New Fabric at the Studio

Posted By on July 28, 2017

Tula Pink's "Eden"

Tula Pink’s “Eden”

Just got a couple of Tula Pink “Eden” backorders in at the studio last week. If you haven’t been by the studio for awhile, I got a bunch of new Tula Pink fabrics in in April. Let me know (text me at 831-2566) if you want to stop by and take a peak. I’ve been coming to my studio mainly by appointment only this summer. It’s been a crazy summer for me, getting my mom settled in Rochester. She moved here from Ohio and will be living with us.

Burst Block in progress

Burst Block in progress

But I have been able to sneak away several times to go to the studio and quilt. I just finished piecing this baby/wall hanging made with a Man Sewing burst block template, which I now sell at my studio. It’s an interesting and challenging block to cut and piece.  But recently I’ve decided that quilting the quilt is my favorite part of quiltmaking.  And I’m currently quilting a modern quilt top with “ghost” blocks.  Thanks to my new portable air conditioner at the studio, it’s not to hot to work there! I’ve been busily trying to finish some new pieces for a special show in September of 2018. I will tell you know more about this show as it develops.

Tuesday Tips & Tools: Pressing

Posted By on June 13, 2017

Ironing machineIt’s Tuesday and after skipping several weeks of posting Tuesday Tips and Tools I’m back on track, I hope! It’s been a little hectic here getting my mom settled in at our house. In April she decided to take us up on our offer for her to move in with us. So expect to see Helen at the studio more in the future. My mom was never really a quilter, although many of you have met her at one of my midnight retreats or this year’s get-away weekend. She has made a couple of runners over the last few years, but she doesn’t consider herself a quilter. But she used to knit my brother and I a pair of mittens every winter when I was a kid. And she has made me many Easter dresses, an occasional coat and helped me learn to sew. She can tailor a suit and made my wedding dress. She’s a retired home economics teacher, so need I say more. She didn’t teach me to quilt, but I got my love of fabric and sewing naturally from her. And although I never knew her mom (my grandma), she was a quilter and sewer, and I am fortunate to have a couple of her quilts.

When I was a little girl, I remember laundry day and my mom ironing all of our clothes. She would keep an old 7-Up bottle filled with water and a plastic sprinkler lid on the top in the refrigerator. She used a dry iron and sprinkled the clothes with water and rolled them up in a towel until she ironed them. I used to help her and iron my dad’s cotton handkerchiefs. She had these metal stretchers that she used to stretch my dad’s trousers on so they didn’t need to be pressed. I remember the day she found an electric “ironing machine” (I think that was what she called it) at a household sale. She was so excited to buy this efficient time-saver that would mean less time spent ironing sheets, tablecloths and anything flat. She taught me to iron and as I got older, the weekly family laundry became one of my chores. Fortunately, by then there were permanent press clothes and ironing was not an entire day chore.

I was always taught to iron-as-you-go when sewing garments. And I learned from experience that if you did this, your garment always came out better and looked more professional. Everything laid flatter, corners were sharper and things went together easier and better when you ironed-as-you-go. The same thing is true with quilting. However, the rules are different when quilting. Which leads us to:

TIP #1: We don’t call it “ironing” when quilting…we call it “pressing.” And that’s because the proper way to press seams is to “press” them or apply pressure to the seam with a hot iron and not slide the iron around to avoid stretching seams and bias edges. That means pick the iron up and place it down on the seam, no sliding or “ironing.” I’m sure all of my students out there have heard me say many times, “Press, don’t iron!”

TIP #2: “Set the seam” before you press it to one side or the other. Setting the seam means pressing the two seams together from the wrong side with the side you will be pressing towards on the top. This sets the stitches. If you are pressing two long width-of-fabric strips that have been sewn together (for strip piecing), lay the two strips on the ironing board in a straight (not curved) line. This is why I prefer to have ironing board covers with a grid printed on them instead of a cute print. You can use the line as a guide to keep your long strip straight. Remember to put the dark side (or the side you will be pressing the seams towards) on top. Next press down the seam in an up and down motion to “set” the seam and never slide the iron or the tip of the iron down the seam or you will stretch it. If you don’t have a straight line on your ironing board cove, you can always draw one with a permanent pen.

