Electric needles…

“You are not machine quilting.  It’s hand-quilting with an electric needle.”  Harriet Hargrave

I’m here today to chat about a new book – Christa Watson‘s Machine Quilting With Style.  But a little history is in order.

Harriet wrote that as the opening line of her landmark book, Heirloom Machine Quilting, first published in 1987.  If you weren’t quilting back then, it’s hard to describe the extent to which it changed how quilters viewed machine-quilted quilts.  While it took a little longer for some quilters to come around, without Harriet, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today.

Through all the books I’ve read on the subject in the years since, it’s notable how many acclaimed machine-quilters cite Harriet’s book – or one of its many editions – as their starting point.


I was already machine-quilting when this book came out but it helped.  (Though where was Harriet when I needed her to tell me not to baste a quilt on a shag carpet?)

With bigger quilts, starting a business and the invention of long-arm quilt machines, I wasn’t doing as much quilting.  I would occasionally quilt a small project or two… usually just enough to be reminded that this wasn’t exactly like riding a bike, that regular practice was – is – a necessary thing.

Flash forward to today.  I find myself doing a lot more machine-quilting with my small projects.

CT-My-Machine-Quilting 1

Most of what I quilt is straight line – sometimes with a wavy stitch.  I like straight-line quilting – especially what is often called “organic wavy lines”.  I’m not really big on marking lines so I mark my first line – usually with a Hera marker, chalk or masking tape – and then use my presser-foot as a guide.  If it’s not perfectly accurate… whatever.

So when Christa’s new book came across my desk, I was excited to read it.  I was familiar with Christa’s terrific quilts and her machine-quilting from Instagram and her blog, and whenever someone is that good, I know there is plenty to learn.  Even if it’s something small – like finding out that we like the same kind of Aurifil 50 wt. thread – it gives me confidence that I’m heading in the right direction.

The book is divided into four sections:

Introduction & You Can Be The Quilter.  After a short introduction from Christa, the second chapter is a short overview on batting, thread, pressing, feeding the quilt through the machine and other things that are important to know before you actually start quilting.  What I like best is that Christa takes the approach of “this is what works for me” – and “this is why I think this will work for you”.  I was thrilled that she doesn’t roll or fold the quilt neatly while stitching, preferring to “scrunch and smoosh” it out of the way as needed.  (Me too.)

Finishing Touches.  This is at the end of the book but I put it here because the middle two sections are the most important – and the most fun.  The subjects covered in this last section are piecing quilt backs, layering the “quilt sandwich” and bindings.

Walking Foot Wonders.  There are seven wonderfully original quilt projects in this section, each quilted with a wonderfully original quilt design that is done with a walking foot.

Finals B1324.indd

This is Square In A Square and this is the terrific design Christa used for the quilting.

Finals B1324.indd

(Both photographs of Square In A Square are the work of Brent Kane.)

Throughout the book, there are boxes with tips – Line Guides, Avoid Quilting On Empty, Triangle Tip Placement and Bobbin Along.  The tips are for both piecing and quilting – and they’re placed to be relevant to the project and technique used in that particular quilt project.

Free-Motion Favorites. The five quilts in this section build on the skills learned in the first section – or you can jump right into free-motion since Christa’s instructions are so good.  There are ten different free-motion quilt motifs presented, starting with basic stippling – which I’ve always found to be much harder than it looks – and moving into waves, pebbles and loops.

So do you need this book?  Even if you’re a machine-quilting dynamo, I’d bet there is something in this book that you don’t know.  It’s got that much terrific information – and twelve really good quilt projects.  If you’re like me and you’re looking to pick up a few tips to improve your skills, then yes, I think Christa’s book is a worthy addition to your library.

Trust me – it’s a really good book.  (That’s why I’m keeping the copy I have!)

Since this is a blog hop, there are other “stops” to hop to – Christa’s got the complete schedule listed on her blog.

A hop without a giveaway isn’t any fun at all so we’ve got you covered there too.

Just leave a comment by midnight on Sunday – September 20th –  telling us if you do any machine quilting – and if you do, what’s the biggest project you quilted? (My biggest machine-quilting project was 88″ x 88″.  Never again.  Just saying.)

If you don’t machine-quilt, that’s okay too.  Maybe you’d like to learn.

Someone will win a copy of Christa’s book, Machine Quilting with Style, and a Fat Quarter Bundle of Basic Mixologie by Studio M.  (It’s even better in person.)


There’s enough to make a big quilt!  And after reading Christa’s book, you can quilt it yourself!

