Posts Tagged ‘Kathy Lincoln’

In 29 days, I am sailing away to the balmy Bahamas on a quilt cruise with Quilt Retreats at Sea. While we are at sea, we’ll be sewing like madwomen. Between now and then, I need to cut 25 quilt kits plus some extras. Wouldn’t it be great to sit down at a retreat and have all of the fabrics completely ready to sew?

Fabric in a basket

I prewash and press all of my fabric before cutting.

As I’m preparing these kits and cutting yards and yards of fabric, I’m thinking about speed and accuracy.

Do not rush when you are rotary cutting. Rushing leads to careless mistakes, resulting in wasted fabric and stitches in your fingers. I have a dear friend who still sports the scar on her finger from such an incident. (You know who you are! And no, that finger is not more attractive just because it is more tapered!)

The secret to speedy fabric cutting is planning and common sense.

Fabric Stack

If you need to cut strips, I think it’s easier if you first sort the fabric by yardage.

  • Look at the entire task in front of you so that you can organize what you need to do.
  • Group similar tasks together to save set up time.
  • Make a list of what you need to cut, what fabrics to use, and how many pieces you need. Mark them off as you complete each task.

The secret to accurate fabric cutting is having the right tools and using them correctly.

Use the rotary cutter that works best for you. Try a few different models to see which one fits your hand best and which open-and-close mechanism is most convenient for you to use. I often switch off to a different model after I’ve been working for a while to give my hand a break.

Use a sharp blade. Use a sharp blade. Use a sharp blade. Your rotary cutter should cut cleanly through all of your layers in one smooth motion (always moving away from you). If it does not, you either need a fresh blade or fewer layers. I cut through no more than 10 layers of fabric at a time. If I miss a small section once, I’ll chalk it up to being tired and not applying enough downward pressure. If I miss cutting through all of the layers twice, I change blades. (Tip: I save the old blades for paper cutting. Use a Sharpie marker to label it and then put the used blade somewhere safe.)

Cutting on the kitchen island

For cutting, find a nice large horizontal space that’s a good height. I like using the island in my kitchen.

Rulers and mats vary in accuracy. Use good quality tools and check their markings for accuracy. My good friend Kathy Lincoln and I don’t often disagree, but we do on this point: I use the lines on the mat (yes, I’ve checked to confirm the markings are accurate) and Kathy uses only the lines on the ruler. Whatever you do, just confirm that your tools are accurate. I like to use the same tools for the entire cutting process to ensure consistency. I’ll change blades, but keep the mat and rulers.

So, how am I approaching this monumental task? Well, I’m taking over the house! I use the kitchen island for pressing fabric and for cutting. I use the table and chairs for organizing stacks of fabric, patterns, and notions. I use large square rulers to transport cut strips and squares from one place to another. Most importantly, I have fun. While I’m cutting, I may listen to a book from Audible or a marathon of one of my favorite TV shows, or I might listen to a custom cruise playlist I compiled just for this project. In less than a month, I’ll be sharing my pattern and fully cut kits with my Friendship Quilt Cruisers!

6,600 2" squares

6,600 2″ squares


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Recently, I was free motion quilting a baby quilt and I was interupted by skipped stitches. Everything would be perfect for a few inches and then I’d have to stop and rip. Since quilting is supposed to be fun (and this wasn’t), I did some research, started experimenting, and finally fixed the problem. Here’s what I learned – along with some words of wisdom from a few of my quilting friends.

What are Skipped Stitches?

The needle holes show where the stitches were skipped.

In free motion quilting, skipped stitches are when the needle carries the top thread into the quilt sandwich, but the thread does not form a stitch. The needle may leave a hole when it pulls out of the quilt, but the top thread also pulls out of the hole. Skipped stitches can come one at a time or several in sequence. I have a tolerance for one here and there, but groups look bad and I rip them out and try to figure out what’s causing the problem.

What Causes Skipped Stitches?

