Dana MackenzieMy husband of 20 years, Dana Mackenzie.

Willie MackenzieOur dog of 15 years, Bertram Wilberforce Woofster Mackenzie III, aka Willie.

Pixel MackenzieThe Last of the Mohicans, Pixel, 19 years old and sleeping snugly in the closet with my old Bernina.

Chutney & Maikai MackenzieChutney and Maikai, our two kitty friends of 18 years, to whom we bid a furry farewell this year.

Kay's handsMy hands. I was thinking about this after the quilt show in Sacramento last weekend. Sometimes ladies come into my booth, look around, and say, “I used to appliqué but my hands don’t work any more.” That’s a sadness to me. So I’m thankful that I have my hands. Not many people know this, but I’m what I call a ‘closet arthritic.’ Two major bouts earlier in my life stiffened my joints and crimped up my toes but, very thankfully, spared my hands. I can appliqué.

Illustration from Easy Appliqué BlocksThe above photo is a staging shot that I sent to Martingale for their reference in creating an illustration. Here’s the corresponding figure from Easy Appliqué Blocks, showing how I pinch the turning allowance under ahead of my stitching.

Those are the really big things. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

I’ve noticed that quilters have been finding this site by searching for information about the history of appliqué. In 1993, esteemed author and quilt historian Barbara Brackman wrote an invaluable resource guide called Encyclopedia of Appliqué: An Illustrated, Numerical Index to Traditional and Modern Patterns.

The first chapter, “The Rise of the Conventional Appliqué Technique,” gives an overview of the history of American appliqué from its beginnings in the broderie perse method to what we know as appliqué today. Then, Barbara shares her years of extensive research into appliqué patterns with hundreds of hand-drawn thumbnails and information on the origins of the patterns.

You won’t find patterns ready to use in this book. It’s just what it says, an index. The compendium of patterns is indexed by class of design rather than by name, so that you can find a pattern without knowing its name. It’s all very organized and well thought out, and in my estimation an astounding achievement and contribution to the world of quilting.

Sadly, this book is now out of print, but you can still find copies here and there. So keep an eye out for it, or do some internet searching.

Until next time,

Yikes! I finished stitching the very last block of a loooong project, spritzed the back to remove the water-erasable pen that I had used to mark the pattern for the back-basting method, and left it to air-dry overnight. The next morning I wandered into the studio and was pretty aghast to see that the red fabric had bled onto the white background.

Here’s the back of the block, with the lovely embellishment that was completely underappreciated.

I always pre-wash my fabrics, but don’t generally test them for colorfastness. I’ve had no trouble to speak of with fabric bleeding in my quilting career… but there’s always a first time!

I drank my coffee and considered what to do. I knew there were products designed to pick up excess dye molecules, and I had heard of something called Color Catchers that you could get at the supermarket. I decided to give that a whirl. It would be a Grand Experiment.

I had to go to three places to find the product. I had no luck at the drug store or the supermarket, but found it at the hardware store.

Color Catchers™ are white sheets that you are supposed to throw in the washer with your loads of laundry so that excess dye from one garment doesn’t redeposit on another. I had no idea if it would help my situation or not but thought it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Starting with cold water, I soaked and swished the block in the sink with a Color Catcher and a little detergent. Nothing much happened that I could see. I repeated with lukewarm water, then on to hot tap water, soaking and swishing, soaking and swishing. After a good bit of soaking and swishing… yay!!! The excess red dye came out of the white background fabric and my block was rescued! And the Color Catcher was pink.

My Grand Experiment was a success, and now I don’t have to restitch the block!

Until next time,

There were certainly many fabulous quilts at the Pacific International Quilt Festival a couple of weeks ago. To my eyes, one of the very most striking entries was “Remembering Barbaro” by Sheril Drummond of Lexington, Kentucky.

Here’s the caption from the show: “Upon moving to Lexington in 1990, I soon became aware of the traditions surrounding the horse farms and the racing industry. When Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby, everyone was so excited to have a winner from this area. When he broke his leg during the very next race we were all saddened, and watched his valiant struggle for the next several months. Unfortunately, his struggle was in vain and when he passed it touched everyone’s hearts. This quilt is in his memory.”

