Before I got married at the tender age of 36, I never really had a hobby. I was too busy getting through college, then working one or two jobs supporting myself. After I married Dana and we headed off to Gambier (a tiny academic village in the middle of nowhere, Ohio), I finally had the luxury of not having to scrabble, and I cast around for a hobby.

The first thing I took up was folk-art painting. There was a series of classes at a (this is funny) quilt shop in Columbus so I made the 50-mile drive each way and really enjoyed it. I absolutely LOVE that tole painting, Pennsylvania-Dutch whatever the correct term is, look. After that, I spent a lot of solitary hours in the extra bedroom painting on a variety of wooden objects. I never could get any good at the scrollwork, though… instead of graceful and elegant, my scrolls always looked lumpy and drunken.

Somewhere along the way I was having lunch with a friend and another friend of hers. This other friend mentioned the quilt shop in the next town over, and how they had beginning quilting classes, and even taught appliqué. To this day I remember how my eyes got all round and I thought, ‘ooooh, appliqué.’

I made my way over to that shop and signed on for a beginning quilting class in the evenings. (My thinking was, my new husband leaves me alone to go back to his office in the evenings, this will be my revenge :). But, I was the only student so we switched the class to daytimes so that the teacher, who was also the owner, could mind the store at the same time. So I had a private lesson.

Okay, I’m coming to the moral of the story. A lady from Gambier whom I had previously met saw me at the quilt shop and announced that she was taking me to the next guild meeting. I didn’t know which end was up but it was nice, and I got a ticket to go see Georgia Bonesteel speak. Then, the next month, I got a phone call from somebody who said they were coming by to give me a ride. I hung up the phone and said to Dana, ‘Well, somebody’s coming to pick me up. I don’t know who it is, but if a car stops outside the house I’m going to get in.’

You can see where this is going. Instead of sitting alone painting on wood, I was becoming introduced to the vibrant, social world of quilting. It was just what I needed as a newlywed in a new town. Though I absolutely love the way it looks, folk-art painting didn’t stick with me. Quilting stuck.

Here’s a wall plaque of mine from my “folk art period,” from Tole Red Two by Annie Richardson.

Pattern from Tole Red Two by Annie Richardson

Painted plaque by Kay Mackenzie

Little Folk wall quilt by Kay Mackenzie
Here’s a fabric rendition I made years later. I call it Little Folk.

Thanks for listening,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Being the fourteenth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Click on the category ‘A journey to a book’ in the left sidebar to bring up all of the posts in the series.

My tech editor Robin had suggested a few photos to go with the introductory material about fabrics, tools, and notions. Great! She asked me what I would include and I send her my preferred list. They didn’t have everything in-house so I promised to send some spools of my favorite thread and a pair of my favorite scissors.

Hmmm… my scissors have puppy teeth marks in them and the only unstarted spools of thread I had were in dull uninteresting colors. I ordered a few pretty colors of thread on-line and had them sent directly to Robin to organize for the photographer. And, whilst at the E.E. Schenck warehouse party during Spring Market in Portland, I had thrown a new pair of scissors into my cart ‘just in case,’ so I dispatched those to Robin as well.

Stay tuned!
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

P.S. My favorite tools and notions for hand and machine appliqué aren’t mentioned in the book, so I’ve created an information sheet.


Click to download a pdf copy.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

A journey to a book ~ Part 13

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Being the thirteenth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Click on the category ‘A journey to a book’ in the left sidebar to bring up all of the posts in the series.

It’s still May 2008. Numbered steps are appearing everywhere! The second edit has arrived by email, somewhat cleaned up from the last time I saw it but with a few more suggestions and questions. A good number of the bright aqua and shaded gray notes are thankfully not for me, but for the graphic designer down the road. Whew! But those numbered steps! And detail, detail, detail! So many specifics! And side-mentions turning into whole topics! The manuscript is not only being fleshed out, it’s gaining weight.

crossed-tulips.gifAgain my “tips” mentality rears its head. I thump it back down. After all, they’re the experts with all of the experience, and I knew from the beginning that I would need to remain flexible, so I worked with Robin to compromise on things to our mutual satisfaction. And truly, this is what an editor does… clarify, clarify, break down, polish, clarify. The numbered steps are fine most places, and she resists the urge to number a certain section that’s really IMO too conversational for numbers.

This appliqué information is really going to be quite a good and detailed resource! Freezer-paper-on-top, back-basting, and an overview of raw-edge fusible machine appliqué. Something for everyone.

Round 2 hot pink revisions back to Robin. Stay tuned!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

One of my appliqué idols, Jeana Kimball, has written a very thoughtful piece on traditional hand appliqué in today’s quilt-show climate. Jeana’s website is Jeana Kimball’s Foxglove Cottage (be sure to check out her books and patterns) and here’s the link to the article on her Sewing Room blog.

Being the twelfth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Click on the category ‘A journey to a book’ in the left sidebar to bring up all of the posts in the series.

