Wednesday, March 30, 2011



Let’s talk about fusing. Most of my quilts are fused. I teach fusing techniques all over the world, and still I get lots of questions from readers. So let’s talk about fusing.

I use WonderUnder #805. It is the only fusible web product that I use. I have been using it for a very long time. I have some things I did with my kids that are over 25 years old and still fused strong and looking good. I like WonderUnder from Pellon because it is a very light weight fusible web that is relatively cheap and I think easy to find. JoAnn Fabrics and Hobby Lobby carry it. I sell it on my website on the notions page. If you Walmart still carries fabric they have it too. Ask your quilt shop to carry it, or maybe they already do.

Rules for success when using WonderUnder #805.


1. Pre-wash your fabrics. Better yet use my hand dyed fabric’s they have been pre-washed.IMG_3468




Washed and waiting to be ironed.

2. Steam press out all the wrinkles on your fabric before you start. TURN OFF THE STEAM TO APPLY FUSIBLE WEB.

3. Use a hot DRY iron when applying the wonderunder to the back of the fabric. There is no right or wrong side on my hand dyed fabrics. :)

4. Let the fusible cool down. When you heat up the fusible web it gets gooey, it needs to cool down to solidify again.

5. Remove the release paper and save it to use to transfer your design to the back of the fused fabric.

6. Store pre-fused fabric rolled up so it doesn’t get creased.


“In the field” fused art quilt.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The last week of March specials on my website


FrieStyle Fabrics and Notions Newsletter March 2011

March Special

To me, March is the month of green. St Patrick's Day is in March and just recently I learned that I have a little Irish blood in me, so go GREEN. I always knew there was a reason why I liked green so much. This month’s special includes green. With every order in March I will send you a copy of my pattern for the quilt Shimmering Foliage. This is the quilt featured on the opening page of my website. The predominant color in this quilt is Frieda Green. So, for the month of March, Frieda Green and Grass Green gradations will be on sale @ $20 a yard on my website. I feel every project can use a touch of green, and I certainly think of Frieda Green as the perfect neutral! I will be traveling a lot the month of March, and I hope you will understand if it takes a week to ship some orders.

New Fabric Gradations

I have a new gradation this month - Earth Brown. I hope you will find time to look at this new gradation and maybe even send me a comment or two about them. I would love to hear from you. Perhaps you have an idea for a color gradation that I might try. Please blog or email me your ideas. And please, feel free to forward this newsletter on to a special quilting friend.

Spring Flowers

The Daffodils are starting to come up in the flower bed under my southwester facing window. My patterns Daffodils and Tulips will also be on sale this month for $6 each. If you have always wanted to make these patterns, now is your chance.

Grandma Status:

Our first grandchild was born last month, Micah Gillette Anderson, a healthy 8lb 13oz boy born to my son Lars and his wife Megan. I was so fortunate to be able to spend a week with them after the little guy arrived. He is, in my humble opinion, the most perfect baby ever :) And yes, he already has one quilt. I am sure there will be many more.

My schedule this month.

I will be teaching at the following venues in April and May. If you are close to any of these be sure and drop in and say hello

April 25-30 - AQS show Paducah, KY

May 18 NSQG - Milwaukee WI

Don't forget to stock up on these notions:

Chicago School of Fusing Pattern Works - FrieStyle/Art Fabrik Booth

I have been dying lots of new fabrics and threads. I have 4mm silk ribbon thread, velveteen, silk and cotton blends and lots and lots of silk fabric. Be sure and come by our booth this year at the AQS Show April 25-30, 2011 in Paducah, KY. See you there!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The most important thing is…

The most important thing to keep in mind about machine quilting is …Practice. You need to practice to get better. You can take all the classes in the world and unless you sit down and practice alittle every day or every couple of days you will never get any better.
SO having said that. Here are a few very practice sheets for you.
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Squiggles and Me Me Me – one is a circular design and one is an up and down design.
Make yourself some quilt sandwiches that are about 15” square and stack them up under your sewing machine. Put your embroidery foot on your sewing machine and drop the feed dogs so you can do free motion quilting.  If you clink on the name of the pictures they will take you to a pdf that you can print out. Practice with these sheets by using them instead of a sandwich and without thread in your machine. Then switch to your quilt sandwich and add thread in the machine in the top and bobbin. Practice a half hour every time you sit down and before you know it you will be a better machine quilter!