Skipped stitches are caused by incorrect timing in the stitch formation process. For stitches to form properly, the hook and needle’s bottom position must be timed just right. There are factors that can affect this:

  • How you prepare your sewing machine for free motion quilting
  • Thread size and quality
  • Needle size and type
  • Presser foot choice
  • Presser foot pressure
  • Your free motion quilting technique

As you make adjustments to solve the skipping problem, remember to change one thing at a time and test on a quilt sandwich that matches the quilt you’re working on.

Machine Preparation

Everything you need to clean your machine

  • Make sure the machine is threaded properly. This sounds simple, but a small oversight can cause big issues. Michele Scott, quilter, author, teacher, suggests turning the machine off and back on to restart or reboot to reset anything that may have become “goofy.”
  • Michele Scott also suggests trying a single hole or straight stitch throat (stitch) plate. The smaller opening leaves less room for the quilt to flap as the needle punctures the quilt sandwich, pushing it down and pulling it back up.
  • Reduce the top thread tension. Start with small changes, but don’t be afraid to approach zero. Just keep checking where the stitch locks (top thread with bobbin thread) to make sure you’re fixing your skipping problem and not causing a tension problem.
  • Make sure your feed dogs are down. I know, but check anyway. If you can’t cover them or lower them, then set the stitch length to zero to keep them from moving.
  • Make sure the needle is inserted completely and properly.
  • Clean the bobbin area and make sure there are no errant threads hiding there. Oil, if appropriate.
  • Victoria Findlay Wolfe, artist, quilter, and owner of Bumble Beans, Inc., suggests getting rid of all those dust bunnies hiding under your throat (stitch) plate. You may be surprised by how many you find!
  • Shannon Shirley, an award-winning quilter, says she gives her machine a good cleaning. Sounds like a great idea!


Successful combination of thread for this baby quilt

  • Use quality thread. This will cut down on lint (bonus!) and make a nicer stitch.
  • Try a different size thread. Sometimes really small threads can be too small to be caught by the hook. If this is consistently a problem, take your machine in to be serviced and explain the problem. This is an easy adjustment.  Try a thread that’s one step larger to see if this is the issue.
  • According to Kathy Lincoln, who teaches machine quilting, some batiks grab the thread fiber, interfering with good stitch formation. If batiks are giving you trouble, trying a finer thread could be the solution.


  • Dull or damaged needles can cause skipped stitches. Change your needle.
  • Use the right needle for your machine. I like Schmetz for my Bernina.
  • Microtex/Sharp needles work well with tightly woven fabrics, like batiks.
  • Topstitch needles have a bigger eye, which can be helpful if you are using larger thread.
  • Needles that are too small can cause flapping (why do they call it flagging?). Start with 80/12 and move up from there.
  • Kathy Lincoln says this about needles: It may seem counter-intuitive, but try going from a sharp point to a ball point needle. The ball point will separate the fibers instead of cutting through them.

Bernina presser feet, left to right: #15, #44c, BSR with clear plastic sole

Presser Feet

  • Start with whatever foot your machine manufacturer recommends. Generally, a darning foot is fine.
  • My Bernina foot #15 is my go-to foot for free motion quilting.
  • If flapping (flagging) becomes an issue, go for a foot that has more surface area, like Bernina’s #44. If you’re using the Bernina Stitch Regulator (the BSR), use the clear plastic sole. The idea is to provide as much coverage around the needle as possible to cut down on flapping.

Presser Foot Pressure

  • If the skipped stitches are caused by flapping, then increasing presser foot pressure can help reduce the flapping. While the presser foot does not actually ride on the fabric while you are free motion quilting as it does in regular sewing, increasing the pressure can limit the space within which the quilt sandwich can flap up and down.
  • Change presser foot pressure in small increments (On my Bernina, I change in increments of 5, starting with the default 50 setting) and test, test, test. For the batik baby quilt, I finally fixed the problem with a presser foot pressure set at 85.


