Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #26

I have always used my walking foot to quilt straight lines because I like the look of straight lines when quilted with a walking foot. Even after I learned to free-motion quilt, whenever I have to quilt straight lines, I dutifully change out my quilting foot for the walking foot!

Sometimes stitching with the walking foot and feed dog up isn’t the most convenient … like quilting piano keys, for example. As a result, I have never quilted piano keys on the border until my last quilt. After I decided to be brave and free-motion quilted the straight lines with a ruler.

In the past, I tried free-motion quilting the straight lines to avoid the twisting and turning the quilt, but the stitches would look like the ones in straight line “B”, shown in the picture below. The stitches look like they are quite uncertain of themselves, and the occasional “veering off the straight-ness” moments just bug me. I like my straight stitches to look confident and just plain nice… enter line “A”. Line “A” is quilted free-motion with the use of a ruler. I like the look of “A” stitches MUCH better…

An Accents in Design Fine Line Quilting ruler…


Here are a few points in using the ruler for domestic machine quilting that I hope would be helpful to you:

1. Use the smaller sized rulers – 6″ or 8″. Anything bigger might make handling harder.

2. The key to using the ruler is to anchor it down with your hand (butting it against quilting foot), and not lose the pressure, and maintaining the same grip through an entire quilting pass. If you lose it, you might lose the exact positioning, and causes veering off and jerking in your final result. Lots of concentration needed! But once you are through one pass, take a deep breath and a mini break before you attempt the next.

3. The ruler actually has scored markings so that you don’t have to mark your quilting lines. I go ahead and mark my quilts because I find that to have to move the quilt, move the ruler AND check my quilting pass against the scored lined is too much for little old me quilting on a home machine.

4. When doing piano keys, I find that it’s easier to quilt horizontally than it is vertically. For me, at least. You just have to play a bit and find out which one suits you the best.

5. I find that the Fine Line Ruler isn’t as good for quilting in the ditches because sometimes a seam is not perfectly straight, especially after the surrounding area is already quilted. If I absolutely have to quilt in the ditch during free-motion quilting to move from one spot to the next, I actually quilt in the style of “B” line, as shown above. I just gingerly take very small step to quilt along the seams. The stitches should “bury” themselves in the “ditches” (thus quilting in the ditches) and not visible.


Now I can quilt piano keys and not have to be frustrated with my stitch quality. You will see more piano keys in my future quilts, I am sure. In this case, a little bravery really went a long way… sometimes we just need to be a little brave, don’t we?

p.s. I have also quilted curved cross-hatching using ruler. Click here to read about it.

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #25

Yesterday I showed you the quilting on my Bedazzled quilt:

I hope the following schematics will decode the mystery for you, as if there was any mystery to being with, haha!

Ste 1:  You would first start with flower #1

Step2:  Upon completing flower #1, you would do some swirlies.  Look for a good spot to use one of your swirlies to start flower #2, and #3 and so on…  You will notice that I echoed  around the last of #2’s petals to get out of a tight spot to start flower #3.

Step 3:  And you just keep going…

I find that pointy petals in general look more “elegant” than rounded petals in quilting.  I don’t have a preference… but I think the pointy petals worked better for my Bedazzled!  I hope you found this helpful to you.  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a super weekend!

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #16

Good day, Friends! I hope you are doing well. If you feel like challenging and pushing yourself just a little further in your home machine quilting, how about doing a “bead necklace” with a mixture of big and small circles of consistent diameters in sequence?

This is a continuation of an earlier Thread Talk on circles. If you have never quilted circles free-motion and unmarked before, you might want to try out the circles I had talked about in the earlier post before tackling the bead necklace.

Quilting the bead necklace is a great exercise to fine-tune your skill in moving the quilt sandwich for free-motion quilting using your doemstic machine. The circles in different sizes and in sequence force you to concentrate and master the skill of moving your quilt differently for the little circles. I had quilted my bead necklace totally free-handed, without any prior marking.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think! I used to tell my students that if I could do something, they definitely could do it too! Meanwhile, Happy Wednesday, and Happy Quilting!

Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #10

I feel like I have been running in circles lately.  So I thought a Thread Talk post on quilting circles is in order.