Monday, March 21, 2011



Eventually when you have been machine quilting for a long stretch of time you will begin to make mistakes. Mistakes that you are going to want to pick out. With out a good pair of tweezers you will be swearing and become very frustrated quickly. With out these you are never going to be able to pick out stitches that went wrong. I like tweezers that have a very sharp point and firm grip.

When I pick out stitches I use a seam ripper to cut the stitches on the back side of my quilt, then I turn it over to the front side and go about pulling and picking out the bad stitches. You want to work yourself back to a point where things where still smooth. You want to have enough thread so that  you can tie off your threads and bury them. Be very careful with this process of using the seam ripper and pulling and picking out stitches because  it is very easy to slip and rip your fabric. Then you really will be frustrated and angry.

My best advice to you is when you begin to go wrong with your quilting, STOP, don’t think it will get better if you just keep going. It won’t. Stop and pick out as few stitches as possible and stop quilting for the day. Take a break and come back tomorrow. Usually when you begin to make mistakes it’s because you are tired and you need to get away from your work for awhile and do something else.


Friday, March 18, 2011


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What do you do with the threads when you are machine quilting?

I always bring my bobbin thread up to the top of my work. I do this by putting the presser foot down and taking one manual stitch. I then pull that stitch to bring the bobbin thread to the surface of my quilting project.


I hold both top and bobbin thread with my hand while I begin to stitch. I am going to bury these threads when I am done quilting.

I like to bring the threads up because it keeps them from tangling on the back side as I work. You can take one or two stitches in place and then begin to quilt. I usually just begin to quilt. I find that if I take small stitches in place it can cause a knot on the back of my work. Something I like to avoid.

Once I am all done quilting for the day, I sit with a self threading needle and tie off each set of threads and bury them inside the quilt. Just like I was taught to do with hand quilting.

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The self threading needles have a notch at the top so that you can thread both threads through the notch and then you can bury them. First tie a square knot right next to the quilt surface. Then notch the two threads on the needle. Put the needle right back in the spot where the threads stopped and send it over an inch or two. Pull the threads through and give it a tug to pull the knot to the inside of the quilt. Pull the threads taught and snip with your scissors. The thread will pull back into the quilt  when you cut it and you will have buried the threads inside the quilt.

This is how I deal with all my threads when I am quilting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011



I don’t suggest you start out machine quilting a large quilt. I think working on smaller projects will help you be more successful and an easier way to begin learning this skill.

This is a skill that everyone can master and the trick to mastering it is to practice. No matter how many books you purchase or classes you take you will never get very good at this if you don’t practice. I think you should make up some sample squares 15” AND keep them by your sewing machine and practice free motion quilting a half hour every time you set down to sew. You will eventually begin to understand the mechanics of holding the sandwich and moving the sandwich and moving your hands to match the speed of your foot.

When you are working on a DHSM (domestic home sewing machine) you want to hold the quilt with your two hands of if they were the sides of a hoop. You will be quilting for the most part away from yourself. You will be working from left to right and then down, and back again from right to left in a regular but free looking motion. You want to think about where you are going next with your quilt design and how are you going to get there. You will work in an area about the size of a dinner plate, and then readjust your hands and the quilt and work again the area about the size of a dinner plate.


When you work on a DHSM you need to match the speed of your hands to the speed of your foot to get even stitches and develop a rhythm. You need to think of the process as if you are moving the paper under a stationary pencil. You are creating the design by moving the paper under the pencil. On a long arm machine you move the pencil over the paper.

There are tons of books out there with lots of patterns. I have a self published book with great beginner patterns in it. Sit down and try each of the patterns until you become comfortable making them.

A great way to practice on a medium size project is to buy a cheater panel (you know a preprinted panel, like a kids scene) and layer it into a quilt sandwich and quilt this up and bind it and give it away to charity. This is a great way to practice on a medium size project.

Monday, March 14, 2011



The first thing I do when I am quilting a large quilt is to anchor it somehow in a grid.

Many times there are lines to stitch in the ditch to anchor a quilt. Stitching in the ditch is stitching right next to the seam allowance in the ditch created when you press the seam in one direction. So it is important to make sure that you press seams in one direction. If you have seams that some how get crossed when stitched, you should go back and pick out the stitches and restitch the seam crossings.


When I stitch in the ditch I start in the center and work out to the edge. I use a walking foot on my machine and I adjust the tension of the top presser foot. Not all machines will let you adjust the tension but my Janome has a knob on the top left of the machine that loosens the presser foot tension.

