Walking Dead Version of Victoria

This is just in from Judy Chaffee of Ventura, California, who shares her Walking Dead fabrics version of the Crystal Quilt pattern, Victoria:

Thought you might want to see what I did with the Victoria Crystal Quilt pattern.  My son-in-law was the camera person on the show called the Walking Dead and when I saw the Walking Dead fabric I thought of your pattern and that it would work great with the fabric.

However,  I wish that I had turned the center square diagonally.  It took me several tries until I figured how to make the mitered corners and how to attach the background fabric but I learned a new technique  so it was worth it.

Judy used my quilt pattern Victoria, but in a way very different from the ways in which I have used it. Here’s the original, in two versions:

Victoria I, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

In this first version, I used Inset Angle Piecing, a simple technique that takes about 15 minutes to master. Inset Angle Piecing made every point perfect. The quilt has no unnecessary seam lines. Every seam involves a fabric change.

There is a fine line of white Perfect Piping around the quilt top, just inside the yellow strip that fames the patchwork so nicely. (Click on the photo to open the image in another tab to see it enlarged.) That little line of white punches out the design by echoing the center white patch. A little hand beading finished the work well, giving it a definite focal point.

Victoria II, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

The second version of Victoria was cut as one piece of pink silk dupioni, made in one piece with the borders. Reverse appliqué was the principal technique used to make this quilt. Notice that there are no unnecessary seam lines in this quilt, either. There are tiny Swarovski crystals in the centre.

Judy did a great job with her Walking Dead quilt, made with my Victoria quilt pattern but working without instruction from me. She used machine appliqué with a decorative stitch, and added a few seams to make piecing easier. The Walking Dead fabrics make her quilt distinctive, one sure to catch and hold anyone’s eye!

Download the quilt pattern for Victoria, a Crystal Quilt pattern and make your own Victoria version. Take the online art quilt class Crystal Quilts if you need more help with the piecing or if you want to design your own, original Crystal Quilts.

Then, send in a photo of your finished quilt and I will publish it here on my blog for you!

Too Busy for Words!

In recent weeks, I’ve been too busy doing things to tell anyone about what I’ve been doing!

Bind Quilts by Machine, the ebook, is now available at Amazon.com! It was out at Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Apple and elsewhere, but I finally got it published on Amazon. Shop around, because prices vary (not my fault!). Oh, it’s available in all formats, and if I update the ebook, you get a notice that I’ve done so and you can download a fresh copy for free!

There’s a new free online quilt class on QuiltEd Online. It’s a three-lesson mini-class on Sudoku Quilts. It’s great fun and it has a companion free quilt pattern, Whirligig, which you can get from the Patterns page of QuiltEd Online, even if you don’t take the class. Why wouldn’t you take the class?! Learn something new about Sudoku, symmetry and color–for FREE!!

All the entries for the Quilt Visions Interpretations: Celebrating 30 exhibition are in. Teammates Noriko Endo, Alicia Merrett and I are working hard to narrow down the selection to an excellent collection well-suited for the occasion. Many of the pieces are absolutely fabulous, so it’s tough to decide which works will be included in the show. I’m starting to wonder if I might squeeze in a trip to the US to be there for the opening . . .

Designer Pinwheels, Art Quilts with a Twist, is available for preorder from all the booksellers I listed above, including Amazon. Release date is September 13, and you can reserve your copy with a 15% discount if you pre-order it NOW!

Africa Quilts! on Facebook

There is a new group on Facebook called Africa Quilts! Here is the group description and welcome message:

Welcome to Africa Quilts! If you have a love of Africa and a passion for quilting, you are indeed most welcome here–karibu sana! 

Perhaps you’re a French Canadian ex-pat living in Namibia, a Cape Town suburban housewife, or a township dweller from Kwa-Zulu Natal. You might be an attorney in Morocco, a diplomat in Togo or a missionary in Kenya.

