The Quilting Fairy Pays A Visit

Who would have thought that the One Block Wonder Woman household would have had such a visit?  Well, as it turns out, my Quilter’s Support Staff (husband) and I had made the appointment.  I will keep you in suspense for a few moments.  First a photo of my “Dining Room” before the visit with a shot of my much used and appreciated Tin Lizzie longarm machine.

Greta before

Hmmm…how can it be a dining room without a table and chairs?  The bins under the frame hold my assortment of batting just in case you are curious, but not the dining room furniture.

As it turns out, a few weeks ago, The QSS and I made a quilting emergency overnight trip of 250 miles south to Pasadena, California to attend the QuiltCon quilt show.  QuiltCon is geared toward the modern style of quilting, which is a style that just doesn’t float my boat.  But we weren’t there to look at quilts, or fabric, or believe it or not, no tools for the gadget queen.  No, we were there to test drive every longarm machine represented at the show.  The QSS went along to be my adviser on mechanical issues and other guy things that he is much better at than I am.  Indeed, we did try out every machine in the place and talked to the machine representatives about features, pros and cons, and got quotes for what I was looking for.  I had prepared a Must Have list and a Nice to Have List.  I had done my homework and I have used my Tin Lizzie, Rosie is her name, for 3 1/2 years, and knew her advantages and drawbacks like the back of my seam ripper.  Rosie has been a great beginning longarmer’s machine and a blessing to me, but it was definitely time for an upgrade.

So, now I will have mercy and tell you, much to my shock, my Quilter’s Support Staff agreed to buy the most expensive machine we looked at and that is what I really wanted, the Gammill Vision 2.  Her name is Greta.  Greta is all hand-guided quilting.  I didn’t want to have to include the cost of an ambulance ride for my QSS due to sticker shock since the computerized quilting version would have nearly doubled the price.  Besides, I am happy with the discipline and personal creativity opportunities of doing hand-guided quilting.

So yesterday, the Quilting Fairy, whose name is Karl, showed up with his 20 foot trailer in the pouring rain and spent the next 5 hours setting up Greta and showing me the basics.  He also threw in for no charge fixing a minor problem on Rosie, since the dealer he works for (hey, fairies need to make a living too) is also a Tin Lizzie representative.

Here are a couple of photos of Greta being assembled:

As you can see, Greta’s frame is a 12 foot frame as opposed to Rosie’s which is only ten, so Greta sticks out a bit farther, but she also gets snugged up closer to the windows on the south of the room (which the QSS calls the quilting factory) since I only need access to one end to roll up the quilt sandwich, and still leaves plenty of room to walk from the front door off to the right, through the living room and into the kitchen off to the left of the second photo.  One other fabulous feature Greta has is she glides on heavy duty industrial style casters.  So if I want to place her so I have more or less access to the back portion of the frame, I can easily move it all by myself.  In these photos she is out farther just to make it easier to get everything assembled.

These next photos show Greta in her position and all ready to use, which I did for a bit yesterday just to see how everything worked.

One of the features Greta has is being run by a tablet, so it’s easy to see what settings you are using and switch back and forth.  The tablet also swivels around 180 degrees so you can run Greta totally from the back handles just as you can from the front.  Both back and front handles have four rocker type buttons that are programmable so you can have your most used functions available without taking your hands away from actually quilting.  Here are a few other features that Greta has that I’ve never had before.  A basting stitch, channel locks at the push of a button for horizontal or vertical so I can now do straight line stitching without it looking like a drunken sailor did it.  A tie off stitch.  A coast stitch which varies from a regulated speed to a constant speed depending on how fast you are going to be able to do micro stippling or echoing around small designs.  Micro Stippling handles, offset handles for the back so you can easily see a pantograph you are working on and still use both hands.  Also the laser light for following a pantograph can be moved to the front handle so you can use it to follow a block by block pattern easily from the front.

The show special included $1000 worth of accessories, and one of the best ones I selected was a quick change foot set, which includes a spoon foot for going over thick seams, an open toe foot, a couching foot, a trapunto foot and a ruler foot.  One of the other things I selected was a ruler base, which is really easy on-easy off.

My sister-in-law, , who had no idea I was considering upgrading my longarm, had made arrangements previous to our foray to QuiltCon, to come out and get some experience on doing longarm quilting.  She was shocked I think when I told her she was going to be practicing on a brand new Gammill.  We are going to have so much fun when she comes at the end of next month for our quilting adventure.  Now all I need to do is learn really well how to use all Greta’s features and to find a buyer for Rosie.