I will rotate the quilt in quarter turns stitching in the ditch from the center out all the way around the quilt.IMG_0467

When I did this baby quilt that measures 35” x 50” I stitched in the ditch down each line between the seams to anchor the whole quilt. Once it was all anchored I went back and stippled the top of the quilt with yellow thread on the top and on the bottom. I didn’t know what the sex of this baby was that was receiving the quilt, so I picked a neutral yellow.


My Woods is a 70” x 90” quilt. The first thing I did was to stitch in the ditch down the long stems of the trees and then around the branches, and the outside of the brown. After that I quilted all the elements inside the brown area. Then I quilted the first border and stitched in the ditch around it and finally I quilted the outside border.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Basting your project


There are many ways to baste a quilt project together and over the years I have tried many of them. Lately what I like doing involves a spray adhesive.

For large bed quilts the method I use involves using three fold up modeled plastic tables to baste my quilt top on. You can get these at Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Menards, all kinds of places. They come in different dimensions and I have them in several different lengths and sizes. The three I use to baste the quilts on are 8’ long by 2’ wide I think. I can set up all three side by side in my living room and then fold them up again and store them in my garage and use for other things. Mostly for dyeing fabric outside in the summer.

First I like to iron out my pieced backing fabric on top of these tables. It is a large surface and big enough to hold the whole backing. I apply spray sizing to the backside of the backing; the right side of the fabric. This helps the back of the project move easily along the sewing surface when I am quilting it. I have had students tell me that they also use pledge on their sewing surfaces to help it be slicker. That is a technical term - slicker.

IMG_0784Once I have the backing ironed, I also iron my batting to get out all the wrinkles.

I will then flip over the backing fabric and tape it to the tables.

I recommend you use packing tape or duct tape rather than masking tape. The masking tape will release when you don’t want it to. You IMG_0787can also use big clips if you have them.

I spray baste the backing fabric very lightly with spray adhesive 505. This is the product I have been using. It is great. I like it very much and use it now for all my quilting projects.

I spread out the batting and tap it down nice and smooth. I spray baste the top of the batting a little heavier than the backing. Just follow the directions on the can. When I lay down the quilt top I divide it into fourths so I can center it then open it up. It makes it easier to smooth out on the batting by unfolding it in sections because the batting with the spray adhesive is sticky, but not so sticky you can reposition the top.Be sure and put down newspaper or an old sheet to cover the floor underneath. You don’t want to get the adhesive spray on your carpet, floor or furniture.

Once the top is smoothed out I pin it around the outside just to hold it all together.

I roll it into a two tubes, and then roll up one end. You have to make it fit into your sewing machine space.

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Depending on where you are working on the surface of the quilt you will be rerolling and rearranging as you go along.

The quilting comes next.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Needles and thread


I was going to talk about basting a large quilt, but I think I will come back to that later.

One of the most important aspects of machine quilting on a domestic sewing machine,is what kind of thread are you going to use. And then depending on what kind of thread you use will determine what kind of needles that you will use.

There are all kinds of thread to use when you are machine quilting and the best advice is to try them out and see if you like them.

I personally like to use either rayon, cotton or silk thread, but there are many other choices. A good place to check out threads is at your local quilt store, or at a quilt show. There are always vendors who sell threads and you should try different kinds and see what kind of results you get with them.


When I am using rayon thread I use an embroidery needle, it has a deep thread groove and larger eye for synthetic embroidery threads.

When I use silk thread I use a Sharp (Microtex) needle a very sharp point.

And when I use cotton thread I use a quilting needle, designed with special taper to the point for quilting through thick areas.

If I was to use Metalic thread I would use a Metafil needle it is a sharp point embroidery needle for synthetic threads.

If I used monofilament I would use either the Metafil or the Microtex.

Choosing the right tools for the right job is very important.

These are all sharp shank needles designed to pierce through multiple layers of fabric. You should not be using a universal needle, that is what you piece with. It is designed to separate the fibers in the fabric while you sew. And by the way sewing machine needles are designed to last only about 8 hours worth of sewing time and then they begin to wear and you should change them out.

When you dispose of your needles and used rotary blades I like to put them in a container rather then directly in the garbage.

IMG_0762 The thread used to go up the stem of these flowers is a 30 weight rayon thread.

Before I begin any quilting project I make a sample quilt sandwich out the fabric I will be quilting on with the same kind of batting and backing and do a test run with my threads and needles to make sure the tension is good on my machine and to also make sure that I like the thread I have picked out for the project.

Top This is a sample of just plain old stippleing. Warming up and checking my thread tension before I begin.

I like to use cotton in my bobbin. But again there are many choices you can have for bobbin thread. I use a lighter weight cotton in the bobbin than the thread that is on the top and I use the same color on top and bottom. You can also try using the same thread top and bottom if they are a thinner weight thread.

The weight of the thread is listed in numbers and they vary. 50 3ply mercerized cotton thread is good for construction of quilts and for quilting of medium weight cotton.

I like to use a 30 weight rayon thread. The smaller the number the thicker the thread. I use this for decorative stitching and to add a bolder statement to my quilting.

I also like to use silk thread it is usually a very thin thread and will recede into the background of your quilt.

Each thread type and style will give a different affect. You will need to experiment to find what you like to use.

A good resource for thread is the Superior Thread website. They have a wonderful resource page that tells you what needles to use with which of their threads.

And of course a great resource is Harriet Hargrave’s book on Heirloom Machine Quilting. I think it is now in it’s4th edition. I own a copy and refer to it all the time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Machine Quilting 101


I thought it would be good to share some of the tips that I have found to be helpful about machine quilting here on the blog. It seems like there is a real surge in interest from quilters to be better with their machine quilting. I think people are realizing how long it takes to hand quilt and how much it cost to have someone quilt it for them. My classes in MQ are always full and everyone tells me how much better they feel after taking the class. So this is for you guys who live to far away or just can’t make it to a class.

Here we go.

Let’s start with our equipment.

I started machine quilting about 20 years ago. I knew that I wanted to be able to quilt my projects and I knew that hand quilting wasn’t going to get it done. I hand quilted several large bed quilts and it took me forever. Besides my fingers got so cramped doing it.

The sewing machine that I had at that time was a great machine. But it only had a 7” opening between the needle and the side arm. I started out by quilting a “queen” size bed quilt. I don’t suggest you start that large, try something smaller first.

If you are serious about machine quilting your own large quilts I hope that you will invest in good equipment. Try out all the machines when you go to a bigger quilt show and see which one you like the best. They usually have deals at the shows and you can finance your purchase to spread out the payment without interest over a year.

The best advice I read and heard when I first started machine quilting was to make sure that the area where I was quilting was flush to the sewing bed of my machine. And I still believe that is the very best thing you can do to be more successful machine quilting a large quilt. 

When I first started machine quilting I jerry rigged an arrangement to make that happen.

Here is a picture of what I had arranged.


I had a sewing table that my machine sat down in and I had two tables that were pushed up next to that table to make a larger sewing area to support my quilt while I was quilting it.

While this worked well for the space and time it is not ideal.

I now have a great sewing table from Mike at Tracey’s Tables. He delivers anywhere in the country. My sewing machine sits down in the table and I have drawers on two sides. I can also expand the area of the table where a large quilt will rest while I am quilting it.


I now have a newer model sewing machine that has a larger opening between the needle and the arm of the sewing machine. These two factors; a good machine with a larger opening from the needle to the arm and an area that is flush to the bed of your machine to support the weight of your quilt while you are quilting it, I think are the biggest contributors to success with machine quilting a large quilt, besides of course practice.

You should also invest in a good chair to sit in. I have an adjustable chair that allows me to raise and lower the height of the chair and also gives me good back and leg support. Because when you are quilting on a larger project you will spend lots of time sitting in this chair.


Those are your basic equipment issues. I worked long and hard to save up my money to buy these and feel that it was well worth the expense and am a happier quilter because of it.

Next time we’ll talk about basting a large quilt.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Indiana Heritage Quilt Show

I will be driving to Bloomington IN today. I hope I don’t encounter any floods. I am looking forward to the drive. I went to the library yesterday and got a couple of books on tape and will day dream all the way there. I will probably stop at a few antique malls on the way. I also keep a journal on my car seat to take notes and draw abit.
George is already pouting. He sees me packing up the car and he really doesn’t like it. He sits with his head on his paws and just watches me. I would gladly take him, but I know he won’t just sit and watch the quilters. Too bad.
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Previous drives through Indiana.

Always dyeing

I leave for Bloomington IN this morning, but before I can get out of the house I still have to dye a little. I dye a little every day. I had mixed up a new color way and I wanted to use up the last bit of dye before I was gone for several days. The mixed dyes won't last until I returned.
The new colorway is called "Earth Brown". And it is a wonderful earthy toned four step gradation of brown. Brown is a tricky color, it can be too red or too black, this brown is just right.

This is a rich chocolate brown. It already has veining in it for trees and ground areas. You really do need this in your stash. You can find it on my website in the store under fabric.

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