  • Don’t push the fabric too fast. If you can’t slow your hand speed, then increase the machine speed.
  • Use your hands to keep the target section flat and firm (but not stretched or tight). I keep my hands flat, fingers at 12:00 and thumbs pointed toward each other at 3:00 and 9:00. Think of the stereotypical film director framing a shot with his hands. The area between my hands is where I stitch. Yes, you have to reposition your hands pretty often and, yes, it’s worth it.
  • Try to keep a steady, consistent speed.
  • Make a test sandwich out of the same materials you are using in your quilt. Test before you move to the quilt. Seriously. I like to skip this, but it’s best to play it safe. Use it to test tension and stitch quality.
  • I have an anonymous quilting buddy who says she switches off her machine and heads to the kitchen for an adult beverage. Hmm. That sounds like a plan. Take a break and start fresh later.

If nothing here works, then your machine timing may be off. You may need to take it in to your machine tech for service. Be prepared to sew at the shop and demonstrate the skipped stitches. Take your quilt or the test sandwich with you to the shop.

My baby quilt has a batik top, batik backing, and thin cotton batting. I was quilting on my Bernina 820 with Superior Threads’s King Tut (cotton 40-weight thread) in the top and Aurifil Mako (50-weight cotton thread) in the bobbin. The winning combination was a 90/14 topstitch needle, 1.25 top thread tension, the Bernina Stitch Regulator with the clear plastic sole set on BSR 1, and the presser foot pressure set at 85.  Now I just need to finish the binding!

For more information about this quilt, read my previous blog entry.

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Tiki Roll from Sew BatikEvery year, I go to the beach with a passel of girlfriends to celebrate friendship, talk about quilting (for fun and profit), and decompress. This year, I came directly here from the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Virginia, driving my orange quilt truck filled to the top with sewing machines, fabric, supplies, and Kathy Lincoln, my partner in crime.

Today, I spent some of my time working on a baby quilt for new neighbors. My husband and I were thrilled when they bought a house on our street and we’re doubly happy that they are expecting. While I was at the MAQF last week, I searched for a kit (I have very limited time and kits are okay) for a baby quilt. There were lots of kits, but nothing that made my heart sing — until I visited my friend Bruce, owner of Sew Batiks. His Tiki Rolls made the perfect kit for a baby quilt top — (2) 2″ strips of 20 different (and lovely) batiks that only Sew Batik carries.

Strips from the Tiki RollI laid out the pre-cut strips, sticking very close to the order in which there were packaged. So pretty! I often tell my classes to let the fabric do the work. In this case, I thought that was good advice — and the fabric is soooo pretty.

At my sewing machineDid I mention that I had the best possible sewing space? I had an unobstructed view of the ocean, which proved quite distracting. Sew, admire the pelicans, sew, look for dolphins, sew, take a break. Sigh. It’s a wonder I got anything done at all! Can you see the ocean through the window?

To end, a few random thoughts about this quilt and the baby who receives it:

  • I’d like to think that as I pieced the quilt, I infused the peace of this place into each seam.
  • I’d like to think that Bruce’s generosity, his calm demeanor, and his positive nature are woven into his fabric.
  • I’d like to think that the baby who receives this quilt feels the powerful influences and love that went into this quilt top.

I love this place and I love the time I get to spend here. I am fortunate.

Leap Year

Left to right: Kathy Lincoln, Sue Reich, me, Mary Kerr, and Shannon Shirley.  Picture by Darla Pittman.

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I cannot overstate how important it is to get out of Dodge every once in a while. Sometimes you just need a change of venue to spark your productivity and clear your creative palette.


Me, Mary, and Kathy

It’s  been a long year, filled with rough patches and happy surprises. The fact that I’m able to be here, sharing a friend’s hospitality, is a tribute to the power of positive energy. The house where I’m staying is roomy and has been filled with an ever-changing cast of friends and family for the last week.

