Member spotlight: Leslie F.

Tell us about yourself.
I am retired from a career in law and nonprofits.  I grew up in the Cincinnati area -- I moved to Minnesota in 1969 to attend Macalester College, and did not leave until we retired.  My husband and I have been married for nearly 40 years and we have two adult children.  Our son is 34 and a police officer in Minneapolis.  Our daughter is 32 and works in NYC for the United Nations.  We have a 6 year old beagle named Maggie.  My husband and I live in NW Wisconsin -- we retired here about 3 years ago.
Do you have a blog, Etsy shop, or other quilt-related business? If so, please include a link.
No, I just sew for me and my own purposes!
Do you have any other hobbies, crafty or otherwise?
I read voraciously and I love to cook.  Recently, I took up crocheting again, getting ready for our first grandchild to be born in Jan. 2013.
How long have you been quilting, and how did you learn to quilt?
I learned to sew from my Mother's sisters when I was in elementary school.  I made some of my own clothes in high school.  I got interested in quilting about 10 years ago, but didn't really have time or space for it until I retired.
How many quilts do you think you have made? How many are still UFOs (unfinished objects)?
I have made about 50 very small quilts in the last couple of years.  I've donated 30 of them to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative ( and most of the rest were sent away in mini-quilt swaps that I used to do every month on  I've made four bed-size quilts and several quilted throws, table runners, baby quilts, etc.
How many hours a week do you spend quilting on average?
It varies quite a bit, but the average is probably 10 hours a week.
Describe your first quilt. (a photo would be nice, but is optional)
My first little quilt was a nine patch with shoo fly blocks -- I lost almost every point!  Please don't laugh when you see it....  

 Which of your quilts is your favorite or are you most proud of and why?
I really like the twin size quilt I made for our daughter in grey and yellow and black and white.  I made and quilted it in three long sections, then sewed the sections together.  I also love a black and white and red little quilt I made of courthouse steps blocks.

Where do you sew? Describe your space and your favorite quilting accompaniments
My sewing space is in our family room.  My sewing machine cabinet and my cutting table are right behind the couch.  My husband and I can watch TV together in the evening, even if I'm sewing.  I mostly use my Singer 15-91 that my parents purchased, new, the same year that I was born.  She purrs along so quietly!  If I'm alone when I'm sewing, I often have Food Network on.  I usually have Diet Coke over ice nearby.

Describe your fabric buying habits and stash. How do you manage your stash?
Since I make mostly little quilts, I don't need a big stash.  I buy things I love, especially black and white prints, usually without knowing what I'm going to do with them.  All of my fabric stash fits into a closet that is right in our family room.  I can show you a pic of it, because my husband recently challenged me to clean it up, so I did! 

What are your favorite and least favorite things about quilting?
I generally don't like following specific pattern instructions, and I love to improvise.  The thing I'm most afraid of is the actual quilting -- I'm so afraid that I'll mess up the lovely top that I just pieced!
What are your current and/or long-term quilting goals?
I would love to have a sit-down longarm with a 16" throat.  I think I'd like quilting on that type of machine, and it could fit into our budget, some year.....
I'd like to develop more 'art sense' so that my improvisations could be more evocative, rather than just cute or pretty.
What is one (or more) quilt technique you would like to learn or are afraid of?
I would love to learn free motion quilting.  And, I would like to have a better eye for embellishment.
Who or what inspires you most in quilting?
Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr are my favorites right now -- they do such a fabulous job with modern quilts, without leaving the skill and art of traditional quilts behind. I mini-ized one of their designs for a donation to AAQI.   I also love Gwen Marston's books and techniques.
What advice do you have for new quilters?
First, learn to sew and learn to use your machine.  Then, start with a simple design without triangles or curves, to give yourself a good chance to make something you'll love and that you can complete in good order.
Anything else you would like to share?
I am thrilled to have younger folks getting involved in quilting.  My traditional quilt guild has an average age of nearly 70 -- I am one of the young ones, and I'm in my early 60's.

Free Motion Quilting with Angela Walters: A Book Review

With the free motion quilting sew-in next week and the holiday gift season approaching, I thought I'd review Angela Walters' new book, Free Motion Quilting with Angela Walters. Some of you may recognize Angela's name and her work as she quilted several of the quilts that Jacquie Gering showed at the MMQG September trunk show and book signing for Quilting Modern. Angela blogs at Quilting is My Therapy, where you can see how she beautifully brings life and texture to quilts with her creative use of free motion quilting.