Maybe you’re African American and have traced your roots to the Ivory Coast. Quilting in Zimbabwe, or shopping in Timbuktu–if you have a passion for both Africa and patchwork quilting, please make this your new home away from home!

Show us your stuff. Share your African adventures. Tell us what you do and how you do it. Sell, swap or give away your quilts and whatever else you have to offer that is quilt-related.

Observe all customary rules of etiquette, stay “on point,” and have loads of fun! Here, we’re all about showing the rest of the world that Africa Quilts!

If this sounds like you, come and join us for Africa Quilts! on Facebook on Facebook!

Bind Quilts by Machine–eBOOK!

Woah! I just published my first quilting e-book–Bind Quilts by Machine!

For far too long, I’ve been doling out these important tips and techniques in little bits and spurts. Not so any more!

When I figured out how to sew double-fold quilt bindings entirely by machine, I knew the time had come to pull all my information and photos together into one resource–an e-book. This way, EVERYONE will have access to this important information!

Hands hurt? Find it hard to hold a hand-sewing needle? Just to busy to bother? Prefer, as I do, spending valuable quilting time putting patchwork together or quilting it rather than finishing off hand-sewn bindings? Well, now you need never hand-sew a quilt binding again!

Take the drudgery out of finishing your quilts with the knowledge and insights you find in Bind Quilts by Machine. The e-book includes fully illustrated, step by step instructions for how to sew by machine:

  • Fuss-Free Single-Fold Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Seamless Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Double-Fold Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Perfect Piping
  • Mock quilt bindings
  • Bagging a quilt
  • Facing a quilt
  • Machine-sewn raw edge finishes for quilts

But wait! Bind Quilts by Machine is also useful for those of you who LOVE doing the hand sewing to finish a binding!

The same principles apply–just sew all your bindings on the face of the quilt, rather than on the back. Learn the easiest way to make beautifully mitered corners and an indistinguishable final join, how to apply and close double-fold binding with a neater final join, as well as all the other great ideas in Bind Quilts by Machine.

Published by highly reputable and popular Smashwords, Bind Quilts by Machine, the e-book, comes in a format to suit any reader.

Download it for your computer as a pdf, then for your iPad or other tablet as an ePub file, and put it on your Kindle or your mobile phone! You can have it in as many formats as you like, and download it as often as you please!

Eventually, the book will be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and many other online book retail shops. Right now, it’s only available here (see the sidebar!) and at Smashwords. But here’s the best part!

Bind Quilts by Machine is available now for “pre-order” at a 25% reduced price of only $9.99!

Place your pre-order for free today. When Bind Quilts by Machine is released on July 18, you will be charged only $9.99 and you will receive notification that you can download the e-book at that price. If you wait to buy the book until July 19, the full retail price of $12.99 will be charged.

Check it out at Smashwords. You can download FOR FREE the first 15% of the book as a sample, just to get a taste of what it offers!

What’s that you say? An e-book is not a real book?

You can’t smell it and fondle it? So what? Are you going to read a book like this for the sensual experience? Or for the top quality technical information you can gain from it?

Bind Quilts by Machine is an e-book, not a hard copy book, because I cannot publish and sell hard copy books from Kenya. Why, the mere cost of shipping is prohibitive, not to mention the storage hazards of potential fire, flood and tropical termites!

Bind Quilts by Machine is the kind of book you read in order to learn some technical information. Once you’ve learned how to finish your quilts by machine, you won’t have any use for a hard copy book. You also won’t have to waste valuable storage space to keep that hard copy book. Owning Bind Quilts by Machine means you will never lose your book because you can download a fresh copy at any time. You OWN it!

And, it never gets dirty!!

You can’t spoil an e-book by spilling coffee on it or dropping it in the mud. I don’t advise these actions for your devices either, but you know exactly what I mean. What you can do is highlight sections you find important and want to revisit later. You can make notes about what you think as you read the e-book. And, you can conveniently bookmark your place!

