You’re Never Too Old to be Bullied

As parents and teachers, we talk to our children about bullies and how to deal with them.  When we think of bullies, we usually think about someone like Scut Farkus, the bully in the movie, “A Christmas Story.”  Or you might think about the kid in your gym class who punched you when the gym teacher wasn’t looking.  In my junior high gym class, there were a couple bullies who would run by and steal your clothes while you were taking the mandatory shower, and then hide them in a remote part of the building, never to be seen again.

As a child, we assumed that bullies don’t grow up.  We were wrong.  Bullies are out there, now in their adult form.  In his article, “The 5 Most Common Types of Adult Bullying,” Preston Ni M.S.B.A. paints a different picture of bullying today, and I’m sad to say that yes indeed, bullies do grow up, and they are not pretty or nice.  They are called “adults,” though their actions do not reflect the behavior we would assume they could be capable of in their day to day lives.

I was bullied a lot as a child.  I mean, A LOT.  One of the most common forms of bullying I have seen as an adult and witnessed first-hand to this day is Passive-aggressive or covert bullying. This is a less-frequently mentioned form of bullying. With many bullies, you can see them coming because they are quick to make their intimidating presence known. A passive-aggressive or covert bully, however, behaves appropriately on the surface, but “takes you down with subtlety.*

Examples of passive-aggressive and covert bullying include negative gossip, negative joking at someone’s expense, sarcasm, condescending eye contact, facial expression or gestures, mimicking to ridicule, deliberately causing embarrassment and insecurity, the invisible treatment, social exclusion, professional isolation, and deliberately sabotaging someone’s well-being, happiness, and success.  Examples may also include a small group gathering behind a closed door, leaving out that one single individual who can clearly see you talking behind his or her back and know they have been left out of the discussion on purpose.

Many of us probably remember a time as a child when our names were left off the invitation list to a birthday party.  Jump ahead 20-30 years when a group of your peers gathered together for a meal, celebration, or a similar party.  Everyone who should have been invited was, EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE PERSON, time after time.  It still happens!

The digital age has brought us a new era of instant communication, and with it, cyber bullying.  It ruins peoples lives… people of ALL ages.  According to Facebook, “Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Online threats and mean, aggressive, or rude texts, tweets, posts, or messages all count. So does posting personal information, pictures, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass someone else.

As adults, we should be grown up enough to not be the attacker, but to notice when others are attacked and provide them with compassion and friendship.

Many school districts are including lessons about anti-bullying at all age levels.  Perhaps it is appropriate for classes to be made available for adults as well. What do you think?

*from Preston Ni, M.S.B.A.

Two-Color Quilts

Feathered_CheddarWhat is a two-color quilt?  I often hear from quilters who are puzzled about this question, but it has a pretty simple answer:  It is a quilt that has ONLY two SOLID color materials in it.  I have posted a photo of “Feathered Cheddar” as an example.

A two-colored quilt does not contain an array of variations of color.  For example, if the quilt featured here were to have several different blue fabrics and several different cheddar orange fabrics in it, it would NOT be a two-color quilt.

Likewise, if this quilt were made of a blue printed fabric and a cheddar printed fabric, it would NOT be a two-color quilt.  Two-color quilts are minimalistic.  In 2011, the American Folk Art Museum featured an exhibit of red and white quilts.  You can see a good photograph from that exhibit here:

Have you sewn a two-color quilt?  They are actually VERY fun and very simple to make! The only thing a two-color quilt asks of you is that you pick… TWO COLORS and stick to them.  Make your quilt bold, or make it be delicate and graceful.  That’s your choice!  Have fun choosing your TWO COLORS!




Honoring the Men in our Lives

As we enter into a weekend honoring fathers (Father’s Day is this Sunday in the U.S.A.), I thought it might be nice to recognize another great group of men – those who are awesome and really know how to use a needle and thread.  So here is a partial list that I came up with, those who create beautiful designs in fabric of any kind, be they quilts, sports wear, red carpet designer fashions, etc.  So raise your glasses, ladies, and salute our fantastically talented men!