When I see intricate FMQ designs, like those featured on Angela's blog, I'm generally intimidated and wouldn't consider them within my reach as a new-ish quilter. However, with this book, Angela breaks each pattern into steps that are easy to manage and understand.The section on quilting designs (section 2) includes more than 50 pages of step by step instructions for making a wide array of designs. I was impressed not only with the level of instruction for each pattern, but also the number of designs featured in the book. Angela also shows examples of what one can do to vary some of the designs, for instance by making different sized shapes, or framing some of the curvy designs in squares. The images that accompany each pattern show how much texture can be added to simple solid blocks of color and make you want to try each and every pattern!
I tried a sample of a few of the simpler designs in the book this morning. Though far from perfect, I was left thinking "I could actually do this"--with a bit more practice of course!!

Section 3 of the book (Using the designs in Modern Quilts) focuses on using the quilt patterns in some common modern patchwork designs such as wonky log cabins, strip quilts, and zig zags. This section was particularly helpful for me as I often have a hard time visualizing how a quilt pattern will look on a quilt. The combinations she presents here are artful and bold, and do an excellent job of featuring the shapes and fabrics commonly found in modern quilts.

And as if the book were written just for me (decision-making has never been my strong suit), there is a section called "Still Stuck? Tips for Deciding on Quilting Designs". Here, Angela gives a handful of tips and questions to ask yourself about your quilt that will help you come to a decision. And like the rest of the book, it includes  more beautiful images and combinations of quilting patterns to help your thinking.

I should note that this book is not a free-motion quilting 101 book. It assumes that you have some knowledge about how to FMQ. It does not have tips or exercises on the basics such as keeping stitch length consistent and avoiding birds-nests on the back of your quilt. But, if  you are wanting to expand your skills beyond meandering or straight line quilting, I would say this is definitely a must-have addition to your quilting library. It is a book you can pull out again and again as you think about quilting each new project. Add it to your Christmas list, buy it for a fellow-quilter. I know I'll be adding Angela's second book (not out yet) In the Studio with Angela Walters to mine!

Member Spotlight: Annik M.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Annik (Ah-neek). I live in Minneapolis with my husband and our three children. My oldest son is 9. He loves sports and video games. My second son is 7, and he's all about Legos. My daughter is almost 3 1/2. Like many girls her age, she loves pretending to be a fairy princess and playing with stuffed animals. Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I studied Studio Art in college, then went on to work in banking as a systems analyst for about nine years.

Do you have a blog, Etsy shop, or other quilt-related business?
Yes, both. I blog (not often enough) at I also sell fabric and some handmade items at

Do you have any other hobbies, crafty or otherwise?

Besides making quilts, I enjoy sewing clothes for my children and occasionally for myself. I've been know to knit the occasional hat or pair of mittens, too.

How long have you been quilting, and how did you learn to quilt?

My mom taught me how to sew in elementary school, however, I only started quilting about four years ago. I always thought quilts were stuffy and boring, however, I became obsessed with the modern quilting movement thanks to Flickr and blogs. I learned basic quilting techniques through online quilt alongs, but local quilting friends have absolutely taught me the most.

How many quilts do you think you have made? How many are still UFOs (unfinished objects)?
Truly, I have no idea. I finished 13 quilts in 2011, although this year my pace has slowed quite a bit. As for UFO's, I believe the pile currently sits at at least 5 quilts plus bags, apparel and a bunch of other home dec stuff. Frankly, I love UFO's. Sometimes you need a little time to think things over, or maybe learn a new technique, or be inspired by another quilt before you know how to proceed with your project. There's no shame in putting a project down until a lightening bolt strikes.
How many hours a week do you spend quilting on average?

An hour a day if I'm lucky. I'm not always lucky.

Describe your first quilt.

Like Rebecca T., my first quilt was the Mod Sampler by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson! fame. I used all sorts of Amy Butler prints from my fabric stash. Most of my quilts are really bright, so I always laugh when I see this earthy number.

 Which of your quilts is your favorite or are you most proud of and why?

I'm not sure if I've made my favorite quilt yet, though I've really enjoyed making challenge quilts with the Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild. The black and white challenge was so fun. It was fun to see what others made with the same fabrics.

The Kona Solids challenge was another favorite. Making all of those teeny tiny pinwheels was time consuming but completely worth the effort.