While I love quilting my little projects, I’m inspired and energized by the quilts and quilting in the book to consider taking on a bigger project sometime soon.  (After Quilt Market, of course.)


So go say Hi to Christa – check out the blog schedule, see what you’ve missed and then go have a look-see at her book.  And if you’re on Instagram, be sure to say Hi to Christa at @christaquilts and see the projects at #machinequiltingwithstyle.

And be sure to vote for which quilt you’d like to see Christa make in January!  She’s planning a quilt-along and can’t decide which quilt from the book to make – re-make – so she wants you to decide. You can see each of the quilts on a blog listed on Christa’s blog hop schedule, and then you can vote for your favorite here.

Happy Saturday!

(P.S. Don’t worry if you don’t see your comment appear – it’s there.  Wordpress is being a little persnickety right now.)

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Jan Patek: Moda’s Second “Oldest” Designer

dp_jan-patek-300x282So maybe I shouldn’t have tapped Sandy Gervais as Moda’s “oldest” designer, because that means I have to refer to Jan Patek as the second “oldest.” What I really mean, of course, is that they are the longest-designing-designers on Moda’s roster. As we celebrate Moda’s 40 years in business, we thought it would be fun to acknowledge Sandy’s and Jan’s designing longevity and hear a bit about what it was like to be a Moda designer in the early days. So I hope they both forgive the “old” moniker!

Jan Patek’s first designs appeared just a few months after Sandy’s. Jan and her designing partner Linda Brannock, were discovered by Moda in 1995, when they had side-by-side booths at Quilt Market. The distinctive look that attracted the attention of Mark Dunn and Cheryl Freydberg was their overdyed fabrics. “We both loved antique quilts, but you can’t use them or you’ll tear them,” says Jan. “So we had been overdying our fabrics to get that antique feel. We both lived in the middle of the prairie and wanted that warm, cozy look.”

Coming Home Again

Jan’s Coming Home Again quilt, in which she overdyed red-and-white striped fabric she’d bought from Linda Brannock’s garage sale.

After being approached by Moda, Jan and Linda went home and overdyed some more. Their first line of fabric was From the Prairie.

From the Prairie From the Prairie2

From the Prairie Chair

From the Prairie fabric line was printed in upholstery weight fabric, too.

Anniversary Quilt

Anniversary quilt made with Jan and Linda’s From the Prairie line.

In those pre-scanner days, fabric had to be shipped back and forth and getting just the right color was tricky. “Once Cheryl sent me Pantone color cards, but those colors are all so clear that they didn’t work,” says Jan. Today she can find paint chips that mimic the warmth of the antiqued shades she’s known for.

Winter Quilt

Jan’s Winter Quilt made from Herb Garden and Second Plantings lines.

Not having a scanner made a difference in designing quilts that would show off the newest lines at Market, too. “Sometimes quilts made out of a line wouldn’t get done until two or three Markets later,” says Jan, who admits that making them sooner was tricky not only because fabric didn’t show up until very near Market time, but also because the fabric provides inspiration. “Especially with appliqué, the fabric itself kicks off ideas for the quilts.”

Rudolph & Co

Rudolph & Co from Say It with Flowers

With the advent of the computer age, Jan took lessons InDesign lessons at her local Apple store and is now proficient at creating quilt designs on the computer. She finds a click of the mouse a much easier way to audition fabrics than individually cutting pieces and placing them on her design wall. But she still draws out the images for her fabrics by hand.

November's Song

November’s Song stitched from the Porch Swing line

Quilt Market has provided lots of memories over the years.

Booth Fall 2011

Jan’s Quilt Market booth Fall 2011

Jan and her husband Pep have become adept at setting up booths at Quilt Market, though Pep says if he’d known at that first Market that they’d look like the Beverley Hillbillies coming down the road, he might have demurred.

Been to storage unit

Jan’s and Pep’s car is packed to the gills on their drives to Market.

Pep & Bruce

The spouses of Moda’s two “oldest” designers have know each other for years. Here, Jan’s husband, Pep, and Sandy Gervais’ husband, Bruce, get a break from driving, hauling, setting up and tearing down to hang out at Market.

Jenny Doan (“before she was all famous” says Jan) helped with a booth one year and asked Jan if she had any red-and-white socks. When Jan told her no, Jenny said “That’s okay, I’ll bring some.” It turned out Jenny had plans for she and Jan to dress as Raggedy Anne and Andy.

Raggedy Ann & Andy Oct 2010

Jenny Doan and Jan as Raggedy Andy and Anne at 2010 Quilt Market

And Jan says that she needs a 10-minute nap after lunch, even if it’s in her booth. Here someone caught her getting her 10 winks.

