Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

Image of Trees quilt

Trees Quilt, pattern available

Recently, I was contacted through e-mail by a new art quilter. She found my Trees pattern online and had a few questions. What started as a conversation about my pattern has morphed into a discussion about where to start when you are drawn to making art quilts. She tells me she loves to see nature represented in quilts and prefers organic art quilts to geometric patterns. She has sewing experience and she’s ready to dive into quilting. I thought this might resonate with others, and so I’m sharing my advice to her.

Her first question was how to begin, specifically, asking for beginner books. My response:

  • First, subscribe to Quilting Arts Magazine. Seriously. I like it for inspiration, new techniques, and exposure to what’s going on in the quilt world. There’s no substitute.
  • Next, look around to see what resonates with you. I can recommend books on specific techniques, but it’s best to narrow the field and figure out where to start. And so, what appeals to you? Collage, surface design, photorealism? Go into your local quilt shop (or, in the absence of a decent shop, go online and Google quilt books) and just look at the covers. If something pulls you in, then open it up and investigate.
  • Generally, it’s a good idea to find books on basics that include a survey course on a variety of techniques. For the price of one book, you can cover a lot of territory. Get yourself a copy of The Painted Quilt by Linda and Laura Kemshall. You can find a link to it and more books I consider essential on this page of my website:  http://www.moonlightingquilts.com/FavoriteThings.htm.
  • Most important is to find a group of like-minded individuals. Do you have a local quilt guild? Also, you are really, really lucky to be close-ish to Pacific Grove and Asilomar. Go online to  http://www.emptyspoolsseminars.com/. Attending this “quilt camp” is a life changing event for many quilters. Pricey, but worth it.

In a follow-up e-mail, my new friend told me she bought Joan Colvin’s Quilts from Nature, drawn in by the cover. With this in mind, I offered a book list:

  • Nature’s Studio and The Nature of Design, both by Joan Colvin. If you like her style, continue to collect her books. I find her portraits haunting. The Nature of Design is a journal where Joan discusses her process.
  • Personal Imagery in Art Quilts by Erika Carter. This artist has a completely different take on landscapes. Her trees are at the same time geometric and graceful. The book lays out her work in periods, which allows the reader to see a progression both in technique and palette.
  • Serendipity Quilts: Cutting Loose Fabric Collage by Susan Carlson. While this book may prove inspirational, I’m recommending this book also for technique. Quilters who are discovering the world of art quilts are often stymied by the challenge of moving away from patterns and toward techniques. When I survey my incoming Art Quilts 101 students, I often hear about the desire to translate the visions in their heads into art quilts. This book provides an easy technique that takes the “how to” off the table and allows you to concentrate on design and composition.
  • Luminous Landscapes by Gloria Loughman. Process, technique, and inspiration. Gorgeous work with a liberal dose of design and color theory.
  • Intuitive Color & Design: Adventures in Art Quilting by Jean Wells. Some trees and landscapes, but mostly process and technique. Visually rich.
  • A Fabric Journey: An Inside Look at the Quilts of Ruth B. McDowell by Ruth McDowell. Ruth does the most amazing pieced pictorial quilts. This book is about her process, which is straightforward and well-developed. If you decide you want to learn her technique, she has other books aimed at specific subject matter that you may enjoy. Her approach is worth investigating.

I’m eager for progress reports from this new quilter. I’m also eager for recommendations from you. What advice would you have for a new quilter? Or, if you are a new quilter, what questions do you have?

Read Full Post »

I had a wonderful day today. I spent the work portion of the day at the local quilt shop where I am the Bernina manager and then I came home and worked on a very old Bernina for a neighbor.

Picture of Bernina 820

My 820

Let me start with this afternoon, when I was able to play with new machines. I worked with our Bernina tech on a client’s 820 (yes, I have an 820 at home), smoothing out some operational kinks. For those of you with 8 Series machines, a few tips: [Disclaimer: I am not a Bernina tech. These tips work for me, but they are not official Bernina recommendations.]