So, come on–place your pre-order now! Get in on this great deal to gain not only super information about how to finish your quilts entirely by machine, but also to take advantage of the 25% price reduction that is only good until July 18.

Just click “Yes, I want a copy of Bind Quilts by Machine!

Oh, and here’s a tip for you: You can find patterns for a couple of the quilts shown in Bind Quilts by Machine. Keep watching that page–more patterns are coming!!

Time-Saving for Quilters, Part 5

In Part 1 of Time-Saving for Quilters, we talked about the importance of preventive maintenance for all quilting tools, machines and other equipment. In Part 2, we looked at physical space and that storage hog, the stash. Part 3 was about making sense out of the chaos. In Part 4, we talked about making the workspace more functionally efficient by keeping it tidy. In Part 5, we get down to business!


Intention and Focus

To use studio time most efficiently, it is essential to know what you intend to do before you get there! Wandering into your private space/time for quilting without a clue in your mind as to what you intend to achieve is, if not a thoughtless waste of time, at least not a directed and intentionally good use of it. And probably most of us hardly ever do that!

We most likely have some idea of our direction before we enter that place of creativity. We have seen something online, at a guild meeting, or in a magazine or book that caught our eye and we hope to explore that idea further. Perhaps we have a bit of new fabric to enjoy dreaming about, or maybe we are already busy with a project that is well along its way to completion.

Dreaming and thinking time is every bit as important as planning time and doing time. Each of these activities is part of the whole creative process of making patchwork quilts, whether as fine art or as soft furnishings, and no part of the process should be shortchanged.


Think ahead

While you dream and think about your next quilt project, think ahead about the planning and doing parts of the process.

If you have only fifteen minutes in your studio, make every minute count. For example, in fifteen minutes, you might measure a piece of fabric to make certain it is enough for a project you have in mind. You might check your supply of notions to see whether you have any red ribbon to finish off a work in progress. You might spend that time sorting and arranging threads by color so it is easier in future to find what you want.

Spending fifteen minutes actively engaged in any of these or similar constructive studio activities is time well spent, not time wasted.


Time-saving for quilters


Then, it is one thing to find yourself with fifteen minutes of unexpected free time and quite something else to plan ahead to include those fifteen minutes into your schedule. Schedule if possible, of course, but be prepared to use unexpected free time wisely.

How? By thinking ahead!

Every time you leave your studio, your private creative space, think about what you intend to accomplish next time you enter that space. Carry with you, either mentally or by writing it down, an agenda of activities that need doing.

For example, as I write this article, I am working on a wall hanging quilt already titled “Heart of Africa.” I remember exactly what I did the last time I worked on the piece, and I know exactly what I need to do next. I also need to drop back to Part 2 of this series, and spend some time cleaning out and reorganizing my fabric stash.


Heart of Africa, a Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain (work in progress)


The next phase of work on the quilt needs about three hours to accomplish. I could easily spend a full day sorting out my fabric stash, but if I work on it shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, I can accomplish much in smaller chunks of time. Whether I find or schedule time in my studio, and regardless of whether I have fifteen minutes or five hours, I already know what to do when I get there.


Plan ahead

Think about when you might next be able to spend time in your studio. If you do not keep a calendar, give it a try. Keeping a calendar and setting up reminders may prove more useful and productive than you expect!


calendar photo


If you keep a calendar, add studio time to it. Set reminders to alert you when it is time for you to be in your studio, and resist the temptation to ignore those reminders.

We all tend to rank studio time lower than many other activities, especially those that are family and household business as well as outside jobs. Your creative time is important, too, and if scheduling studio time helps accomplish creative goals, then do it.

Plan ahead for shopping, too. From one brief work session, you may learn you need some yellow fabric. Plan ahead to buy that fabric when you shop for household furnishings or groceries, or when you pop out for a haircut or other trip that takes you out of the house. Doing so means you neither delay work on a project nor have to make an unplanned shopping trip–a real time waster!

