Monday, October 31, 2011

Red and Green for Halloween!

Last Christmas I showed you a photo of my cactus in bloom.  It is a huge show piece.  Well now it is also ready for Halloween.  Because of its size,  it no longer goes outside.  It's too darn heavy.  However, late summer it started to sprout a beautiful red and green coleus plant, which had been near it the year before. 

So my Christmas Cactus wishes you a Happy Halloween.
Ann's Christmas Cactus with Coleus all dressed up for trick-or-treat!

I'm wearing my pumpkin necklace, skull earrings, orange t-shirt and socks.  Get all dressed up in your costume and have a chocolate filled trick-or-treat.

Ann Fahl

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quilting with Metallic Threads Goes International!

It has been a few days since I announced my new booklet on metallic threads. This has been amazing. I now have sent booklets to three different countries, Finland, Germany and South Africa.  It seems that quilters everywhere have problems with metallic threads. This has really energized me and challenged me to do more quilting with metallics.

Diane Gaudynski has been playing with metallics too, check out her blog. She has written an extensive blog about choice of fabrics and how it plays such a huge part in the success with quilting with any decorative thread!

My quilting isn't anything like Diane's but I have just finished a sample quilting with gold sliver thread on some hand dyed fabric.  Hand dyes have caused great challenges in the past. You won't like the fabric I chose, but its the only fabric I am willing to use up for samples.  I chose the color gold so you can more easily see the stitching. I've had to pull it out from under the cat, Oreo to take a picture so you can see it.  So here it is, in all its beauty:
Quilting with wool batting, hand dyed fabric top and backing

The thread didn't break once!  Here is what I did:
  • The "Sliver"spool was sitting vertically on the machine
  • The Bottom Line in the bobbin
  • 14/90 topstitch needle
  • top tension set on 2.5
  • Take some time testing the tension setting on a sample swatch before you begin on a project
Now I'm thinking about places I can use a little bit of this wonderful shiny flat thread in quilts that are already finished!  Who knows.

Please let me know how you have found success with metallics. Or any tips you may have to share. Good luck to all of you that want to play with metallics.

Ann Fahl

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Can't Sew with Metallic Thread? Yes you can!

Egyptian Poppies 15 x 16 inches
So many of us have problems sewing with metallic threads.  A few years ago I figured this would be the perfect topic for a new workshop, but how could I teach others when I wasn't able to successfully quilt this small sample? I was trying to quilt the background of Egyptian Poppies with green metallic thread, and it would break every few minutes. Nothing seemed to work. Frustrating......  So I worked and worked with the thread on different fabrics etc.  I took notes right on the fabric; set the timer to see if I could sew continuously for 10 minutes before the thread broke.
One of many test samples of quilting with metallic thread
I worked with three different people in the US regarding my issues.  At last my problems were solved! I designed a new workshop, and decided that a booklet on the same subject would be helpful to even more people out there.  So almost 2 years in the works, Mastering Metallics has been born. Jayne Steffens was my proofreader, she did a great job helping me clarify a few problem areas, and made the booklet easier to read.  Sally Miller, the book designer for A Black and White Tale helped me to create the cover with a great photo I took in my studio. I am grateful to both of them for their help.

The cover of Ann's newest booklet
Whatever the issues you might be having, I offer a solution. Now, you may not like my solution, but I offer one anyhow.  Some days sewing with metallics everything goes smoothly, and then there are the other days. The 28 page booklet is divided up into types of problems and their solutions as well as by sewing processes: machine applique, machine embroidery and quilting.  The pages are packed with tips, ideas, photos and charts to help you. Some of the areas are:
  • tension settings
  • thread position
  • fabric choices
  • needle size
  • needle type
  • thread quality
  • types of metallic thread etc.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please check my website for more information.

These threads will always be more challenging than others; but with a little knowledge we can work with them more successfully.  It isn't always your sewing machine!  It is the settings you have on your machine and the fabrics you have chosen which are the largest areas of problems.

Whoever and wherever you are, I wish you luck with sewing with metallic threads. If you have more problems, we can have a discussion right here on the blog.

As the days go by, I will continue to post pictures of my metallic threads and beading of my collage that I discussed in an earlier post.

Ann Fahl

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Playing with Fabrics

Last week, I had some free time. I've had the feeling that I haven't played in my studio in a long time.  I've been doing lots of writing, but not really any quilting.  Hmmmm, what am I avoiding?  Lyric's Bead DVD  arrived and I found it quite inspiring, so I decided to make a collage to both bead and embroider.
Collage, pinned and un-fused, it needs squaring up too
 There are two little drawers full of fused scraps in my studio. To begin I created a pieced background with 5 irregular strips of dark fabrics.  From my stash I pulled out a gray, dark print, blue, red and green fabrics of a similar dark value, pieced them together.  This is not an attractive background but it is interesting.

