Monday, August 18, 2008

Medallions Galore!

I love medallion quilts -- the quilts that have multiple borders surrounding a central block. Today, The Quilt Show (Ricky Tims' and Alex Anderson's online quilt community - aired and a long-secret announcement was made: Alex and Ricky have asked me to design the next block-of-the-month for The Quilt Show. Their 2008 online block-of-the-month, "Bouquets for a New Day" was designed by me and is being shared in monthly installments, with the final one to be posted online in December. The "Bouquets" quilt has a dozen appliqued blocks in it. For 2009, I was asked to design a pieced block-of-the-month; I just finished making it this week (except for the binding!). It is a medallion quilt, with a feathered star in the middle, surrounded by borders and blocks; the monthly patterns have a ton of tips in them, along with many photos to show how to make the quilt. While everyone who is reading this now knows the secret about who is doing next year's block-of-the-month design, I will still wait for Ricky and Alex to debut a picture of the quilt. So... what the quilt looks like still remains a secret!

In the meantime, I have been working on another medallion quilt called "The Washington Medallion Quilt" that my distributor, Quakertown Quilts (, will begin offering as a block-of-the-month in September. This quilt is unique in that I made this quilt as a "learn to quilt" block-of-the-month. Each month, there are lessons on precision piecing, accurate measuring and cutting, different techniques for making units, etc. An adventurous beginner should be able to make this quilt.

So where is the photo of this quilt? Well... I confess that I haven't taken a picture of it yet! I have a couple of "teaser" photos for you to see -- a close-up of the center star, and a photo of the first four months of stitching. You'll see the remaining 8 months of additions when I post again, soon!

Until then,
happy quilting!


(c)2008 Susan H. Garman

The Quilt Show Debut!

Today, the taping I did with The Quilt Show aired. The Quilt Show is Ricky Tims' and Alex Anderson's online web community; if you haven't explored it and have some time, you'll find that joining gives you a pretty good "bang for the buck." Their web community has "shows" with a wide, diverse range of quilters, as well as "classes" with Ricky and Alex, free mini-projects, a quilt gallery with thousands of quilts posted by members, a free block-of-the-month pattern, blogs galore, and lots of online friends who offer their experiences, ideas, and support. If you check out their "take the tour" pages and go to page 4, you can watch a part of one show and learn a cool way to make flying geese with one seam line, how to do great photo transfers, and how Jean Wells designs and makes her lovely quilts. Check it out at

Being an introvert, taping the show made me a nervous wreck, but Ricky and Alex put me at ease in a nanosecond. They are wonderful people, as are John Anderson, Justin Shults, and the entire TQS film crew. In my taping, I demonstrated how I do as much pre-work as possible when making a quilt -- it makes quilt-making go so much faster! In the show you'll also see some close-up photos of some of my quilts.


(c)2008 Susan H. Garman

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Feathers Galore!

I love quilting feathers - they are elegant and rich in a quilt, and add a touch of gracefulness. I was asked how I "make feathers" on a recent morning in a quilt shop, and so I gave a quick demonstration... followed by a request to repeat the information. The easiest way to do that is to put it here on my blog. Note that the drawings here are "quick and dirty" -- they have not been cleaned up and smoothed out, because I wanted to get them done. Take a look, and the next time you need to figure out what to put on a quilt.... think about feathers!

These are "formal feathers" which are a bit more elegant than "folk art feathers." You'll see the difference between formal and folk art feathers at the bottom of this entry. Formal feathers require you to back-track on a stitch line.

Step 1: Define the center line for the feathers (the "spine") and the edges that will contain the feathers.

Step 2: Start by making a gentle swoop out and back -- think "half of a heart" (sort of)... You want the feathers to be gracefully curved. This comes with practice. Don't use straight lines on your feathers!

Step 3: Make the second feather. Swoop back with a second "half of a heart" and meet at the top of the first feather.

Step 4: Your needle (hand or machine) is now blocked in and you can't draw another feather... until you back-track across the feather you just made. If you are making feathers by machine, stitch back across the top of the feather you just made, being ever so careful to keep your stitches on top of the first set. This takes some practice, but you will improve with every feather you make. If you are quilting feathers by hand, just slip your needle between the layers of fabric and make it pop out where feather 3 will start.

Step 5: Back-track across the top of 2 and swoop around to make feather 3. Again, think "half of a heart." Some people like to draw all the feather tops and then come back and draw the swooping lines -- they use a penny or a quarter or a quilt spool to draw half-circles, like a row of little hats, along the outer edge of the border line. If that works for you, great. I find it harder to do it that way because my "swoops" don't always want to fit under those little hats!

Step 6: Now that you've done feather 3, go back and draw feather 4 -- half a heart, swooping up to meet the top of feather 3... and then you'll backtrack across the top of the feather you just drew, and finally, draw feather 5.

Step 7: Keep on drawing those feathers... and when you get to the end of the spine, make a little teardrop.

Step 8: Start over at the bottom of the feather spine and draw the feathers on the other side of the spine. You should always draw or stitch your feathers in the direction they move -- don't try and draw them going backwards; they will end up misshapen (unless you can think in reverse better than I can!).

When I am finished, I like to add an "outline" about an eighth of an inch away from the edges of all of the feathers -- it helps define the plume, and it also helps hide any unevenness.

Part of the beauty of feathers is that they can be drawn in an inexhaustible set of shapes and sizes. You can have a straight spine, no spine, a wavy spine, or spines that look like trees, with branches on them. Your feathers can be big and chunky or thin and delicate. You can add little decorative twirls between the feathers. You can make the tops of the feathers rounded... or the shape of a heart... or square. You can do whatever you want!

Here is an example of how to put feathers into a triangle shape. Start by drawing a spine -- you don't have to quilt the spine, but you have to know where it is. In this case, I added a "branch" on the spine. Start at the bottom and begin to add feathers. When you get to the end of the spine, make a teardrop and then start again at the bottom of the spine, on the other side of it. Continue to add feathers and more feathers until the area is full of feathers. Voile!

Okay - but what about the "non-formal" feathers - the folk art feathers? Those are easy to make, and certain quilts will call for them instead of formal feathers. They are more "thready" on a quilt because both sides of every feather are drawn and quilted.

To the right is a quick drawing with the folk art feathers on both sides of a non-existent spine -- the feathers on the left side are fun and silly and imaginative -- perfect for some quilts!

Have fun trying out different feathers. Keep a pencil and paper handy for practicing feathers - you'll be an expert in no time at all!
Happy sewing -
Sue Garman
(c)2008 Susan H. Garman