Stitches to Savor

design, inspiration, needlework, quilting

I’m really happy for Sue Spargo. I’ve never met her but she was able to do something that many artists, including us, would love to do: she was able to have a beautiful, hard-cover coffee table book of her work published by Martingale. Martingale gave me a copy of Stitches to Savor at International Quilt Market and asked if I’d review it. We only review books we like but we were delighted to be able to share this book with Craft Nectar readers.

There are no patterns or instructions in this beautifully photographed book but there is an endless amount of inspiration. With 200 photos of Sue’s work, you get a chance to focus on the details and composition of her work, which is hard to do in a pattern book. The detail photographs also allow the reader to see how Sue mixes cotton and wools, as well as hand work and machine techniques so effortlessly.

Not everyone is able to do handwork or enjoys it but this book makes you want to try something new. From the tiniest bead to the perfectly placed French knot, this book is beyond just eye candy. It’s a book to inspire. It’s a book for daydreaming and encouraging the reader to see new possibilities for familiar materials. You don’t flip through this book. You linger because there’s just so much to see. Regardless of your style of quilting, there will be something in this book that catches your eye and gets you thinking. If you’re thinking about a holiday gift for your favorite needleworker, this is the book you’re looking for.

I hope Stitches to Savor becomes the blockbuster hit of 2015 because the quality of both the work featured and the production of the book warrant it.

The West Coast Road Trip – Bainbridge Island WA and St. Helens OR

design, experiences, needlework, quilting

After months of planning and countless emails, phone calls and contracts, Bill, Sophie and I arrived in Seattle on Friday morning.


We boarded the ferry for Bainbridge Island (yes, Sophie is now officially taller than I am but still loves to make silly faces for the camera), which was our first stop. This stop was sponsored and organized by Kathy Mack of Pink Chalk Studio and it was lovely. Bill and I lectured at the beautiful new Bainbridge Island Art Museum, which recently opened, and then made our way to the charming Esther’s Fabric Shop owned by Barbara Kirk down the street for a wine and treats reception and book signing.

barbara-and-kathyBarbara Kirk and Kathy Mack

Esther’s is a really nice shop because it has very nice fabrics for garment sewing as well as quilting. There’s no junky stuff, just a group of great fabrics, trims and tools galore. It was a lovely way to spend Friday night and everyone was warm and enthusiastic.


Saturday Bill taught a color class while Sophie and I checked out some of the island’s charming shops including a stop back to Esther’s where we bought some fabric and embroidery floss and the Churchmouse, which had a line 15 people deep but had an incredible selection of beautiful yarns. The merchandizing was lovely as well.




Later we  met up with my cousin and her dog for a picnic here. It has been a veeeeery long time since I’ve had a day off and it was restorative.

Bainbridge Island

After Bill’s workshop was over, we hopped in the car and headed south to St. Helens, Oregon. The landscape was so different and the presence of the lumber industry was everywhere, including this shot taken from across the street from our hotel.


I taught a curves class to the Columbia River Piecemakers Quilt Guild at a community room owned by the Soil Conservation District office.

Here’s the part that’s always hard to explain if you’ve never taught a class or given a lecture to a group of quilters. There aren’t many jobs in which one shows up to work with people really excited to see you. In fact they are so excited that they go to all kinds of trouble and effort to show you hospitality. Barbara at Esther’s had wine, grapes, shortbread cookies and tables set up for us to vend our magazines, books and patterns as well as sign books. Kathy Mack bought a copy of a Kid’s Guide to Sewing and asked Sophie to sign it.


When we leave, people thank us for coming and tell us how much they learned and how fun it was.

This morning when I arrived to teach the curves workshop, one generous woman had brought an large basket of fresh figs she had picked from the fig tree in her yard.


Another had brought chocolate, cookies, cheese and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The woman who brought the figs gave us a bag of them to take in the car as we headed south. One woman, Ann, who had expressed skepticism at the beginning of the workshop about her ability to piece curves, gave me a thumbs up as I was heading out the door three hours later. She had not only mastered curves but she had inset a full circle with no tucks, much to her astonishment.

Obviously we charge money to teach these workshops but the bigger paycheck comes in that last 15 minutes of a class when you look around and people have learned something new. There are piles of blocks or colorful groupings of scraps that represent something learned.


