The First Juan

There is this friend in my life who has been a great cheerleader to me. She comes to just about every event I host. She has sat through programs at the studio when no one showed but her. She sends me ideas, asks me what I’m doing next and reminds me to follow up. 

She also dropped off a quilt to me for Juan. The first customer quilt. Before I even knew what questions to ask. Or how much to charge. 


“Sometime by December.”  “However you want to quilt it.”  “Just let me know at the end.”  Totally trusting me with her work. Wow. 

So, Juan and I discussed the possibilities. Everything about this quilt seemed to say “snow,” so we dug through Juan’s brain. Not snowflakes- too obvious. Not meander- too boring. How about swirls?  And oh yes, there are plenty of those to choose from. We settled on “Swirls Two” by Lone Pine Quilting, and loaded the quilt into Juan’s arms. 

Now, I could, in the interest of promoting my business, and protecting Juan’s reputation, skip the gory details of what happened next. But, I can’t do it. I thought about it, but in the end I just can’t dress it up in an unrealistic outfit. It is what it is, and I’m glad it happened because I learned from it. (And the quilt turned out great in the end- don’t worry-)

This is the reality of quilting. This is the reason quilters cuss. After ripping out stitching THREE times, I finally made a call for help. 

It turns out that if you don’t thread the bobbin winder correctly, it screws with your bobbin, which in turn screws with your tension, which in turn screws with your sanity.  It also turns out that there’s this really helpful thing on the Internet called YouTube that shows you how to do stuff. Like use the equipment in your studio. 

Once I got that figured out, the rest was a breeze. Until I had to try to create an invoice. Hello. Took longer than quilting the quilt. 

I was pleased with Juan’s work, and we had a good discussion on the importance of understanding the mechanics of thread tension. According to Juan, this was just the beginning, and there are many more lessons to come. But he also seems to think that I can be taught. 

Makes me wanna put on a big, wooly sweater and drink a cuppa hot cocoa in front of a fire. 

Except I live in Georgia. And it’s 68 degrees outside. 


#FQS1930FarmersWife, Week 5

One of the things I am loving about this quilt along is the pace.  Yesterday I was thinking that I was so far behind and that I would have so much trouble catching up.  Ahem.  Two blocks.  An hour and a half.  Yeah.


  1.  Thanks, iPhone, for keeping track of exactly how inactive I am outside of Quilt Market.  Too bad that doing this twice a year doesn’t really add up to much.


2.  Sometimes you have to bribe your teenage daughter with a little lunch to get her to help you take pics for a tutorial.  Getting her to be in the pic with said lunch and block #45, Jenny, just cost too dang much.


3.  This is what Snow White would look like if she was a Senior in High School preparing to go to college in 2016.  Happy Halloween!  (haha- she’s gonna kill me if she sees this!)


4.  Being in a panic does not change the task at hand.  It only makes it a miserable experience.  This is a lifelong lesson for me.  If I dwell too much on the list, I just make myself crazy.  So, I think I will just keep moving forward, and celebrate the victories as they come.  Block #41, Granny.


5.  This is my view from my front porch.  I love crisp autumn mornings, and I am so grateful for this simple thing in my life.

Magic binding. Okay, maybe not magic. But close.


So, binding has been a thing for me for years.  I can’t say that I feel like I make perfect binding, or that I don’t have any more room to learn, but I’d say that I’ve come a long way from the slightly rounded, thinly filled and seriously scary stuff I used to do.  Binding is a skill that is important to master, for a number of reasons.  First, it is the first part of a quilt that wears out, so it needs to be done in such a way that it can be replaced as needed.  Second, it is like the frame around a masterpiece, and it can either add to or detract from the overall work.  Thirdly, it’s important to understand that binding is one of the number one things that will cost a quilter competition points.  Not interested in competition?  I get it.  However, there are a number of modernists that would like to see their work get more respect and attention in the traditional shows.  In order for that to happen, there need to be more submissions of modern work that is also a showcase of mastered skills.  As I have often said, there is nothing wrong with breaking the rules of quilting, but you have to know what the rules are in order to know which ones should be broken when, and for what purpose.  I’m not going to go into detail about those rules this time, but I would like to show what I know about joining binding properly.  And without wanting to hurt somebody in the process.

There is great discussion and variance in the width that binding should be cut, and whether or not it should be cut on the bias.  Those are thoughts for another day.  So, just for today, I have cut this binding at 2″ WOF on the straight of grain.  I pressed my seams open at the joins, and pressed the binding lengthwise, wrong sides together.  I have sewn the binding to the front of the quilt, lining up the raw edges of the binding with the raw edges of the quilt top.  I left a generously long tail at both the beginning and the end of sewing the binding to the front of the quilt.

First, line one of the unsewn tails to the edge of the quilt.  It’s easiest to use the shorter of the two, but it really doesn’t matter which one.

Next, using the second tail, cut a small piece off of the end.  It does not matter how big this piece is, but about an inch works perfectly.  Open this small piece out.  The measurement you are interested in is the width of the piece, not the length.  In other words, my binding was cut at 2″, so I am interested in the 2″ measurement of the cut.  If you had 2 1/2″ binding, the piece would need to be 2 1/2″.

