Thursday, July 30, 2015

Achieving a Goal

There are many things that I would like to accomplish in my lifetime.  Some of them are related to quilting and some are not.  I have reached a couple of them lately.

The first was visiting where my mother and grandmother were born: Budapest, Hungary.   I also got to meet distant relatives there which is something I had not expected and it was fantastic.

Second, I have always aspired to win a ribbon in an American Quilters Society show.  I won three of them when they had a young designers category in Paducah.  This week I won my first ribbon against stiff competition in an AQS show in Syracuse, New York.   My quilt Harmony's Loop took third place in its category behind Janet Stone and Joanne Baeth who are both amazing quilters.  I was surprised and overjoyed.

When I enter a contest I don't expect to win. I always hope to won, but sometimes I do and I sometimes I don't. So when I win it's always exciting! Now I am invigorated to finish up my current competition quilt.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Spanish Synagogue, Prague, Czech Republic

My favorite building is still St. Matthias' Church in Budapest, Hungary.  However, I found The Spanish Synagogue in Prague in the Czech Republic just as intriguing.  A lot of the ornament was cut out of wood about a quarter inch thick. It was also all painted.  Again I took many pictures.

The building's decoration was originally designed by two architects.  It was used as a storehouse for confiscated Jewish goods during World War Two and then fell into disrepair.  The renovation was completed in 1998.

Here you can see the thickness of
the carving.

The pipe organ

The ornament surrouding the lower section of the dome.

Detail of the pipe organ

The window above the main altar

Detail of a painted glass window

I know it is hard to see, but I love this ornament painted on the wall.

I am going to miss all this European inspiration!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I just finished a quilt in which I had to do all the flowers in cool colors because the background fabric was red.  I love it and I enjoyed working on it, but I definitely am having fun picking out warm colored fabrics now.

The center orange and yellow print is part of a rose fabric.  It had a shape similar to the piece I had to cut out so I wanted to try it.  It's really high contrast, but the shapes in the fabric add movement which I like.  The inner dark orange petals went nicely and added some more dynamics to the block.  I used a lighter orange thread to blanket-stitch those petals so that they stood out.  Again, I found that the large dot had to be the darkest fabric.

Since I wanted to outline the large dot in red, I also chose an orange for the inner red and orange petals because I have found that I don't like it when two pieces right next to each other are blanket-stitched in the same color thread.  If they're different their is more definition and separation between each piece.

I used the following threads:

  • Outer yellow petals - Madiera Polyneon 40.  This polyester thread has a lot of sheen, but not as much as I expected; almost as much sheen as glide, but not quite.  It's very smooth and silky and was wonderful to work with.
  • Inner red and orange petals - Gutermann Polyester thread.  I use a size 80 Microtex needle and I had a hard time getting this thread through the needle.  If I were to use it again I would definitely use a larger size 90 needle.  I did like that it was a thicker thread with little sheen.  I didn't want the thread on this busy fabric to take away from it so I was looking for something quiet with little sheen.
  • Inner orange frame outline - Isacord machine embroidery thread.  In comparison to the Madeira Polyneon it definitely has less sheen.  This might be useful when trying to add sheen to accent something, but not as much as a focal point.
  • Yellow and orange print - Deco-bob by Wonderfil Threads.  This thread is easy to use and definitely has a nice sheen to it.  I was trying to find a thread that matched the lightest orange in the fabric so that I could accent that color instead of the darker red.
  • Large red dot - Fufu embroidery thread.  I must admit that I love the way this looks.  This thread has a ton of sheen, almost like metallic thread without all the peskiness that metallic requires....but that's another story for later.  I definitely want this thread in more colors! 
  • Small orange dot - Isacord machine embroidery thread.  Again, little sheen, but that's okay because it's not what I wanted to accent in the block.
I must admit that sometimes I end up using a thread simply because it's the only one I have that is the right color.  That's okay too.  What I'm discovering is that different types of thread are adding more dimension to my blocks and I am truly happy with that.