1.  Circles to form a strand of pearls.

<Boring technical details:  Quilting strands of pearls works great for sashing strips that are no more than 1 1/2″ wide, in my experience, when normally I would just quilt in the ditch.  The pearls give the sashing strips a bit of a customized look.  To quilt the circles, simply draw a line down the middle of the strip with a washable fabric marker.  Free-motion quilt the circles using the line as a guide for the center of the circles. >

2.  Circles around applique for a funky twist on echo quilting:

<Boring technical details:   Using circles around appqliued shapes gives echoing with new and stylized twist.  For the quilt block shown above, I echo-quilted very close to the applique, maybe 1/8″ or less, and then, quilted circles on top of the echo before launching into background quilting.  The circles made my applique look more fancy, I think. :)>

3.  Circles of different sizes to just fill in the blank spot.

Quilting circles of different sizes is a great way to practice your circles.  The different sizes makes it easy to hide the occasional not-so-perfect circles, and not to mention the lovely texture the circles create.

<Boring technical details: Just start with a circle anywhere in the area you want to quilt, and add circles as you fill up the area, using smaller circles to fill in the gap between bigger circles.>

4.  Adding circles just for fun!

<Boring technical details: Adding circles on my “tentacles” add visual interest to the quilting.  So, be adventurous and add circles where you normally wouldn’t.  You might be pleasantly surprised by the effect!>


Different people quilt their circles differently.  Some do the “8” shapes.  Some would quilt a continuous string of semi-circles, and come back with another continuous string of semi-circles to complete the circles.   I found those hard for me to manipulate.  The way I do it is I would go ahead and quite a complete circle, and backtrack on part of the circle to go to the next spot where I want to start another circle.  The process is repeated and repeated until an area is just filled with circles!


Give circling around circles a try when you quilt your next quilt, and let me know what you think! :)

Have a great week ahead!

Quilting Around the Block Part 2: Sneak Peeks

I finished this quilt early this morning, and was able to ship it out.  This is a banner I made for a special quilting article I am doing for Quilter’s World for feature next year.  Here are some sneak peeks on a couple of blocks…

Block #1 (my husband’s favorite among the blocks):

Block #2:

This is actually part 2 of the “Quilting around the Block” article to be featured in Quilter’s World.  Previews of Part 1 can be found here.   I am so happy to have been asked to work on these articles.   They have been most fun!

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #7

I received this question among the comments…

“Do you mark your quilting at all? Or is it all freehand? Do you have a plan before you start? “

I shall try to answer that by showing you different quilts that I have quilted, maybe that would help you better and more creatively quilt your quilts. Please feel free to click on the links provided below for more pictures of the individual quilts. And do ask questions if you have any – I will try my best to answer them.


I mark or don’t mark my quilts based on how I envision the end result I desire. So, I have done them all – heavily marked, sparsely marked, and no marking at all…

1. For my Pieceful Garden quilt, I didn’t want the quilting to be the focal point because I wanted the fabrics to shine. I merely wanted the quilting to provide texture to the fabrics. So, I opted for an overall feather quilting – unmarked and entirely free-handed. I generally do not mark my quilts for overall quilting.

You can see my unmarked free-handed feathers “texturizes” the tonal fabrics really well. Notice on the 9-patches, I free-handed the Diane-shiko motif (by Diane Gaudynski):

A peek at the back of the quilt:

2. My Christmas in Ohio (to be featured by Fons and Porter this winter) is another quilt where the quilting is totally unmarked and free-handed. I did an overall swirly on this. The reason? The toile winter scene fabric was a bit too busy for any planned and fancy quilting to show. I had initially planned to do a circular wreath on the star blocks, but I decided against it because I wanted the star blocks all look a bit different from the effect of the overall quilting. Having planned quilting on the star blocks would have made them a bit too stuffy for me, and taken away the overall cozy feeling of that quilt, I think.

3. Fruit of the Vine is another example of unmarked and totally free-handed quilting. I love feather plumes that curve. So, I knew from the get-go that the space underneath the vine will have curved feather plumes. The curvature of the vines made easy guides for me to quilt the curvy spines of the feather plumes.