TIP #3: Lastly, use your fingers to gently open the fabric so it will be right-side-up and follow your finger down the seam “pressing” the seam over to the top fabric, usually the darker fabric. However, sometimes we press to the lighter fabric if it reduces bulk. so always anticipate the next step when choosing how to press, since most patterns fail to tell you this important step of which way to press the seams. You don’t want to pull the fabric open too hard or you will flip the seam back towards the bottom fabric. That why I like to follow along behind my finger with the iron.

Thermal ThimblesTIP #4: Never use steam when pressing seams, as this will only stretch the fabric. Also, if you use steam when pressing long strips open as discussed above, the steam will burn your fingers. And if you don’t have asbestos hands like I do, you may want to purchase a quilting notion: thermal thimbles to protect your fingertips from getting burned by the iron.

TIP #5: It’s ok to use steam when you are pressing or actually ironing your fabric before cutting. Also, many people like to use a product called “Best Press” which works like starch, but is archival and won’t attract bugs to your fabric like spray starch. However, I recently read “never put water in your iron” claiming that your iron will last much longer and you will never have any unfortunate leaks or spitting on your fabric. The article suggested spritzing your fabric with water from a spray bottle or using Best Press. I can say from experience the when trying to remove folds and wrinkles from fabric, the wrinkles almost fall out with the heat from the iron after the fabric has been spritzed with Best Press.

TIP #6: When piecing lots of small squares or triangles into pairs, “chain piecing” saves lots of time. It also is handy to leave the pieces chained together until after pressing. Take the whole chain to the ironing board and press, then cut the units apart.

TIP #7: Always press from the right-side not the back-side to void pressing “pleats” in the unit which will be nearly impossible to un-press or press out. The only time I press from the back side is when I occasionally press seams open to avoid bulk. But I always follow up by flipping the unit over and doing a final press on the right-side. The best time to press seams open is when you make stars where lots of seams come together in the center. Again always “press” not iron the seams open in this case. Running the point down the seam will stretch it and your star centers won’t lay flat. A seam roll helps a lot when pressing seams open.

TIP #8: When piecing two pieces together and one seam is bias and the other is straight of grain, always pin and make sure to match up the ends. Then if the bias edge is longer because it stretched while handling or cutting, ease the excess in with pins. Now here’s the magic tip: Put the fuller or bias side on top and set the iron on the seam. the heat from the iron will magically shrink the longer stretched side right back to its original size. Now they will fit together perfectly when you sew them.

press to dark sideTIP #9: I know quilters are always taught to “press to the dark side.” But sometimes it actually works better to press to the lighter side when you want to eliminate bulk. Also when you want a piece in you quilt to appear to come forward when you look at it, you should press the seams toward that piece. This is especially helpful when doing landscape quilting. But it also works when you want the background fabric to appear further back and highlight the star or applique by pressing so they appear to be on top of the background.

Well, I guess I made up for skipping the past few weeks of Tuesday Tips by giving an entire lesson on pressing! Hope I didn’t lose you halfway through. See you next Tuesday for some more quilting tips and tools.


Tuesday Tips & Tools

Posted By on May 23, 2017

Today I want to kick off a weekly blog on tips and/or tools which will make quilting easier. I’ve been planning to do this for a long time now and am finally getting around to it. Check back every Tuesday and learn a new quilting tip or learn about a tool. This week I want to share some everyday items that you may not have thought to use while quilting. I shared these with the retreaters at my Get-Away weekend a few weeks ago.