I Have A Tool For That!


People who know me well are used to hearing this from me on a frequent basis. And as it turns out I usually do have a tool for almost anything I want to do.  My favorite thing to do is to visit the vendors at any quilt shows I go to in order to see what these clever people have come up with to make my quilting easier and more productive.  Another thing that anyone who knows me well will tell you is that I detest paper piecing and will do almost anything to avoid it.  I absolutely love the Mariner’s Compass pattern, and have always longed to make one, but alas, it is paper pieced.  But wait…in the August edition of American Quilter, I saw an ad for a Mariner’s Compass tool that avoids paper piecing.  Of course, I immediately went to the website of the inventor and watched her tutorial to find out if it was for real.  Then I purchased the tool, the companion booklet, and another tool that looks very handy for cutting angles.  Here is a photo of the package I promptly received.

compass labeled

The tool was developed by Robin Ruth Design, found at  I have been chomping at the bit to try it out, but have been sewing my fingers to the bone trying to get ready for our local quilt show at the Hall where I quilt with a great bunch of ladies on a bi-monthly basis.  We also just finished our summer quilting class for the local young people.  But I will address those things in another post.  There is a lot of blogging that hasn’t been getting done.  I will let you know once I have a chance to try out the tool how it all come out.

Speaking of tools, I also found a handy tool to make it easy to change out the needle on my longarm machine, which has been a dreaded task for the last three years since I got my longarm.  For those of you unfamiliar with longarms, the needles don’t have a flat spot on the shaft like regular machine needles do, and of course it is critical to get it inserted properly, which is very difficult when you really are using the Braille method.  So I avoid changing my needle very often, which has caused problems when it gets dull or slightly bent from deflection caused by the speed of the machine.  Here is a photo of the tool.

needle inserter labeled

As you can see, you just insert the needle into the hole going in the direction that you want it inserted into the machine.  The needle stops at the bottom of the shaft, then you can just push it up into the hole in the machine, and it pushes the shaft all the way up so that it is fully inserted.  Then tightened the set screw on the machine.  There is also a slot in the opposite end of the tool that can be used to make adjustments to the needle so that it is in straight if you aren’t happy with the position once it’s inserted.  What used to take me at least 20 or 30 frustrating minutes took me about 2 minutes yesterday the first time I used it.  Since it is recommended by many expert longarmers that you change out the needle after every one or two projects, this is going to be a tremendous time saver.  I also discovered it works for regular machine needles.  It is manufactured by Creative Notions and I found it at Nancy’s Notions.

Since we are on the subject of tools, I am going to share a few more of my favorite “I have a tool for that” tools.  The first one, or two, are the Tucker Trimmer and Tucker Trimmer II by Deb Tucker at

trimmer labeled

These tools make squaring up half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles especially a breeze.  Just slap your tool on top of the component you want to square up with the tool’s diagonal line lined up on the diagonal on the component, making sure you have room to trim to size all the way around, trim, turn component 180 degrees and line up the bottom left corner of the size you want to trim to along the corner of the component and trim.  The Tucker Trimmer shown on the half-square triangle is even inch and half inch increments and the Tucker Trimmer II is in quarter and three-quarter inch increments.  These two tools allow me to trim up piles of components without really having to think about it.  They are also great for cutting out squares of fabric from corners of yardage or fat quarters.

These next two are also from Deb Tucker.  This first one is the V-Block Trimmer (also known as a triangle in a square), which is the first of Deb’s tools that I purchased.  Many people feel they need to paper piece these components, but not using Deb’s method.

V block labled

The tool and the instruction book are very easy to use, with all the measurements you will need written right on the tool.  Everything is cut from strips and is slightly oversized so that there is room to trim down with the markings on the tool.  I made this queen sized quilt with dozens of these components in nothing flat using this tool.

The last tool I’m going to talk about is the Corner Beam tool.

corner beam labled

Just like all the other Deb Tucker specialty rulers, the booklet and ruler are easy to use, with everything made from basic strips and squares.  I’ve found these components are great to use in the corners of borders to make a nice transition around the corner.

I want to make it clear that I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in any of these tools or companies.  Just wanted to share some of the things that make life easier for me and hope you find them helpful as well.

Happy Stitching!



