A Very Versatile Machine Embroidery Design #3

You may have noticed that I use a lot of machine embroidery designs that are not “things.” No animals, no people, no coffee cups, no still lifes. Sometimes floral designs. But mostly, I really like swirl designs that lend themselves to many different looks. I’ve written about two other designs in this post and this post. Today I’m featuring a set of designs (yes, Zundt!) that I’ve used in several ways.


The designs have a satin stitch outline around a long, open, running-stitch filled center.

Here I used just the smallest design, repeated and mirrored to form a border.

ME borders

When those center fill stitches are stitched with metallic thread, it creates a soft, shimmery look that almost looks like it’s been painted.

All four of the designs were used in “Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining.” (2010)



The swirl design here is just to the left of the butterflies. I also used a couple of large floral designs and free-standing lace. The fabric is silver gray Radiance, and all of the embroidery (all Zundt) was done with gray Isacord and silver metallic thread. The butterflies, the large lace motifs (the quilt was cut from behind the motifs) and the wide lace edging (not visible in this photo; look at the full shot above) are free-standing lace. It is 85 inches square, and the embroidery used approximately 47,000 yards of thread and nearly 5,000,000 embroidery stitches. After the embroidery on the fabric was done, I free-motion quilted with Superior Threads silk Kimono thread.

This photo is from before it was completed, but it really shows the sparkle from the metallic thread (and Stella the cat says she needed to be in this post!)


This quilt won the Pfaff Best Machine Workmanship award at Houston in 2010


and a first place at Paducah in 2011.


But I wasn’t finished with these designs! This is a very different look in “Distraction.”


I pieced white and dark gray Kona cotton, then embroidered swirls over the pieced fabric. I love the way the piecing shows through the metallic-filled swirl centers – a lovely transparency!

Distract_detail2 Distract_detail

One of my favorite parts of this quilt is that I pieced the binding to match the pieced stripes in the fabric! Details matter! 🙂


Actually, I wasn’t pleased with the way the edge of the quilt was slightly stretched, so I later took off the binding and re-did it so it would be smoother, but I couldn’t find a picture of the final edge.

Finally, here is a little quilt I made, “Lime Frost”, which will probably be a donation quilt at some point.


It is Radiance, apple green and silver metallic thread, and a few Swarovski crystals. Besides the large central swirls that were also used in the other quilts, the smaller corner swirls are from my Craftsy class project.


I hope this has inspired you to think of using those embroidery designs in multiple ways, and to use them as the base for lovely quilting!

Mother’s Day

Here in the U.S., we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday.  One of the most memorable things I’ve ever done with my Mom is the creation of “Gloria’s Garden.”

Gloria's Garden_full

The quilt is 73″ x 73″, and was made in 2009. Mom chose the fabrics and pieced the top (a variation of “Blooming Nine Patch”, from Traditions with a Twist by Blanche Young and Dalene Young Stone.)  I did the embroidery and quilting.

Gloria's Garden_detail

The lace border and all of the 3-D flowers are digitized free-standing lace, made from over 60,000 yards of thread.  My embroidery machines logged nearly 7,000,000 stitches in the making of this quilt, including over 3,000,000 in the lace border alone.  Embroidery designs are from Zundt and OESD.  That, of course, does not include all the stitching in the quilting, which was all free-motion.


The quilt won 1st place in Computer-Aided Machine Embroidery at Houston International Quilt Festival 2009.


And to my breathless delight, the quilt won the $12,000 Gammill Longarm Machine Workmanship award at the American Quilter’s Society Paducah 2010 show. (Note: I quilt on a table-set longarm machine, not a frame system. I move the fabric, not the machine. But that year, the categories were divided by the type of machine, instead of whether the machine was moved over the quilt, or the quilt was moved under the machine. The rules have since changed.)

My daughter surprised my Mom by travelling to the award’s ceremony.


To make it even more special, Annie, who is a talented jewelry artist, created matching silver brooches for Mom and me.


The flower echoes the shape of some of the free-standing lace embroidered flowers in the quilt, and the flowers I quilted.  The flower center features a small piece of one of the fabrics used in the quilt.

The quilt is now in the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. The curator of the museum took my photo with the quilt when I was there “visiting” it.