The trip has been on my calendar for a good six months and I’ve looked forward to it each time deadlines loomed and things looked dark. Getting away doesn’t make everything magically better, but it does allow perspectives to shift and energies to be realigned.


Cut Blocks Ready to Sew

Take productivity for example. Every year I spend some time with friends at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. For the past two years, this small group has done a block exchange. I’ve had a really hard time getting around to those blocks this year, despite the fact that I really want the quilt that will result. And so, I packed the fabrics, the pattern, and the tools, and I planned to work on them here. Here’s a shot of all 75 blocks, cut and ready to stitch together. The pattern is from Alex Anderson Classics and is called Holiday Lights.


Five Sample Blocks

My friend Kathy Lincoln has already made this quilt once and was here to guide me through the use of a specialty ruler and a borrowed Bernina. (More about Bernina in a later post!)

All 75 blocks are now sewn and ready for the exchange! I used this long pillow as a small makeshift design wall. How cute are these trees?! Now I think I have to make a pillow to go with the quilt.


Kathy Working Hard

My friend Kathy has been feverishly working on billions and billions (okay, 472) flying geese units for a class she’ll offer at the Quilt Patch during the next session. 


Kathy's Geese

 This shot of the blocks was taken by Mary’s daughter, Katherine McPherson. Check out her work at www.katherinemcphersonphotography.com.

Mary has been working on surprises and I can’t include any pictures here. I’d hate to let the cats out of the bag!
Away from the day-to-day, usual routines, I find that I can breathe a little easier. I can relax a little and put things in perspective. In fact, I just delegated dinner salad duties to Jeannie, another quilter staying here. Those of you who know me will know how out of character it is for me to give away jobs and responsibilities. Now I’m going to go do the prep work for tonight’s dinner of smoked salmon piccata with fettucini.

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Cyndi Souder, Lynda Prioleau, Kathy Lincoln

Cyndi Souder, Lynda Prioleau, Kathy Lincoln

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could combine the activities we love and then spend time sharing them with friends?

I’m a big fan of tea. No, not drowning a teabag in a mug of hot water; I mean tea in a china cup with delicate munchies and wonderful friends with whom to share it all.

I’m also a big fan of special clothes. I love clothes, but I have a hard time finding things that I think look good on me while being appropriate. I think Stacy and Clinton (You know who I mean!) would have a field day in my closet.

When my friend Judy Gula of Artistic Artifacts started talking about offering clothing patterns in her shop, I was very interested. I started sewing a very, very, very long time ago by making a pink short sleeved dress with a stand up collar embellished with a floral ribbon. Honestly! I continued to sew until I realized that I liked quiltmaking more. Flat is easier to sew, believe me. Now I think it’s time to revisit that decision and try to find time to make some of my own pieces.

Judy rolled out her new program, which she calls Artistic Couture, a little while ago with a tea and pattern party. Many of us made garments for the occasion and I managed to create a top. The pants and jacket are off the rack, and the top represents more un-sewing than I’ve done on one project for a long time.

TeacupThe pattern is the Mimosa Top from The Sewing Workshop Collection. It’s sleeveless and comfortable. It should have been really easy to make, but I’m clearly out of practice.  Okay, details. The fabric is a lightweight rayon from Britex in San Francisco, purchased ages ago. Great drape, nice hand. The band that forms the neckline is made from ombre silk (brown to black), pintucked and topstitched — and bought that way from Bohemian Elements last year at the Houston show. The silk wasn’t wide enough, of course, so I had to figure out how to piece it while maintaining the little rows of tucks. Sigh. More ripping commenced. I added length to the front and back and will probably sew the fronts together (eliminating potential gaps and slippage) before I wear it again. All in all, I like it and I’ll use it. And I’ll probably go on to make something else. It was fun.

And, yes, I know that’s the face my grandmother warned against making, lest it freeze that way. Sorry, Nana!