Appell, Rob
Armani, Giorgio
Audigier, Christian
Cavalli, Roberto
Cho, Jimmy
Cortazar, Esteban
Cunningham, Joseph
De la Renta, Oscar
Dior, Christian
Dolce, Domenico
Flynn, John
Ford, Tom
Gabbana, Stefano
Gaultier, Jean-Paul
Haynes, Luke
Herchovitch, Alexandre
Hilfiger, Tommy
Jacobs, Marc
Kaffe Fassett
Kline, Calvin
Kors, Michael
Lagarfeld, Karl
Lagerfeld, Karl
Latimer, Tim
Lauren, Ralph
Leger, Herve
Lipinski, Marc
Louboutin, Christian
McQueen, Alexander
Posen, Zac
Saint Laurent, Yves
Sherman, Mark
Smith, Paul
Taylor, David
Tims, Ricky
Tischi, Riccardo
Versace, Santo

If you are wondering if there are more men than this that are good with a needle,  Yes, there sure are!  You should go visit The Quilted Art of Raymond K. Houston at

Men, thanks for all of the beautiful work you do…

The clothing, accessories, quilts, and so much more! Keep up the good work!





What Needle Is Best for Hand Quilting?

I constantly hear from new quilters who want to know what the BEST needle is to use for hand quilting.  My response is usually “whatever one you find easiest to use.

There is no one right or wrong needle.  As a hand quilter, you should try a wide assortment of needles AND try quilting with them through different situations:

  • Quilt with your needle through cotton fabrics (front and back) using the batting you normally use.
  • Then try quilting with a different batting… and another and another.  The best needle will let you know when it’s in your hand.   It will be comfortable.  Your stitches will be as even as you can get them (based on your experience as a quilter).
  • The best needle will sew with the thread you choose and will not be difficult to thread.  The eye of the needle will neither be too large or too small.

If you go on Facebook and visit the Celebrate Hand Quilting group (which I encourage you to join), you can ask hand quilters what their favorite or best needle is; you will get dozens and dozens of different responses.

50fe05ce-8c8f-40f2-b1f9-69d8038543b5_1-9f0ee69afca2f9852f9cd80914720345After years of experimenting, MY OWN FAVORITE is a Bohin needle.   It may not be YOUR favorite needle… but I like it.  It works for me!  Betweens needles, also referred to as quilting needles, are short in length with a small, round eye and a sharp point.

All the needles available to today’s modern quilter are inexpensive.  In fact, the needle is probably the most inexpensive tool you will purchase as a quilter.  So try a needle and jot down some notes for yourself.  Then try a different needle.  Jot down more notes.  If another quilter tells you to try needle X, go ahead and try it, but keep notes.  Pretty soon you will know the needle you like best.  When you find it, buy as many as you can.  Put a smile on your face and stitch, stitch, stitch!

Let’s Talk a Little About Thread!

If you are new to #hand quilting, here are some tried and true details you’ll need 
to know about #thread.
When you hand sew clothing – putting in a hem, fixing a ripped seam allowance, etc.,
you sometimes use a double layer of thread in a matching color with a knot at the
end.  That could be either polyester or cotton thread – your preference!  I usually use
Coats and Clarks All-Purpose thread or Dual Duty thread for sewing clothing.
Dual Duty Plus thread by Coats and Clark is designed for hand quilting.  It is a strong thread, well-suited for hand quilting.  For hand quilting, you only want ONE layer of thread, not a double layer with a knot at the end.  The glace finish reduces abrasion on the thread which can cause fraying.  The All-Purpose thread features polyester covered polyester core for strength.This thread can be used for a variety of sewing projects, but is NOT normally used for hand quilting or hand piecing.
Another good brand of thread is Gutermann’s Natural Cotton Thread.  It comes in a wide variety of colors, and is a high-quality thread.  I use this for hand piecing.  The Gutermann Natural Cotton Thread is perfect for those who like to sew with natural fibers.  I prefer to use a good, natural cotton thread for both hand piecing and hand quilting.  For hand quilting, though, the thread needs to be heavier in thickness to withstand going through all the layers.
40-WT-SPOOL.jpgMy FAVORITE brand of thread for hand quilting is #Presencia.  Presencia 100% Cotton 3-Ply Sewing/Quilting Thread, 100% extra-long staple Egyptian cotton, mercerized for strength, colorfast and shrinkfast, tightly twisted and balanced, and virtually lint free. It is available in 40, 50, and 60 weights — the higher the number, the finer the thread.

40 weight is designed for longarm quilting, decorative stitching , hand quilting and top stitching — when you want the stitches to show. Mercerized – Colorfast and -Shrinkfast.

50 weight is ideal for general construction, piecing and appliqué.

60 weight is perfect for invisible applique or quilt piecing to achieve an exact 1/4″ seam allowance.

If you will be basting the three layers of your quilt sandwich together, there are a couple different ways you can do that.  Some people use little brass pins to pin-baste the quilt sandwich.  Others will use thread and thread baste their quilt.  I use neutral colors of thread to thread baste, and I do not concern myself with the weight of the thread or the brand used for basting because I will be removing the basting thread anyway.  I will talk more about basting in another article.

The Basics

Have you ever tried to do hand quilting?  Or does the thought of quilting by hand scare the batting right out of you?  It shouldn’t!  Hand quilting is really quite simple once you see how it is accomplished.  You have probably heard of people who do knitting because it relaxes them.  Quilting by hand accomplishes the same goal: to relax and repeat the same motion over and over, both creating something beautiful and letting your mind and body enjoy a time of bliss and beauty.  

Before we begin learning how to do this, I’d like to explain a few things to you.

First, everyone is different, and everyone has their own preferences and ways of doing things.  That is life, isn’t it? You should watch my husband and I load the dishwasher.  I do it one way, and my dear husband rearranges the dishes before it gets turned on. No matter who arranges the dishes, the machine will still get turned on, and the dishes will still get washed.  

There are some quilters who will tell you what you MUST do, and make it clear to you that there is only one way to do the task.  We affectionately refer to THOSE people as the “Quilt Police.”  The rules that they describe are either THEIR OWN suggestions, or they are tried and true practices learned from generations of quilters who came before them. 

I’d like to introduce you to my father.  He isn’t a quilter, but he appreciates a good quilt.  My dad taught me how to drive when I was 16.  But he wouldn’t let me drive the car until I knew some basic skills.  
  • I had to demonstrate to him that I could change a tire.
  • I had to fill the gas tank with the right kind of gas, shut off the pump and go pay the attendant on my own.
  • I had to wash, dry and wax the car properly under his supervision.  
Again, I couldn’t drive the car until all these skills were in place.  What he showed me was that there are some basics that you need to know before the fun begins.  The same is true with learning how to hand quilt.  There are some basic guidelines and skills that you need to learn; let’s begin with those, one step at a time.  Again, these aren’t “Quilt Police” laws, these are raw basics.
  1. Prewash and press your cotton fabrics before including them in a quilt.  Here is why this is important:  a) Often, when fabrics are dyed by the manufacturer, they will retain any excess dye.  It is wise to run those fabrics through the wash (either by hand or by machine) to make sure you get the extra dye out before you include the fabric in a quilt.  I just toss my fabrics in the washing machine with regular detergent,  rinse and dry in the dryer.  ALSO, during the manufacturing process, fabric may be treated with finishes that will remain in the fabric while it is drying. While that might be alright to include in your quilt if you will be machine quilting, hand quilting is another story.  Finishes that are put into fabrics can sometimes make it more difficult to hand stitch.  If you will be hand quilting, you will be glad that you removed any of these finishes.  It makes the fabric softer and easier to stitch.
  2. Visit a quilt shop that carries thimbles OR go online and look for a quilt shop that specializes in hand quilting supplies.  Traditional quilting practices and demonstrations throughout time show that you want a thimble that fits snugly on the middle finger of your dominant hand.  I am right handed, so my thimble is always on my middle finger of my right hand. Wearing a thimble does not feel comfortable the first few times you wear one.  Trust me!  I was told to put on my thimble when I got up in the morning, and wear it all day long until it became a part of flexibilityme.  That really did work, and there are still times when I put it on and forget I have it on.  Make sure that your thimble really fits snug on your finger, though.  Try a few different thimble styles until you find the one that is meant for you.  Really, they are not that expensive, so try several on before you make a more costly purchase.  
  3. Use a good quality batting, but one that is fairly thin.  You don’t want something that is thick the first time you hand quilt.  I strongly recommend a Mountain Mist thin polyester batting OR a Hobbs Tuscany Wool.  Both of these will be easy to stitch on and will feel like “quilting through butter.”  Whatever you do, please stay clear of cotton batting the first few times.  
  4. Use a hoop or frame when you quilt.  Yes, really.  It doesn’t need to be anything expensive, and you can actually use four boards and four C-clamps to create your own quilt frame.  Many people will tell you that you don’t need a hoop or frame… they will suggest that you go without one.  I suggest you think back to old photographs featuring many women sitting around a quilt frame stitching.  Here – you can visit this link  and see what I’m talking about.  There was a reason that women sat around a quilt frame.  Stretching the three layers of the quilt on a frame and pinning them in place assures the quilters that there will not be puckers or “air pockets” in the finished quilt.  Yes, the large square or rectangular frame allows many women or men to sit around and stitch together.  But it is the “sandwiching of the layers” that is really the thing that helps create a beautiful quilt.  And again, many people will say that using a hoop or frame is unnecessary.  You need to decide that for yourself by trying different methods.  Remember, there are no quilt police.    Stay tuned for additional articles, videos and photos that will provide you with additional information on this topic.  In the meantime, go put that thimble right back on your finger! 