Layer the two binding tails on top of one another, aligned with the edge of the quilt.  Using the width of the little piece cut from the tail as a guide, cut the top tail so that the overlap of the two tails is the same as the width of the binding.  (In this case 2″, but just to be extra clear, if you have 2 1/2″ binding, the overlap needs to be 2 1/2″.  If you have 3/4″ binding, the overlap needs to be 3/4″.)  Discard the little piece cut from one of the tails.

Draw both tails out and away from the edge of the quilt and onto a cutting mat.  Open the tails and lay them both face up.

Without changing the orientation of either tail, use the Folded Corner Clipper to cut each tail at a 45 degree angle, with the 1/4″ seam allowance also trimmed off.  (It is possible to do this with a straight ruler with a 45 degree mark, or with other 45 degree tools, but for me, this is by far the easiest one to handle while cutting binding tails for joining.)

Lay the two tails along the quilt edge and notice that they match properly for joining.

Pin the short edges together, right sides together, and sew together with a 1/4″ seam.


Press seam allowance open.


Align raw edges of joined binding with the edge of the quilt and stitch loose binding to the edge of the quilt.  Complete binding as desired.

Told ya it was magic.  #boombaby

the Tula Pink Coloring Book: 75+ Signature Designs in Fanciful Coloring Pages


A few months ago I was standing in line at the craft store and saw a stack of very intricate coloring books near the register.  I was immediately drawn back 30 years or so ago when my cousin and I would spend summer afternoons laying on the floor coloring in black and white booklets full of tessellating patterns and repetitive graphic designs.  I also collected unusual coloring books from the places we would visit as a family.  I don’t know what ever happened to those books, but oh, how I loved them.  I kept them hidden away from my younger siblings, and chose each color carefully whenever I did break down and actually color in them.  It seems I am not alone in that experience, as the market has recently exploded coloring books designed with the mature aesthetic palate in mind.

The Tula Pink Coloring Book has certainly hit this nail on the head.  Some of the pages beg that pack of special markers to come out of their hiding place, while others whisper, “Wouldn’t it be nice to buy a new pack of colored pencils?”  I’m even curious about using those little oil pastel sticks- harder to stay in the lines with those, but I’m not sure I care.  I like that the pages are perforated so they can be carefully removed and laid out on the table for optimal coloring.  If one dares to take it apart from all of its glory.

This particular copy is going to our daughter who is currently on an 18 month mission to Brazil, and I happen to know that she would find this especially relaxing on her day off.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d like to sneak a few of the pages for myself- especially the ones from The Birds And The Bees and Bumble.  And Prince Charming.  And Neptune.  And Nest.  Oh for pity’s sake.  I guess I have to get my own.

#FQS1930FarmersWife, Week 4

1.  This Old Maid went to Quilt Market…  Haha… Block#78 that is. ‘Cause I may have gone to Market, but I ain’t no old maid.

2.  Finding a taxi on a late rainy night in Houston for 6 worn out women and their loot pile from Sample Spree, aka Trample Spree, is one thing, sorting it all out and getting it packed to go on a plane is another.

3.  Katherine is my sisters name, and I haven’t seen her in a very long time. She actually lives in Texas, along with other friends and family. I may not have been able to see her, but I remembered her as I walked the Market floor this time around. Block #49.

4.  No re-entry means NO RE-ENTRY. Ask me how I know. And about how many different scenarios my brain ran through when I couldn’t get out of this stairwell.

5.  Oh, Susannah…  Hurricane?!?  Seriously?!?  And is there any part of Houston not under construction?  #dontfloataway Block #94

#FQS1930FarmersWife, Week 3

This is the first time I’m using the WordPress mobile app to write a post, so we’ll see how it goes!  Haha…  Nothing like taking a technology risk with your website while sitting at the airport in Houston after an inspiring, exhausting, and flat out fun trip to Quilt Market. I’m a little behind on posts, so let’s see if I can catch up…

1.  You should totally take pics of these guys whenever they are together. At least one of them, in this case Jeff’s brother Murray, will make it a memorable photo.

2.  Taking a couple of the grands to visit the gravesite of their great grandparents is a wonderful thing to do when the skies clear a bit on a trip to Utah.  Also, it’s a good time to throw in a pic of block #13, Belle.

3.  Some mom and kid pics are super cute. And some are super cute and photo bombed.

4.    It’s just a piece of dirt to some, but to us it’s our future- a place for our kids, our grand kids and our loved ones. And block #24, Coral.

5.  Corn mazes just might not be my thing. #iwasdone

This Juan Week


This is where I was while Juan was waiting for me.

This last week I’ve been out of town with my family for a few days, which means I’ve left Juan home alone.  I am quite sure he is terribly bored and lonely, so to make up for it, I have spent every free moment reading everything from his instruction manual to multiple books on machine quilting.  All so we can spend some quality time together once I am back on the ground again.  I am actually considering writing my own book titled “Juan for Dummies.”  Or maybe “What to Expect When You are Juaning.”  Still working on that one.

Lesson 1:  Read the sewing machine manual.