It's also interesting to compare this block to the other one I did in red and yellow.  They have similar colors, but that pink dot definitely makes a statement.  It's also interesting to note where the lights and darks are in each block.  I think I like their placement in the top block better than in the bottom block, but I am unsure why.  Something to think about.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Melk Abbey Inspiration

A few days ago  we went to Melk Abbey in Austria.  I was again the girl taking pictures of the ceiling. They abbey still has thirty monks and part of it is a school. It is in the baroque style which is so overdone and extravagant and full of ornament.  I love to look at all the details in these buildings.

Here are a few pictures-I  forgot to take a picture of the outside of the abbey on my that will have to wait until I get home.


Friday, July 24, 2015

What do I do with those Thread Tails?

As a show quilter, it is important for me to know what is happening with the tails/ends of my threads. When quilting, I bury the ends inside the quilt sandwich to make sure that they don't start to ravel. This is especially important when working with slippery threads like polyester and rayon.

So....what do I do when them when I am machine appliqueing?

Well, if there is another piece that is going to be placed on top, I simply start with a few locking stitches and then trim the ends off.  When a piece of fusible is placed on top of those ends all the tails will be trapped and won't be able to move or to ravel.  This works on all the pieces of this flower block except the two dots.

To address this problem I do the following:

  1. Get a self-thread needle.  Any brand will do.
    Self-Threading Needle
  2. Thread the tails into the needle and pull them to the back of the block.

  3. Tie the thread ends in a SQUARE KNOT to make sure it is strong.  
  4. Now you have two choices:  
    1. Simply cut about 1/4 inch away (shown above) from the knot and leave the tails in the middle of the quilt 
    2. Thread the ends under the blanket stitches to make sure they can't move and peep out into your background fabric.  This is VERY important if you are using a light background fabric as dark threads have a tendency to show through.  This dark gray I am using does not have this problem so I am simply cutting my tails.  However, if I was using a white fabric I would definitely be more careful. is worth taking the time to deal with your thread tails right away!  That way you won't realize later that they are going to be a problem and show through your quilt.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

St. Matthias' Church

I had a quilting design idea explosion in Budapest, Hungary a few days ago.  My mother and grandmother were born here in Budapest and I am having a fantastic time getting to know the city and the culture.
St. Matthias' Church

We went up to the Castle on the Buda side of the city and went inside St. Matthias' Church.

This church is the king's church in Budapest and is painted with fantastic patterns inside.  Each section is painted differently. The patterns are a quilter's dream come true.  I could make many applique patterns or quilting designs inspired by this beautiful church. I bet I took a hundred pictures inside. Here are a few of them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Mother's Favorite Colors

This block is dedicated to my wonderful mother who taught me to quilt and continues to encourage and inspire me.  She loves teal and purple.  Many, many, many of her quilts are teal and purple.

I was inspired by a batik that combined these two colors.  I wish more of it showed in the block, but the scale of the print was rather large.  Sometime to think about in the future when choosing fabrics. I then picked various shades to go with it.  I knew there would have to be some contrast, so I purposely chose light and dark turquoise to help bring sparkle to the block.  It's really important to make sure to have enough contrast.  A block that is all medium value fabrics has little sparkle because there is no contrast for the eye to notice.

I also had to be careful with the dark purple fabric on this block.  You can see the lines of dots in it.  I fussy cut these pieces to make sure the dots were all going inwards.  To do this, I placed my fabric on a light box as I was putting down my fusible so that I could see what pattern I was getting.

The following threads were used:

  • Outer dark turquoise petals-Glide by Fil-Tec Threads.  I love it's sheen and it continues to be my favorite polyester thread.
  • Inner purple petals-Artist Studio Colors by Superior Threads.  This is a polyester thread and it has nice sheen.  It's a little thinner than the Glide and leaves a thinner line.  I like to use it on purpose sometimes when I don't want as thick of a line.
  • Light turquoise and little dot-Isacord machine embroidery thread.  It is a similar thickness to the Glide thread, but does not have as much sheen.
  • Turquoise and purple print-Sulky Rayon 40 weight.  This thread is thick like the Glide and has almost as much sheen.
  • Big dot-Artist Studio Colors by Superior Threads.  This particular color of thread is interesting as it is very gray in tone.  I find it a challenge to use sometimes as I tend to use very bright colors.  However, this particular dot was a little grayer than I normally use and so I decided to try it.  As I was stitching it out, I wasn't sure it was going to be the best choice, but in the end it blended well and lets the other fabrics and threads stand out which is what I wanted.
Love you mom!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Working with High Contrast Fabrics