Dog Bites Quilt Show


Friday was our annual quilt show at the circa 1890s Hall.  Our quilt show is not judged and there is no voting on favorite quilts, but just is an opportunity to showcase local talent and vintage quilts from local residents.  It also encourages people to buy raffle tickets for the handquilted queen sized quilt that you can get a glimpse of just to the right of the doorway.  One hundred percent of the proceeds from the raffle goes toward scholarships for our local young people.

As you can see, my Fannie Mae von Nubbinwagger was front and center and generated interested from everyone who came by.  There was the best turn out for this event since I became involved ten years ago in the quilting group that meets at the hall to work on the scholarship quilt and various charity quilts.  The event was to open at 2 PM, but our first group came at 1 o’clock.  They were folks from out of the area who were driving by to check out the fire damage from the recent Chimney Fire that I posted about a couple of weeks ago.  They happened to see our signs out on the road, and came out of curiosity.  Of course, we welcomed them in early, and the folks continued to come on a constant stream until 7 o’clock, when we took a break for a potluck dinner and to draw for the donated door prizes for those who purchased quilt raffle tickets that day.  My assignment was to welcome people at the door, hand out programs and “white gloves” for those who wanted to pet the pretty quilts and answer any questions.  I was kept hopping the entire day.

Here is a better photo of our scholarship raffle quilt.  It is done in the Carolina Lily pattern. 007

The rest of the photos are of the quilts on display.  I hope you enjoy the photo tour.005


The handquilting on this last one was finished while the quilter was evacuated from her home because of the fire.

Busy Bee and New Quilting Gadget Discovery


Since I last posted, the fire that I posted photos of spread, well, like wildfire, causing our neighbors in the two communities immediately south of us to be evacuated.  Fortunately there were no homes lost in those two areas, but the fire burned right up to many of the homes.  The community even further south, on the other side of Lake Nacimiento where the fire started, lost 49 homes.  My prayers go out to those poor people.  My pastor, who is a volunteer firefighter with our local department, his wife and 15 year old daughter opted to not evacuate their home, but brought their youngest daughter and horses to my community to stay at a friend’s ranch.  The friend, Delani, was looking for ways to entertain her daughter, Cheyene, on the left, and the pastor’s daughter, Abigail, on the right, so I invited them all over to make a project at my house.  The pillows the girls are holding are the results of the day’s efforts.  It goes to show, when the going get’s tough, the quilters get quilting.  Both girls picked out their own fabric, and you can probably tell that they are both horse crazed.  Cheyene even competes in local rodeos.

I had been messing around with Jodi Barrows Square-in-a-Square system, which I recently purchased since I am the Queen of Quilting Gadgets, and I stumbled across Jodi’s easy way to basically make a frame around a feature fabric.  I did all the cutting, but the girls did the rest.  I think they came out really cute.  Definitely a great project to do for a gift.

I am really loving Jodi’s ruler system.  It is incredibly versatile.  I wish I had looked into it more previously.  I could have saved a lot of money on buying specialty rulers that only do one quilting component like triangle in a square, diamond in a square, flying geese and of course square in a square.  I have separate rulers for each of these, plus more!

Following my three- month adventure with my doggie art quilt which I posted about previously, I decided I wanted to do something simple.  So I made this baby quilt totally out of leftovers in my stash.


Once again, I used the Square-in-a-Square ruler to make the pinwheels which come out already trimmed and squared up when you finish sewing them.  Love it!

I also completed this snail trail quilt using the system.  It’s been on my UFO list since I got my new ruler back in May. It was the first project I started using my new ruler for, so I was ready to be done with it.


The four patches are made from a fall themed strip exchange that we did at last November’s quilt guild retreat.  I really wanted to make it bigger, but I ran out of the brown fabric.  I thought I had found some more of it on line and ordered it, but when it came, it was 4 shades darker than the original, so I just gave up and made the border with the green that was in my stash.  It now awaits quilting and binding.  The quilt guild meeting where it is due as my UFO for this month isn’t until Monday night, so no sweat.  Hahaha.

This coming Friday is our local quilt show at the 120 year old Hall in one of the communities that was evacuated.  It too survived the fire unscathed.  The quilt show is just a showcase for local quilters and vintage quilts made by people associated with this area.

As an ending note, the wildfire I spoke of is over and the evacuees went home last weekend.  It’s wonderful to be able to breathe smoke free air again and not have ash covering every outdoor surface.  The firefighters are heros for saving so many homes!

