Starts with an “S”…

One of the things I always find so interesting at a quilt show is the response that people have to what they see.  Spend thirty minutes in front of a single quilt and you’ll see people glance at the quilt, smile briefly and continue walking while others will stand there for a very long time examining every possible detail with a look of awe.  Much of the difference is surely about personal taste, and perhaps some of it is about preference or bias – hand-quilted vs. machine-quilted.

It always makes me think of the nature of inspiration.  More specifically, to the meaning of “inspire” as being “to animate” – to bring life to, to make alive.  Just as it is with any kind of art, something in the work shows a vision… of color, of possibility, of an emotion.


Fabric.  Wool.  Thread.


Stitching.  Sumptuous stitching.  Stunning stitches.  (You knew I was going to get to the “s” thing at some point, right?)

Stitches to Savor.  Sue Spargo.


You had probably already guessed that… you’re sychic.  (Spell-check didn’t like that one either.)

When it comes to Sue Spargo… I might also need to add “stalker”.  Super-fan.  Slavish devotee.


While some of this might be a bit silly, one thing is true – I love Sue Spargo’s work.  LOVE.  (I might have mentioned it before but a workshop with Sue Spargo is on my “stitch-y bucket list.”)

I first heard her name at Quilt Market in 2002.  She was one of the “Missouri girls” doing amazing work with wool, stitching and quilting in the Primitive and Folk Art style – a group that included Jan Patek, Alma Allen, Renee Nanneman, Lyn Hosford and others.  You might even have some of their collaborative books, Fat Quarter Foursome, Simple Stitches and the early Threads titles from Need’Love.  (While she currently resides in Ohio, Sue isn’t originally from Missouri – and no, she’s not Australian.)

I don’t know if it was simply an evolution of style or access to more variety with materials but Sue’s work became so much more vibrantly colorful, mixing a wide variety of fabrics, threads, stitches and motifs.  It seemed like every time I’d see her work at Quilt Market, on blogs – they were the new thing back then, or in magazines, she’d invented some new stitch or thread.


And where did she find that rick-rack?

(Just so you know, almost all of these pictures were found on Pinterest or Sue Spargo’s Instagram.)

So when I learned earlier this year that Martingale would be publishing a purely-eye-candy book of Sue Spargo’s work, I made sure that “folks I know” were aware of my extreme interest in obtaining a copy of the book.

This is it.  Stitches to Savor.


There is also a calendar – Stitches to Savor.  It’s gorgeous.  (It’s in the back in my “Sue Stash” picture.)

This isn’t a project book or a stitch book – there aren’t any diagrams.  What you’ll find are beautiful pictures of stunning stitches – eye-candy for your stitch-y soul.  Inspirational – aspirational.


Some of the quilts are travel journals for the places stitching has taken Sue…


Other pieces are studies in color and texture.


Some might just be showing off… can you believe those knots?


Me?  I’d just have a knotted mess of thread to untangle.

Every time I get a new book, a sweet friend asks “do I need this book?”  While I like to think that everyone is going to want the same books I do, I know that isn’t really true.

Except with this one.

It’s for people like us – people who like playing with needle and thread, who love color, who love variety and texture and whimsy.

People who just like looking at pretty pictures of truly spectacular work.

I know that doesn’t describe just me.

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Quilt Market: A Different View


I introduced myself last May, just as I was on my way to spring Quilt Market in Minneapolis. Now I’m prepping to head to Houston, (on a jet plane, just like Moda’s crates, though I’m coming from Iowa).

My visit to Market this time around will be a bit different, as I’m going to be the sole representative of the shop where I work—Home Ec Workshop in Iowa City. Our shop owner had a baby in September, a baby who wasn’t due until Christmas. Little Leola Elizabeth (isn’t that a great name?) weighed in at only a pound and a half, but she’s doing quite well and has gained nearly a pound. Naturally her mom doesn’t want to leave her, so I will be winging my way to Texas alone and looking for goodies for the shop.

Little Leola's tiny hands.

Little Leola’s tiny hands.

I’ve been instructed to take lots of pictures and collect armloads of catalogs, brochures, and samples so that orders can be placed after I return. We live in a university town—the University of Iowa is here—and we have lots of students who come into our shop looking for a little stress relief and a break from the books. So I’m always interested in projects that can be completed in an evening or weekend afternoon class, like patchwork pillows or tote bags, and I’ll be on the lookout for those kinds of patterns and projects.


Aprons, skirts, and pillows in Joanna Figureroa’s Fig Tree Quilts fall 2014 booth provide great ideas for class projects.


Another great class project—Vanessa Christensen’s Honeycomb Pouches, featured in her Fall 2014 booth.

Along with stitching quilts, bags, and home dec items, our customers love garment sewing, so I’m especially excited to check out new clothing patterns. (The Everyday Skirt is a perennial favorite at our shop.)LC005ES-Dv2-570x800


Embroidery is hot in our shop—I’ll be on the lookout for new patterns and projects with stitching accents. (I love French General’s patterns, like Joyeux Noel, and embroidery floss.)


We’ve also had some great projects, including Madeline Oberg’s Budapest rucksack, made with Kraft Tex and I’m hoping to find more ways to use it, too.


This cute pattern uses Craftex, which looks like leather.

And did I mention that I can’t wait to see all the new fabric? Well, I can’t.

While I’m looking forward to the eye candy, I also can’t wait to see old friends (I hope Sandy Gervais and Jan Patek will still speak to me after I called them Moda’s “oldest” designers) and meet some of those folks who I’ve talked with on the phone (or via email, like QuiltJane). I always sneak a peek at attendee’s name tags, in hopes of saying hi to shop owners I’ve “met” through interviews. If you’re at Market and see me, say hi—I’d love to meet you, too.

Finally, I look forward to touching base with Carrie and making plans for The Cutting Table. Speaking of which, are there things you’d be interested in reading about? Leave a note in the comments and I’ll put them on the “agenda” when Carrie and I touch base.

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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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