Nap at Market

Jan manages to fit in her 10-minute, post-lunch nap, even while at Market!

Jan’s 20-year relationship with Moda provides a lot of satisfaction. “They’ve always been very supportive, and I love the way the fabric looks and feels—it’s extremely high quality,” she says. “If there’s a bump, Cheryl and Mark work with you. And besides, I’ve been married for 46 years, so I don’t fritter around!”

Max & Josie's Wedding Quilt

Max and Josie’s Wedding Quilt from Millennium Garden

Sadly, Linda Brannock stepped back from designing several years ago and passed away in June. While Jan’s been designing fabric lines solo since 2013, she has fond memories of working with Linda. “She was a neat lady and a great designer,” says Jan. “Working together, we would start off with an idea and there was lots of back and forth. Our ideas sparked more ideas in one another, in designing and color. It was so much fun to work with her.”

Pumpkins, Turkeys & Geese-R

Pumpkins, Turkeys, and Geese from the Harvest Home line.

Though she goes it alone, now, designing fabrics still bring satisfaction. “I’ve done it for 20 years and it’s a big part of my life,” she says of the approximately 50 lines she’s created. And quilting is a daily event. Every morning she feeds the animals on her farm, then gets her coffee, puts on her earphones to listen to devotional tapes, and sews for an hour or more. At the end of the day she does the same thing, listening to TV while her husband watches, and sews. “I developed needleturn appliqué so that I can prep it during the day and then just sit and work on it in the evening and not have to jump up.”

Brian's Quilt 2 R

Brian’s Quilt sewn with the Say It With Flowers line.

Jan recently finished recording an episode of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, which will air in December or January. And she continues to teach occasional workshops and produce her mystery BOM quilts. “I really enjoy them because it’s fun to not just use my fabric—that’s a challenge sometimes—but to use other Moda fabrics—Minick and Simpson, Sandy Gervais, Primitive Gatherings, Lynn Hagemaier, and Blackbird Designs. If I can’t make quilts, truthfully, I get depressed.”

We’re lucky Jan keeps her spirits up by designing quilts and fabrics. Which lines have you used and enjoyed in your quilts?



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What I Sewed Last Summer

Carrie’s post yesterday alluded to going back to school, and one of those things you always had to tell when you returned to the classroom was “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” Unfortunately, in grown-up land, summer isn’t all vacation time. Still, there’s time for a little sewing, and while I was thinking ahead about National Sewing Month and what I might whip up in September, I also thought  about how I spent my summer sewing time.

While I love to quilt, there’s so much to do outside in summer that smaller projects seem best. I also work one day a week in a fabric and yarn shop—Home Ec Workshop in Iowa City—and we’re always on the lookout for projects that make for good classes, so my small projects sometimes translate into classes. Iowa City is a college town and our busy customers enjoy a quick class that can give them the satisfaction of making something without a big time commitment. (At the same time, we find lots who have sewing machines and can’t wait to use them. Our School of Sewing classes, based on the great book by Shea Henderson, always have a waiting list.)


At any rate, my summer sewing consisted of just one baby quilt, along with checkbook covers, bags to carry to the Farmer’s Market, and tops. Yup, I delved into the world of garment sewing.

I started sewing garments again a couple of summers ago. (Like many of us, I really started in junior high, but haven’t done much since high school.) Two years ago I took a class at our shop to make the Sorbetto top from the free pattern available here. The popularity of garment sewing is definitely on the rise and this one, with no zippers and no buttons seemed pretty basic and I thought I could handle it. But my body isn’t so basic, and fit is always a challenge. (I think that’s probably why a lot of us who love sewing turn to quilting—no fitting issues!) My first top just didn’t work, so I spent some time perusing YouTube and came upon a fantastic technique classes on Creativebug. Thanks to the bust adjustment class taught by Liesl Gibson, I figured out how to make a top that fit and went on to make three of them. This summer it was the Sailor Top that struck my fancy—floaty, light, and simple-to-sew. I can’t wait for Moda’s new lawns to be available in January. They’ll be the perfect weight for tops like these. (The fabrics below are from Moda’s previous Regent Street Lawn collection.)



I mentioned my checkbook cover: Check-writing has almost become a thing of the past, but nevertheless I usually write a few each month. I’d hung on to a bit of Janet Clare’s Hearty Good Wishes whale fabric and thought it would be perfect for taking the sting out of paying bills. I lined it with Abi Hall’s On a Wing. It took almost no time at all and makes me happy every time I see it.Version 3Finally, the one quilt I stitched was for a Scottish baby. Little Belle’s parents lived in Iowa City for eighteen months and Belle’s mom, Katie, was fascinated by Iowa quilts. So when I got a bit of Bren Riddle’s Amberside, I knew just what to do with it (along with a few other fabrics from my stash, as I didn’t have quite enough Ambleside). And just for kicks, I decided to use gray sashing, as the baby’s last name is Gray.