Creating a Dog From Scratch Can Be Ruff

Fannie Mae

I have not forgotten about blogging over the last few months, but boy, have I been busy.  In May, I flew back to Delaware to visit my east coast partner in quilting crime, my sister-in-law, Mary of stitchinggrandma fame.  We had the opportunity to go on a four day retreat with Cheryl Lynch,,  at her lake house in the Poconos to learn how to take a photograph of our pet and turn it into a quilt.  I don’t normally do art type quilts mainly because I like to stick with bed sized quilts and I simply don’t have any wall space to hang an art quilt.  But I am game to try anything once, and besides, I wanted to have a quilting adventure with Mary.  In addition I figured that I could make a pillow top out of the completed project.  So I sent off the above photo of our dear Rottweiler, Fannie Mae von Nubbinwagger who passed on at the ripe old age of 12 around 2003.   My first clue that this was too large for a pillow top should have been the fact that we were requested to bring a 56 inch square design wall!   Indeed, the project ended up being 56 or so inches square without borders. Cheryl had us overlay our photo with a grid overlay, and following the grid, make 2 inch squares of fabric.  Sounds easy enough; right?  Well, not quite.  On top of many of those 2 inch squares, other little pieces of fabric needed to be added to make up the details of that particular grid square.  Some of the pieces I used ended up having up to 8 additional fabrics on the little square.

Here is a photo of the end product, minus the binding which I’m still working on.

I just love the way it came out, but was it ever a lot of work.  I have literally worked on nothing else, except for longarm quilting a quilt for a friend, since I got home just before Memorial Day.  I dreamed about this project.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about how I was going to achieve a particular effect that I wanted.  I emailed Cheryl and whined when things weren’t turning out the way I expected. (By the way, Cheryl is a wonderful and patient teacher.  I recommend her Pet Mosaic class if you ever have the opportunity.  We were treated like queens at her home.)  I continually asked my dear husband’s (Quilter’s Support Staff) opinion.  I remade the nose three times.  I totally redid the eyes four times.  I remade the eyebrows once.  I was worried I would make a mess of the actual quilting. I agonized over some of the fabric choices.  It was like being in labor for three months.  It was worth it, but I suspect that making art quilts will go the way of paper piecing in my mind.  Never again.  I saw, I learned, I did, I redid.  I’m done!  I am glad I did it though.  It was a real challenge and helped me develop some skills that will come in handy in other quilting projects.

Here are a couple of closeups of the quilting that wasn’t nearly as challenging as I made it out to be in my mind.  The hardest part was remembering which direction the fur on Rottweilers lays because we lost our last one 5 years or so ago so I didn’t have one to pet.


When I quilted the nose, I couldn’t see the thread on the fabric so I ended up going over the same spot several times trying to make a pebble effect.  The pebbles came out really well on the mustache area that you can see in the last photo, though, maybe because I got so much practice on the nose?

Now that this project is done, I can go sweep the cobwebs off the walls all over the house that have been ignored for so long, and maybe I can blog a little more often.

Adventures in Quilting Using Tracing Paper

On the blog from a couple of weeks ago, I read about a technique for quilting a complicated design onto a quilt top using tracing paper, so I thought I would try it on the Radiant Star quilt that’s on my longarm machine at the moment because the large background squares and triangles just cried out for something special. So I meticulously adjusted the pattern I wanted to use to fit the background areas and traced them onto a separate piece of tracing paper for each section. Here’s a photo of the first triangle section that I stitched. By the way, you’re supposed to just stitch right through the paper.
So I traced one square and one triangle, using an ink pen, stitched them, and went to trace the rest. But I thought perhaps it might be a better idea to use pencil so that ink didn’t bleed through onto the light background squares. I traced the rest of the pieces in pencil. That was a big mistake. I’m not sure how well one can see in these next two photographs, but the pencil lead transferred to the light thread I had so carefully picked out to match the background (it is variegated thread) and gave the thread a grayish tint.
The first photo is traced with ink and the second is traced with pencil.
002 010
Sadly, I didn’t notice this problem until I only had the last triangle to stitch, and I’m not going to spend the time it would take to tear out all that stitching to redo it, plus the star medallion in the middle is all finished, so that would mean I would have to reload the quilt. What a pain! So I guess I’m just going to have to live with grayish looking thread on most of the background area. It’s a good thing that my quilts will never be in a judged quilt show.