 Where do you sew? Describe your space and your favorite quilting accompaniments.

I have a sewing room. It's jammed packed with shelves full fabric, a cutting table, an ironing board, plus two sewing machines, a serger, a cover stitch machine, and a computer. It's a tight squeeze but it's my favorite room in the house. I've started a "remodel the basement" fund in the hopes of one day having a larger space with room for a design wall.

Describe your fabric buying habits and stash. How do you manage your stash?

For five years I had a business making tote bags (called Lemonade Bags). During that time I amassed an insane amount of fabric. These days I try to be more selective with my purchases. I absolutely couldn't resist the new Liberty of London quilting fabrics at Sewtropolis, but otherwise, I'm doing pretty well on my diet. As for managing the stash, I've started refolding my fabric using Flaun's method. Most folks keep their stash in order by color, but I organize by designer, then manufacturer. Strange, I know.

A fraction of the stash - some organized, some not.

What are your favorite and least favorite things about quilting?
I love pressing my seams because the block/quilt absolutely transforms. I also really enjoy hand sewing the binding. It's slow and meditative and the reward is a beautifully finished quilt. Least favorite thing about quilting? Squaring up my blocks. Ugh.
What are your current and/or long-term quilting goals?
The first is to dedicate more time to quilting and designing new quilts. I would also really like to start writing patterns. I have several in progress but I seem to have trouble finishing them. A class in Adobe Illustrator would probably help...
What is one (or more) quilt technique you would like to learn or are afraid of?
I would like to get better at free motion quilting - move beyond the basic meander. I'd also like to tackle a quilt with curved piecing. I'm not afraid of curves, I just haven't gotten around to them yet. So many quilting techniques, so little time!
Who or what inspires you most in quilting?
Elizabeth Hartman is definitely an inspiration. I love her books, patterns, her style. And I'm inspired by architecture and graphic design. Oh, and color. Love color.
What advice do you have for new quilters?
Ask questions. Seek advice from experienced quilters. Find yourself a mentor. While our aesthetics may not be the same, we new, modern quilters can learn a great deal from traditional, experienced quilters.
Anything else you would like to share
Thanks for reading. See you at the next MMQG meeting :)

Quilting for Charity

Hi all, it’s Nikol from Sewtropolis. Last week Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the Eastern Coast and within a day the quilting community were putting out the call for quilts. I will do my best to answer this call because I believe that we are all on this earth together and we should help each other out. I also believe that what we give, we will receive in multitude. Both good and bad, so I try to always put good out into the world.

When someone has lost everything my first reaction is to make them feel better – I know a quilt, in some small way, will do just that. So, I will do my best to answer the call for quilt and here are my top 10 reasons you should too – David Letterman style:

10. Chances are you already have everything you need to make a quilt.

9. A quilt can give the someone hope

8. Wrapping yourself in a quilt is like receiving a much-needed hug.

7. You can wrap people AND things up in a quilt.

6. A quilt can bring comfort.

5. A quilt can keep you warm.

4. A quilt can be used by all family members – 2 and 4 legged.

3. Donating a quilt will make you feel good.

2. Quilts are made with love, that love transfers to the recipient when they wrap themselves in that quilt.

And the number one reason to donate a quilt:

1. We need to love and take care of one another.

Want to help? Then please consider making a 12.5” x 12.5” 9-patch quilt block. Vanessa wrote a tutorial on how to make a 9-Patch block. Be sure to cute your squares 4.5”x4.5” in order to get a 12.5”x12.5” block.

I will collect the blocks throughout the month of November and then starting in December I’ll put out another call to help assemble. More on that later! For now, please consider make a few blocks for the victims of Sandy. I promise it will be so appreciated and will make you feel good.

Happy Quilting!

Member spotlight: Karen S.

Tell us about yourself.
I grew up on a farm in southwestern North Dakota and attended college in Fargo, ND. There I met my husband and we moved together to the Houston, TX area where we lived the first seven years we were married. We returned up north to Minnesota over 10 years ago when our oldest son was born. We have 10 and 6 year old sons, and I am a stay at home mom, though I have learned as they get older, there isn't much stay at home in my job as a mom... I spend a lot of time volunteering at school, chaperoning field trips and getting them where they need to be. Before I stayed home, I was a principle for an independent financial planning firm in Texas.