Auditioning for Ambleside


Ambleside baby quilt

Belle was born just two weeks before moving back to Scotland with her parents and one morning I offered to watch her so her parents could pack. I actually sewed the label on the quilt while I was holding her—can you imagine anything sweeter? Just last week I got a picture from Katie of Belle on her quilt, which made me a happy woman. The colors aren’t very true, but I thought you’d still like to see this sweet babe.

Baby Belle on Ambleside

What did you stitch this summer? Have you tried any clothing, yet? What are looking forward to stitching this month? Let us know!

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Primed and ready to go…

I rather liked school.  Not the homework part of it so much as the social side of things – big surprise, right?

So when an invite to a party blog hop involving a primer, grades, pre-cuts and quilts arrived, I jumped right on the bus!  The timing is perfect – school has been starting!


We’re having fun with Barb & Mary – Me & My Sister.  (No comment on whether one or both of them ever spent much time in the Principal’s office.)


This is their latest book – Pre-cut Primer.  It’s been published by Kimberly Jolly and the other nice ladies at It’s Sew Emma – the Fat Quarter Shop.  The “teacher in charge” of this field trip is the Jolly Jabber.

In addition to Barb and Mary, Kimberly and her crew, we’ve got the following quilty-folks in attendance.  (I think it’s going to get a bit rowdy… you’ve been warned.)

September 2nd – Pat Sloan & April Rosenthal

September 3rd – Corey Yoder

September 4th –  Amy Ellis

September 7thJane Davidson & Heidi Grohs

September 8th – Sherri McConnell

September 9th – Melissa Corry & Lissa Alexander


What you need to know about the book is simple – it’s perfect if you’re looking for an assortment of cute quilts – big and small – that use pre-cuts.  The quilts work in almost every Moda collection you might have in your stash or will buy in the future – traditional and modern.  The projects range in difficulty level from “easy peasy” – 1st Grade – to a little more “time-consuming” – 12th Grade.  But even the “high school” quilts are put together with basic units that you’re familiar with.  Beginning quilters and experienced quilters will enjoy making the quilts – and making them more than once.  (Which makes this very unlike “real school”… who’d ever want to do that again?)

Now this is when I should probably ‘fess up to not having been one of those “model students” who was always getting gold stars for doing things like following directions.  That’s why I made a project without asking – or without seeing if someone else was already doing that one.  (If I’d known I was going to be copying April, I would have switched.)

Or maybe I should be back in 2nd Grade to learn “good citizenship”.  (Is that still taught in elementary school?)


This is the 2nd Grade quilt.  It’s made with Mini Charm packs – which is part of the reason I picked it, I had a couple of those that I really wanted to use to make something.  (It is National Sewing Month after all!)

Barb & Mary’s quilt is made with Hi-De-Ho – their cute collection that just shipped to stores a month or so ago.

I used 30s Playtime 2015 by Chloe’s Closet and one of the woven-solids from the new Pure & Simple collection of brushed wovens.

That “gold star” thing is now going to make even more sense… I sort of changed the pattern just a tiny bit.

I made twenty-five blocks instead of twenty, and I used a 1/2″ finished sashing instead of a 1″.  I wanted to make a pillow.  With borders and after a trip through the washer and dryer, it measures about 23″ square.


I think I might need to make another one… if for no other reason than to see if I can make it following the directions.

You’re thinking about “old dogs”, aren’t you?

One last thing… this wouldn’t be a blog hop without one.  This wouldn’t be a Moda blog hop without a couple.


Prizes.  Every blog hop needs them.  They’re like recess.

Leave a comment by midnight on Monday, September 7th – Labor Day – telling us who your favorite teacher was in school.  Or class.  Or grade.  Any one of those will do – or all three.  (No extra credit for doing twice the homework.)

If you’re lucky, you might find a little Dot. Dot. Dash-! in your mailbox – those little bundles are Layer Cakes.  I think there’s a Jelly Roll involved too.

Happy Hopping!

