Friday, October 10, 2014


Peru and Alpaca


Last month my husband and I took a 12 day journey to Peru for our 25th anniversary and traveled from Lima, to Lake Titicaca, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and back to Lima. It was more an adventure than a relaxing vacation but a very interesting one!


For someone like me who is a crafts and textiles lover, Peru was an ultimate destination. Of course our primary reason for visiting was Machu Picchu and the other archeological sites but good crafts shopping ranks a close second in my book.

Weaving, knitting, embroidery and gourd carving are the main crafts. The styles of embroidery and weaving varies from region to region. In another article I will write about the different crafts in the regions that we visited.

The primary fiber that they promote in Peru is alpaca. All over the country you see cameloids. There are llamas in the city streets and in the rural areas where they are used as pack animals and dinner! Also very rare but used for their very fine fur are vicunas. Said to have the world’s softest and warmest fur, the fiber is exorbitant because they only produce a small amount of fur and can only be shorn every three years. I was told that sweaters start at $1000 ! I was on the hunt for a good quality alpaca sweater. I got educated between fake and quality. We had private tour guides in each location and I questioned all of them.


Everywhere you go, there are people selling “alpaca” shawls, scarves, blankets and sweaters….not just at every tourist site but in the halls of your hotel and on the sides of streets and even on the church steps! All the goods are laid out so nicely and look beautiful. I have an alpaca sweater so I know that they are soft and when I felt some of these goods they were soft. They had labels on them in English and the word ‘Alpaca’ in big letters. But when I asked the price of a shawl or scarf, the price was so low ($20 or less) that it couldn’t be genuine alpaca. I asked my guide and he verified that they are fake labels added for unwitting tourists who want a bargain.


The other confusing factor that all the Peruvian vendors shouted was ‘baby alpaca’. That was to mean that it is the finest, softest but not that it is from a young animal. It is the first shearing of the alpaca and is supposed to be the softest.

Our dilemma was that we wanted to pay the money to the artisans who make the goods and that was difficult to do. The guides said that all the quality alpaca sweaters are made in factories and sold in boutiques in the cities and hotel lobbies etc.

Our guide took us to two crafts cooperatives where women from 12-20 communities bring their wares to sell. The first one was fascinating as they showed how the alpaca fleece is spun into yarn and then dyed with natural plants and animals before it is woven or knitted. We saw women weaving with back strap looms here and all over the country.


I bought this table runner that is made of alpaca but must be the second shearing because it feels like wool. It is 4 feet and was $85 and took her over a month to weave.


At the end of day 11, after going to a giant commercial sweater store without finding anything, our nice guide said that there was one more shop in Cusco on the way to our hotel and we stopped at La Vicunita which is a small factory that makes their own designs. It was beautiful and packed to the ceiling with alpaca items. The saleswoman gave me samples to feel. One was acrylic, one was wool, one was alpaca and the softest was baby alpaca. They also make Peruvian pashmina which is a silk/alpaca blend and lightweight. I definitely wanted baby alpaca and she helped me find this sweater ($120). Also I bought this purple shawl ($80) with a border of stylized alpacas woven in.


I just love alpaca and llama faces!


Then in one of the boutiques in town we bought this contemporary men’s baby alpaca sweater for our son for Christmas. He’ll be a very fashionable student on campus!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

A new book by Philippa Naylor!

We are always happy and relieved here when a book is finished and is sent fed ex to the printer overseas!

Our newest creation is the second book by Philippa Naylor, a talented British quilter who has won numerous awards here at AQS in Paducah and at IQA in Houston. In fact, the National Quilt Museum owns three of her gorgeous quilts, the most from any non-American quilter!


Philippa’s first book, Quilting in the LImelight was not only filled with great information for her award-winning quilting techniques but also told about her life in England. One of the most interesting parts was about her drive from Saudi Arabia back home to England. Quite an adventure!

Applique Mastery: Processes, Possibilities & Pattern is the title of her new book and was months in the making! This is a unique book because you follow Philippa’s design process for creating a competition quilt. She takes you along while she chooses the fabrics, designs the quilt and all the thought processes involved with executing the quilt design. How should I stitch on the appliques?  What stitching should I use in the small central areas? What quilt design will beautifully fill the large spaces in the borders of the quilt? Which type of border will enhance an already visually loaded and colorful design?

All these questions and more are answered in 12 simple month-by-month lessons that guide you through the creation of your own masterpiece. Included in the book is her full-scale pattern with ideas of how to modify it to fit your needs. Each month you will learn something new and refine your quilting skills!

We will soon be running a contest on facebook to win copies of this new book before it is released ! So watch the Dragon Threads facebook page.

As I like to do…here are possible covers for this book. Comment below which one you like the best! Let’s see which is the most popular!







Friday, May 23, 2014

National Quilting Assoc Show

Spring came late this year in central Ohio but the NQA show came early!  Fair trade off!

It’s great to see a fresh crop of beautiful quilts spring up in the convention center! Always a great day trip with fellow quilters to enjoy browsing and shopping!

The best of show winners were quilts that I had seen only online so I was glad to get a chance to see them in person! Of course, the Pat Holly quilt was so incredible and all were just amazed at the tiny pieces and the beautiful total effect she achieved using silk.


And then as if one award winning quilt in a show isn’t enough….Marilyn Badger of Utah had TWO! Both were just covered in fantastic free-motion stitching!


This quilt below by Claudia Pfeil of Germany is one of my favorites!  I love the fern shapes and all the detail of the quilting is mesmerizing!



One of my favorite quilters, Megan Farkas of New Hampshire had a beautiful new quilt here with 3-D flower petals. I just love this Japanese theme.


The first quilt I saw when entering the hall was this dragon one! And since I am partial to dragons, I loved it!  Stitched by Nancy Arseneault of Arizona, it has a great name, The Quilt with the Dragon Tattoo!



One of the most interesting Best of Show quilts was this golden icon by Laurie Tigner.



And last but not least….my dear friend Beth Schillig won a ribbon for her new Fibonacci quilt design!


Yes, it was annoying that the name tags were pinned to the main body of the work! It should have been pinned to the bottom edge and not cover so much of the quilt!

More pics in next post!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


It’s been a while so there are assorted things to update you about.

First I have an article in the current THREADS magazine on how to make a chic little necklace to hold your phone. It’s quick to sew and very useful when you don’t have a pocket!



For the first few months of the year, I’ve been working on costumes for our high school musical of SINGING IN THE RAIN.  It’s been more hours than I imagined but well worth it for a fantastic show. In a blog post I wrote for BERNINA’S we all sew blog, I explain what I learned while making dozens of knit dresses and other items. It was really rewarding to help the actors and the school. They were all very grateful and the dancing was phenomenal! I can’t say enough about how well the kids did and how wonderful it was!

To read more about it and see more photos go to their blog.



I just finished a silk pillow for display for the BERNINA booth or Creative Center.

It is designed by Lorna Moffat and from her book, SILK UNRAVELED, that I published a few years ago. It is a beautiful book,with the 14 projects shot in a Japanese garden. Moffat uses her unorthodox techniques of turning torn and cut silk into fascinating creations!


This creates fabulous textural surfaces and patterns with a contemporary twist. It’s very easy and lots of detailed photos plus the book is on SALE!

  Silk Unraveled Book cover

The new KOOS van den AKKER pattern for Vogue is this wonderful bag! Great shape and lovely pattern! Vogue 1403 and available now. Make one in colors for each season!  Great way to use leftover remnants from the other Koos garments that you’ve made! I know I have LOTS of scraps that would work perfectly!


Don’t forget Koos’ fantastic book, Koos Couture Collage with many of his techniques, his bio and loads of inspirational photos of his garments thru the decades! NOW only $15 !!

Koos Couture Collage book cover



We have a giveaway of 3 copies of the Quilt National catalog on our facebook Dragon Threads page. Enter your email for a chance to win. Share the link for a second chance to win. Comment on the facebook page for a third chance to win.

Friday, December 13, 2013

BERNINA Ambassador Reunion



I’ve just come back from an inspirational and fun few days at Bernina headquarters north of Chicago. A group of approximately 25 of us gathered for an information session on what’s new with Bernina...and there is plenty!… and for some camaraderie with fellow national artisans that we see on the road but don’t have time to sit and talk with as much as we’d like.

I’ve been a member of the Bernina Artisan group for over a decade. It has been such a thrill and an honor to have been invited to be a part of this prestigious group of sewing and quilting teachers and industry insiders! Many of them are well-known to anyone who quilts, as you will see in the photos.


Our meetings are always so much fun and informative and filled with food!  My first meeting was at Oklahoma Embroidery and Design in Oklahoma which is a subsidiary of Bernina and makes embroidery designs and software.  The second meeting was here in the Bernina home office and the third meeting was at the Bernina factory in Steckborn, Switzerland!!  About 78 of us there for 5 days of tours to thread factory, fashion museum, lacemaking museum, fine dining and of course classes at the Bernina headquarters…wow was that an experience of a lifetime!!


This last weekend was frigid Chicago weather outside but lots of warm food inside!  We were split into groups and each had hands-on use of the new machines.  First I made a linen pillow on the 580 using the circle making tool which was lots of fun. I always like the attachments where you take your hands off and it just sews perfectly by itself!!  The best part of this was the perfect couching of 3 threads in the circle…amazing!  I also loved the Spanish hemstitching attachment which helps you hold the two fabrics apart at the exact distance to leave open space in your hemstitches.  I could have used that when I was doing so much French heirloom sewing years ago and just had to eyeball it and go very slowly!


Next I tried the longarm with the Bernina 830 and the tablet software. I heard about this and was anxious to try it. Truthfully, after the instructor told us how to program one stitch….I could figure out the rest!  It is that intuitive and simple!  I already have the 830, so you would just put it on the carriage behind the 10 foot frame, attach the tablet and go!  Wonder if I could make space in my family room??  It was very fun to have it stitch out perfect patterns on our quilt piece.


The last class was on the brand new 780 model. It really was a bit mind-blowing to think that some engineers in Switzerland thought of and worked out how to do cutwork and crystal templates using a sewing machine!  It sure was fun to watch it cut out around our embroidery perfectly! Amazing is the word brought to mind since I know how hard it would be to manually cut small areas between embroidery stitching!  And of course, everyone loved the bling!  Making a crystal transfer to iron on top of the embroidery was so unique and I can see it becoming addicting!


The last day we had a tour of the Brewer warehouse . WOW! Berninas stacked to the ceiling in rows that seemed to go on forever! We were mesmerized! In the other rows were fabric, notions and millions of items!  I thought they would check our pockets on the way out!

Besides all the info and the shopping experience and the food at this reunion, we also had some special times.  I loved meeting new people and seeing, hearing about what they do. Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson attended and had some very powerful messages.  First he showed a video about a woman who had a stroke, was paralyzed on one side of her body and then took up quilting!  She was incredible cutting with one hand, having special adaptive equipment and using the knee lift on the Bernina. Her quilts were not simple either!  Her stitching and applique could rival those of any of the artisans in the room!! Ricky said in person that the quality was excellent.  It was especially poignant to us because Libby Lehman is a part of this artisan group and was absent due to the massive stroke she had this Spring. She sent us a video with a big hello and we hear she is making good progress now. Everyone wants her to return to our quilt world! This video will be on The Quilt Show next year so look for it and subscribe if you are not a member, to see more wonderful quilting videos!

Ricky also gave a speech on how he went from musician to master quilter and star in the quilting industry, which combined with the video above, gave a message of being consciously grateful for what you have in life and hyper awareness of how you touch the lives of some people you meet.  You may not know it now, or ever, but you could have an important influence on a stranger.  Ricky’s message was about the tired salesman in Sears selling a machine to his grandma who in turn gave the machine to him and started this new career/life rolling!

Also the message of gratitude during the holiday season seems to be strongest while later in the year, it tends to wane. This trip with people flying in during the snowstorm, planes delayed, luggage lost, etc…I could hear many artisans saying… what? Luggage being late is not the worst thing in your life! 

Well, I’ve come home very inspired to sew more, learn new things, try everything and to be more grateful for all my blessings!  I can’t wait till next year’s reunion! Happy New Year to all!