Do you have a blog, Etsy shop, or other quilt-related business?
I have a blog, Badlands Quilts.
I have a small etsy shop that I sell extra items from my stash that I might not need/like and also OOP fabrics that I come across on my small town travels.
Do you have any other hobbies, crafty or otherwise?
I enjoy gardening and decorating in addition to quilting. Life has gotten busy enough though, I am happy my yard is at a maintenance stage so I can devote my little free time to sewing. For our first house, I did a lot of home dec sewing: lined drapes, bed skirts, duvets, slipcovers, etc.

How long have you been quilting, and how did you learn to quilt?
I first became interested in quilting when my mom made a quilt for my oldest son almost 11 years ago. I have been quilting more intensely since 2009 when I started my blog, though there have been times since when I haven't sewed much due to family activities and home improvement projects. 
I grew up in a house with 2 older sisters and a mom that all sewed so I probably started on sewing on a childs machine when I was 4 and have been a fabric addict since!
How many quilts do you think you have made? How many are still UFOs (unfinished objects)?
Good question, not enough! When I first started quilting I participated in a lot of doll quilt type swaps, and I've cut back so I can make a few quilts for my own house! Actually Flaun and I were discussing this and I have over 20 UFOs?!
How many hours a week do you spend quilting on average?
This varies widely, 5-25?
Describe your first quilt.
I used a set of fat quarters that I didn't like very much (thinking I would make mistakes) and modified a design out of a Fons & Porter Simple Quilts magazine.

Which of your quilts is your favorite or are you most proud of and why?
It is a triangular log cabin piece made using Kaffe Fassett prints in reds, pinks and oranges for a placemat swap on flickr. I just love the collision of color and hope to make a larger one to keep for myself sometime!

Where do you sew?
I sew in my basement guest room. While I at times I dream of a dedicated space I am fortunate for what I have.
Describe your fabric buying habits and stash. How do you manage your stash?
Like many, when I first started quilting I bought more than I do now and often bought FQs from the same fabric groupings. Lately, I am attracted to neutral backgrounds, text fabrics or will buy FQ/ half yards to add to my color drawers.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about quilting?
My favorite part is cutting and I don't really have a least favorite part, sometimes with very intricate piecing I just want to be done by the time I finish with just that.
What are your current and/or long-term quilting goals?
Try to work out a more consistent schedule to include sewing during the day. For many years, I've stayed up late and done most of my sewing after my boys go to bed but they go to school early enough that morning comes too quickly!
What is one (or more) quilt technique you would like to learn or are afraid of?
I have done very little appliqué. I'd like to learn a bit more so that if I were to find an appealing project I wouldn't avoid it. And I'd like to continue to improve my free motion quilting skills.
Who or what inspires you most in quilting?
Blogs and decorating magazines. I have always loved Kaffe Fassetts work and also Gwen Marstons.
What advice do you have for new quilters?
Just jump in and give it a try. Most people learn best with hands on experimentation. As you get going you will learn what quilt rules are good to stick with (washing with color catchers) and other rules that you really don't need to follow.
Anything else you would like to share?
Just thanks for reading if you made it this far!

Free motion quilting sew-in

On Sunday, Dec. 2, we are having a sew-in at Sewtropolis from 12-5pm. This sew-in is free to dues-paying members, so it is a great time to join! The idea is to all either try out or improve our free-motion quilting skills by practicing and helping each other.

If you are not sure what you will need for FMQ, I have a list of suggested supplies to bring below, however, you can bring whatever supplies you would like to use or work on. I will also be bringing a stack of library books on FMQ for those who would like to read a bit.

  • Sewing machine, cord, pedal, and extension cord. If your machine has an extension/quilting  table, bring it, too.
  • Free motion foot. This will look something like the one at right. The bottom will either be plastic or metal, and may be a full oval (closed) or open like the photo. They all work.
  • A variety of needles to try. Some people like Topstitch 90/14, others like Universal 80/12. You should try out a few different ones and see which you like best with your machine. 
  • One or more spools of thread. This will totally depend on your preferences and budget, but a fine 50wt cotton thread like Aurifil,  Essential Cotton Thread, or even the large spools of cotton Coats & Clark from Jo-Ann's would be a good start. You will need a lot of thread--bring a few spools and several bobbins. To make your life easier when practicing, use the same thread for the spool and bobbin.
  • Fabric sandwiches. You can either work on a quilt (a non-precious one, probably), or something like 12-20" squares of muslin or other cheap/ugly fabric sandwiched with batting. Note that you will be better able to see what you are doing if you use plain fabric. 
  • Washable (or not, if you use muslin) fabric markers for marking designs on your fabric.