The other thing I learned using this technique is to make sure any of the tracing paper that is used only overlaps the minimum amount absolutely necessary because otherwise it’s a lot more work to tear off two layers in that doubled section. When tearing off the paper, I learned to just rip the part that was outside the stitching area off as aggressively as you can, then start at a spot where there is a loose edge, lifting gently with a fingernail all along the loose edge, then pick up that edge and tear towards and along the stitching. Continue this way till it’s done. It’s a lot faster in the long run and leaves fewer little bits that need to be picked out with tweezers. It took me three times as long to pull off the paper than it did to do the lining up and stitching. I don’t know if I’ll try this technique again because it seems easier for most things to just use the laser light I have on the back of my long-arm to follow along the pattern from the back of the machine. But for those of you using a domestic machine for quilting, this technique might be worth a try.

Too much to do; too little time Tuesday

Gosh, I can’t believe its been two months since my last post. I’ve been quilting my little fingers to the bone…finished up three quilts…or maybe its four. And I’ve been having a great time on my longarm machine.
Here’s a photo of one of my finished quilts.
I learned this pattern and started this quilt last October at a class at the quilt guild I belong to (or Quilter’s Anonymous, as I refer to them). The class was geared to learning new techniques for HST, flying geese, and the “trumpet stars” you see in the quilt. In the process, I learned of a fabulous tool to make Triangle-in-a-square pieces aka V-blocks. When I have some more time, I’ll share that tool with you.

The fabric I used is all Christmas fabric that was donated to the local quilting group I belong to. I didn’t want to buy any fabric to complete the quilt, so you’ll notice the many different background fabrics. This was a mistake because I had to try to match each component with the adjacent background fabrics, so it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Oh, well, live and learn. I think it came out pretty well, and now I have a Christmas quilt to use on our bed for December.

896 Two-Inch Half-Square Triangles Later…

This is why I haven’t even touched the computer in nearly a month. Sometimes you just get so wrapped up in a quilting project that you just can’t tear yourself away. During the past month, my poor hubby has even had to make his own dinner some nights. It’s a good thing that he understands my obession.
If you haven’t read the story behind this quilt, check out my post “The Next Challenge”. Each of the blocks for the “Flying Dove” quilt require 16 half square triangles, so a total of 896 for the queen-sized quilt. The hard part is the majority of them were made from my deceased sister’s scraps which were too small to use the handy shortcut that makes them 8 at a time. I did have to add some fabric from my own scraps and stash as well as a few fat quarters, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but still very time consuming. But the finished product was worth all the work.
This is a photo of all the pieces ready to be assembled.

And this is the finished quilt:
The sad thing is when I hung it on the wall to photograph it, I noticed in the lower right hand quadrant, that in two blocks I have the half-square triangles in the center of the block instead of the outside! I was devastated because it would be impossible to take it apart and redo those two blocks to fix it especially because I mitered the borders. I can’t believe this got past me since I carefully inspected each block multiple times and had them all hung on the wall to make sure everything looked good and didn’t have identical pieces of the fabric right next to each other. The only excuse I can think of is I was crosseyed from trying to get the half-square triangles all pointing in the right direction.

Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag…Uh…Toy!

I’m so excited about my new acquisition.  It was delivered and set up yesterday.

Queen Quilter
It’s a Queen Quilter by Tin Lizzie!
Queen 2
I am greatly disappointed as well. This is a used machine (with a one year warranty), and Tin Lizzie tested it thoroughly before they brought it out…a 400 mile drive…and everything was working fine. Unfortunately by the time it got here, the stitch regulator cable was no longer working and the man who brought it out had spare cables…just not one for this model. So the only type of quilting I can do until they send a replacement is straight stitching like for stitch-in-a-ditch. Fortunately, when the new cable arrives, my sweet hubby can just plug it in, and I should be ready to roll. The man also made a mistake with the frame. He forgot to measure the rails, and brought 8 foot rails instead of the promised 10 footers, and the pantograph set up that came with it will only work with the longer rails. Of course I can’t really use the pantographs until the stitch regulator is fixed. The trouble with asking God to give you patience is He gives you plenty of opportunity to practice it. 🙂
In the meantime, I’ve been madly working on quilts so that I would have something ready to quilt…once I master the machine. I have one completely ready and another that just needs borders & a back made.
I hope my new cable shows up tomorrow and I will actually be able to get something done over the weekend.