The room is usually quiet and people are busily sewing or processing all of the ideas that are now in their brains that weren’t there three hours prior. After our lecture on Bainbridge Island, one woman casually mentioned the next day that she hadn’t been able to get to sleep until 1am because she was thinking about all that we talked about. This is the best part of our jobs. This is why we work so hard. I wish everyone could enjoy this kind of affirmation in their jobs. Most days we deal with someone who is upset because their magazine arrived with bent corners or they want us to help them figure out how to translate the measurements for a pattern for a queen-sized quilt into that for a king-sized bed. But it’s always humbling to walk into that room of people, who have paid their hard-earned money, gotten up early on a Saturday morning and hauled their sewing machines and containers of fabrics to some church fellowship haul or some library conference room because they think we might be able to inspire them or teach them something useful. Sometimes the hospitality and enthusiasm is something I wish I could bottle and take out when I need a little pick-me-up when I’m filing sales tax or withholding tax forms. And if I could, I’d bring a glorious basket of fresh figs to your workplace and thank you for coming as you headed home at the end of the day.


Tomorrow: A Stash class here in Ashland OR. I’m teaching while Bill and Sophie go white-water rafting. Stay tuned. Below is the rest of the itinerary. I know there are still spots in the evening color workshop in Santa Monica on Tuesday Aug 6. Others may be sold out. Check with the organizer.


July 29

Sew Creative Quilt Shop

115 E. Main St

Workshop: Rediscovering Your Stash


Host: Mountain Stars Quilters’ Guild

Thursday, August 1

San Mateo CA

Always Quilting

4230 Olympic Ave

Workshop: Fabric Smackdown


Host: Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild

Saturday, August 3

Aptos CA

Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

7807 Soquel Dr.

Workshop: Role of Color in Your Quilts


Host: South Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild

Sunday, August 4

Ventura CA

Bell Arts Factory Community Room

432 Ventura Ave.

Workshop: Role of Color in Your Quilts


Host: Kelly Stevens, superbuzzy

Monday, August 5

Los Angeles CA

Community Rm. B, 3rd fl, Westwood Pavilion

10800 W Pico Blvd

Workshop: Understanding Value & Piecing Curves



Sew Modern

10921 W Pico Blvd

Lecture: Our Quilting Journey & Yours

7pm at LA Modern Quilt Guild meeting

Host: Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild

Tuesday, August 6

Santa Monica CA

Camera Obscura

1450 Ocean Ave, Palisades Park

Workshop: The Role of Color in Your Quilts

Host: Camera Obscura 310-458-2239

Oh the possibilities with elastic thread!

design, fashion, needlework, sewing

Our daughter Sophie has lived a lifetime around sewing projects but I’ve never heard her gasp with excitement about a sewing project until we started experimenting with elastic thread. If you’ve never sewn with it before, it’s the element that causes fabric to smock magically. For those of us who grew in the tube top era, never fear there are uses for elastic thread beyond the dreaded tube top. Although there are mass manufactured fabrics that have been pre-smocked with elastic thread, in general they are not beautifully printed or made with nice greige goods and are often made with juvenile prints. I like elastic thread smocking for pool cover-ups, casual summer skirts, sleeve and pocket details and kids’ clothing. Most of the time, you’ll find it with elastics in the store rather than thread.

It’s very simple to work with as long as you follow a few simple rules:

  1. When smocking, use regular thread for the top stitches. The elastic thread goes only in the bobbin.
  2. Handwind the bobbin without stretching the elastic thread at all. Don’t use the bobbin winding mechanism on your machine. This is critical.
  3. Use the longest stitch possible on your machine.
  4. If you have a walking foot, use it.
  5. Sew the rows of smocking about ¾” apart.
  6. Leave long tails when you start and stop rows and knot them together after each row is smocked.
  7. If you’re making a skirt or a dress with a smocked waist or bodice, make the width of the garment your largest dimension (bust, waist or hips) plus an additional 50% of that measurement. For example, if you would ordarily cut fabric 40” wide for a skirt, cut the fabric to be smocked 60” wide. I’ve seen patterns that say to double it but on our machine and with the Gutermann elastic thread we used, doubling was waaay too big. The amount of smocking is also greater in lighterweight fabrics it seems. For example, you might get less shrinkage in terrycloth than you would in lawn.
  8. Do a test strip of the length you plan to sew to see how much it shrinks with the thread.
  9. Elastic thread is most successful on lighterweight fabrics. Terrycloth is about as heavy as you can go. It’s not strong enough to smock leather or vinyl for example.

Any other tips on using elastic thread?