I would also highly recommend the following links:

For a quick read, Oh, Fransson has this tutorial on how to get started.

The Free Motion Quilting Project is an excellent site with so many different designs. She is running a Free Motion Quilt-Along all through 2012 where she teaches you how to FMQ really well.

SewCalGal is also running a 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge. This one is nice because it includes articles from all kinds of people that know what they are talking about.

For even more videos, check out HGTV or YouTube. Watching someone else do it makes it less scary, I think :)

Anyone else have any thoughts, tips, or links? Leave a comment!

Quilting and Mindfulness

Somehow in my four years of quilting, “making quilts” has turned into an informal mindfulness practice.  Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zin is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.”  When the time comes to settle into my sewing nook it can be an opportunity to “show up” and really be present in that space with my mind and body. Having the opportunity to practice being in one place, working on one thing is hard to come by in our hectic daily lives in which normal often means juggling multiple task, demands and priorities.

Present moment awareness can take multiple forms. Sometimes it can be focusing in on the colors, noticing the subtle variations within and between fabrics.   Or it may be noticing the texture of the fabrics, the thread, noticing the whir of the sewing machine, the snipping of threads, and the space between all of the noticing. Taking some time to just notice what is happening in the present moment often helps me appreciate the time I have had to sew, which is often not as much time as I want to have. And because minds like to judge our experience, I inevitably notice thoughts that spring from direct observation; “I want to get this done,” “I like this part of quilting,” “I don’t like this part of quilting,” “I’m bad at this,” “I’m having fun.”

And with this judgmental, running commentary part of the mind there is the gift of practicing patience. Patience for the process of learning and doing, patience for judgmental thoughts about performance or skill, patience for the worry thoughts about how it will look in the end. In learning how to cultivate patience here, and continuing to do what matters when the mind is running through its hamster wheel of thoughts, there can be room to grow this awareness into other areas of life. And continually, with kindness, returning attention to the direct experience again, noticing colors, sounds, textures, thoughts, and the creation of something out of something else.


Hi!  I'm Vanessa from Punkin Patterns back again with a fun and quick quilting tutorial.

Little Scrap Pillow
Quilt-as-you go is a great method for quilting small projects, especially when you only have a few minutes at a time.  It's super easy and funHere's how you do it::

Grab a piece of batting.  You start in the center and sew your fabric directly onto the batting, quilting it right away.

QAYG, photo 1

To add a second piece, lay it down right sides together matching the edges of your fabric together and sew a seam.

QAYG, photo 2

Fold the fabric over and iron it.

QAYG, photo 3

Now quilt in place.

QAYG, photo 4

Continue until your batting is covered.  You can cover it any way you'd like -- log cabin style is the simplest (and shown in the pillow at the top of the post).  You can also sew two (or more) pieces of fabric together before sewing them onto your batting.  Just have fun!  It's a great way to use up scraps.

QAYG, photo 5

QAYG, photo 6

This method works well for small projects like pillows, doll quilts, mug rugs and maybe even a baby blanket (if you're brave).  I have heard of people quilting smaller sections like this and then sewing the batting together to create a much larger quilt, but I've never tried it.  This method is best with log cabin blocks or stripes - but of course you can be creative and have fun!!  I quilted each section of this pillow with a different style of quilting (wavy lines, diagonal, zig-zag, straight lines - so many possibilities).

Little Scrap Pillow

Ronald McDonald House Gift Bags

Hi everyone,

At the last meeting we discussed making gift bags for the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Minneapolis.  Last year some of us made the simple fabric bags using the following pattern that a volunteer at the house wrote up:

These bags are used to distributed donated gifts to families staying at RMH over the holiday season.  They had been using trash bags, but they would tear. And besides, who really wants to get presents in a trash bag?

This is a quick and simple project that only takes two yards of fabric with a simple drawstring closure.  These babies are a great way to use up that "special" fabric from your stash that may have looked like a good ideal, but turned out not to be that great after all (oh, we all have it).  Holiday fabric is NOT required and feel free to improvise and use a variety of fabrics if you like.

I will collect the bags at our next meeting on Thursday, November 15th and deliver them to RMH.

Thanks for helping out.  The families staying at the house appreciate it, especially at the holidays.
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