Next I pulled out all those little fused scraps of this and that.  All saved from earlier projects because they were too valuable to throw out! So here is what I have so far.  It's fun, but perhaps a monstrosity!  We'll see.  Mostly it is a learning and confidence building exercise.
Completed collage, fused and embroidery has been started
There are images in this thing, from quilts that have not yet been finished, and pieces that are as old as the hills!
Appliqued spiral from lower left corner, appliqued with red metallic thread and a programmed stitch
I have no idea where this spiral was from, but I have a bunch of them in warm colors. I am doing as much as the embroidery as I can with metallic threads.  If you look at the right hand column of this blog, you will see my newest booklet pictured:  Mastering Metallics.  So I'm using all the tips and ideas I've discovered in the last year or more, working on that project. My next blog will be all about that booklet.

Rhonda's Ginkgo, embroidered with variegated gold thread, but not trimmed up
There is a large hand painted ginkgo fused in the center right area of the collage.  Maybe 5 years ago my neighbor Rhonda, gave me a ginkgo leaf this size that she found when she was at the library.  I cut this hand painted fabric leaf out immediately, but it never found a home, so here it is.  This is why these collages are so much fun.

Off and on, as I make progress on the metallic thread and the beading, I'll show you what I've done. You can see the endless possibilities for bead-work and threads.  We'll see what evolves.  It'll be fun.

Have any of you been to see my show at the La Conner quilt museum?  If you have, please let me know what you think.  I haven't had any feedback yet, and I'm dying to know what it looks like!

Ann Fahl

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bead it Baby!

Today I had a most interesting afternoon.  Lyric Kinard's new DVD called Bead it Like You Mean it arrived in the mail. I had just finished piecing and fusing a medium sized piece; folded all the fabrics, put them away, and cleaned off my cutting table. I'm ready for something new. What a coincidence!
Lyric's new DVD

After running an errand, I decided that the rest of the afternoon would be dedicated to Lyric and beading.  I put the dvd in my laptop and took instruction from Lyric.  I've been beading my quilts since about 1991, and of course, I think I know it all!  Well, I learned lots of things from her because her point of view is so different from mine!

I loved how her backdrop changed with each segment she taught.  Her explanations were well thought out and very clear.  She demonstrated everything at least once. She used contrasting threads so it was easy to see where the thread was inside of the beads and on each project.  I was very impressed, Lyric is a gifted teacher and presenter.

On several occasions she showed small finished pieces that incorporated the techniques she had just  demonstrated in the previous segment. Lyric always had a little bit of a sense of humor as she explained the possible difficulties and challenges that might come along, this made watching the video both fun and informative.

Briefly, this is what she covered:
  • Types of beads
  • Setting up the tools and workspace
  • Seed beads
  • Bugle beads
  • Stacking beads and fringe
  • Creating cages for large pieces
  • How to bead a quilt after it has been finished without any knots showing on the back
She shows a great way to make knots along the way and at the end of your threads. She stresses the importance of making the beads secure.  I enjoyed the segment on making stacks of beads which is something I haven't done, and look forward to adding to my new piece.

This DVD comes in a protective case, was professionally filmed and edited by Bonnie Lyn McCaffery. The DVD can be stopped after each segment, so you can practice the parts that interest you before going on to the next chapter. Bead it Like You Mean It retails for 24.95 plus 5.50 shipping. She accepts PayPal on her blog
Here's a closeup of my collage Still Life with Scraps
In the very near future I will show you my current project titled Still Life with Scraps, when fused, embroidered and beaded.  I am anxious to see how it turns out.

Happy beading everyone.

Ann Fahl

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Quilted Garden

I’ve blogged about my exhibit several times, but a solo exhibit is a big event in the life of a professional quilter! I wanted to blog about it one more time. These shows are so much work, that I’d almost prefer to be a part of a group exhibit instead.  This helps to share all the costs involved in making and shipping quilts to and from the show location. Shipping expense is a huge consideration, that 2 or 3 years ago when I agreed to have the show, was not as large a cost. Any of you considering shows now, should think about this cost long and hard!

Back to the show at the La Conner Museum.  I always make a quilt especially for my exhibitions. As you know Coneflower Fiesta is the featured quilt for this one.Why did I choose coneflowers? I’ve done so many coneflower pieces and still have some in mind.

I wanted this one to be large, showy, and have flowers that dance across the width. This carries out the theme from my book on free-motion quilting, Dancing with Thread.  The quilting is spontaneous and adds lots of interest to an otherwise boring sky-like background.  And lastly, it carries out the garden theme for the show: The Quilted Garden.
Background of Coneflower Fiesta in process
I began this project by piecing together blue and green strips to create the background. Most are 6 -10 inches wide. I was tired of making quilts with pieced squares in the background and wanted to create a simple yet striking setting.