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Moda’s Very Own Aussie: Jen Kingwell


We’ve been talking about the wonders of Australia on the blog this week, and it’s time to focus on designer Jen Kingwell. Jen’s ability to combine color and pattern are truly unique (and that’s a word my journalism professors told me not to use unless something was truly one-of-a-kind—in this case it is.)  The fabrics Jen’s designed for Moda convey that talent perfectly. There will be more to come from Jen, so keep your eyes peeled, but for now let’s catch up with her. You may remember that she spent the past couple of years living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She moved back to Australia in February, and thanks to a second move is still unpacking.


This is Jen’s sewing studio. “As you can see, not much is happening at the moment,” she says. “Those boxes aren’t all fabric, but mostly.”


Thanks for stepping away from the boxes, Jen, and sharing some time with Cutting Table readers!

• How has life changed since you’ve returned to Australia? Are there things you miss about the UAE?

Since my return life has been incredibly busy. Like everyone, with change comes new ideas and you see things from a different perspective. When living overseas we had furnished the villa with just essentials, no clutter, and on return I realised our house was in need of a major overhaul. So big of an overhaul we decided to sell up and move……I am now officially a hoarder no longer.
I enjoyed my time in the UAE but there is nothing like home and family. I missed my girls terribly while I was away. The other thing I really missed was the change of seasons. The desert looks pretty much the same summer and winter. We have moved to the coast and I could sit for hours and watch the changing sky as storm fronts roll in.

This is Jen’s sewing view. She says it’s worth every bit of packing, decluttering, and moving.

But there are things I miss about the UAE. I was time “rich” there. We lived in a very local area. I had few distractions so plenty of time to design and sew. It was great as this was when I was writing my book Quilt Lovely. Back at home I am busy with “things.” Lovely things like friends and family, dining out, coffee with a friend,  just all those normal things I missed so much.
Hip to Be Square and Puppy

Nine-year-old Matilda (Tilda) belongs to Jen’s daughter, Meg. (Jen says this makes her Tilda’s “dogma.”) Matilda’s become an escape artist and is staying with Jen until Meg figures out her escape route.

• Tell us about your new book, Quilt Lovely. What inspired it?Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell
I started writing the book soon after I arrived in the Middle East. It was a great time to do it and I think it helped me to settle and gave me a focus. I started with one idea and just worked my way through. Pat Sloan ask me in her podcast if I had a plan or theme. She giggled when I said I made one quilt, then thought about the next and moved forward, but that’s the way I like to work. I found a project on the weekend that I had started over there and when I was looking at it thought ” Oh I know what would look great,” so it’s changing as it grows.
I work in a very “organic” way. I start with one idea but things change and evolve along the way. Sometimes one idea become two projects or two can meld together into one. I did try to include in the book some different techniques and looks so there was a good variety of projects to stitch. As I’m sure everyone is aware I’ve been a lover of hand stitching for a very long time and in the perfect world would hand stitch everything, but I know not everyone has my passion for this.
Hip to Be Square detail Jen Kingwell

Detail of Jen’s Hip to Be Square quilt

I’m so pleased to see hand stitching becoming more popular. I love that it encourages us to slow down a little and enjoy the process. It’s portable: I stitch on planes, trains, and in automobiles! And I love that it is so sociable. Just last week I was teaching a class in New Zealand and the noise level in the room was incredible as everyone chatted and laughed. Most of these women were dedicated machine stitchers but seemed to really enjoy the “therapy”  of needle, thread and a good old chat. I just love sitting and stitching. I never tire of it. I can feel my blood pressure lower as I pick up my stitching. It’s like a giant exhale.
•We’ve been thinking this week about the similarities and differences between quilters from Australia and other places. Any thoughts?

Jen’s Hip to Be Square quilt on the cover of QUILTmania.

I get asked this question quite often and am not sure of the answer. We are a great melting pot of cultures, and we are a long way from the rest of the world,  but we are also great travellers so we experience different countries and what they have to offer. I think our style is a lovely mixture of a lot of wonderful ideas and things from all corners of the world. We have some great designers.
Our quilt stores are much smaller than in the U.S. Our population is smaller so each store seems to develop a niche style.
Hand stitching is definitely popular here and has been for decades. It’s not a new thing. I don’t think we see it as “fashionable or not,”  it’s more about enjoyment and passion. I smile inwardly sometimes when things become “new” again. Big stitch quilting, for example, has been around forever. I guess that’s the one good thing about being geriatric…..I’m just pleased I can still remember!!!
Hip to Be Square 1
But I can also remember coming to the U.S. many years ago and I feel that hand stitching was popular back then also. I guess things just change all the time, clever designers come up with new ways and techniques. Like fashion, quilting is cyclic.
Well, we’re so glad that Jen is part of that cycle and look forward to her future creations!
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