Tip: Look for elements on your quilt top to use as guides for quilting (in this case, the vines) to avoid having to mark your quilt. Click here for more ideas.

4. My Marabella quilt was partially marked for me to quilt the apple core motif (also introduced by Diane Gaudynski). But the rest is unmarked.

5. I used a bowl to mark on the border the boundary of the scallops – and filled in with feathers for To A Garden Tea Party. Feathers are unmarked, only the boundary. I thought the scallop feather quilting would make a nice change to just the criss-crossing straight line quilting on the pieced border squares.

I had used the individual wedge on the fan block as guides for me to fill in with feathers. Fun quilting with no marking – yay!

6. When I do my wholecloth quilts, I mark for sure. I had spent 15 hours just on marking a quilt that is in my work-in-progress stash. I would only mark the main motif, the background quilting is still unmarked and free-handed. So, it’s really handy to master a few background quiting motifs you like. You might find some motifs you may use here.

7. I marked the border of Poinsettia Fiesta with a stencil prior to quilting.


Now, as for planning my quilt. I like to have an image of the quilt I am working on up at all times so that I can be thinking about how to approach the quilting when I am working on the quilt top.

Oftentimes, the general theme of the quilt determines the quilting — as in Peppermint Packages (to be featured in the December 2010 issue of Quilter’s World). Ribbon streamers were quilted on these present blocks to fit the theme of Christmas presents.

If there’s not a theme, I would generally decide how I would quilt a quilt based on how I eventually want my quilt to look like after being quilt. Quilter’s World is featuring my article on “Quilting Around the Block” in their February 2011 issue. Keep your eyes peeled for the magazine hitting the newsstands sometime in December this year. You will see this quilt and how I have quilted the different blocks:

I hope this gives you a glimpse of my thought process on how I decide to quilt my quilts. Remember, quilting is a personal and subjective matter. You quilt to please yourself, not me or anyone else! Happy Quilting.

Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #6

To some, feather quilting is considered the ultimate goal to some free-motion quilters. I am certainly one of them. For some reason, feathers on quilt just make me swoon!

[Cascade of Leaves, featured in Quilter’s World, October 2010]

From my experience in free-motion feather quilting, one thing that has helped me the most is learning how to draw feathers on paper. I learned that being able to put my designs on paper first helps me quilt my feather better later. Doodling feathers on paper helps jump start my brain cells into being able to quilt my feathers unmarked on a real quilt. If you want to know my secret, I always try on paper first to see if I can draw any free-motion motifs before I attempt them on my quilts. If it is possible on paper, then it is not impossible on quilts. :)

Here are some examples from my quilts showing marked feathers prior to quilting:

[Harrison Urn, first place in 2008 Tippecanoe Block Challenge]

[Song of Williamsburg, inspired by the design on an 18th century Virginian Bird Bottle]

[Poinsettia Fiesta, to be featured in The Quilter, Holiday 2010]

[My Wholecloth Sampler, featured in The Quilter, March 2008]

And here are some examples from my quilts showing unmarked feathers prior to quilting – being able to do free-hand feathers comes in really handy when you are under the gun getting a quilt completed.

[Twilight Trails, featured in The Quilter, May 2010]

[To a Garden Tea Party, featured in Quilter’s World, June 2010]

[Fruit of the Vine, featured in The Quilter, November 2010]

[Pieceful Garden, featured in The Quilter (November 2008) and UK’s Popular Patchwork (March 2010)]

[Quilting Around the Block, to be featured in Quilter’s World, Februray 2011

Stitching suggestions:

1. I generally go pretty slow when working with feathers, especially when stitching the feather spine.

2. I always try to use wool batting when I do feather quilting. The wool batting makes my feathers pop really nicely! Silk batting works really well too, but keep in mind the loft isn’t as lofty as that of wool.

So give drawing a try — you might be surprised how much your free-motion quilting benefits from the ol’ pencil and paper! :) Remember, if it is possible with a pencil, it is possible with a needle!

Americana Florals: Sneak Peek #3

Happy Monday, my Friends!   Quilting is underway for Americana Florals.  What you see is the quilting for the accompanying blocks.  I am just doing some textured quilting on these blocks because I want the blocks to be just that, accompanying.

