Phoenix croppedMy quilt Phoenix Rising is the featured pattern in this month’s issue of Through the Needle, the online magazine about all things Bernina.  Click here to take a look!

You can read more about Phoenix Rising here on my blog my clicking here.


Spiros, this quilt is not a spiral in any way, in fact, it’s not even my pattern, but I have to share it for several reasons — one of which is an invitation (look at the end of this post).

Peacock PowerI named this quilt Peacock Power and it is for my niece Katelynn.  I hadn’t made a quilt for her since she was born, so it was time for a grown-up quilt.  This is her going-away-to-college quilt, and I gave it to her on her 20th birthday.

When Katelynn came to NYC in the summer of 2011 for her high school graduation trip, we bought matching crystal-covered peacock rings, and our motto became “Peacock Power!”  Timeless Treasures introduced this line of fabrics (Plume) at the Fall of 2011 Quilt Market; this quilt — designed by Swirly Girls — was their show quilt for it.  I loved the peacock panel in the middle fabric, and the pinwheel and solid blocks around it did a simple yet beautiful job of expanding the floral background.  Both the fabric and the pattern were perfect:    beautiful, quick and easy to make, and elegant — and Katelynn is nothing if not elegant.

I made the quilt exactly as in the pattern — even the exact fabrics — except that when I discovered that there was a border print in the line, I had to add it.

Peacock Power detail 1Peacock Power detail 2When I did my 2012 free quilting and needlework workshop at Fire Island the week before Memorial Day, I took the fabrics along with me to cut and begin piecing by hand.  I came home and finished the top by machine over Memorial Day weekend.  Then, through the fall of 2012 I quilted it on a Bernina 830. The quilting is pretty intense — 1/4″ (or less) bubbles between flowers, interlocking circles on open black areas, all the flowers and peacocks outlined in gold silk thread — but it was worth it. I expect this quilt to be in the family for generations to come.

Now, here’s the invitation part: I’m doing another free quilting and needlework workshop at Fire Island again this year, May 21-23, 2013.  Click here for all the details and registration info. (If necessary, you can cut-and-paste this URL into your address bar: And yes, that’s free as in no charge, not free as in free-motion.)

Spiros, as you know, over the past year or so I’ve been working on my machine quilting skills, using a Bernina 640.  Here’s my summing-up of the experience so far:

I’m getting a Bernina 830 soon, particularly for its longer arm. Can’t wait to continue the journey!

Happy quilting! — RaNae 🙂

Spiros, here is the result of the quilt-as-you-go blocks that I started last June to learn to machine quilt (using my delightful Bernina 640).  After quilting all those blocks, learning to stay on the lines, I felt confident enough to attempt to thread-paint the borders in orange and purple thread to match the colors in the fabric.  I sketched in the leaves and spirals with a chip of soap on the black fabric, then free-hand quilted the shapes.  I quilted the borders before attaching them, then once they were attached and the corners mitered, quilted in the design on the corners.  I sent this quilt to Alex, the son of my friend Lela, for Christmas.  (His reaction, as reported by his mom was, in teenager-2011 vernacular “That’s SICK!”  Translation: That’s amazing!)

As I worked on this quilt I hit a turning point that I hope you, my readers, will find helpful.  I started off by reading a variety of books on the subject of learning to machine quilt and all of them told me that this would be a skill that would require much practice and patience to master.  So, I went into this with the mindset that it was going to be difficult.  And it was.

Then one day something that I read in Diane Gaudynski’s book went ricocheting through my brain.  She said that moving the quilt shouldn’t happen with your arms, but that really the bulk of it is moving around a small part of the quilt with your fingers under the needle.  I realized that for good machine-quilting you need, primarily, good finger coordination.

And that’s when it hit me: I was a professional pianist for 25 years.  I’ve got finger coordination up the wazoo!  So I sat down at the machine and tapped into the skill I already had and suddenly I was doing beautiful machine quilting — nice smooth lines and even stitching (even without the stitch regulator).

What I learned about books is this: they assume (because they are writing for everyone) that you are starting from Square One.  But most of us are not complete beginners.  We acquire a collection of skills over a lifetime, and many of these carry over from one endeavor to another.  Next time you set out to learn something new, don’t assume that it’s going to be a big, scary process requiring arduous practice and saintly patience — that mindset will only get in your way.  Instead, ask yourself what you’ve done before that is similar to what you’re about to learn, then build on the skills you already have.  Chances are you’ll find that learning this new skill is easier than you expected.


Detail shots of the borders

So, today I tried shadow quilting for the first time — that’s where you keep going around and around a shape with lines of stitching 1/8″ to 1/4″ apart, like ripples in a pond.  I didn’t do too badly, though I noticed that the BSR is harder to go the right than to the left, because the camera is positioned behind and to the right of the needle.

Still, it was easier to use the BSR tonight — I set it on the BSR1 setting, put the pedal all the way down and just went for it.  still had the occasional stopping issue, but that might be caused by my letting up on the pedal a bit.  I have to test that theory a bit more before I’m absolutely certain of it. 

Still and all, I got through four blocks easily tonight, and started experimenting with sashing to boot.

I quilted two more blocks last night — one with the stitch regulator (and the foot pedal), one without.  The stitch regulator seemed to work a bit better.    But my manual quilting has also improved as well.  I think working with the stitch regulator helps get the feeling of smooth quilting into my hands.  I’m getting up some speed with both methods . . .

Of course, the black thread and black fabric are very forgiving, and this is far from perfect, but if the books I’ve read are right, what’s important right now is just getting a feel for the coordination of foot-hand-machine, and the perfection will come along in time.

And just as important, I’m having fun.

RaNae 🙂

Last night I again sat down to quilt a practice sandwich (and ended up quilting two – this can be addicting, but I don’t need to tell you that!).  I started out with the Bernina stitch regulator but tonight it seemed really stop-and-starty. 

After a few tries, I took it off and replaced it with a regular quilting foot.  The quilting went more smoothly, and I noticed that my free-motion quilting had improved.  The thought that went through my mind was that the BSR had worked like training wheels to help me get the feel of good free-motion movement.

This morning I went online to look for answers and the first thing I ran across was this post on the Bernina blog with my friend Teri Lucas.  (She quilted Easter Mandala for me.)  She had a similar experience with the BSR, and used exactly the same words to describe it: training wheels.  Eventually she (and Susan Brubaker Knapp, as you’ll see in the comments to the page) came to like it, though, so I’m not passing judgment at this point.  It’s entirely possible that there could be some “operator error” at play here!

So, I am posting these two questions on the Bernina Forum and here as well.  If anyone can shed light on this, I’m all ears.

1) I was quilting on solid black fabric.  The former pro photographer in me wonders is it possible that the camera in the BSR is not registering enough contrast without a pattern and on this dark fabric, so it couldn’t see the movement of the fabric, causing it to stop?

2) For the life of me, I can’t get the start/stop button to function with the BSR on my 640.  The instructor in my guide class had this problem also.  She finally figured out that holding the start/stop button for several seconds it would engage with the BSR on the 640 in the classroom, but my 640 at home won’t do it at all. I can’t find any help in the manuals for the machine and for the 640. 


RaNae 🙂

Next Page »