Category Archives: machine quilting

Head Down

My head hasn’t looked up for the past few weeks. I have been focused on completing machine quilting on lots of old projects and re-purposing some of my workshop withdrawal pieces into Christmas gifts. I haven’t made gifts in a few years after I made myself crazy staying up all night on Christmas Eve to finish them….and here I am again but really enjoying this insanity. I also have vowed not to carry over some of my old to-do list into 2014. So here’s how I am doing:

1. My first item on my procrastination list  was to re-label some of my pieces. I noticed how tacky some of my older labels looked when I went to the gallery to drop off my work a few weeks ago.  I used some very expensive Printed Treasures paper to print out these labels. These were incredibly stiff to sew through and I would have given up on this whole re-labeling process but the idea of wasting printer ink was just not something I was willing to do. I finished all of them and all my quilts have labels now!

2. Then, I got to work re-purposing. I ended up with 3 baby quilts for the neonatal unit at our local hospital and 1 baby quilt and baby doll for our guild’s Christmas charity event. I was in such a rush that I only took the silly doll quilt picture.



3. I unsewed and started again a gift for friend who is ill. It is finished except for the binding.  Woohoo but I can’t show you yet until I gift it.



4.  And last, but , not least, Christmas gifts. One binding needed on my brother’s quilt (he requested very simple)  and the other quilt not yet started.


All the time I am machine quilting, I am staring longingly at my design walls which are covered with ideas. But, I know if I buckle down and finish procrastination items on my agenda and make a few gifts out of my post workshop slump, I will feel great.

Focus needed.

Ready, Set, Go

Tomorrow is the artist’s opening for Artprize 2013. I am excited to see the venue and meet the other artists. But I am most excited to spend time with 2 friends, Elizabeth Brandt and Gail  Baar. All of us will have work that is being exhibited at the same venue. It’s a nice treat to be able to share the event with friends.

I have been working on some bindings for a few of my pieces. Terri Watson of Threadtales Quilting helped me by machine quilting them on her very pretty Gammill long arm.  It was so great to have a boost in the finish column. Thanks Terri! Soon they will be done. After we see lots of art this week at Artprize.

Line study details

Line study details


The Never Ending One

     I thought I would be showing you a finished piece at the end of this week.  It always takes longer than I think it will. When I went to put the binding on tonight, I realized that I had a huge spot of machine oil on my piece.

     I took a really deep breath . I didn’t hyperventilate but went back and read the directions on the wool batting I used. ( For the first time)  No hot water and no agitation.

     Ok then. Mmm…. I shoved it in the washing machine with cold water setting and some synthrapol. I was worried that the fuschia would run like crazy.  It didn’t.

Colleen Kole, 2013,  “Set Free” blocking 

     Blocked, fans on and waiting for it’s binding.

     These are the days that I think I may be a bit crazy for estimating could finish 20 total by December .
 But, I always love challenge.

Working Away in Vermont

      I traveled to Vermont the day after Christmas. We have a houseful for the vacation so lots of cooking has been involved but also lots of great snow so the family is skiing and playing in the snow.

     And I am back to sewing. I started with working on my free motion quilting. I really want to find a way to make the quilting aspect of it less tedious. So I will dedicate specific time over the next few months to work on it every time I am in the studio.

   I made a small bag out of this sample so I could document : the beginning.

     I also realized I would need a big design wall to work on the next project. So, I took a trek to the hardware store and came home with a 2″x 4 ‘x 8’ piece of insulation.

      I covered it with flannel and am working on a Sets and Variables # 3 workshop piece. It hopefully will be pieced tomorrow. It’s been great to be back to sewing!

Sue Nickels at the WMQG

     I had another great privilege this week via our local quilt guild, the West Michigan Quilt Guild. Every two months our guild brings in a teacher and this month was two days of classes by the wonderful Sue Nickels. Sue is a traditional quilter and has been involved for over twenty years in teaching machine quilting. Her classes and lectures routinely sell out when she is at the national conventions.

     Two classes were offered: Machine Quilting Essentials and Machine Quilting Flower Basket Appliqué. I took the machine quilting class since my next goal is improving my free motion quilting skills. Sue is thorough and very attentive to detail as is evidenced in her workmanship.

Sue Nickels beautiful quilts

Sue Nickels: Day 2 Demo

It was nice to spend time with traditional quilters and a traditional teacher as their craftsmanship is so amazing. I have to say I was a little discouraged at the end of the machine quilting workshop(something else to work on….:) and Sue immediately gave all of us a pep talk. I think the biggest thing I took away is that machine quilting is a learned skill.

 I will take her advice on the the 3 P’s she coached us with : patience, perseverance and practice.

I can’t imagine drawing a design and then quilting it, but you never know. I never plan that much when I quilt. But I was very happy to gain a little knowledge in machine quilting and happy as can be with Sue as a teacher. If you ever have the opportunity, don’t hesitate to take her workshops!

Wonder how many years I will need to work on this skill:).

And The Work Begins/Threads

     I thought I would be able to dive right in on Sunday and begin basting and sandwiching my quilt. But, I didn’t have batting or enough backing to start it. So, I spent yesterday running around finding what I  needed. It was really inefficient but, I have found what I needed. Looking at my schedule, I really won’t have a big block of time until Wednesday afternoon to get started. But, I have a question for you.

     Threads….I am a cotton thread person and kind of a snob about it. I use 100 percent cotton fabric and like cotton thread for machine piecing and quilting.  Mettler thread  in the top.  My current machine likes it and I like it. I am in love with Aurifil thread for piecing but need to order it online and that doesn’t  allow me to see the colors.  Mettler thread for machine quilting may just be more of a habit than real knowledge about what works. In my bits of time this week before studio time, I am reading short articles about thread. Kind of snoozy reading, but I like to be informed.