May 2008. Now the editing work begins in earnest. In the olden days, editing was done on paper with those proofreading marks like “stet,” which means oops — leave it like it is (not to be confused with “stat,” which means quick like a bunny). Okay so we’ll still use “stet” later but nowadays the first rounds are done on the computer. Robin emailed me back my Word manuscript marked up in bright turquoise. I took a deep breath and started reading through.

I am one fortunate author. Instead of a bloodbath, what I found were compliments first of all, then questions and suggestions for revisions. It’s not so much a matter of “Ve vill do it THISS way” but more that my editor was guiding me towards better wordings and added detail, and letting me compose them myself.

Robin said that my basic structure was sound, and she could tell that I’d put a lot of thought into the organization of the material about hand and machine appliqué. Still there was some rearranging to be done here and there, and the fleshing out of things.

birdhouse.gifA funny thing happened on the way to the book. It was one of those self-discovery things. Robin and I had these back-and-forth email conversations about whether the information on methods of appliqué was “tips” or “instructions.” I kept saying they were tips, and Robin kept saying they were instructions. Finally I looked within myself, and realized that I could let go of the approach that I was just giving tips. Robin said she considered this a “how-to” book. They were instructions! After all, I’d stated in my proposal that I would love to have my tips expanded, with lots more illustrations, and that’s just what was happening!

One of the most wonderful things about this process was that Robin encouraged me to stand up for what I believed in strongly. If I truly wasn’t comfortable with something, I was not supposed to keep it inside, but to let her know, and we would work together to find a solution. Even though I had graduated in my mind from tips to instructions, it was important to me that I still came from the point of view of “this is how I do it” instead of “it must be done this way,” and she has respected that in the editing process. Instead of seeing my voice as a writer disappearing under the editorial pen, I felt like I was working in a truly collaborative environment. Robin told me to let her know every single one of my thoughts so that she would better understand where I was coming from.

I put that encouragement to liberal use on the illustrations. Since pdf is actually the native file type of Illustrator, I was able to open up the illustration file and mark it up on the computer. There was a lot of pick-up art added to the drawings I had sent, and most of them needed to be tweaked to match what was being said in the text. In this initial format the art was a bit all over the place. In a few places I was bold enough to plead, what happened to my nice illustrations??

I added my revisions and comments in hot pink. Now, with the hot pink from me, the bright aqua from Robin, and the grey highlighting from Karen, this thing looks like a hot mess. Back to Robin by email, and the next step was to wait to hear from her again. Stay tuned!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Today I’d like to pass along a few little tips about how to wrangle your fusible web… the kind that comes on a bolt.

My web of choice for raw-edge fusible machine appliqué is Pellon’s Wonder-Under, regular weight. Your mileage may vary. I’ve kind-of got it down now, but it was not always so. When it comes to paper-backed fusible web, I suffer from separation anxiety. As in, the web separates from the paper backing before I get a chance to use it. Arggh!

In the past, I’ve tried passing an iron over it on top of a teflon appliqué pressing sheet in an attempt to stick it back to the paper… what a mess. Now I just chuck it when I find that’s it separated.

Here’s what I do now to alleviate the separation issue.

First of all, don’t let the clerks in the store roll it up for you. You know what happens, say, if you place one towel on top of another and roll them up together? The top one ooches along and ends up sticking out farther than the bottom one by the time you get there. I don’t know which law of physics makes this so, but the same thing happens with fusible web and its paper backing. Rolling the product encourages separation. Just ask them to fold it loosely for you.

Then, as soon as you get home, cut it into squares. This is information that I got from my pal Pam Crooks, who got it from the estimable Sue Nickels, machine appliquér extraordinaire. I keep a separate rotary cutter for cutting paper and this purpose. The width of the product is 17″, so if you cut it into 8 1/2″ squares that’s just right, and the squares fit perfectly into a gallon-size zippy bag.

fusible1.gifNot only are they flat and happy and much easier to work with than a big floppy hunk, keeping the squares in a bag prevents them from drying out, another culprit in the separation issue.

I keep scraps in an old box lid that fits into the zippy bag when not in use.

As I work on a pattern I start with the smaller pieces and only start a new square when there’s a motif that’s bigger than my biggest scrap of fusible. It’s soooo nice to reach into that bag and pull out a nice fresh, flat sheet in such a manageable size.

Here’s another tip for working with paper-backed fusible web: trace the smaller pieces inside the larger pieces. I learned from Sue Nickels in her book Machine Applique: A Sampler of Techniques to cut out the center of the fusible-web templates. This strategy reduces stiffness in the quilt, and it can save product too if you use that cut-out area to make another template.

flower-basket.gifLet’s say we’re starting with a pattern like this.

The leaves will fit inside the basket with enough room to spare to cut everything out roughly.

While you’re at it, go ahead and trace the flower center inside the flower.


fusible4.gifUse a circle template tool to trace nice round circles. Use a size that is a little bit bigger than the circle. (When you trace, the circle shrinks.)

The arrow is my attempt at telestration in Photoshop.