If a project calls for special materials, tools and supplies, plan ahead to source those things in advance of the time you intend to spend in your studio. There is nothing more frustrating than having to stop work while you shop for materials or have equipment repaired. We already discussed keeping machines and tools in good shape, well serviced and prepared for hard work.

Forgetting to buy materials simply because you neglected to write down a shopping list is equally inexcusable in terms of efficient use of time. Keep a written shopping list, on notepad, tablet or phone, handy at all times. Write down whatever you need to buy, and then forget about it until you shop again. Buy only what you need and get out of the shop as quickly as possible. “Free” shopping time is a luxury for another time, not a purposeful quick purchase of only what you need now, and it can prove expensive in money as well as wasted time!

The common theme of all this discussion is to do all dreaming, thinking, planning and shopping in advance of the time you intend to do the cutting, piecing, quilting, finishing and embellishment of a quilt. When you enter your studio to take action, the space should be fully stocked and equipped. Likewise, your mind should be clear about what you intend to do and how you intend to do it!


Stay Focused

Know, before you get to your studio, what it is you plan to do there. Have a specific project or task in mind, and go to your studio to complete, or at least move forward with, that activity.

Know how much time you have to spend in the studio for your next session there. Is it thirty minutes, or three hours? Know in advance how much time you have, and set realistic goals of accomplishment for each time period.

Goal setting need not be a complicated process. It may be as simple as saying to yourself “I want to put the binding on the current project quilt today” or “I want to spend an hour reading my new magazine and looking for a gift idea for my cousin’s wedding.”

If you do not accomplish as much as you had hoped during one session, simply pick up where you left off, with a modified perception of how much you should accomplish, in the next session. In this way, the work always moves forward.

Consider carefully, before you get to your studio, how you intend to accomplish that task. Is there more than one way to do the job? Is the method you have chosen the best choice? What difficulties might you encounter as you do the job in that manner? You can answer questions like these as you take laundry from the washer and put it in the dryer, while cooking a meal or while standing in line at a check-out counter at the local supermarket.

Once you commit to performing a particular task in a certain way, do not deviate from that decision unless it is truly necessary. Backtracking is a huge waste of time.

Your time is better spent thinking through all potential obstacles before you arrive in your studio than to begin working in one way, then decide that is not the best way, then choose another way and perhaps have that method fail as well.

Make up your mind early about what is the best way to do the job, and then do it that way! If you make a mistake, you know it and you learn from the experience.


One at a time

It is far easier to begin a new project than it is to complete an earlier one. Why is that? Because, for many of us, the dreaming, thinking and planning parts of the process are more fun than the cutting, sewing and finishing tasks. Everyone loves to dream. Books and magazines are lovely to see, and imagination is king!

There is a cure for this potential problem, though. Dream, think and plan as you will. Then, schedule the work for some time in the distant future, say, six months to a year from now. Or, simply know that when the project you work on today is completed, you can choose from amongst several new ones you already evaluated.

Postponing projects until you truly have time for them works on your behalf in several ways:

  • It gives you new projects to anticipate even as it encourages you to finish the current project so you can get to the next one. Your interest level remains high, and there is some pressure to get on with the work at hand and finish it. This is healthy discipline; use it well!
  • It helps refine your interests. Projects that look so good today might not be so appealing in six months or a year. Those that are truly wonderful are the ones to launch and complete when time permits. The others naturally fall by the wayside.
  • It gives you time to source materials and supplies. Be careful about this, though. Do not immediately rush out to shop for fabrics you may not use because you changed your mind about the project. Wait to shop until your current project is near completion and you know for certain which is the next project you intend to make.

If possible, never begin work on a second project until you finish your current work-in-progress. Instead, work on one project at a time from conception through completion. This keeps all materials and tools needed for that job close at hand, keeps you mentally focused, and reduces the number of UFOs.