Fused top of Coneflower Fiesta. The multi-colored cones are a favorite rainbow commercial fabric.
Eventually one ginkgo leaf and a fallen petal were added before the embroidery was started.  After the top was completed. I marked where the quilted flaming spirals were to be placed by safety pinning paper circles on the top. So if I got carried away with my dancing/quilting, the important space for the spirals would be reserved.

So the show is up, the doors are open, and my quilt is on display. You can check my website for more of the story of its making. Make sure you look at the 3 closeups to view the flowers and spirals. Or better yet, go see the exhibit.

This quilt has become a new favorite of mine.  Thanks for reading.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

My newest pattern at
One of my recent projects includes designing some new patterns. I am on my way.  I now have 4 on my page at Just enter my name:  Ann Fahl,  in the search box. There is no paying for shipping and handling, no waiting for the mail to arrive, you simply download the pattern and print it at home.  Give it a try! They have tons of patterns by many designers.

I include pictorial instructions on how to do this fan fold.
I have already told you about my table runner pattern in an earlier post, and now I've added a $4 pattern on how and why we should make cloth table napkins. It's called No Sew Cloth Napkins: a family friendly project. This isn't a pattern like you might purchase at the quilt shop, but more like a complete magazine article that gives my personal history about why I started making them, instructions on how to make them, yardage, why I don't have to iron, and pages on how to do my favorite fan fold that will make your table look festive.  You might enjoy it. I have to say, I designed a great cover for my new product!

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Great New Book

Joen Wolfrom recently published a new book. And it is a great one!  The title is Adventures in Design published by C & T.  Available as an e-book too.

When I am teaching a multiple day workshop that involves design, I am frequently asked how a person can learn about color and design.  I have never had a good answer for them until now. The answer is this book, it is in full color 140 pages, that's a lot! and 150 quilts. It is a real delight to just flip through the book to see all the pictures, she has included artists from all over the world, and I'm on page 119. She also includes luscious photos of all kinds of things, the colors of the closeups of flowers are unbelievable.

She goes through the design elements, one by one: line, direction, shape, color, value, texture, proportion and scale.  Before you tune out, she explains everything in a very interesting understandable manner and illustrates with quilts.

Next are the principles of design: balance and focus are the important ones for me; then she covers unity repetition; rhythm etc. She makes these rather boring principles visually exciting, and you will "get it."

This is a book to keep in your sewing area, or near your reading chair for years to come.  Study it a little now, try some of her hints and ideas; and then return to it again and again.  You will learn something new each time.

Give it a try!

Ann Fahl

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Piecing with a Titanium Topstitch Needle

All this business began with a booklet I am writing called: Mastering Metallics.  I have had trouble quilting with metallic threads for years.  I like to think of myself as a thread expert, I wrote two books on the subject.  But I'm coming clean, right here and now; quilting with metallics has been my downfall!

Thankfully the problems have been solved, after hours and hours of trial, error, tears, and emailing other experts on quilting and thread.  The booklet is almost ready to be published, it has a great cover!  Anyhow, I'm kind of off topic.

The other day the e-newsletter came from and it featured a video with Bob from Superior Threads, talking about "using the correct needle."  So I watched it, thinking I might find some new information of interest for my booklet. Well, I did.
Size 70/10 Titanium Coated Topstitch Needles
Just in passing Bob mentioned that the size 70/10 titanium topstitch needle could be used in piecing. I'm the lazy type, and if I have to do just a little piecing, I'll use what is in the machine. That's usually a 80/12 topstitch needle. But I don't like the larger holes that it creates when I'm sewing a seam.  But like I said, I'm lazy.

I sell these needles when I'm on the road, and I have a pack of the 70/10 size sitting near my machine. Oh yes, they piece beautifully. They have a longer eye, which gives the thread plenty of space to move around while the stitch is being created. Because the eye isn't too big, it doesn't make that big hole on either end of the stitch. Wow, what an eye opener. I now promise, with right hand raised, to "always change the needle to a topstitch 70/10 when I sew a seam or piece." 

In this picture, Ann is piecing with a new 70/10 titanium topstitch needle.  This picture just proves that you should always look in the mirror and comb your hair before taking a picture of yourself sewing!
 OK, now raise your right hand, say it with me:  "I promise to always change the needle to a topstitch 70/10 when I sew a seam or piece."  You will learn that the titanium needles last much longer, so you will actually save money on needles when you do this! This will make your world a better place.

It goes to show you that one never knows when some little piece of news will change the way you do things.

Have a great day.


Monday, October 3, 2011

For October 3 2011 only

I just learned that my quilt Celebration of Life is on the quiltindex for today. I consider this to be one of my top 10 best!  Thank you quiltindex!

Celebrate the day!
Ann Fahl