to the starting point.

And then, I stitched out a leaf outline around the swirl.

Then I scalloped around the leaf outline.

Here you see the same motif with the leaf outline started from the other side of the swirl bottom.

Then, it’s a matter of filling in with random swirls and vines and what-nots until you feel like swirling with another leaf/petal motif again!  The wonderful, wonderful thing about this motif is that it doesn’t require exact precision on the stitching path.  The general look is a lighthearted one so that you can have one scallop a little wonky, and one scallop a little crooked, and the motif will still come out as charming as can be!  VERY very forgiving!

So I had a few minutes before church to actually sit down and doodle a bit, and I was able to come up with a quilting motif that looks more like the original leaf on the fabric.  This time you would start with the leaf vein before the swirl in the center, and and then just follow the same sequence to complete the motif.

I hope this post gives you more ideas on what to quilt on your precious quilt tops.  Meanwhile, I will work on more adaptations of this leaf/petal motif.  I will let you know if I come up with more ideas.

So I caved, I gave in, I succumbed…. I hope I have delivered as well.

Thanks for stopping by.  Happy Monday, dear Friends!

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #37

Welcome to another Thread Talk installment!  As promised, I will share with you the way I quilt unmarked feather wreaths!

Now, though the feathers are “unmarked” and free-handed, we do need some way to mark or delineate the boundaries of the wreath.  Sometimes the boundaries are already apparent on the fabric, as in the case of the above picture.  But if not, it is perfectly okay to mark the inner and outer boundaries — using those household items and a marking pen!   For the schematics below, I used Miss Baby’s toy dishes.

One thing that will help is the ability to comfortably quilt feathers unmarked and free-handed.  Click here for my previous tutorials on the stitching sequence I use for feathers.  To start, I only “half-form” the first feather.  The reason is that I wouldn’t know how well my last feather would match up with the first feather once I come around the wreath.  Not fully forming the first feather allows me room to “doctor” the first feather for the wreath to flow nicely (or rather, as nice as possible).

I do a little backtracking from feather to feather, as you see the different colors on top of some of the feather lobes.

I keep going, and going, until I come to the last feather.  We have just a bit of a gap.  So, I would backtrack, and maneuver in such a way to “close up” the first feather for a smooth flow. [Sorry for the dark blue blob on that last feather — I was using Miss Baby’s dull crayon – it was meant to be an arrow showing the stitch direction.]

You can quilt your feather wreaths with your feathers going in the opposite direction too!  That orange blob is where I had to touch up the first feather after I quilted the full round of feathers.  Combining these wreathes in different directions create an interesting visual effect!

I hope this makes sense to you.  Happy feathering, my Friends!

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #36

In my mind, dish-aholism and quilting go hand in hand.  It’s just a fact of life, a Jane-Austen-ish “truth universally acknowledge”.  :)  You will see why in the following picture:

I often use dishes to mark my quilts.  That Snoopy bowl above is one of the more frequently used.  The other one is a 13″ service plate.

Since many of you have many more years of quilting experience than I do, I am curious to know what other household gadgets you have used to mark your quilt for quilting.

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ve got to run for now.  Take care.