Argentum is the Latin word for silver. That seemed an appropriate name for this little quilt!Stewart_Argentum_full_2

It’s a miniature – just 16.5 inches square, and was completed in 2014. It was juried into the Road to California contest, and was shipped yesterday. It’s already been in two other shows; it won 1st Place, Miniatures, at the 2014 IQA Houston show, and an Honorable Mention, Miniatures, at the 2015 AQS Paducah show.

It was made from silver gray silk/cotton Radiance fabric on both the front and back (I have a story about the back…) The machine embroidery is from Zundt.


The design is for two colors – the first, a satin-stitched design, and the second, an outline around all the satin stitching.


Here you can see the corner design stitched four times around the center, and you can see the metallic outline stitching, on this sample in gold. I skipped the first color – the satin stitch portion – and stitched only the outline. Done with antique silver metallic thread, it creates a very light, airy filigree look. (See other things I’ve done with this design here.)


The same four designs as above, stitched only with the silver outline, then turned on point, form the center of the little quilt. The corner design was stitched individually in the corners,

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then stitched side by side, mirror imaging each time, to form the border. Just this one machine embroidery design, stitched multiple times, was used in this quilt. I used water-soluble stabilizer so there would be no stabilizer remaining in the stitching to make the quilt stiff.

Okay, the machine embroidery was the easy part! Next came the applique of teeny-tiny bias strips. These are less than one-eighth inch wide, too narrow for me to make a stitched, turned tube. To make these tiny strips, I cut bias strips of the silk/cotton fabric about one inch wide, pressed the fabric in half lengthwise, then stitched one-eighth inch away from the fold with very short straight stitches. I pressed the narrow folded edge over the stitching, so that the stitching was just on the under side of the fold and didn’t show on top. Then, I trimmed the fabric very close to the stitching, so that the raw edge was hidden under that less-than-one-eighth-inch-wide fold of fabric (that’s why I needed those very short stitches, to prevent fraying.) This fold wouldn’t stay pressed for me (it was too much bias and way too narrow) so I used a toothpick to apply just the tiniest bit of water-soluble glue to hold that fold in place, then pressed the glue dry. Finally, I hand-appliqued those tiny little strips to the quilt top using Superior Threads Kimono silk thread. (The scallops along the binding were appliqued on after the quilting was done, but before the binding was applied.)

Next – time for quilting. The back is the same fabric as the front, and the batting is Hobbs Tuscany wool. First, I stitched in the ditch of every bit of the silver embroidery with monofilament in the needle and silver metallic in the bobbin. The rest of the quilting was done with the silk Kimono thread in the needle and Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin.

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I finished all the quilting. The little parallel lines are about 14 per inch! Almost done! Ready to soak and apply the binding, right? Wrong!

After I soaked the quilt, look what I found on the back!

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(Yes, this is the back.) See that red spot? Did it wash away? No! Aaargh! I could have just placed the label in an odd place on the back and covered it, but the red showed through faintly on the front. What had happened?

Just before I made this quilt, I had made a quilt for a benefit for Libby Lehman from red, orange, and turquoise silks. Apparently, a tiny thread of the red silk stuck around, and floated onto the back of this quilt after I had soaked and as I was blocking it. Red silk bleeds terribly! So there, on the back of my little quilt, was a bright red splotch! Tiny, but obvious. I asked for advice on facebook, and tried some of the suggestions, all to no avail. Finally, I decided I had nothing to lose, and poured Chlorox 2 directly on the spot. After several hours, it lightened slightly. I rinsed the quilt, and put the peroxide bleach on again. I repeated this several times a day for almost a week! Finally, the spot was light enough so that only I could tell where it was, and I was afraid that I would irreparably damage the fabric, so I called it quits. Even I can’t find the spot now!

Whew! Onward… I blocked it one more time, marked where the binding would go, appliqued the little bias scallops, and applied the binding, which is just over one-eighth inch wide.


Because it still needed a little something more, I used the silver metallic thread and stitched by hand an outline stitch just inside the binding. I added the sleeve and label.


See, no red spot! 🙂

This was at Houston, and will give you a better idea of the size.


You can read about the flower pins I’m wearing in this post. And, of course, I made my top! It’s StyleArc’s Gina Tucked Top.

Wish my little silver quilt good luck at Road to California!

Update 1-19-16: This was part of the e-mail message I received today – “Your entry #12256 titled “Argentum” has been awarded “Excellence In Machine Quilting” by our judges.  You will receive $1,500.00 in prize money.  This award was graciously sponsored by Primitive Gatherings.”