GG at museum

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!


 Celebrate moms everywhere with Craftsy’s Sale through my link: http://www.craftsy.com/ext/SusanStewart_holiday. I get a small portion of each sale, and you get up to $20 off all online classes!

Teeny, Tiny Squares

All of my previous posts have been about my work from the past.  This is a current project.

I made this needlepoint for my Dad in 1978.  I was finishing up college, and for some reason made needlepoint projects for my family that year.  This was from an illustration in a farm magazine!


As a tribute to him, I decided to do this in fabric – pieced – about 6 squares per inch – then quilted!  I know, crazy!  This is hanging on Mom’s wall, so all I have to work from is this photo.

Here is the completed sunflower from the lower left.  You can see how tiny the squares are!


Here, I’ve worked my way up to the cornstalk.  Even doing some strip-piecing, this is tedious, painstaking work!

Don’t sneeze!


The squares are cut 1/2″, then trimmed slightly after piecing. After the squares are sewn into strips, the strips are added to the slooooowly growing piece.   I try to match every single seam – 22 seams per strip in this section.  Here is a strip pinned to the right side of the piece.


Then I flip to the wrong side…


and stitch, using the previous seam (not the raw fabric edges) as a guide, with my needle in the far left position.


Then I check the right side to see if the seams line up.  At least half the time, there are sections of the seam that don’t, so I have to take out some stitches and re-stitch.  Now mind, these stitches are only 1mm long – they have to be that tiny to keep the eensy weensy seam allowances from fraying.  And they are stitched with Superior Threads Bottom Line thread, which is a very fine 60wt. poly thread.  I use this fine thread because I wanted a thread that took up less space in the seam than regular 50wt. piecing thread.  I did what I could to reduce the bulk, and the Bottom Line is strong enough for this particular piecing. Those stitches are hard to un-stitch!

Once everything is lined up as well as I can get it, I trim the seam allowances a bit, then press those seam allowances open on the wrong side.  Oh, by the way, the seam allowances on the squares were pressed open, too.  I thought the ridges created from pressing to the side would be too noticeable on these tiny squares.  Again, not an easy task!  Each seam allowance is 3 layers of fabric, and I’m pressing them open over the previous seam allowance.  Altogether, each square is 9, yes 9, layers of fabric thick.


I found that running my thumbnail down the seam, separating the seam allowances, then pressing with lots of steam worked best.  Here’s the right side of that strip.


Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat, seemingly ad infinitum…

I have finally finished the sunflower/cornstalk panel.  Twenty-three squares by ninety squares – 2070 squares, and this is only about one-fourth of the project!  Whew!


I have a great ability to tolerate tedium, and I usually work on only one project at a time, but this calls for a break!  I embroidered, pieced, and quilted my Craftsy quilt in less time than this 4″ x 16-3/4″ panel took!

So for now, I’m putting these teeny, tiny square away and working on something bigger!

Photo Transfer Quilts

During the past week, I participated in the 5-day artist challenge that has been making its way around Facebook.  It involved posting three projects for five days, and nominating one person each day to continue the challenge.  Well, thinking of projects for that challenge, plus the ideas I have for this blog, have brought home to me the large and varied body of work I have created.  It’s kind of fun to look back at all – well, at least some – of the things I have made with fabric and thread!

In the challenge, I posted photos of Shark’s Teeth garments, elaborate Christening gowns, some of my favorite quilts, and a prom dress!  So here’s yet another type of work I’ve done.  This is a group of small wall quilts I made in 2010.  I like to take close-up photos of the flowers in my back yard.  I don’t have a fancy camera, or any particular knowledge of photography.  Some of these photos were printed on photo transfer fabric, and I incorporated them into little quilts.



This photo transfer was framed with a pinkish fabric to pick up the pink of the lily, and a green batik to blend with the leaves.  This was appliqued onto a subtle light ivory/cream/pink fabric, which was machine embroidered with OESD swirls that again picked up the colors in the flower.  The yellow and gold FSL flowers are from Zundt.



This is a photo of a phlox with a big, fat bee!  Again, a narrow inner border picks up the colors in the flowers, and tiny FSL Zundt flowers were added after the quilting was done.



