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!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Quilts from the Quilt House-Part 1


The computer catalog of their quilts is a good place to start and we spent a long time looking up our friends and favorite quilters to see what works were there. We wrote down the catalog numbers and the next day, some of the quilts were presented on the tables in the viewing room you saw in the last post about the Quilt House.

This is by one of my authors, M. Joan Lintault from NY. It is one that isn’t in her book so I was excited to see it. It is a printed design on the fabric and then quilted. Just spectacular detail in the leaf designs and the colors are beautiful. 


Here is the Libby Lehman they own. One of her ribbon play quilts with vibrant colors after all these years! Of course, Libby is on everyone’s mind in the Quilt world and we are hoping for a complete recovery so we can see more of her work!


Goats by Ruth McDowell. ONe of my friends owns a large horse piece by her so I had to see what the museum had. I regret not taking a class with her!

These beautiful full quilt shots were generously provided to me by the museum. Any that are odd or badly lit were ones that I took. I couldn’t get an angle to shoot some and of course didn’t have ideal lighting so it’s the best that I could do under the circumstances.

Some of the quilts that are filed flat are ones that have embellishments so can’t be folded into boxes or are too delicate.For example, this is a crazy quilt made famous by being on the cover of a Penny Mc Morris book.



This embroidered bedcover from 1710-1730 has lots of gold thread, very heavy and intricate. The center medallion is a bed of gold thread and I think the base fabric is silk.


As a contrast, this white wholecloth quilt from 1750-1800, France, is just fantastic free motion quilting! It’s over 5 ft so just close ups here.



This is a Mughal ‘floor’ quilt from the first half of the 18th century and is silk with silk embroidery, wood-block cotton print on the reverse side. The embroidery is tiny here and amazing! I wonder if it was truly for a floor or a repro of an image on a floor?


The vibrant colors of this silk were a standout and I could study this for hours. It is one of the 3 quilts that I found inspirational because of the small pieces used in the quilts. I’d like to try creating with tiny pieces. Here are the other two below.



Detail in the Gallery. Pieces were about half inch at the smallest center. Made by Bertha Neiden in Lincoln, NE about 1910 of wool and probably wool scraps from clothing!


Wool and felt pieced by hand! It reminds me of many gameboards all together!

More photos coming in future blog posts!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Quilt for College


My youngest son graduated from high school this May. I had been saving an issue of Quilter’s World, June 2009 for years until the time came for his graduation. In it I saw a quilt called Sign On Me by Colleen Granger in that issue and just loved it.

So while he was away for two months internship in Boston, I had all his friends come over to sign a block with fabric markers. He adores his special middle school teachers so I left blocks and markers for them to sign and they did an excellent job….see the bottom row. So talented!

Two years earlier I started by collecting signatures from relatives and friends from Germany and all over the country and didn’t start sewing it until he left town.

Boy fabric is difficult to find! I shopped my local stores and found a jellyroll of Juggling Summer by Zen Chic/Moda that I thought was perfect.  My first jellyroll and I love the convenience and the range of the collection that I got.


Also I wanted the entire family represented, even his deceased grandparents that he never met so I had to dig for photos and ask others to send me photos.


I used Printed Treasures Photo fabric sheets in an epson printer with waterproof ink. I had a friend help me as they had to be sized to fit into 4 inch squares. Basically it was very easy to do. I stitched the blocks, put them on my wall to try to group family together and friends together and not have the same two fabrics next to each other.

The top was ready for the graduation party and was placed on a table so we could get a few more signatures. But the quilting and binding wasn’t done before the night before we took him to college in August!  It is just quilted in the ditch on every seam because I didn’t want to stitch through the photos or the writing…nothing fancy.

When I gave it to him, he was shocked! His jaw dropped and he couldn’t figure out when and how I did it!  Yeah! I was happy!

P.S. More on the International Quilt Study Center soon….

Monday, October 14, 2013



The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska holds 4500 quilts and textile related items and is the world’s largest quilt museum!  Also known as the Quilt House.

Of course, being a quilter and collector, I’ve been wanting to visit since this new building opened almost 6 years ago but never thought I’d get the VIP treatment!

Ardis and Robert James, well-known quilt collectors, gave their 950 piece collection to the museum, plus a sizeable donation to build the Quilt House.  Ardis passed away a few years ago but Robert is still on the board and contributing to every aspect of keeping this museum as one of the top in all the world. He is donating a new wing that will be ready in less than two years with a larger exhibition area to show more of their permanent collection.