Juan is a Gammill Statler, and yes, I did actually read the instruction manual.  On the plane.  The guy in the seat behind me was totally reading over my shoulder, as it was a real thriller.  Surprisingly, I’m glad I read it.  There were a number of things that were mentioned in the manual that Pat from Pat’s Calico Cottage had told me during training, but I had totally forgotten.  I actually think I may read it again.  It’s a powerful machine, but only as powerful as the user’s knowledge of how it runs.  Pretty sure that’s true of most sewing machines.

Lesson 2:  Just because the pics make it look a bit outdated doesn’t mean that it is.

In addition to Juan’s instruction manual, I took four machine quilting books with me on my trip, and pretty much read all of them cover to cover.  Or at least looked at all of the pictures.  I dove right into the two books I thought would be the most interesting because they were more recent publications, with a modern, clean style to both the book itself and the featured projects.  Once I stopped dragging my feet to open the last two books, I was pleasantly surprised with how much helpful information they actually contained, and realized that with different photos I may have just jumped right into both.  One was a book called Hari Walner’s Continuous-Line Quilting Designs.  The quilting designs definitely lean pretty hard towards a more traditional style, but the continuous-line techniques that Hari teaches in the book can easily be transferred to any style that suits the quilter.  I was especially interested in the section Design Your Quilt for Quilting, and her thoughts on having a plan for how the quilt will be quilted before actually making the quilt top were provoking.  Plus, I loved her illustration and discussion on fabric, thread and batting selection, as well as instructions on how to make triangle border corners, which was a new one on me.

Lesson 3:  No matter what they say, not all machine quilting books are suitable for both domestic and longarm machines. 

Well, okay, maybe that is not an entirely fair statement.  There are definitely things to be learned from most machine quilting books that can be applied to both domestic and longarm machines, but the reality is that often the books are written with a lean towards one or the other, based on the author’s experience and use.  For instance, The Complete Guide to Machine Quilting:  How to use your home sewing machine to achieve hand-quilting effects by Joanie Zeier Poole says plainly in the title that it is intended for the domestic machine quilter.  Joanie gives a thorough description of the workings of a sewing machine, how to set up a sewing station, the preparation process before quilting and techniques for actually quilting the quilt.  The book itself has somewhat dated photos, which is unavoidable when showing examples of sewing machines, and while Joanie dedicates a section to longarm quilting, she also makes it clear that her purpose is to support machine quilters on a domestic machine.  I felt that it was a well-written book, and was surprised that while the machines shown are not the newest models available, the information really is timeless.  I also found the information on batting, thread and needles very helpful, regardless of what kind of machine being used.  I plan on making more quilt minis in the future, and am glad to have this one in my library for reference.

Lesson 4:  Begin with the end in mind.

I attended a lecture by famed longarm quilter Angela Walters earlier this year at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas.  I had been aware of her in the quilting world for some time, but it wasn’t until her lecture that I got a real feel for who she is, what she stands for and why it is important to listen to her.  So, I recently picked up her book In the Studio with Angela Walters: Machine-Quilting Design Concepts Add Movement, Contrast, Depth & More, and it was perfect inspiration for getting home and getting Juan up and running with my own custom quilting.  While I’m no prima donna, I am pretty excited about the prospects of learning and developing custom quilting skills.  Angela does a beautiful job in the book of breaking down those exact skills with 10 different projects that begin with the end in mind.  Similarly to Hari in Hari Walner’s Continuous-Line Quilting book, Angela teaches that making quilting decisions before the project even begins leads to less guessing along the way, as well as a more comprehensive finished work.  And speaking of finishing, deciding on quilting at the beginning of the quilt potentially shortens the time between planning and binding, leaving one with fewer quilt tops and more completed quilts.

Lesson 5:  Practice, practice, practice.

This last lesson was actually learned first.  I was immediately drawn to the book Step-By-Step Free-Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli when my rep from Checker Distributors first brought it to me.  I am, like a lot of quilters, visual by nature, and I don’t normally love reading a lot of technical wish-wash.  All you have to do is look at the outer edge of this book to know that it has a lot less talking and a lot more action.  I love that Christina does a fairly simple introduction to free-motion quilting at the beginning of the book, then jumps to over 80 hand-drawn quilting designs intended for practice both by drawing on paper as well as quilting a project.  Both Christina and Angela Walters have a no-fear, dive-in-and-do-it attitude, which I appreciate on more than one level.  I often find myself champing at the bit, as they say, anxious to bolt out of the gate before I am actually fully prepped for a successful race.  But the difference between winning and losing the race has a lot to do with one simple concept- practice.  No matter how courageous, or even how talented the horse may be, it won’t win if it doesn’t know what to do when it leaves the gate.  Thankfully both Christina and Angela are able to convey the excitement of the race, but tempered with the right amount of preparation.


That’s me in the middle on the plane writing this post.

Well, that’s it for this week.  Even as I write I am headed back home to wash the airport off of me, run laundry from an adventurous camping weekend at the Gubler Ranch and catch up with Juan first thing in the morning.  I only have a day with my quilting cohort in crime, but I’m pretty sure it’s enough to stir up some trouble to talk about next week.