How to Make a Crystal Quilt

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Time-Saving for Quilters, Part 2

In Part 1 of Time-Saving for Quilters, we talked about the importance of preventive maintenance for all quilting tools, machines and other equipment. Today, we look at physical space and that storage hog, the STASH!


Lesson 2: Downsize That Stash


We all keep too much fabric in our stashes. We buy fabric because it’s beautiful, we love it, it’s on sale or an otherwise good deal, or we make a mistake thinking a particular piece is just what we need for that next project.

The truth is – we buy too much fabric, too many notions, threads, art supplies and all the rest!!

We’re brought up as consumers, right? So – there’s nothing we like better than shopping, and shopping for fabrics and art supplies is a trip to Heaven!

Can it!

Pull out all those fabrics and cull them down to about 25% of what you’re presently storing. Think in terms of how much fabric you can make into quilts in one year.

Think about how long you’ve been collecting fabric. Look at the pieces you bought over the last year. How different are those fabrics from the ones you bought during your first year of quilting, if you have any of those left? See how your eye has become more sophisticated, how you know yourself better now than you did a few short years ago?

Begin with the fabrics that have been around the longest. Chances are they are beginning to rot; nothing lasts forever, yes? And if you were ever going to use them, you would have done so before now.

To those, add the ugliest. Come on, you know they’re in there! Those fat quarters that came in a bundle you thought was glorious until you opened it? That piece you never did like but mistakenly thought it would enhance a work-in-progress? That one over there – see it? – it’s a misprint; get rid of it.

Carry on in this manner, truly, until you force yourself to respond to your newly refined tastes.

So, go on – clean house on that stash. Sell what you don’t want at your next guild meeting. What’s left over from that can be donated to a church, a self-help group or a school in need of craft supplies.

Write it off on your taxes.

Do whatever you have to do, but get rid of that unwanted fabric that you are never going to use!

Storing fabric is expensive. The fabrics deteriorate, develop permanent wrinkles and folds, and take up valuable space you could be using for something else.

Be tough on yourself for this all-important step. The outcomes are rewarding. You can:

  • Free yourself from a lot of (really) unwanted baggage; it’s very liberating to cut down on your stash!
  • Eliminate the hidden pressures to produce something out of all that fabric you no longer really like, making way in your heart and mind to work on the projects you truly want to complete.
  • Create a lot of new-found space in your studio. No matter how large or small your studio space, every cubic inch counts when we’re talking about storage, doesn’t it?
  • Finish with a selection of only gorgeous, wonderful fabrics that are truly worthy of your talents and your commitment to production.
  • Reach for what’s available and get on with the work. You no longer need to spend hours poring over your fabrics in search of the perfect ones to do a job. Learn to buy what you need, and to use what you have on hand.


How does downsizing a stash make more time for quilting? You spend a little time, a big investment actually, in making sure that you only stock those fabrics you truly love and are likely to use. This important step clears physical space in your studio or sewing corner, and clears mental space in your mind for thinking about present and future quilt projects.

After you complete this important but not difficult job, you have more time for quilting because you spend less time searching for the “perfect” fabric. You spend less time searching through fabrics in general.

Save time, and quilt more!


Time-Saving for Quilters is an 8-lesson series of blog posts, reprinted here with permission, similar to the kind of instruction students receive at QuiltEd Online in all of our online art quilt classes. Read the entire series: Part 1, Part 2, and the remaining posts to follow in sequence in coming weeks. Subscribe to QuiltEd Online News to receive notifications of these and other useful quilt blog posts!

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Online Art Quilt Portfolio Video



Yesterday, I successfully uploaded a slideshow and made it into a video on YouTube. It was quite a job, taking me about five days to accomplish.

First, I had to organize a slideshow. Working on my Mac, I did that fairly easily with Keynote, but still it took time to decide which photos to show, and getting the slides’ text bits nicely presented. I did not want to add a lot of text that would make the show longer, but only enough to display nicely what I do and to whet appetites to learn more about my work.

The biggest problem I faced was an internal one: I kept making editorial errors in the copy. I would forget to mark quilts as sold, or indicate they were made from a different fabric than they were. If you think to make a slideshow of your work, take my advice and make sure the slideshow is as nearly perfect as you can make it BEFORE you even think about uploading it!