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In My Shade Garden

Don’t you love it when good things actually happen for good people? When the lottery winner seems nice or when the the person who wins the door prize seems genuinely happy? Well, I am thrilled to share this with you!

My friend and colleague, Kathy Lincoln, has a quilt featured in the new issue (February/March) of Quilters Newsletter! Her quilt, In My Shade Garden, is featured, along with directions. And they’ve included a detail shot on their Table of Contents page! Too cool!

Kathy Lincoln

Kathy Lincoln

If you’re a subscriber, you have probably already received your copy. If not, you’ll need to wait until the Dec/Jan issue of Quilter’s Newsletter comes off the newsstands and is replaced with this one.

Kathy offers a workshop that features this quilt and includes timesaving tips and tricks.  Check out her website: www.KathyLincoln.com.

Good stuff, good people. It’s all good.

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I keep saying that I don’t do vintage, but I just finished my (very late) fifth entry in Mary Kerr’s Vintage Revisited challenge. Mary is a talented quilt appraiser and artist who specializes in vintage materials. For this challenge, she gathered a group of 19 quilters who were willing to work with vintage blocks on and off for two years. I didn’t do this for the vintage; I agreed to participate because I didn’t want to miss out on the fun.

Vintage Revisited Block 5

Vintage Revisited Block 5

Did I mention fun? Well, here’s the fifth block in this six block challenge. Okay, get ready to play along. Here are the rules:

  • You must use at least some of the fabric. (There’s some disagreement in the ranks on this as some of the quilters believe you must use ALL of the fabric!)
  • You can do anything you want to the fabric: paint, dye, stamp (I love to stamp!), whatever.
  • The finished piece must be 24 inches square.
  • The subject matter of your piece is up to you; it doesn’t need to relate to anything vintage.

And so what do you do with this? Okay, I know that some of you might actually like this poor, faded, malpieced block, but once you get past feeling sorry for it, what do you do?

Circling the Drain
Circling the Drain

The first thing I always do is free the fabric from the block.  That’s right, I rip the pieces apart and assess the fabric I have to work with. In this case, the fabric was weak and faded. Okay, I guess I would be too, if I were this old!

Once I have just fabric, I can begin to look for a vision. I fill my head with as many ideas as I can about fabrics that coordinate, bits and pieces I can add for embellishment, and techniques that might work well. The fabric was weak, and so I knew I needed to fuse it to give it added strength. The fabric was unevenly faded, and so I stamped it to make it appear more consistent.
And now for a vision. Well, this vision didn’t come as quickly as I had hoped.  When the time came to give Mary a title, I had nothing. I felt like my ideas were all dead ends — going nowhere — and so I named the formless quilt: Circling the Drain. Now I was locked into using that image somehow. Then Mary called for artist’s statements.  Still no quilt. And so I wrote a statement that I hoped would be general enough to work with whatever I wound up making but specific enough to be worth reading. You be the judge when you see these quilts in person.


Some of the other quilts I made for this challenge dealt with letters and writing, and so I pulled out some commercial cotton with postage stamps on it and some pen nibs that Judy Gula of ArtisticArtifacts.com found for me. The rest is just what happens when you block out enough time in your studio and put some great music on your iPod.


So where’s the fabric from the original block? I took the brown, the blue, and the pink polka dot, added fusible to the back, stamped it all with travel-related images in black ink, and fused it all down. I added the pen nibs to the center.

I have a killer idea for the final block. My concern now is whether my skills can make what my brain can imagine. Stay tuned. I’ll blog this block in progress.

Read more about Vintage Revisited, including the exhibit’s travel schedule, on Mary’s website: www.MaryWKerr.com.

See the other treasures Judy Gula stocks on: www.ArtisticArtifacts.com. If you are local to northern Virginia, check out her bricks-and-mortar store in Alexandria.


Thanks to Kathy Lincoln (www.KathyLincoln.com) for providing the picture of the block intact. I ripped mine apart too quickly for a photo.

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