A Red Dress: Part 2 – Houston Quilt Festival

So many of you commented about my new red dress, which I made for the award ceremony at the Houston Quilt Festival! Well, I’m home from Houston after a very enjoyable week, and it’s time for an update. We arrived in Houston on Tuesday afternoon. Part of the prize for the top winners is travel and hotel accommodations. Here I am, ready to go to the convention center for the awards! Makeup, nail polish, Annie Pennington brooch and earrings (of course!) – the works! 🙂


Here are those red shoes!


The presentation of the awards is fun, with all of the category awards given first. The blue ribbon winner in each category is revealed from behind a black curtain on the wall of the auditorium, with spotlights focused on that quilt. The eight big awards are given last. My quilt, Blue Plate Special, was awarded the Master Award for Thread Artistry, sponsored by Superior Threads! After the awards are all given, attendees get to get up close to see the winning quilts, and talk to the makers. And, yes, the top winners get flowers! 🙂


On Wednesday, there is a luncheon at which the top winners all give short speeches, then Preview Night is from 5PM to 10PM. This is the way my quilt was displayed.

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I spent a lot of time in front of my quilt for the next four days, talking to thousands of people.

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You can see all of the prize winners here. I was also awarded an Honorable Mention for my quilt Crystal Garden, but that’s a post for another day.

Here is Blue Plate Special




The quilt is 73″ x 73″, and was completed this year. It is white cotton sateen on the front and back. It all started with the dark blue print strip of fabric that surrounds the central star, and forms the border corners. That strip was left over from a quilt kit I cut out for my Mom to piece! The fabric was a print stripe, and this section wasn’t used, so I kept it. The colors for the quilt all flowed out of that little print strip. And the corners are the size they are because that’s all the fabric I had! Those strips were appliqued on, then I used a decorative machine stitch – little satin stitch dots – to accent the edges. All the rest of the color on the quilt is digitized machine embroidery. The more solid-looking, darker areas are machine embroidery applique, done with old Cherrywood fabrics from my stash. The free-standing lace border and the large swirl designs are from Zundt; the rest of the embroidery designs are from OESD. Except for the lace, the embroidery was all stitched on the quilt top only. After the embroidery was completed, I layered the top, batting (Hobbs 80/20 bleached), and backing, then did all the quilting free-motion on my APQS George, which is a sit-down machine. The quilting was done with The Bottom Line thread in the needle and bobbin. I usually like to use silk thread in the needle, but I didn’t think this quilt was going to be good enough to justify the expense! To make the lace, I embroidered segments on water-soluble stabilizer, joined all the segments together in a big loop, then soaked the stabilizer out. I soaked this for a couple of days, with several water changes, because I don’t want any stabilizer to remain in the lace. Then, after the lace was complete, and the quilting was all finished, I stitched the lace to the quilt, using free-motion stitching and monofilament thread. I hope this quilt does half as well at the other shows in which I’ve entered it!

Now, it’s time to get back to work on my quilt to enter into next year’s Houston contest.


The deadline is only about six months away…

A Very Versatile Machine Embroidery Design #2

Corner designs are very common machine embroidery designs.  This one is from Zundt, of course.  It looks pretty simple, and rather uninspiring, right?


Here it is, stitched in the corners, for a little donation quilt I made for The National Quilt Museum.


The fabric is silk/cotton Radiance, the large tulip is also a Zundt design, and the circle is shaped cotton lace insertion.

But before I made this quilt, I made this one, TulipFire:



Do you see the red embroidered on-point squares?  Those are made from this embroidery design, stitched four times in each block.

I simply combined them on-screen on my machine, and stitched the entire block at one time.  This has very dense satin stitch embroidery, outlined with gold metallic thread.


I was thrilled (and very surprised!) when this quilt won the Bernina award for Best Machine Workmanship at the 2013 AQS show in Paducah!

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(And, yes, I made my dress, it’s an out-of-print Butterick pattern in a stable knit.)

Now, back to that embroidery design… If you skip the first color in the stitching (the satin stitching) and just stitch the second color (the metallic outline), you get an entirely different look from the same design, very light and airy.  This is Argentum, a 17″ square miniature.


Here’s a closer look at the subtle embroidery

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So, I stitched this silver outline embroidery on silver Radiance, then hand-appliqued these teeny, tiny (about 1/8″ wide) bias tubes, then quilted the entire thing with Kimono silk 100 thread.

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This little baby won first place in Miniatures at the 2014 Houston IQA show, and has been juried into 2015 Paducah.