Once the slide show was organized, it had to be exported as “Images.” Exporting produced a set of photos that matched the slides. Those photos were then uploaded on YouTube under Upload/Create/Slideshow.

YouTube, like all sites Google, lacks the simplicity of presentation that, as a Mac user, I really appreciate. A lot of my work-time was wasted trying to find out where I could reorganize the slides, augment those that needed to be on display for more than the 4 second option of the play time, and delete slides I did not want included in the final version.

Here’s a tip: If you’re running a 3, 4 or more second slideshow, and you want one slide to remain on the screen longer, simply add multiple photos of that slide. Switch Zoom & Pan off to stop the movement of images on the screen. The set of identical slides in the show display as a single, longer-running, image.

I could not find help for photo arranging on the YouTube support pages, so I ran a general search for it and discovered that YouTube is linked, via Google, to Picasa. Upload photos onto YouTube, and they launch a Picasa site for your photos without your knowledge or permission! OK, so if you’re out there, you’re out there!

Going to Picasa, finding my photos and editing them was a snap, so that job was easily taken care of. Satisfied with the final version of the video, I published it as Private. That bought me time to add music to it. The selection of music on YouTube is tricky to navigate, but I’m glad it saves the hassle of finding, getting permission to use and uploading music from another site.

Best bet is to search for music that fits the total length time of the video. I’m a New Age music fan, and often work with meditative music playing softly in my studio, so I picked a piece of music from the available choices that I thought would not grate too badly on anyone’s nerves. If it bothers you, switch off the sound on your computer while viewing the video.

Finally satisfied with the slideshow, the amount of time given to each image, the text write-ups and music, I republished the video as Public. It’s not been up for 24 hours and has already had more than 300 views!

OK, so there you have it! I now have an online art quilt portfolio video available on YouTube. I hope everyone will see it and want to buy my work. If there’s something there you like and want to buy, let me know. Use the Contact form in the sidebar; thanks!

Oh–and much of my work has been the basis for the classes I teach on QuiltEd Online. If you’re the kind of quilter who is tired of using other people’s patterns, and you would like to explore the world of art quilting with a gentle tutor, have a look at the class offerings and enroll for a class today. With continuous enrollment and full-time access to your teacher (me!), you can study and do the work at your leisure!

See you in class!!

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Filed under Art in Kenya, Patchwork Quilting, Quilts, Surface Design

Time-Saving for Quilters, Part 1

Experience Behind the Tips

So you want more time for quilting? You read my earlier post 10 Tips to Make More Time for Quilting and you eagerly await the next installment?

Well, here it comes, but first, a caution:

Many of you will hoot and scream over this blog post series, I know! You love all the glorious fabrics you have collected over the years. Eye candy is of paramount importance. You are inspired by the vibrant colors, the subtle detailing, the feeling of the cloth in your hand, and the smell of it in your nostrils. You eat, sleep and breathe fabric for quilts, right?

Well, I’ve had to learn some important studio management lessons the hard way, lessons that have affected the ways in which I work and the efficiency with which I can complete any quilt. Let me tell you all about it . . .


The Cats

We have six cats in my family. We have two brothers Meinie and Mo, all that are left of the original foursome – you can fill in the blank names of the dearly departed.

Then, there are two sisters, cousins to the first set of two brothers. Their names are not important, but the fact that they are both small cats, related to the first two males, is significant. These little girls cannot defend themselves from the much larger, heavier and stronger males.

Then, we have another set of brothers. These started out as Oscar and Wilde, but the Kiswahili word for “wild” is kali, so they are now Oscar and Kali. They are all lovely cats, each with his or her unique personality, affections and demands.


Time-Saving for Quilters

Oscar and Kali


The trouble started with Mo, who was lost and absent from home several years ago during a traumatizing six months. When he returned to us, Mo could not bear the company of any cat other than his brothers. With only one of those left, Mo picks a fight with any of the other cats he comes across. For the little girls, this might well prove fatal.


Time-saving for quilters: Mo

Mo, showing battle scars on his nose


We had to make arrangements to keep Mo and Meinie away from the other cats. We solved that problem with an alternating inside/outside regimen.

Here’s the hiccup: When the two girls, with Oscar and Kali, are indoors, they stay in my studio. Normally placid, at night and with geckos on the walls, the two boys go nuts. They climb the curtains, walk the tops of the pelmets, push claws behind artwork on the walls, knock over lampshades, pull supplies off bookshelves and wreak general havoc.

I soon learned, to my dismay, not to leave ANYTHING out overnight in the studio and expect it to be in the same condition next morning. For the last several months I have been working extra hard at managing tools, materials and equipment to keep the studio, and more importantly, my work, cat-proofed.


Time-Saving Lessons

Out of that experience come the following lessons about time-saving for quilters. What cat-free time I have in my studio is precious, and the lessons I share with you here ensure that, whenever I find time to work, I maximize that time in the studio. These lessons about time-saving for quilters almost certainly will not be popular with everyone, but I can tell you for sure–they work!

If you are the kind of quilter who oohs and ahhs over beautiful books, fabulous fabrics, tempting threads and extravagant embellishments, you may be excused from reading forward.

However, if what you really want is more productive sewing and quilting time, please carry on and at least hear me out.

Whether your studio is a detached outbuilding or the corner of a guest room, these guidelines apply. The smaller the physical space available, the more important these tips are. Your studio, your place for creating wonderful quilts as gifts, household furnishings or works of art, exists more in your mind than it does in the 3-d space of your home or other location. Apply these lessons to your thinking, and watch them manifest in your physical surroundings!


Lesson 1: Get Ahead of Maintenance

“You’re only as good as your tools.”

Nothing slows a quilter like tools and equipment that do not work well. Tool and equipment preventive maintenance is an important time-saver for quilters. It is far better to exercise preventive maintenance of tools and equipment than to stop mid-way through a project due to an almost predictable break-down.

Depend on Murphy’s law:

If anything can go wrong, it usually does.

Inevitably, that kind of thing always happens when you are under a time deadline of one sort or another. Preventive maintenance saves lost time when you can least afford to waste time.

Let’s look at a quilter’s studio maintenance inventory, and consider what maintenance can help avoid costly repairs or replacements, as well as saving time:

Cutting tools

  • Dressmaker shears, embroidery scissors, thread snips – need sharpening by a professional. Never drop these tools, as a hard impact does much damage by bowing and nicking blades.
  • Rotary cutter – needs blade sharpening or replacement, cleaning, oiling. Ditto for dropping it!
  • Mat – needs threads removed from cutting slices in the surface; may need replacement.
  • Ruler – needs non-skid attachments added or replaced. Handle added or replaced. Rulers cleaned and replaced when necessary.

Sewing tools

  • Pins and needles – Learn not to mix up pins and needles; otherwise, sort by type, and check for bends, snags and rust. Discard in an environmentally friendly manner; thanks!
  • Rippers – clean and sharp; hook well seated in handle; test cutting ability in the curve of the ripper blade.
  • Awl – as sharp as you like and without barbs. Consider using an eco-friendly manicure orange stick instead of a metal or plastic awl.

Quilting frames, hoops

  • Check structure, tension, rust, damage, general condition


Sewing machinePhoto by deejayqueue

Machines (Sewing, serging or other)

  • Machine servicing – timing, parts replacement, engine brushes or overhaul; general lubrication, timing and tension settings checked by an authorized dealer/service repair person

Pressing tools

  • Iron: electrical wiring check, faceplate cleaned, temperature test
  • Ironing board: check sturdiness of legs, condition of iron rack, oil sliding parts, check for rust; board well padded? cover clean and without holes?
  • Pressing cloths: clean? holey? gummed up with fusible adhesives?
  • Pressing aids: non-stick sheets damaged?


Always use the right tool for the job. Tool substitution can result in damage to the work, and worse yet, injury to yourself or others.

Using the wrong tool wastes time. Even if you must delay a task until you obtain the correct tool, that time is more productively spent working on some other project in the interim than to pound away at a task with the wrong tool, risking harm to the work, damage to the equipment and injury to yourself, not to mention wasting more time.

Any equipment that needs servicing, take it out for maintenance and repairs now, certainly within the next week. While the equipment is being serviced, tackle other time-saving procedures which have to do with cleaning house and getting organized. Then, when you have everything ready to quilt again, your machines and tools will be in good nick and ready for work.