Expanding Horizons

Many people in the quilting world know that I have written two books on quilting. My first was America’s Pictorial Quilts. I met so many quilters from around the United States and other countries during and following the publication of that book, one of the first books that the American Quilter’s Society published. Schroeder Publications in Paducah, KY had a line of books called Collector Books, a division of Schroeder Publishing, which began in 1969 when Bill Schroeder saw a need and filled it. Bill’s wife Meredith was just beginning a line of books about quilting (via the newly-formed American Quilter’s Society). At that time, my Mother-in-law owned and operated an antique shop in our small town, Flushing, Michigan. Through the years, she had amassed quite a mountain of books on antiques, many of them published by Schroeder Publishing under the “Collector Books” umbrella. As I was writing America’s Pictorial Quilts and looking for the right publisher, I found a good match between my goal to write a quilting book, and the goals of the Schroeders. My first book was published in 1985.

Not long after APQ came out, I began a second book called Contemporary Quilts From Traditional Designs. This book was published by Penguin Books out of New York City. My editor, Cyril Nelson, had a love for quilts and for writing about them, and I was blessed to have him join me in seeing my second book through from start to finish.

I enjoyed the writing process with these two books, but felt a need to expand my writing horizons. Over several years, ideas wriggled in and out of my head, and slowly a story started to take shape, loosely based on real-life events from my family in the New York and Pittsburgh areas.

During this period, I was also involved in education, working as an elementary and middle school teacher, adjunct university instructor, and elementary principal. While the novel was still on my mind, I just didn’t have the time to see it through. I was a little too busy! From time to time I would re-read what I had written, add a paragraph here and there, and set it aside. “Someday,” I’d say, “I will get back to it.”

It’s time. My husband, a woodworker, has retired from his business downtown and is now starting a new phase in his life that, while similar to what he has been doing for 34+ years, is really different. This week he is completing the IMG_9575
construction of his new studio. He will still be woodworking, but he will now be creating furniture and pieces of art that HE chooses to make, rather than refinishing or repairing items for people who need his assistance. I must say, right now he is smiling continually like “a kid in a candy store.” And I love it!

I am working in real estate in our community (which I love), I continue to quilt (by hand, which I love) and I have decided that my “someday” is now. I am three chapters into my third book, and the brain is excited to be writing again. I am fortunate to have a woodworker at home who can also serve as an editor; a graduate with a degree in Literature does seem to have quite a knack for discovering writing mistakes and for making good suggestions.

Yes indeed, as I gradually work towards that thing called “retirement,” I realize that I really have no plans to officially “retire.” I just have plans to do things differently, much as the Woodworker has.

Hello, World, we are still here, and we are both smiling. Bring it on!