As you can see, these are very different looks from the same embroidery design!  Think about different ways you can use your designs.

David’s 21st Birthday Quilt

I made a special quilted wall-hanging for both of my children when they celebrated their twenty-first birthdays.  Because Annie had received one almost four years earlier, David knew that I would be making one for him as well.  But, of course, he didn’t know what it would look like.


Please do not share this photo!

David was a smart, creative, loyal, and loving young man who had some deep hurts and conflicts inside him.  He had struggled with addictions for several years by then, but at the time, he was winning the battle and doing well.  So I wanted to make him a phoenix, the bird which perishes in the flames, then rises triumphant out of the ashes.  I do many things well, but drawing isn’t one of them!  I searched for an image of a phoenix that I could re-create with cloth, and found a wonderful painting by Marina Petro, who kindly gave me permission to use it for this gift.

Now, if you know my work, you know it’s not pictorial!  So I had to teach myself how to do a lot of things for the first time!  I ordered a print of the painting, then traced lines around the major color areas on tracing paper, so it looked kind of like a paint-by-number project.  I took it to my local printer, who enlarged it for me.  This was my guide for cutting the applique shapes.  I dyed the background “sky” fabric, using a shaving cream technique I read about somewhere to get the water-color effect, yet careful placement of colors that I wanted.  I found a wonderful piece of McKenna Ryan ombre fabric in my stash that helped me greatly in achieving some shading in the bird’s head and some of the feathers.  The appliques were fused onto the background, then I zigzagged around the edges with monofilament thread.


Please do not share this photo!

I sent freezer paper-backed sheets of fabric to family member and friends, and had them write “Happy Birthday, David” notes with memories of him.  These were pieced together and used for the backing.  I quilted in the ditch of the applique shapes with monofilament, quilted “flame-y” and “feather-y” shapes with variegated thread in the fire and wings, and stitched a simple horizontal line fill in the sky.

The quilt was a hit!



It, along with a table he made at a workshop in Arrowmont with his sister Annie and me, were his most prized prossessions.

Tragically, he was not able to escape the flames of addiction, and died almost two years ago.  Today would have been his twenty-eighth birthday.


Make those special gifts for the people you love the most, and treasure those special hugs…

My Texas Star

Happy Birthday, Mark!  As with so many people who have lived in Texas, many of my sweet husband’s conversations sooner or later (usually sooner!) wind their way around to extolling the wonders of that state.  I made this quilted wall-hanging for him in 2001.

My Texas Star

This was just about the first real quilt I made.  I’d made heirloom sampler quilts, but they were really comforters, with very little quilting.  And this was the first time I tried free-motion quilting!

Everything about the quilt is “Texas-y.”  The center star is a Lone Star, of course.

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The fused, machine-appliqued bluebonnets are an adaptation of a design from Wildflower Album by Bea Oglesby, 2000, AQS.  I stitched around all the applique with a tiny blanket stitch, and stitched the little stems with a straight stitch.  Amazingly, I quilted in the ditch around all the applique with monofilament thread with the feed dogs up – not free-motion!  Why?  I was afraid of free motion!


The yellow roses, inspired by a Husqvarna Viking machine embroidery design, were adapted for machine applique. The Celtic designs on the quilt are original, and reflect Mark’s Celtic ancestry. I quilted in the ditch around all the Celtic designs with the feed dogs up, too.  I finally got my courage up and dropped those feed dogs and did a little free-motion tulip design in the large setting squares and triangles.  Sprinkled throughout the quilt, and used for the backing, is the Texas State Flower fabric by Northcott that was available then.  I think the batting is poly.

I’ve learned a lot about quilting since I made this.  And I love My Texas Star even more!

A Very Versatile Machine Embroidery Design

Moving ahead almost 50 years (hey, I never said this blog would be chronological!) I wanted to show you a variety of ways to use a single machine embroidery design.  This is a Zundt design, of course.  I first used it on a dress from my Rose pattern, which I taught at a couple of Martha Pullen schools in 2011.

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Then, switching to quilting, I used it (seventy-some times, I think) in Snow Flowers.  You can see the design here between the rows of quilted flowers.  It’s not a very good photo, the quilt isn’t finished, it’s white, not pink, but this is the best photo I have of the use of this design.


Here’s great photo, but you can only see a little of the scroll-y design.

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Finally, I made a 17″ x 17″ miniature using this design yet again!


So the next time you look at embroidery designs, try to imagine all the ways they can be used!