Last tip for working with fusible web: the smallest, itty-bitty pieces like flower centers are too small to cut the center out of. Then it can be hard to get the paper backing started to peel it off when you’re ready to fuse. I tried the ‘scratch it with a pin’ technique but somehow was never skilled enough to do it without fraying a thread or two. My new favorite strategy is that, once the motif is rough-cut, I peel up one side of the paper, going into the motif area a little bit.

fusible6.gifThen I lay the paper back down and cut out the motif on the drawn line. When I’m ready to take the backing off, part of it has already been started. In this case, separation is good. :)

Okay, that is my most sage advice for fusible web management. I hope it proves to be of use to you.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Being the eleventh in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Click on the category ‘A journey to a book’ in the left sidebar to bring up all of the posts in the series.

Just in time for Quilt Market in May 2008, I got Home: A Heartfelt Nap Quilt back from the printers and flew to Portland with it in my hot little hand. It was a fabulous trip. I networked until my networker was worn out.

doves.gifOne of the very best things that happened was that I met Karen, my acquisitions editor for Easy Appliqué Blocks, at the Martingale booth. She introduced me to a bunch of the sales and marketing staff… it was a blur! I told her how thrilled I was that this was all happening and she said they were happy to have my book.

That was an amazing moment. I tried to take it all in… I could actually step into the Martingale booth and say, I’m one of your new authors. Surreal!

The day before Market opens, there’s a series of breakout sessions for shop owners called “Schoolhouse.” These are little 15 or 30-minute presentations about all of the latest and greatest gadgets, books, tools, you name it, in the quilting industry. I attended as many as I could, always thinking in the back of my mind that in a year’s time that could be me up there giving a presentation about Easy Appliqué Blocks!

The day I flew home from Portland I had some time before I had to leave for the airport, so I got out my little notebook and wrote nonstop. My head was brimming with ideas. That’s the great thing about immersion trips like these… you gain so much inspiration and things just connect up in your brain. I got all my notes down as fast as they were coming from the right side of my brain. You guessed it… one of the topics was a full presentation for Schoolhouse 2009! I was all hopped up about it and hoped that Martingale would let me do it when the time came.

Stay tuned!
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Bunny Hill offers 12 months of baskets ~ free!

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Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill Designs is offering a free appliqué BOM for 2009 called “A Tiskit A Tasket, 12 Months of Baskets.” Jump on over to Anne’s blog, Bunny Tales, and hop on it!

IMO Anne creates the absolutely most cute and fetching designs. When I went to Quilt Market last May, her booth won the bestest-decorated award.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

A journey to a book ~ Part 10

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Being the tenth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Click on the category ‘A journey to a book’ in the left sidebar to bring up all of the posts in the series.

Yikes! The journey is speeding up. I just did a quick count of the weeks until the release of Easy Appliqué Blocks (9) and then looked at the remaining material for this blog series. This does not compute! There’s so much more to say. I’m going to have to ramp up the series to about two posts a week. For those of you more interested in the appliqué topics, I’ll do my best to bring you some juicy ones during this time as well.

Previously, on a journey to a book… I’ve submitted the proposal, gotten the acceptance call, signed the contract, submitted a writing and coding sample, received feedback about my writing and coding, completed and submitted the draft manuscript, and sent in all of my computer illustration files.

On April 11, 2008, I received a phone call from the Martingale technical editor who had been assigned to my book, Easy Appliqué Blocks. Robin and I had the best conversation! She’s about the nicest person in the world and I felt just great after talking with her. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated hearing her approach to editing an author. She told me that it was important to her to understand where I was coming from, my philosophies, and I could tell that it was going to be wonderful working with her.

mouse.gifDuring our conversation Robin got the editing process started by asking me to think about a few things like giving suggestions for fine details. Well, there aren’t many in these simple blocks but hey, a mouse has to have whiskers and a cherry needs a stem. Since embroidery is barely present in my skill set, I was relieved to hear that the publishing house has a library of “pick-up art” to cover the embroidery stitches.

Robin also told me that after a preliminary page count the book was coming in a few pages short so they were looking at adding some quilts back in! (Ha! I KNEW it!)

This is the way it’s done… the number of pages is decided in advance, depending what the publishers feel is the appropriate length for the content. Mine is going to be 64 pages. Books are printed in signatures, I’m guessing 4 signatures of 8 pages in this case. That’s why they can’t just lop off a few pages.

Little did Robin know that I had already made a couple more quilts using the blocks. I emailed her photos of them and she said to send ‘em on in. First I had to quick-like-a-bunny quilt one of them since she said that’s what they preferred to photograph more than a top, then back the original sample quilt went to Martingale plus the two additional quilts. I also had to write the captions for them.

These quilts are going into a little gallery of examples for inspiration, with callouts giving block size, sashing and border measurements, etc., so that readers can make something similiar if they like.

There was also room for a couple of virtual examples, so Robin set me loose on that. It was like candy for me working in Illustrator, putting blocks together in simple settings to create fun little wall quilt drawings.

I got everything done and sent in that Robin and I had talked about in our initial conversation. The next step would be to wait to hear from Robin again with the first round of serious edits. Stay tuned!

Happy New Year,
Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs