Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The TQL Blog is moving!

I have thoroughly enjoyed your support and comments on this blog as we’ve launched the new magazine. We are able to give TQL readers an even fuller experience with our new, expanded and comprehensive quilting information site— is the newest website from the American Quilter’s Society. You can find all my past, present, and future blog posts. Since this site will include content from me as well as my American Quilter’s Society colleagues, we think you’ll enjoy the amount of information we have pulled together. If you wish to zero in on TQL when you get there, however, search for “TQL blog.”

Our upgraded website already has over 500 articles, with more added daily. All my previous blog posts are already live on that site, including most recent comments from readers.

Since this website is hosted at a new URL, please be sure to update your bookmarks, RSS feeds, and email subscriptions.

Please visit us at our new, improved location online. Be sure to check out the site organization, including categories, tags, and techniques. Plus, sign up for email updates to keep informed of the latest news.

See you there!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unplanned Geometry

TQL readers around the globe were fascinated by the silk sampler in Laura Fisher’s column “For All It’s Worth” (June 2011). “It reminds me a little of a crazy Dear Jane,” wrote Linda Lesiak of Fullerton, Nebraska.

Jodie Storm, of Bonville, NSW, Australia, cheerfully confesses to being obsessed with historic quilts. She’s given lots of thought to this one, and suspects this stunning quilt was made by an inexperienced quilter, perhaps a teenager, who made it up as she went along. Jodie told Laura how she figured out the way the quilt was constructed.

“I labeled the vertical rows A-H, and the horizontal rows 1-9.

The quiltmaker initially made three rows of three blocks each, D3-F3, D4-F4 and D5-F5. Block E5 was created as the center focal point of the original quilt.

The quilter then added rows to all the sides, and then another set of rows. See the way the black embroidered sashing turns the corners around each of the block sets? And of the sometimes bias cut and sometimes straight cut plaid sashing strips? Also note the Log Cabin "corner" chevrons (Blocks B1, H1, B7 and H7) are very similar in form, with the inside corners facing the center of the quilt. They would have been the corner blocks of the original top.

At a later date, she added rows A1- A7, and A8 - H8. The plaid sashing has again become straight  ̶  unlike the bias cut of the original top, and there are several silk checks and plaids which do not appear in the original center.

Later still, she added row A9-H9. Look at the way the black embroidered sashing is placed, and the way the bias cut border is constructed.”

Thanks for taking the time to share this with us, Jodie. Maybe you are a little obsessed. But aren’t we all? It’s the way it is when you live the quilt life.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Which Way Did He Go?


TQL challenged  you in the February issue to use your imagination.
The man is missing from the Bird of Paradise quilt top on page 55, even though he was in the picture when the newspaper templates, above, were made. Why? You had so many creative answers it was challenging for us to select three favorites!
Each of our clever winners will receive a copy of the beautiful new book QUILTS: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum from the publisher, Rizzoli.

The Scandal!

Daily True American, April 3, 1863

After being tried for murdering James Lippincott, of Poughkeepsie, Charles Batchelder escaped from prison and subsequently tried to commit suicide.  On April 3, Batchelder paid the fearful penalty of death.  Great excitement prevailed in the city during the day.  The culprit made no confession, and met his fate with great courage.  The End

(ripped from the headlines, names changed to protect the guilty)
by Candy Prudhomme

 Some Things Never Change
Sarah gazed at the unfinished quilt top. 
The only unfinished block was Johnathan's. She realized that he wasn't coming back. She hadn't heard from him in over a year. Becky's husband and Joanna's brother had returned from the war. He should have been home by now....  
Her heart breaking, Sarah decided to finish the quilt anyway. She would use the Hannibal elephant block she designed when the circus passed through town last spring.  Elephants never forget, do they?  
As for Johnathan.....he survived the war, but refused to ask for directions and got lost on his way home! 
by Deborah Bloom

 Good Husband
Robins, redbirds,
emus, too –
A hen, her cock-a-
doodle do.

Cat and hound dog
bark and mew –
Of owls and ponies,
not a few.

Peacocks, blackbirds,
in they flew –
An elephant ! Oh,
what a zoo!

So when a caller
came to woo
And said, my dear, what
can I do?

By this I found his
love is true –
He’s busy out there
scooping poo.                                  
by Pat Mitchell

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Everything Old is NewAgain

We’ve been chatting with Pat Holly, maker of the prizewinning Paisley Peacock. Our discussion turned to sources of inspiration.

TQL: Where did you come up with the idea of embroidering your background fabric before you stitch the appliqué?
PH: The first time I used this idea was in 2000 on a small quilt. As usual, I was looking through some of my world textile books and I noticed something about many of the fabrics. Often there was something subtle happening in the background (maybe behind the embroidery). I also had just bought a new, fancy sewing machine with lots of decorative stitches. I wanted to use this feature of my machine, but whatever I did needed to have a purpose. I didn’t just want to add fancy stitches; I wanted them to have a reason to be there. So, looking at those old textiles gave me the idea to use the decorative stitches to create a background with texture. This has opened up a whole world of ideas – using different threads, different colors, different stitches (from a simple straight stitch or a small zigzag up to lovely complex designs) – there are so many variations possible. Try it –you create your own unique fabric!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pat picks COLOR!

We’re talking to Pat Holly, whose fabulous quilt Paisley Peacock not only graced the TQL centerfold in June but also won best in show in Paducah.
TQL: Pat, how do you choose colors for a quilt?
PH: When I am designing, next to the actual motifs and elements, color is the most important part of the process. I usually work in solid fabrics, spread out a large, mixed-up “palette” and see what new combination jumps out. While at art school, I loved the color theory class. We used colored paper to create our studies and I still have fun with paper. The class was based on the color theory of Josef Albers. His concept of “seeing” color really resonates with me – I think it is all about experimenting and seeing what colors work together. My latest quilts are made with silk fabric, which has an incredible depth of color and richness that I love!
TQL: Let’s try that!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Feeling the Paisley Connection

We’re talking to Pat Holly, who, either solo or part of a dynamic duo with sister Sue Nickels, is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Pat’s biggest win for a solo effort to date is best in show in Paducah with Paisley Peacock. PP just happens to be the centerfold of the June TQL.

TQL: Paisley Peacock is so exotic! What inspired the design?
PH: I have a large collection of books, starting with quilt technique books, and then adding any books with pictures of antique quilts. At some point I started looking at books with textiles from around the world (this includes weaving, embroidery and garments) and I was amazed. Now, most of my new books are world textiles and right now I am fascinated with textiles from India. I was in Scotland in 2008 and took photos of Suzani embroideries at the Burrell Collection. This photo is not the greatest, but maybe you can get the idea of how I was influenced. I was lucky enough to visit India last year and my mind is still whirling with ideas. The most important part of all this (and this relates directly to Paisley Peacock) is I love feeling that connection with textile creators from all over the world, past and present. By using these images as inspiration, it allows me to talk about and share what I have learned about different cultures. Many people have never heard of Suzani embroideries—from central Asia —and I want quilters to be exposed to these beautiful textiles.
TQL: Pat, it’s amazing! You’ve managed to capture the richness of the Suzani textiles in a design that feels so fresh and original. Let’s talk about your color choices next time!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our Prizewinning Covergirl

Have you seen Pat Holly’s amazing Paisley Peacock, the June TQL centerfold? This quilt won best of show in Paducah last week, and we were thrilled for her, of course. When we first saw Pat’s 60" x 72" masterpiece, we knew we had to get to know her better! Here’s part of our conversation:

TQL: Why did you mostly make miniature quilts for a while? Why do you like that scale?
PH: I started making miniature quilts about eleven years ago. I have always loved creating little things. I learned to knit when I was about ten, and I found patterns to make sweaters and dresses for my Barbie doll. These were made on size one needles with “fingering” yarn. I learned all about knitting making these tiny garments and was happy as a clam. I also made doll clothes on my mom’s sewing machine. When I started making quilts (over 30 years ago), I made them in all sizes (bed size, wall size). I always loved looking at the miniature quilts at shows and decided to try my hand. I think the first show I entered was in 2000. I kept entering shows and finally won a ribbon in 2006 (2nd place, both AQS and IQA) with my quilt Tapestree. I was really excited because my quilts are mostly machine appliqued, and this was a technique not usually recognized with awards. In the miniature category, all techniques are accepted and judged together (hand, machine, pieced, appliqued).
Working on this tiny scale fascinates me. I love the idea of drawing the viewer in closer and closer. I also have a grand time seeing how small I can make the elements. Of course, there is a limit! And, although people don’t believe me, it really doesn’t take a long time to make a miniature. When you stitch around a circle that is ¼˝ in diameter, there are not that many stitches to make compared to a 3˝ circle.
More next time!

Monday, May 2, 2011

TQL wins "10 Best New Magazines of 2010" honor

Big news here!! TQL has been selected one of the 10 best new magazines of 2010!! Here's what Library Journal had to say when it announced its list of 10 best new magazines of last year. "...brave entrepreneurs continue to produce excellent new periodicals. Here is this year’s fine crop of new magazines worth considering for your library." 

Library Journal in its newest issue released online and in print today, says it reviewed 193 new publications last year before making its picks. You knew you liked TQL, and now you know you're in good company!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Be a Thread Picker

It takes imagination to choose the best threads for your quilt. And the more stitching there is, the more important it becomes to give it some thought beforehand. When Sarah Vedeler was at that point in making GO! Be Dazzled, the TQL April Centerfold, she had a plan:
• 2-3 threads to match the dark fabric (one the same, one lighter and/or darker)
• 2-3 threads to match the medium fabric (one the same, one lighter and/or darker)
• 2-3 threads to match the light fabric (on the same, one lighter and/or darker)
• 2-3 threads that will "pop."
GO! Be Dazzled, Too

 "When you are using a monochromatic color scheme with your fabric, as I did on GO! Be Dazzled, Too, use the complementary color in a couple of different shades, or a split complementary to give you two colors," says Sarah.

GO! Be Dazzled

"In GO! BE Dazzled, my pop colors were turquoise and chartreuse. The fabric colors all came from the warm side of the color wheel, so the pop colors added some cool tones." She went on to say that working with a color wheel, such as Joen Wolfrom's 3-in-1 Color Tool, is always a good idea!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Be Dazzled Even More Than You Were Before

The TQL April Centerfold, Sarah Vedeler's quilt GO! Be Dazzled, is a knockout. Sarah mentioned that the quilt has a little sister, GO! Be Dazzled Too, which you get to see here. It's a simpler version of the centerfold quilt. It's a fun exercise to open your April magazine to the centerfold, and compare the two.

Simpler though this one may be, it's still stunning. Sarah has advice for choosing fabric and thread for a quilt. "For embroidered applique, I want the fabric to be as plain as possible so that the thread—which is the main source of the design—shows up as much as possible. Solid colors work well, as do tone-on-tone colors." And what fabrics should you avoid? "Any fabric that has a distinct design. The thread just won't show up. And if you've devoted a lot of time and effort to the embroidery, you want it to be noticed!"

But what if you have a piece of fabric that you REALLY want to include in the quilt, but it has a lot of pattern on it? "Consider using it for the sashing and borders, or maybe the setting triangles or any corners in the center of the quilt. In other words, places where there is no applique or detailed quilting."

Great advice, Sarah!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy birthday, TQL!

The April issue is now out. It's our second April issue! That means The Quilt Life is celebrating its first birthday. Thanks to our wonderful loyal readers, it looks like we'll be serving up bi-monthly slices of quilt lives for some time to come. Keep those submissions and ideas coming. We love to hear from our readers!
    The Quilt Life will have a booth at the AQS Lancaster show & Contest next week. If you're there, stop by, introduce yourself, and let us know what features you've enjoyed the most. Or what you'd like to see in the future!

The passing of Jean Ray Laury

The loss of Jean on March 2nd was another great loss for the quilt community. She was of one of the "mothers" of the late 20th century quilt revival, there even before the quilt revival got going. I became a fan of her before I became a quilter. Back in 1977, I purchased her book The Creative Woman's Getting-It-All-Together at Home Handbook and it was a life-changer. I still have it and cherish my hardback, black-and-white, dog-eared, and stained copy with the broken spine! Back when women's roles were shifting and we couldn't always count on respect for our voices or in the workplace, Jean showed us how some artists managed their version of "having it all" (creative career and family).
    Years later, after Jean and I met and worked together on various articles, she maintained her persona that I had created for her just from that book and what I knew about her reputation in the quilt world: innovative, warm and supportive, and such a talented lady!

 I send our sincere sympathies on behalf of The Quilt Life to her family. She will be missed by so many.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Something a quilter would use?

What do they look like to you? Some of you will know right away. Others have never seen these before (like me, before these arrived at my doorstep). Of course, if you've gotten the latest issue of TQL, you already know who the quilter is who uses these as embellishments. Answer: spent shotgun shells, artistically fanned out and arranged. Colorful, aren't they? Read about an usual quilter and her creative quiltmaking in "Making something out of nothing" in the April 2011 issue.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Applique tip from Linda Roy

Wrapping up my chat with Linda Roy about Vintage Button Bouquet, I thought info about the idiosyncrasies of how Linda does things would be helpful.
      Jan: So, Linda, do you have any tips for us?
     Linda: Sure. I can tell you that I premake components for my quilt and do so whenever possible. I find it relaxing to sit and applique those already-made units. All the small circles you see on this quilt are premade on discs, with fabric cut twice the diameter of the disc so that they self-stuff. I padded the larger circles by inserting a layer of the wool batting underneath.
     If there are items to go on the quilt that don't lend themselves to premaking, I usually use the needle-turn method. On occasion I have even needle turned straight edges instead of turning on my sewing machine to accomplish the same look with a straight pieced seam. That includes appliqueing mitered borders! I've also found that it is easier to get smooth edges by having the smallest seam allowance you can handle.
     Jan: Thanks for sharing with us, Linda. I look forward to seeing your next masterpiece!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Which came first?

Jan: What a great idea to get applique design inspiration from vintage buttons! Now do you choose your bracelets based on how well they will translate into applique? Or do you just buy what appeals to you as jewelry?
Linda: I have so many ideas running around in my head that are inspired by antique buttons that I really don't need to purchase any more! It is difficult to define exactly why a bracelet appeals to me because I can't help but see things through the "filter" of design, which applies to jewelry and quiltmaking. Patterns and ideas are all around us and impossible to ignore once you are bitten by the quilting bug.
Jan: It's interesting that there are still so many antique buttons available.
Linda: Yes, there are enough that some vendors group the button jewelry pieces by "style," meaning bird motifs, picture buttons, florals, and some are very colorful, to mention just a few kinds.