In a previous post, I wrote about the silver-centered FSL daisy pins my daughter made me for Mother’s Day.  I placed these pins in a patch of black-eyed Susans and took one of my favorite back-yard photos.  So I took another photo without the pins, transferred the photo to fabric, quilted it, and added a similar pin!  As in the quilts above, I used borders to pick up the colors in the photographs.


I love this tiny (8.25″ x 9.25″) quilt!  Look closely, there’s a honeybee tasting some nectar!  I had some scraps of ombre fabric; I spliced the picture and border with 1/4″ strips of fabric.

There was a beautiful pinky-peach rose quilt, as well, but I don’t know where it is, and I don’t have a photo of it.

I don’t remember what brand of photo transfer fabric I used.  My first quilt made with photo transfers was my parents’ 50th anniversary quilt, which I will post about in the future.  I had printed those images on my home printer.  But for these little quilts, I e-mailed the images to my local print shop, then took in the freezer paper-backed transfer fabric, and had them print it.  For the cost of a few color copies, I had images that were brighter and more crisp than I was able to print at home.  Then I heat-set the ink, trimmed the photos to the size I wanted, added borders, and quilted.  Try it!  It was fun!

This Magazine Changed My Life

In December of 1988, I saw this issue of Sew Beautiful on the magazine rack at a grocery store.  I picked it up, looked through it, and felt prickles go up and down my neck.  I knew how to sew very well, but I had grown up on a Missouri farm, and had never before seen such lacy confections!  I was immediately hooked.  I knew I would try my hand at this new-to-me type of sewing.


In that time before online shopping, I was lucky to find a few kinds of heirloom laces and some Imperial batiste at a machine dealership about 50 miles from my home.  I read and re-read the magazine, and also Mildred Turner’s book, which I got at that same store.


Okay, so heirloom sewing isn’t hard, it just requires certain materials and techniques, and attention to detail.  I’m really good at that “attention to detail” part, so with the book and magazine and some batiste and lace, I was off and running!

This is the first heirloom dress I made.  I don’t know what the basic pattern was, probably a McCall’s/Simplicity/Butterick that I adapted.  The sleeves and collar were from Mimi’s book.


The dress is pale pink Imperial batiste and narrow (really too narrow for the templates, but it’s what I could find) white French Val insertion and edging.  There are teardrop insertion shapes on the collar, and a double row of scallops on the sleeves.  I used serger thread, which was the finest thread I could get.

Annie wore the dress for Easter 1989.  And don’t you love David’s expression?!

048 Easter 98

Unfortunately, I no longer have that dress.  It was probably loaned to a friend, and never made it back home.  But I do have the second heirloom dress I made!  This one was made from real Nelona Swiss batiste and Swiss embroideries.  The basic pattern was one from one of those early Sew Beautiful magazines.


Surprisingly, the Swiss insertion and edging were purchased a couple of years before this, before I discovered Sew Beautiful.  I got them at Eunice Farmer’s store in St. Louis, because I thought then, and still do, that they were some of the most beautiful trims I had ever seen.



I remember that when I called Martha Pullen Co. to order the precious Nelona, Kathy McMakin answered the phone and took my order!

Well, that magazine was the start of an amazing journey for me!  Soon, I was sewing and writing and teaching for Martha Pullen Co.  I am so grateful for the opportunities this gave me!  At the time, I had two lovely children, but was in a dismal marriage.  The ability to stretch my creativity, do things I had never imagined myself doing, and create so many beautiful things gave me a self-confidence that eventually helped me to get out of that dismal marriage and then later marry a wonderful, supportive man.

Fast forward 26 years… I have authored two books, had my work featured in countless books and magazines, won top prizes at major quilt shows, taped a Craftsy class, and have four quilts in the National Quilt Museum.  Yes, I’ve endured my share of heartbreak and tragedy – no one is spared that.  But what a ride for a farm girl with a chemistry degree!  Just last week I went to Albuquerque, NM, because my quilt “Snow Flowers” won the “Best Home Machine Quilted” award (and $3500!) at the AQS show there.



Snow Flowers-detail

Just like those white dresses, white quilts are difficult to photograph!  But you can clearly see the heirloom influence – lace insertions and edgings on a quilt!