Many at a time

If you are a prolific quilter, you may increase the number of works-in-progress to three, but no more! You should never work on more than three quilt projects at a time. That is plenty of work for any quilter! If you truly want to save time, reduce that number to one and stick with it.

For example, an art quilter might have three projects in the works, only because some design challenge arises that needs mental time for resolution. While dyeing for or piecing a second project, the artist’s mind is on the design problem of the first one that is at a later stage of development.


Urban Africa, a Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain (work in progress)


Leave such work in progress on a design wall, where you see it every time you walk past. The mind percolates information and perceptions change subtly with time. When the time is right to return to the work, you will know better what needs to be done next. That knowledge prompts you to re-engage quickly with the work and move forward with it.

If you follow this pattern, you may also define the projects by task. For example, you might work out the mathematics of one project by measuring, calculating and figuring fabric requirements and a cutting layout. A second project may be at the piecing stage and a third one ready for handwork, perhaps awaiting completion of a binding or attachment of a label.

Even so, it is easy to see how a quilter’s priorities can become muddled, work gets set aside, efficiency falls dues to confusion and the stack of UFOs grows exponentially!

In truth, you can work on only one project at a time, so why clutter your studio, your mind and your efficiency jumping from one to another project?

Pick a project, assemble everything you need to complete it, then set to the task, keeping 100% focused on that project until it is finished. When the first project is done, be ready to begin immediately on the second project. Keep clear-headed and stay focused on the work at hand!



Are you the kind of quilter who has several projects in process at once? Are there projects that stalled for one reason or another? If so, how does that make you feel? Do you have a sense of stress about finishing any of those projects, or perhaps only need to clear some storage space in your house?

If you have UFOs at the moment, choose one and move forward with it. Make a decision either to complete the project or to dispose of it. For the decision to complete the project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the work salvageable?
  • What will it take to finish the project?
  • Do you have, or can you get, everything you need to finish the job?
  • Will you love the quilt when it’s done?

Perhaps the UFO is an old project, something you would never initiate today. If finishing this project is a matter of duty or obligation, if you are not excited about completing the quilt, or if you have no other good reason to do the work, seek and find an alternative solution.

Either give the work to your local guild or quilt shop and let them be creative about finishing the work for charitable uses, or dispose of it in some other constructive way. If the project is not a love of your heart, it does no good to force yourself to complete the quilt. You finish something you neither like nor care about, and what good is that? You will give it away in either case!

If the project is worth saving, the first step to completion is to discover what factor caused this project to stall and become a UFO. Perhaps it’s a shortage of a particular fabric, or maybe you lack the technical skill to complete the work. It may be that a design issue is unresolved, or perhaps you lack a special foot for your sewing machine.


Liquid Gold, a Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain


Figure out why you stopped work on this project, and then tackle that problem, not the project itself, head-on. Once you resolve the problem, the reason why the work stalled, you can return to the project and move forward with ease and confidence. For more about how to resolve and complete a UFO, see Quilt Chop and Liquid Gold.

Finishing UFOs is like unblocking a stalled production line in a factory. It eases the forward movement of the work stream by opening physical space in your studio and mental space in your mind. It lifts the burden of obligation that can depress your efficiency. It lightens the load, both of mental pressure and the amount of work to accomplish, so that you can move forward to embrace new activities without feeling guilty about the ones you left behind!


Working with all these ideas in mind, make more time for quilting by using the time you have more efficiently and effectively:

  • Think ahead: use free mental time to dream and think about what you want to accomplish.
  • Plan ahead: keep equipment and tools ready and do all necessary shopping before you begin a new project.
  • Stay focused: work on one to three quilt projects at any given time, but give each one your total concentration for the tasks at hand.
  • Finish those UFOs: one at a time, complete or discard every UFO in your studio to make a clear space, a clear time and a clear mind ready for work on current projects.


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, Part 3, and Part 4 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!

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!!

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.

Sashless Quilt-As-You-Go

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!