Next time: tips for hand applique

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Surface treatments: buttons, ruching, swags

Jan: The vintage buttons shown here aren't actually from your collection, Linda, but I thought our readers would like to see them anyway because they are so lovely. There are 12 vintage buttons on the quilt. Could you tell us more about adding those and when you do that?
Linda: The buttons were sewn onto the background after the surface applique was completed. I found it much easier to handle by doing as much applique as possible in quarter sections, including the swags and the linear ruching, and then joining those. I only had one-yard pieces  of the background anyway so it made sense. Every quilter how sometimes you have to make do—make the construction match the materials and limitations you have!
Jan: And how about the embroidery?
Linda: That is done on top of the quilting so that it sits on top. But the upside-down stuffed yoyos were added to the top as the last thing.
Jan: You mentioned in the magazine that the bracelets you collect sometimes have "perfume buttons." I had never heard of those before and did a little investigating. These are charming buttons from the 1800s made with velvet and overlaid with an openwork metal design, perfect for dabbing a teensy bit of perfume on instead of dabbing it on the skin where it would be likely to stain the clothing. Now that I know what they are, I'll look for them wherever I find antique buttons for sale. Not to worry, Linda, I won't become your competition by collecting them! I just want to savor them because, as I mentioned last time, anything vintage is interesting to me.

Next time: vintage button inspiration

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More from Linda Roy about Vintage Button Bouquet

Have you reveled in the exquisite details of Vintage Button Bouquet that are shown in the February centerfold? There were numerous reasons for my love at first sight of this quilt: hand applique is my favorite quiltmaking process; Linda's workmanship!; orange in all its variations tops my favorite color list; and vintage anything catches my attention. I thought you would like to know more about the quilt's making and see more detail photos so this week, Linda will be here to tell us more. Today the topic is crosshatching.
    Jan: Straight, even crosshatch quilting is much harder than it looks. How do you keep it so even and consistent across such large areas?
Upper left quadrant with
 large crosshatched area.
    Linda: It works best for me if I can mark the entire top before quilting even begins, even before layering the quilt sandwich. I lay the quilt flat on the floor and lightly tack the edges to the boards I use for basting.
     J: There are different scales of crosshatching, wider in the wide open cheddar areas and tighter in the circles. This really adds a rhythm to the quilting.  Do you mark the smaller areas in the same way?
     L: If there are smaller blocks within the quilt, or in this case, they are circular "blocks," I carefully mark the edges all around with dots and then draw lines corner to corner. Then I can use a table for marking the individual blocks.
     J: What do you use to mark those lines?
     L: The blue Mark B Gone water soluble pen works well on lighter fabrics.
     J: Do all your quilts have some crosshatch quilting?
     L: Each quilt is different depending on the design, but I do use a great deal of crosshatching as it compliments the curved applique that I frequently use.

Next time: the "button" applique

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Missing Man Contest

A fun contest based on an article in the February issue, "Behind the scenes at the museum." The museum is the American Folk Art Museum and the man is "missing" from the Bird of Paradise quilt top made 1858-1863. Why are we saying there is a man missing from the quilt? Because the families that were guardians of this quilt before it entered the museum's collection were kind enough to keep the newspaper templates made for the applique along with the quilt. And though there are men depicted on this quilt top, not THIS man!

You can see the lady made from the template in the top "row" of the quilt, but you won't find her intended companion It's a mystery. 
     Tell us what you think happened to keep the man off the quilt in 100 words or less. Email your story to and put "Missing Man" in the subject line. Deadline is Feb. 14th. If your story is one of the three most interesting entries, you'll win a copy of the Museum's beautiful new book QUILTS: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum!
Quilt photo by Gavin Ashworth, New York; template photo by John Parnell, New York

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

White House Quilting Bee and TQL

It may not be for real, but we can wish it were! If you haven't seen the animated video of Larry King interviewing President Obama about the White House quilting bee, don't miss it. The "President" even mentions The Quilt Life and Alex and Ricky! You can view the video on the Black Threads blog. It was created (and so is Black Threads) by the very accomplished author and historian Krya Hicks. She was having fun with a new service that allows you to create a short animated "movie" just by providing a script. Now that sounds like fun! The President rights says that quilting is common ground, something that people of different political persuasions can all enjoy. Did you know that Larry is an accomplished applique artist? It's all great fun, take a look. While you're there, take in all the other marvelously interesting info on at Black Threads.