I wonder what will be on the journey next?

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!

021 (2)_2

(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

022 (2)_3

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.

021 (3)_2

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.

Quilted Christmas Banner

Here’s a quilted Christmas banner that I made six years ago for my husband to hang on his door at work.  It was a mercy project.  His co-worker at the time enthusiastically decorated for Christmas, but her idea of décor involved paper plates, yarn, pictures cut from old Christmas cards, and other Kindergarten-ish art.  I don’t like to speak unkindly of anyone, but my husband said it was embarrassing to have this on a professional’s door!

This is one of the few quilted projects – maybe the only one – I’ve made that is not my own design.  I wanted something easy and quick, and this fit the bill beautifully!

Christmas door quilt

It is a pre-cut, fusible applique from Dilys Fronks, who makes gorgeous wrought-iron applique quilts.  The concept is brilliant – black fabric, backed with fusible web, laser-cut to create the design!  All you have to do is peel off the paper backing, carefully place the intricate, cut-out shape onto another fabric, and press to fuse.  An instant quilt top!  I bought my applique at the Houston Quilt Festival, but found this particular design online: http://www.quiltingcreations.com/store/item.asp?Category=196&SubCategoryID=40&GroupID=&SKU=CDF5101

The backing fabric was a piece that was “aging” in my stash.  It was perfect for this, a beautiful turquoise/blue/purple/magenta batik with little orange stars scattered throughout.  To make my banner a little larger, I used a piece of backing fabric several inches larger all the way around than the pre-cut fabric, and added strips of my own fusible-backed black fabric to make the border.   Because I extended the lines on the curved top, it looks like the frame was part of the original design.  For the star, I slipped a piece of gold cotton/metallic lame under that section before fusing.

I honestly don’t remember what threads I used for quilting this, but I know it was quick and easy quilting!  Black binding completes the leaded glass look.

Free Class Giveaway!

This past April, Craftsy contacted me and asked if I would be interested in taping a class on machine embroidery and quilting.  After working on the class much of the summer, I travelled to Denver in September for three days of taping.  What a great experience!


I learned so much.  I really found the production process fascinating!


And now, the class is ready to go live later this month.


To celebrate, I am offering a free class giveaway!  Click on this link to enter


One lucky person will be randomly chosen, and at the end of the giveaway, I’ll email the winner to let you know and give you the info on accessing your free class.  The class will be yours to keep – watch any time, and as many times as you like.  And the class is interactive, so you can ask me, your friendly instructor, and your classmates questions!  In addition, you’ll get exclusive Zundt embroidery designs (and if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know how much I love Zundt designs!)

I made the quilt up in three different colorways, so you can see how the choice of fabric and threads affect the look of the piece.

014 020

As always in my classes, I squeeze in as many tips as I can to make your sewing easier and more precise.  Wait til you learn my newest uses for some very common – and inexpensive – products!

So enter today and don’t miss your chance to win The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt class!


Sterling Silver and Machine Embroidery – Unusual Partners!

My daughter is a jewelry artist.  About five years ago, trying to find a way to make a little money during grad school, she made these pretty little brooches.  She made the hand-crafted sterling silver centers, and I contributed the free-standing lace machine-embroidered petals.  These were really cute, I thought, and very versatile, as the centers could be removed and used with a variety of flowers.


So, of course, I made a quilt with a silver-centered flower!  This little quilt was donated to the silent auction at the Houston Quilt Festival in 2010.


The upper flower is machine embroidery directly on fabric.  The middle flower is a photo transfer from a photograph I took in our back yard.  And the lower flower is a double layer of free-standing lace petals with one of the silver flower centers.  This flower can be removed from the quilt and worn!  The light green border fabric is silk dupionni, free-motion quilted.  And all the machine embroidery designs in this post are Zundt, of course.

Then Annie tricked me!  She said she had a commission for three black-eyed Susan pins, and could I please embroider the flowers.  Some time later, I received a package in the mail.  Three lovely pins for me!   So of course I photographed them in their natural setting.  Look closely to find the silver-centered blossoms!


I’ve worn these a lot.  I’m not a “bling-y” kind of person, but these are casual and fun, a mix of silver and thread, and a wonderful reminder of my wonderful daughter!


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…