I did some smocking, sewing for baby, cross-stitching and reading this weekend.  So I should be able to show you some pictures later this week.   So tell me, what was the highlight of your weekend?

Final Sneak Peeks on my “out of the ordinary” quilt

Quilting on my “out of the ordinary” quilt is done! The quilt is leaving me to go to the editor first thing in the morning.

It was SO fun quilting this project. Honestly, I am quite in love with back!!!

The feathers you see are all quilted free-handed on my home machine without any prior marking. That’s why they all look slightly different from each other:

This project is part of an article I am writing for Quilter’s World‘s February 2010 issue. The article is not quite like the ones I have done in the past, but I hope you would find it enjoyable once it is officially in print. And I definitely look forward to your feedback then.

It will be another full week for me. So, it’s back to work I go. I hope you have a super productive week! Ciao.

Marabella in THE QUILTER (July 2010)

I decided to show my Marabella quilt for Amy’s Quilt Festival. It’s probably my favorite quilt among all the spring quilts I have made. I have made quite a few quilts since Marabella, but they are not back from the editors yet… so, Marabella it is.

Marabella is one of my latest featured quilts. Pattern for this quilt is found in the July 2010 issue of The Quilter.

The quilt is now displayed at Rogers Sewing Center.

This quilt turned out sooooo sweet! Red and purple make quite an eye-catching color combination, don’t they?

Here are some quilting close-ups for you. The quilting is done over Hobbs’ Tuscany Wool batt, and Aurifil Mako 50 Cotton thread (#2310 top and bottom) – one of my favorite “ingredient combination” when it comes to quilting on my home machine:

Fabrics are from Henry Glass‘ Marabella collection:

Thank you for stopping by. I am going to enjoy the rest of this spring season. I hope you are too!

Thanks for stopping by. Have fun admiring the other quilts featured in Amy’s Quilt Festival!

To A Garden Tea Party in Quilter’s World (June 2010)

Yippee! I get to show another quilt in its entirety I completed many Fridays ago!! To a Garden Party is featured in the “For Kids” section of the latest issue Quilter’s World! Can’t you just see this in a little girl’s room?

Picture from Quilter's World

The lighting was perfect one afternoon last week, and I simply had to take pictures of the quilt in order to show the quilting on the quilt. But you can see here I had an all to eager helper who kept wanting to get ON the quilt!

The fabrics are from Somerset Cottage by RJR – another winner by Robyn Pandolph. If you are into Shabby Chic, and all things flowery — Robyn Pandolph’s fabrics are definitely for you:

As usual, piecing and quilting was done using my favorite Aurifil Mako 50 (color 2310) thread. Batting used was Tuscany Silk by Hobbs‘. The quilting was mostly free-motion except for the straight lines using the walking foot:

I like using my curly Q quilting motif when I am doing sparse quilting for a nice texture:

So, here are the car keys – are you ready for a Garden Tea Party?

Thanks again for visiting – I hope you have a glorious weekend.

Busy quilting, and quilting busy!

I have been averaging about one quilt every 8 or 9 days!  So, I have been busy.  I have been keeping myself busy so that I don’t fall too hard behind for the other magazine quilts that are in the queue waiting to be made.  I had told you I liked this leaf fabric from RJR’s Summer Solstice collection.

So, it is making an appearance in the border as well:

I do not submit quilts that are just quilted down with large stipples.  I always put some thought into the quilting to make each of my quilts special.  I did a couple of test samples this morning on this busy fabric.  I know that feathers (as much as I love them) would not do very well for the super busy and bright print.  And I really don’t have time to do a lot of marking… so, I look for quilting ideas from the fabric itself.  I “traced” the flowers, and added the veins in between the lines that are already printed on the fabric.  I think I like the effect:

[Tip for quilters:  When you find yourself at a loss of what to quilt, the quilting motif may be staring you right in the face on the fabric itself.  Another example can be seen by clicking here.]

Thanks for stopping by.  It’s a busy week for me, and I am sure it will be many of you.  But I hope you still take time to enjoy the blessings of the Holy Week.