I fell in love with the red fabric with yellow dots in the middle of this block.  It is a very high contrast fabric. The yellow is very pale and the red is pretty dark.  When deciding what other fabrics to put with it, I knew I was going to have to go beyond the two colors in this fabric. I went with a darker shade of yellow that had light orange dots and a red a shade darker.  The orange dot seemed to go well with the dots on the dark yellow fabric too.  Then I had to pick out a fabric for the large dot.  It was a challenge.  I tried reds, yellows, oranges, but nothing seemed to work.  So I finally decided that dark pink was a shade darker than the two reds I'd already used.  I didn't expect it to work, but it did.  I really think that a dark dot is necessary for this block to help tie it all together.

The outer yellow petals are blanket-stitched in Glide by Fil-Tec Threads.  The inner red petals are stitched in an Aurifil Polyester 40 weight thread.  I have searched for more of this, but they no longer make it.  The very pale yellow fabric is stitched in Mettler 60/2 cotton thread.  Since this Mettler thread is cotton it has no sheen and really blends into the background.  Using this thread is a nice way to make part of the block soft and flat in sheen.  The dotted red and yellow fabric is blanket-stitched in Deco-Bob by Wonderfil Threads, a nice polyester thread.  It doesn't have quite the same amount of shine as the Glide, but it's close.  The large dot is stitched in Sulky Rayon 40 weight thread.  The little dot is stitched in Isacord machine embroidery thread.

Some things I have learned so far:
  1. Cotton thread really has no sheen and is excellent if there is a piece you don't want to stand out.
  2. Bottom Line Thread has a little sheen, but because it's 60 weight leaves a very thin line.
  3. Glide, Isacord, Deco-Bob, and Sulky 40 weight threads all sew beautifully and have similar amounts of sheen.
  4. Fufu thread is really shiny and way easier to sew with than metallic thread.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


One of my quilts, Harmony's Loop, did not get into International Quilt Festival Houston last year.  I was really disappointed, but it went on to win elsewhere so I got over it.

However, today I learned that BOTH quilts I entered were accepted this year!  I am so excited!

Harmony's Loop


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pink and Purple Possibilities

When I was a girl I loved pink and purple as most girls do.  Now my four-year-old son loves pink and purple.  I personally find the light shades of these two colors challenging to work with, so when I found the inner petal fabric below, I knew I had to try it.

I had a lot of fun playing with values for this block.  I kept trying to put a light blue in it and my husband finally said, "It really doesn't have enough light blue for it to work."  Trust the engineer to get right to the point!  And he's right, there isn't enough of the light blue for it to work.  So I picked out the different shades of pink instead.

As I've been working on this project I have realized that the large dot has to be a dark fabric.  It certainly helps to make sure that other colors beneath it don't bleed through and the dark value seems to tie the block together.

I had a lot of fun playing with threads on this block too.  The outer petals are blanket-stitched in Sulky Rayon 40 weight thread.  The inner petals are stitched in Bottom Line thread by Superior Threads. It's a 60 weight thread and I love how thin the line is.  Bottom line also has a low-sheen to it and so the fabric can stand out.  The darkest pink fabrics are both blanket-stitched with Deco-Bob by Wonderfil Threads.  It definitely has a lot of sheen, which I like for emphasizing the dot.

The inner petal fabric that has pink lines on the purple background gave me a lot of trouble.  I couldn't figure out what color thread to use on it.  I tried the three below.  I ended up ripping out the first two because they just didn't work.  I think the lighter pink worked well because it blended with the darker pink fabric behind it.  The white lines in the photo below are bits of stabilizer that I forgot to brush off.

The little dot at the very bottom gave me trouble too.  The background of it is a very warm lavender, but the dots on it are a cool lavender.  I had to go with one or the other and my thread choices were very limited in light lavender.  I ended up using Coats and Clark Dual Duty Plus which is 37% cotton and 63% poly because it seemed to be the right color.  You can see from the picture below the thread is kind of a combination between the two.  A pinker thread would've brought out the background of the dot more, whereas a bluer thread would'be brought out the dots more.  I didn't want to go too blue because the rest of this block uses very warm threads.  So I ended up with the final color as a compromise between the two: a little blue, but not too much.

Overall, I am very happy with my pink and purple possibilities and my four-year-old loves the block.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Lime and Orange. Really!

One of the things I am enjoying most about this project is that I get to pick out lots of fun fabrics to applique with.  My current method is to pick a busy/funky/fun fabric and use that as a starting point.  Then I pick colors that look good with it.  I have noticed that it is important to be careful with value.  If all the fabrics are medium tones (no lights, no darks), the block doesn't shine as much.  The same is true with picking thread for the double blanket stitch.

I'm digging into all those really busy fabrics that are hard to use, but not too bad when cutting out a little piece.  The lime green fabric in this block came from this batik below.  I fussy cut the part I wanted.  I think I'll use a different section of it in a later block too. There are so many fun spots to choose from!

Here is Block 3 all finished up.  I really like the orange fabric with yellow dots as I think it adds to the "dottiness" of the block.

I dug into my thread collection for this block and used some new threads that I had to unwrap!  The outer lime green petals are blanket-stitched in DMC 100% cotton machine embroidery thread.  The cotton is very soft and has no sheen to it.  I like that on the lime green because it lets it be subtle.  The orange petals are sew in Bottom Line by Superior Threads.  It is 60 weight filament polyester.  I like it because it's very thin with not as much sheen as a usual polyester thread.  It added a finer, more delicate detail to the orange petals.  I thought about stitching them in yellow, but I didn't want them to stand out too much.  The focus green fabric and light orange fabric are blanket-stitched in my favorite Glide by Fil-Tec.  The big orange dot, which really stands out for sheen, is done in Deco-Bob by WonderFil Threads from Canada.  I will definitely be using this thread when I want something to stand out.

The biggest "ah-ha!" moment I have had so far came with looking at this block when it was finished.  I realized that I can control what your eye sees first with the sheen and contrast of the thread to the original fabric.  Something to think about as I move forward!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Inspiration Everywhere

I am at the Venetian Las Vegas for a work conference.  The quilting inspiration is everywhere.  I am that lady taking picture of tile rugs, carpets, wallpaper, moldings, and other decorative details.  You never know what is going to inspire a quilting pattern or applique design.  I especially love the carpet in my suite...

It's important not to copy something exactly...that could lead to copyright problems.  However, being inspired by things around you is fine.  I find that when I'm creating a pattern from some image I end up changing details to make it my own anyways.  I like the challenge of finding a way to make something new and original.

Here are a few more images from the Venetian Las Vegas I took today.


Monday, July 6, 2015

What Color Should that Dot Be?

I love playing with fabric, but Block 2 gave me some trouble!  I had picked out the main four fabrics, but couldn't figure out what colors the dots should be.

Here are three variations of the large dot:

I started with the dark pink with purple spots, but you can't really see it because it blends in too much. Then I tried the light orange that looks like a leaf.  I like the color, but the pattern makes it too busy. So I finally settled for this last option, a light orange.

Now it was time for the small dot below:

I stated with the purple with a pinky-colored dot, but the pink dot stands out a lot and it's not where I want the focus of the block to be.  Then I tried the light orange dot that is the same color as the top orange fabric, but it seemed too pale.  So finally I settled for a darker orange dot which help tie in the red fabric.

Now it was time to stitch!

Block 2 was blanket-stitched with Glide thread by Fil-Tec except the red.  The red is a FuFu machine embroidery thread a friend once suggested.  It is not as silky as the Fil-Tec.  The texture is much more bumpy, however, and it looks almost metallic in the finished product.  It was fun to use and I want to try it again.  The rest of the colors I own in this thread are blue....I see a blue flower coming up!

I also decided to use a pinky-purple thread to outline the outside pieces instead of a dark blue like the background of the fabric.  It was blending into the dark gray too much and I wanted it to stand out more.  The pinky-purple thread did the trick.