My husband and I were following Barbaro’s story as well. Before I loved dogs I loved horses, and still do, so you can see why this quilt grabbed my eyes as I came around the corner at the show.

I contacted Sheril and she graciously permitted me to shine a spotlight on her piece, and to tell a little bit about her and her work.

Sheril has been quilting for about 20 years now. When she moved from northern California to Kentucky, she joined a Newcomers group, which led to a quilting group, need we say more? Sheril says that after she learned the basics she found she was not content with traditional quilting and felt moved to produce her own designs.

Her latest technique is a stained glass effect, beautifully evidenced in Barbaro.

To create her pattern, Sheril draws a basic shape, then divides it into sections with lights and darks in mind. The sections are fused onto a background, and the edges are finished with a machine blanket stitch. Sheril uses a variety of fabrics, some commercial, some hand-dyed, to wonderful effect, don’t you think?

In the last four years Sheril has been entering her work in some of the larger shows, and has had pieces accepted into Quilt Festival in Houston, the AQS show in Paducah, the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, and Quilt Expo in Nashville.

You can see more of Sheril’s stained-glass art quilts on her Serendipity blog. Sheril is thinking of publishing her patterns in the future. She currently teaches her methods in an all-day workshop; contact her at “shedrum at surfbest.net” if you’re in a group that would be interested.

Here are some students working in a class with Sheril. She’s the one sitting down on the right.

Thank you, Sheril for remembering Barbaro, and for creating these wonderful works of art.

Until next time,

A variety of needles work well for hand appliqué. For years I was content with my John James No. 11 sharps. Then I tried milliner/straw (same thing) and now that’s what I prefer. They’re longer and you can just get a good grip on ’em. I bent the No. 11’s quickly, so now I’ve settled on my abfave as Richard Hemming No. 10 milliner needles. I can use them until they wear out without bending them, and they feel right in my hand.

Whatever the brand or size, the important thing for hand appliqué is that it’s a skinny needle that slides through the fabric easily without resistance.

Here’s a photo comparison.

Top to bottom:

Richard Hemming No. 10 milliner
Richard Hemming No. 11 milliner
John James No. 11 sharp

What’s your favorite appliqué needle, and why?

Until next time,

Quilt Heaven

Filed Under Designers, Quilt shows | Comments Off on Quilt Heaven

I just got home from four days at the Pacific International Quilt Festival… whew! I had THE most fabulous time. Talk about appliqué… there was something astonishing around every corner.

In addition to an entire universe of quilts, I saw everybody I knew, made new friends, and met some renowned designers. I’ll start with a quick introduction to Joanna Figueroa, the creative force behind Fig Tree Quilts. Joanna has some absolutely charming appliqué designs in her appealing “fresh vintage” style, so be sure to visit her web site.

More on Joanna later, as well as some spotlights on other talented appliqué designers and artists that I met at PIQF.

Sigh. I love PIQF…

Until next time,

My appliqué friend Pam Crooks is a member of the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG), a national organization devoted to quilt-related studies, especially the history of quilts, the women and men who made them, and the fabrics they used.

A couple of nights ago, Pam spread her AQSG study quilt out on the floor for show and tell. Oooh!

photo tutorial), and hand-appliquéd them in place.

The completed study quilts tour for two years to various quilt shows and museums. For more information on the AQSG, please visit their site.

Pam is an appliqué artiste extraordinaire, oui?

Until next time,

Ways With Words

Filed Under Articles, Words | Comments Off on Ways With Words

I conspired with my friend ellen edith on an article in the latest issue of American Quilter Magazine (Projects 2007). I called the article “Ways With Words.” It ended up being “The Write Stuff: Ways With Words.” As you might be able to tell, the article talks about several different ways of including words in quilts. Appliqué is of course a natural choice.

For the article, I made a little quilt called “Time 4 Tea.” It’s 24″x 18″, and in the magazine is living large on about a half a page!

The letters, the large curly 4, the clock frame, and the teapot are fused and machine blanket-stitched. The clockface numerals are inked on with a permanent fabric pen.

Over at the Quilt Puppy Show & Tell Center, there’s a beautiful quilt (also tea-themed) with words on it that were exquisitely hand-appliquéd by Cheryl Booton. Go see Tea Time For Good Friends.