(inside stairway to the galleries, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, one of my favorite architects)

How did I get to go? At the opening reception of the Quilt National show, I was seated at the head table with Robert James. After dinner, he asked me if I had been to the Quilt House and I said that I hadn’t but would love to see it one day. Kathleen Dawson, director of Quilt National, said that we should go together and Robert James offered us air tickets to go!  I didn’t even realize who he was at dinner because they called him ‘Bob’! ha!  How lucky was that?


At the top of the stairs is a gathering space which is the shape of a piece of wedding ring quilt pattern….an oval pointed at both ends.  Everything in this building is state-of-the-art with security!

A docent took us on a tour of the three gallery shows and I will write about that and include photos in the next blog. After the tour we went ‘behind the scenes’ on the first floor.



In the examination room run by Kim, there was a beautiful quilt on the table with chintz fabric borders. Here is where they examine the quilts, clean them and do any work on them. All the folded quilts have to be refolded every two years to prevent creasing and then they are stored with acid-free tissue paper between the layers and placed in archival boxes. Usually the quilts are only shown once every ten years.

All new incoming quilts and quilts that have been outside of storage and are returning get vacuumed for bugs and dust by volunteers. They use a very low power of suction and vacuum through a screen.


The room off of this is the storage area with rows and rows filled with boxes of quilts all numbered and categorized! These units move by a push of the button to reveal one row at a time!


Rows and rows of treasures!

New incoming quilts are also quarantined for potential insects for weeks in plastic bags on these shelves. They also can go into a deep freezer of –40 degrees for 24 hours to kill any eggs. Prevention before they are filed with the collection.


One of the amazing rooms is the photography room. As you can see, there is a flat table to place the quilts. Then two stories straight up is a camera with remote shutter that is connected to a computer and monitor at the lower level.  The lights are on big arms that can be moved for even lighting. It is quite an impressive set up!


There are also three giant, approximately 6 ft square, flat files of quilts. Anything with paint or lots of embellishments or fragile quilts need to be stored flat.


What was in these flat files? I’ll give you a peek next blog!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Burano, the island of lacemaking


We were staying in Venice for six days and on day two we took the boat ride 40 minutes to the island of Burano. It is a fishing village, very quiet compared to Venice and so colorful as you can see. It was charming and the style of homes/buildings much more simple and well taken care of. It is definitely just a tourist town now with much shopping and food on this small island. I was snapping away on my camera and felt that every view was a beautiful photo…bright sun, clear blue skies and water!  It was 100 degrees though!DSC07364



I was walking the main shopping street when I came to this lace store that said it had a museum in the back and upstairs and it was AIR CONDITIONED so I grabbed the family and we went through…slowly.

The walls were full of hand made lace pieces and all were behind glass so forgive the glare and reflections on these photos.


Burano has a history of lacemaking from the late 15th century. They had a famous school that lasted for 100 years where nuns trained girls from the age of 12.  In 1900 there were 1000 women making lace but is now down to a handful of older women in this town. The school closed in the late 20th century due to cheaper lace from Asia and it now houses the Museum of Lace.


What was disappointing was that the museum’s collection was not as extensive and amazing as the two stores in town that had private collections!  Inside the museum they were taping a video of an elderly lacemaker who had a lace pattern going on her lap but sadly, it was in Italian so I couldn’t understand it.

The Venetian lace is called Needlelace or Stitches in the Air in Italian.  It is not bobbin lace which is more common and done primarily in northern Europe. I watched a woman in the shop. The design is drawn on colored tissue like paper that is stitched to some base. Basically the woman has a small hand needle and fine thread and it looks like she is making tiny stitches. It is all held together with other stitches or weaving and when the paper is taken away, you have airy lace. I think that this lion and boat scene below really show the detail of the stitches.




This was an amazing bridal gown! I can’t imagine how many years it took to make this lace. Of course, in the beginning, lace was only for the noblemen and the royal families. The described is as the most expensive commodity of that time!  It became very popular and even men demanded it for cuffs, collars etc.DSC07386DSC07387DSC07389DSC07390DSC07388DSC07391

This piece above looks like tape lace where the take a 3/8” approx width of ribbon like lace, bend it into shapes and then stitch it together with long thread links…like a spiderweb!

Below is an elaborate example of using lace and eyelet for an heirloom garment.  In years past, when I made heirloom lace clothing for my nieces and myself, this would have been a great one to inspire a new skirt!



The photos don’t do the lace justice because you need to get up close and see how tiny the stitches are. At the store, they had a magnifying glass there for you to use.

If you go to Venice, this is a MUST for a few hour day trip! And the gelato is a MUST also!