  • Don’t be afraid of bigger needles. I had a client who was repairing a microtex jacket using a satin stitch. She had tension and stitch width issues with an 80 universal needle, but all was wonderful with a 100 jeans needle.  Match the needle to the job. Keep in mind the needle may be larger than you would expect.
  • If your top thread is wound on the spool in flat rows, like Superior, Signature, or Sulky, you may run into some top tension issues. To avoid this, swing the multi spool holder out to the right and hook the thread on to an arm of the telescoping wand that is not directly above the spool. This should ensure that the thread pulls away from the spool rather than directly up where it can catch on the end of the spool and get hung up.
  • If you are freemotion quilting without your BSR, consider using a #15 foot. My tech just recommended this to me and I really like it. The opening is bigger and the front end is curved up ever so slightly. It makes all the difference.
  • If you are quilting with your BSR (8 Series machines only) and you are experiencing skipped stitches, you may need to have your spring replaced. Ask your tech; it’s an easy fix. My BSR functions beautifully now with the new spring.
Bernina 707 Minimatic

Neighbor's Bernina 707 Minimatic

When I got home tonight, I worked on an ancient Bernina for my neighbor. I should be careful who I call “ancient!” The machine was born in the 60’s and so was, well, never mind. My neighbor asked me to look at the tension because she was having trouble adjusting it. The machine is a gem! It’s a 707 Minimatic that was purchased in Africa. The manual is in Dutch, which my neighbor speaks, but I had to rely on the pictures. After a thorough cleaning and some oil, the machine is working again and the tension is perfect.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Read Full Post »

Whenever I lecture or teach on the road, quilters ask me what sewing machine I use. Until about a year ago, the answer was easy. I had been sewing with the same brand for almost thirty years, first with a mechanical model and then with a mid-level computerized model. I developed a relationship with the manufacturer and even filmed a webisode for one of their websites. I loved those machines, and so I never really compared brands.

The Quilt Patch

A few years ago, I started teaching at my local quilt shop, The Quilt Patch, also known as Bernina of Northern Virginia. Each time I carried my non-Bernina sewing machine into the shop to teach a class, I was faced with a classroom of mostly Berninas. I started to learn about Berninas and I started to covet those Berninas. When the 830 came out (followed closely by the promise of a more affordable 820 without embroidery capabilities), I started to seriously consider converting. Last year in Houston, I visited the Bernina booth and had wonderful discussions with the Bernina professionals. I played with an 830 and learned more about the upcoming 820. That was the moment when I drank the Bernina Kool-Aid.

Fast forward about a year: My, how things have changed!

Picture of Bernina 820

My New 820

I am now the proud owner of a Bernina 820. I try to put in a few miles every day so that I can learn all about its capabilities. I can’t wait to take the mastery classes!

I am also the new Bernina manager at the Quilt Patch. I’m learning all about Bernina machines as quickly as I can. I go to work full of anticipation and I come home full of new information. There’s so much to learn!

Bernina LogoAnd if this weren’t enough, here’s one more announcement: Bernina has accepted me into their National Artisans Program!  A brand new Artista 730E arrived at my door yesterday. I get to play with that machine for a year, during which I will produce a few products for Bernina and I will put the machine through its paces. I’m really looking forward to playing with the embroidery module.

What a difference a year makes. In future posts, I’ll share what I’m learning about my Berninas. Right now, I have some sewing to do!

Read Full Post »

So, how does a Kindle Addiction relate to quilting? Read on and I’ll tell you.

KindleFor those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that I am an electronic gizmo junkie. I can’t afford to feed my habit as regularly as I’d like or I’d have an iTouch, a Blackberry, a better laptop computer…but I digress. The point is I have some toys.

I didn’t realize I was a junkie until one weekend when my husband and I were driving to the outlaws for a visit. We were collaborating on an eBook we’re writing and I found myself defending all of the stuff I had in the front of my Honda Element – plugged in, charging, or in use. My iPod was plugged into the auxiliary jack, playing one of my favorite playlists. My cell phone was charging, my laptop was up and running Word (We were writing, remember?), and I had my Kindle out so that I could see how well one of my PDFs held its format when it was transferred to the Kindle. Maybe I have a little bit of a problem.

Okay, back to the Kindle. I saved for my new Kindle for almost a year. I had a hard time justifying the purchase of an electronic book reader as long as I could simply open a paper book and read it myself. Why spend the money to buy the electronic reader and then spend additional money to buy each book? Oh, but I wanted it. I really, really wanted it. Finally, I made the purchase and waited eagerly for the UPS man to stop at my house. Of course, it arrived while I was out of town teaching at a quilt show!

You may be thinking that you love books and you’d miss the feel of the book in your hand, the intrinsic beauty of words on the page, the instant knowledge of how far you’ve read and how much you have left. The little voice in the back of my head was afraid I’d miss it too. But no. Here’s why I love my Kindle and how it all relates to quilting.

  • My one little Kindle will store about 1,500 books. Now I have more room on my shelves for fabric and pretty design books that shouldn’t be read on a screen.
  • Kindle books are less expensive than paper books. Most bestsellers are around ten dollars for the Kindle, even those only available in hardback. Some are more expensive, but many are less. In fact, I’m reading some books that were free. That means more money to spend on fabric and paints and thread.
  • I can shop for books from my laptop or directly from my Kindle and download them directly to the Kindle within 60 seconds. There are over 300,000 books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs available. No need to drive to a book store and interrupt sewing time.
  • I don’t need my computer or a wireless network to download a book. I can shop directly from the Kindle from anywhere there is a 3G network for mobile phones. While I’m waiting for my flight to a quilt show or I’m in a hotel room after giving a lecture or workshop, I can always find something I want to read.

I’ll take my Kindle to the Houston show this year and I’ll be able to carry it with me in my purse (because it’s lightweight), read whenever I’m on sensory overload and need a break (because it has an incredibly long battery life before you need to recharge), and shop for new books right there in the Convention Center (assuming there’s a 3G network there).

Now if I could just get the Kindle to clean my house, I’d have so much more time…

Read Full Post »

Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur
Lesley Riley’s New Book

When I started this blog, I never really thought about doing reviews, but Lesley Riley’s new book has made me to want to share.  Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur is the book I would have asked for if I had really thought about it. My friend Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts has been talking about Lutradur for a while and I’ve been reading about it on the pages of Quilting Arts magazine. In fact, Laura Cater-Woods talked about it in class last year. Well, hearing about it wasn’t enough; I wanted to know more.

That’s where Lesley’s new book comes in.  She starts out by telling you about Lutradur — what it is, how it’s made, and why it’s so special. Then she describes 27 things you can do with Lutradur from adding color and pattern (think of the fun things you can do with paint, inks, and dyes), screening and printing, glueing and fusing, needle felting, and even using heat to cut and distort it.

After the techniques, Lesley shares a broad array of projects made by a variety of fiber artists. There’s a project for every taste and temperament, incorporating the techniques in the earlier section of the book. Want to stamp and stencil? It’s in there. Want to create three-dimensional objects with Lutradur? It’s in there. It’s all in there. I can’t wait to try some of these wonderful ideas.

And she makes a suggestion that I really appreciate: she says to pick a new technique for which you already have the tools and try it on one of the pieces of Lutradur included in the back of the book. Yup! The book includes one sheet each of two different weights of Lutradur. And so once you’ve bought the book, you can actually play with the Lutradur without any additional purchases.

Even with the Lutradur in the book, you’ll eventually want more. I recommend visiting Artistic Artifacts’ website for either the 70g- or 100g-weight fiber. To buy the book, visit the Favorite Things page on my website and follow the link. The book is also available from Artistic Artifacts (in person in Alexandria, VA, or online) and the Quilt Patch in Fairfax, VA.

Have some fun with this new mystery fiber. And send me pictures of what you do! I’d love to see it.

Read Full Post »