When you collect machines and tools you took out for repair and servicing, ask the repair person what steps you can take to reduce unnecessary wear and tear on the equipment. Also ask when the equipment is likely to need another service. Whatever the repair person says, make notes. Add the dates to your calendar and set reminders to have the equipment serviced, then take action when the reminders pop up.

In six months or a year, when the equipment is due for attention again, have it serviced immediately. This saves time, and often money, over having equipment break down when you need it most!


Time-Saving for Quilters is an 8-lesson series of blog posts, reprinted with permission, similar to the kind of instruction students receive in QuiltEd Online art quilt classes. This is Part 1, with the remaining posts to follow in sequence in coming weeks. Subscribe to QuiltEd Online News to receive notification of the rest of the series of posts.


Filed under Quilt Tips & Tutorials, Time Management

Sashless Quilt-As-You-Go

Heart of Africa by Dena Dale Crain

With a few productive hours in the studio, Heart of Africa is moving right along. I figured out how to resolve the black composition issues and save myself some labor in the process. I simply added a pieced section of black to a strip of sashing to join two black sections together.

However, the strip set problem required more fabric and more work! The concept behind this work is to use a quilt-as-you-go method with no obvious sashing. Yesterday’s experience showed me that a simple strip set does not do the job. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

Today’s additional care and labor produced sashing that truly does not look like sashing. As wide as 4-5″, and chopped up in the same kind of random way as the sections it connects, the sashing blends right into the composition.

I’m pleased! The progress I made reassures me that this method will work for my large Redefinitions art quilt that is already in process but lagging far behind this one.

If you’re a technique freak (I am!), this one photo shows the whole idea. Look for the patches that are not yet quilted. That’s the sashing!

Heart Detail

Click on the photos to see larger images and greater detail. Don’t mind the thread clippings all over the quilt–it is still a work in progress and I was in a hurry to get this photo out to you!

This project has also been experimental in another way. I’m working in a very tight studio, tight in both space and time. Oh, it’s the same large room I’ve used as a studio for many years, but now there’s a difference. It has gone from this:



to this:


Learn all about the change from cluttered to clean in an 8-part series of articles called “Time-Saving for Quilters” on QuiltEd Online News. Discover the five-minute set-up and five-minute take-down and the two-minute tidy-up. Learn how to make every minute in your studio count!



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Filed under Quilt Tips & Tutorials, Quilting Technology, Quilts, Time Management

Bind by Machine Coming Soon to QuiltEd Online

The next online art quilt class to make its appearance at QuiltEd Online will be Bind by Machine. The class teaches patchwork quilters how to bind patchwork quilts entirely by machine, using one of three principal methods:

  • Fuss-Free Binding
  • Seamless Binding
  • Double-Fold Binding by Machine

In the lessons for Fuss-Free Binding, you learn which grain line is best for binding strips and why. You learn how to make joins so that every one lies in the same direction without making lumps in the binding. The lessons show how to make such a smooth final join no one can ever tell where the binding begins and where it ends. Best of all, you learn how to bind by machine–no hand sewing! Can you imagine what a great time-saver that is?!

Two Hearts, Fuss-Free Binding

In Seamless Binding, discover how to cut and mark binding strips correctly to bury the joins in the mitered corners. It is easier than you think! See how to apply the joined strips from corner to corner without fuss or bother, how to form the mitered corners and how to sew down the binding on the other side, all without ironing and optional bind by machine!

Calligraph, Seamless Binding

Double-fold Binding by Machine is a real technical break-through! Many quilters prefer the generous luxury of a double-fold binding, but wish they could speed up the process of applying one. Now, they can! See firsthand in online art quilt class Bind by Machine how to apply beautiful double-fold bindings without a single hand-sewn stitch!

Gateway, Double-Fold Binding by Machine

Added to this fantastic online art quilt class Bind by Machine are methods for embellishing bindings with slim and eye-catching accents of contrasting color, sure to set your quilts apart from the crowd!

Altogether, the three patchwork quilt machine-sewn binding methods plus a few exceptional embellishment techniques make your bindings special–better than ever!

Sign up today for QuiltEd Online News so you receive notification when Bind by Machine opens–you won’t want to miss it!

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