Welcome to the Quilter's Academy Journal

Harriet and I are glad you visited... we established this blog as a sort of question and answer forum for all of you who are working through the Quilter's Academy book series.
It is also a place to find a list of the errata from the books-
You can find those by looking back through the archived blogs.

So, welcome, and please post a comment if you have any questions or topics you would like us to discuss.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hello out there to anyone checking in. It seems I can't get my thoughts together more than once a month. If anyone needs any help or information, please let me know, as that would make this easier and more applicable to those reading it.

I just checked in on Lesley and am really excited about her progress. Her problems with quilting Asian Nights though brought up some things that I would like to address. I really need to do this on the Machine quilting blog site, (heirloommachinequilting.blogspot.com) but no one knows about it yet, so I will start it here.

I had a lecture at the store a couple of nights ago - my 10 top tips for being a better quilter. What struck me about the audience was that they all wanted to learn to do their own quilting, but didn't want to put a lot of time into the practice and learning process. Just get it done. I got a bit like a mother, but I think it started to sink in by the end of the evening. Let me review some of the points that I want you to think about.....
1) Quilting is a skill very different from piecing. Piecing is pretty quick to come along and get under your belt. Quilting is a skill that not only takes time and practice, but involves a multitude of other subjects that are very foreign and unknown to most new quilters. Marking tools, batting choices, size of the quilt choices, threads, and on and on.

2) It takes at least 20 minutes to warm up before free motion quilting is comfortable and your muscles get the hang of the motion. Way too often, we just jump in and start to see improvement - on the quilt - after 20 minutes or more of quilting. Warm up off the quilt until you are comfortable, then go to the quilt. Work on stitch length, tension issues, and thread choices on the warm up piece. My warm up pieces are about 45" x 30".

3) Make sure you test your marking products to be sure they are easily removed from the quilt top after quilting, or don't rub off during the quilting process. Pouncing chalk is very easy to mark with, but rubs off very easily with all the movement of the quilt while quilting. Yellow has sulfur in it, so avoid using yellow or test it thoroughly. For more information, refer to the marking chapter in Heirloom Machine Quilting.

4) Start to learn about the battings available. Your batting choice can really affect the end product, as well as your experience quilting the quilt. Although cottons are thinner, if they are heavily needlepunched and/or have a scrim binder added, they can become very stiff as you quilt them, making it difficult to manage in the machine. If you have never used Mountain Mist products, look into them. You can get a batting pack of samples from my web site with Mountain Mist samples in it to play with and test. Also Cotton Classic. This is not needlepunched and is very flexible. Most quilters choose their battings by the feel of the batt, not the construction. Bamboo is an example of this. It feels very soft, but bamboo batts are needlepunched and most often have a scrim, making them no different after the quilt is quilted than a cotton like Quilters Dream, at a whole lot higher price tag! If you make the batting samples, you will see how they feel to quilt them, as well as what they look like after washing, before committing a quilt to a particular batt you know nothing about.

5) For those of you going through the Quilters Academy book, I would strongly suggest that if you are learning to quilt at the same time you are learning to piece, that you stick with the quilting suggestion we offer at the end of the book. We choose these designs based on Carries quilting ability, which was beginner when we wrote that book. She is now quilting the quilts for book 3 and is into feathers and harder stencils. You need to be patient and learn to stay on lines and keep your stitches even before getting into harder quilting designs. You might think that some of the quilting designs are boring, but we are letting you learn to manhandle the bulk of the quilt with easy quilting before you have to worry about staying on a line AND manhandle the bulk. I know everyone is very impatient with this process, but respect quilting for the skill it is. Take your time and work within you abilities so that all your new quilt tops reflect your skill at the time.

If you have any issues with machine quilting that I can help with, please post at heirloommachinequilting.blogspot.com where it is more appropriate than here. I am happy to help anyone that wants to be a better quilter.

We have the preview copies of Volume 2 and are really excited about the new book. C&T plans to ship them the 3rd week of May, and we are likely to get them ahead of anyone else, so if you want an autographed copy before Amazon or anyone else has them, let us know.

I would love to hear from more teachers that are using the book in the classroom. I met one in Greensboro, NC a few weeks ago and she is having so much fun, as well as great success with beginners. The students are very excited too. Please help us by spreading the word about the books. Word of mouth is the best advertising. Thank you!!!


  1. Hello Harriet and Carrie!
    Looking forward to the release of Volume 2- had to take some time off from Vol 1 but jumping back in this week. And perfect timing- I managed to pick up a wonderful well cared for used Bernina 830 and a Singer 201 this past week- so I am very excited to get back into the book, along with some neglected projects I had been working on.

    Will update my blog most likely over the weekend of the 22nd so you can see my progress!

    Looking forward to you returning to OH in September, and also was wondering if you have any plans for retreats out in CO this year- if so I am very interested.

    Keep up the wonderful work- I've got several people here in town working from Vol 1- and everyone loves it and are so amazed at how by simply taking a few steps back and correcting some of the things we were either not taught in the 1st place or not shown properly-how much smoother and more enjoyable our projects are becoming.

    A Big Thankful to you and Carrie for taking the time to help us regain our passion for quilting!

    All the best,
    Rita from OH

  2. oops typo- that was meant to read "A Big Thank You to you and Carrie"
    at the same time I was typing I guess I was thinking how thankful I am to have come across this series of books! It's late here!lol!

  3. I just finished teaching our first "Quilter's Academy - Freshmen Year" class at the shop. It was very well received. We have another session slated to begin in July and a waiting list!

    I already have made notes on how I would organize my "curriculum" differently....but I have an outline that works and is effective. The framework I began with is one Harriet suggested in an email when I was in the very earliest stages of planning.

    All 6 of my participants filled out an evaluation following the class and all were positive with each one anxious for a Sophomore year to follow.

    The areas that excited them over and again were their improved accuracy and techniques that lead them toward perfection. What impressed me most was their ability to go from pattern dependency to being able to adapt their quilts to any grid they wanted and come up with stunning variations that were truly their own.

    I will have them drafting earlier in the sequence next time I offer the program and intersperse the math with the hands on sewing somehow to avoid long time periods of math work that had a tendency to fry the brains of my students. They had the most trouble with the math and I had a pretty adept group. ...but they were very motivated and came up with terrific results.

    I watch my mail daily for the newest book...due any day. I am so excited to see it and start imagining what cool quilts I will make for the the demo quilts this time around, how this book might be broken down for teaching, etc.

    Thank you Harriet and Carrie for giving us such a great material to work with. The quilters in our area really appreciate the information and the layout is so usable for those of us looking to find a way to impart the best to the most important quilters - our patrons.