     So, what kind of thread are you using for machine quilting and why? Any help or advice is welcome.

Off to get a haircut. Be creative, my friends!


Finish #2:The Beast

     There is something rewarding about just pushing through and making it work even though you don’t like the initial design. I pushed even though the colors were not making me happy.The initial design was kind of cheesy. Well really just bad. In the end , I just needed to work through it and do it. I didn’t like wasting my hand dyed fabrics.

                                                            L Series # 3 : The Beast
                                                                     21 x 28    

Hand dyed fabrics, machine stitched with yellow and blue cotton threads.

I was having difficulty with my bobbin thread tension at first so I see two lines I might re-do.

Quilt # 2 done and three is being basted today.( I finished a doll quilt too this weekend for the Santa Claus girls but that wasn’t on the list!) My son calculated I could only work on each top for five days to finish it -if I want to complete all 7 by the end of the year.

Be creative, my friends!

 Giveaway: Post on last Friday’s post if you want to win the scissors and thread. I will pick tomorrow.

An Appointment

     I have an appointment. No-not to have my head examined. But with Leah Day of Day Style Designs who has put together an awesome amount of tutorials about free motion quilting. I have been spending maybe thirty minutes a day practicing some of these design on her blog. She is a great teacher and her tutorials found there are extremely helpful. And FREE. When I think of free motion quilting, I think of huge feathers or swirly things which don’t lend well with what I am currently doing.  When I scanned her tutorials, she has many designs or suggestions that I could use.

Already, I have found two things most helpful-to put a book by my foot pedal and to wear gloves-consistently. I didn’t like wearing them at first but feel they help me.

I am tired of using my walking foot for machine quilting but never have been able to make free motion quilting “work” for me. I am always willing to try again. And I wanted a break from miserable design flops.

 It also works on a day when I know I don’t have the whole day to devote to piecing or design. Thirty minutes can be squeezed in anywhere, can’t it?

Be creative, my friends!

***my daughter is goofing around with my blog this week for her graphics deign class so bear with me while she keeps changing it.Who knows, it needs to be re-done anyway!****

The Finish Fairy

     I am dreaming of the fairy that is going to get me off my duff , wave her magic wand  and  sprinkle lots of magic dust and then I will finish something wonderful. And then I will write this amazing blog post and have a million followers. dream continues and ….I am amazingly productive, daringly creative and thin.

    But in my real life, I have just been trying to catch up. And keep up. And no matter how hard I was trying to dig out, I couldn’t make any headway. I have big gardens and they just needed to be thinned out and replanted. Nothing got done last fall because of my silly foot. And kids just needed to be kids and have a million kids over hanging a million wet towels all over the place. But the garden is ok for now.  The kids have settled down a bit into summer and need less to just be and relax into summer laziness.

    So the finish fairy and I had a date this morning and at 7:56 am a finish was born.

                                     Lisa’s Quilt: 42×52

     I used hand dyed cottons, commercial batiks, hand dyed silk ribbon, embroidery and machine quilting in this quilt. It is a commission that has been around for way too long. I really had trouble with this one. And it came down to the fact I just don’t like browns -it was hard for me. (and me procrastinating) A lot of stalls along the way waiting for our schedules to coincide for approval. (and me procrastinating) But once I got past that and did exactly what my friend wanted, it came together. She is happy with it and will be excited to have it. Actually-when she saw it last week she said it rocks. And her being happy with it is the only thing that  mattered. Because it’s hers.

     I learned quite a bit from this process. 1. I was able to work with a color that was not my favorite. 2. I always underestimate how long it actually takes to complete a quilt from start to finish. 3. As long as they stay true to what I like design wise, I can do a commission and be satisfied with my results. And get paid for it.

      My yardwork is done too and now I am just going to enjoy a cup of coffee in my rocking chair on the porch. I can’t tell you how good I feel that this is DONE.

Happy Sewing, my friends!

Missing the Olympics

     I really missed watching the Olympics last night. I would sit down with the kids and just do a little hand sewing each night. Just loved snuggling on the couch with the two kids and it was amazing how we all scattered so quickly last night finding other things to do. Have to think of something else.

     I have been trying to play catch up to my online class I have been taking with Melanie Testa at Joggles. We are making a small book which is filled with different techniques and stitches. Time-consuming but she is a great teacher and has plenty of notes to explain things. I need to figure out how to post these on their forum.

      Different from what I have been doing but fun to play.

This was a piece of fabric I had stamped last month. Glad to use it for something fun like this.

     I  also purchased this amazing resource that Robin Ferrier from Simply Robin suggested recently. (She’s published this month in Art Quilting Studio magazine. Don’t forget to get your copy!) I, too, have been thinking of trying dyeing with natural products. But the processing with mordants seemed not worth the hassle. This book, EcoColour by Indie Flint does a great job of explaining natural dyes and is an great resource. I was so inspired that I rolled up a bit of onion skins, silk and sprayed it with vinegar and put it away in a bag for a month. I know, that’s a long time.

Then, I froze some flowers-only had a bunch of light colored tulip leaves- squeezed them into warm water and placed them in another vinegar solution. (Daffodils are toxic-good list of toxic plants, too.) I didn’t used cotton but silk. I chopped up a silk scarf blank that was put away.

 I’ll see what happens. I am sure, just as in using Procion Dyes, there is going to be a huge learning curve. I am all over the place this month , aren’t I? Sure did cure the winter blahs though. Now I have so many ideas in my little head that I can’t stop!

Working away on some machine quilting today. Happy sewing, my friends.