  1. 20170522_171426Q-Tips Cotton Swabs. Q-tips make it easy to clean the lint out of your sewing machine. The cotton swab end acts like a magnet to “grab” the lint right out of those hard to reach areas. And instead of just brushing the lint aside, it sticks right to the cotton swab. Never blow into your machine to remove lint. It creates moisture which can damage your machine and may push the lint more inside your machine. Also, after using a blue washout marker to mark your quilt for quilting, use a cotton swab dipped in water to dab over markings and remove them. This is especially helpful if you don’t want to wash your quilt yet, but need to remove the blue marks. When the quilt dries, always make sure the blue marks are gone. If not repeat until they are gone.
  2. Graphite Pencil. Lightly mark your quilt lines with a graphite pencil and it will create a light shadow to emphasize your hand quilting stitches.
  3. Post-It Notes. Use a small stack (8 – 10) of Post-It notes to mark your 1/4″ line on your sewing machine. Stick a small stack on your sewing machine in front of your pressure foot where the edge of your fabric should be for a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance. It’s removable when necessary to change a bobbin and gives you a nice “lip” to sew against assuring a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance every time.
  4. Orange Wood Manicure Sticks. A manicure stick makes a great stiletto to guide fabric through your sewing machine.
  5. Pencil Grips. Use a rubber pencil grip to put on the sharp tips of your scissors to protect the point from damage and to protect your fingers from the sharp points when you are digging your scissors out of your notions bag.

Check back every Tuesday for various tips and uses for special tools to make your quilting easier and faster.

Special Sip ‘n Shop, Wednesday, May 24, 5 – 7 p.m.

Posted By on May 22, 2017

paraffin dipfabricStop by the studio for this month’s Sip ‘n Shop on Wednesday, May 24, from 5 – 7 p.m. and get a free paraffin hand dip to moisturize those dry winter hands. Enjoy a glass of bubbly and check out all of the new Westminster fabrics that just came in. Lots of new Tula Pink designs and some new black-and-whites, to mention just a few. All cotton quilter’s fabrics are just $7.50 per yard.

Also, browse lots of new patterns and some new plastic templates. Stop in to see a demo on how to use one of the new templates to make a really fun and easy contemporary quilt block.

Find me in the Hungerford building at 1115 East Main Street on the third floor in Studio #307. I’m open once a month on Wednesday evenings from 5 – 7 p.m. for a Sip ‘n Shop, most First Fridays from 6 – 9 p.m. and Second Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.


Massive Yarn Mural in Rochester

Posted By on May 15, 2017

Susan B. Anthony yarn muralHave you seen the massive yarn mural in Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Preservation District at the corner of West Main Street and Canal Street? According to a Democrat and Chronicle article, the bright pink crochet mural consists of 351 two-foot-by-two foot blocks and measures 26′ x 54′. It consists of 150 pounds of yarn. My mom and I drove by it last week and stopped to look closer and take a picture. It’s quite impressive! And it covers the second story side of the building where a Sew Green Rochester is located. The mural is part of the Harriet Tubman Yarn Muralproject “Love Across the USA” launched by New York City-based multimedia artist Agata “Olek” Oleksiak.  She plans to install one creation in each state by 2020, with each yarn mural honoring a strong female figure in U.S. history. The Susan B. Anthony yarn mural is the second project following a Harriet Tubman yarn mural installed at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY.

Fun at Annual Get-Away

Posted By on May 14, 2017

ClassroomWe just returned from our annual Get-Away Weekend, this year at Beaver Hollow for the first time. And what a fun weekend it was. We spent the weekend quilting and doing various other crafts in a lovely wooded setting known as Beaver Hollow Retreat Center. It’s located in western New York in Java Center, just south of Darien Lake. The new location offered lots of extra activities and was equipped with a large “Sewing Room” and ergonomic adjustable chairs. We also tried a new schedule this year with everyone beginning Friday morning, so that we all had two complete days of sewing plus Sunday until 3 p.m. The optional day only included Thursday night sewing and and the extra night’s room. This made it possible to divide the additional activities over several days and not all on Saturday.

A new favorite at the retreat this year was the evening bonfires with complimentary s’mores. Many retreaters found it  a great way to unwind and get to know each other at the end of a long day of quilting, sewing, knitting or crafting. Everyone agreed the daily food was exceptional. We had buffet breakfasts and lunches and a sit-down dinner with several menu choices. Sunday concluded with a box lunch. Needless to say, no one went home hungry. The nightly bar, set up right in the sewing room, was also a big plus allowing everyone to enjoy happy hour while continuing to quilt, or while taking a break on the surrounding deck overlooking the woods and lake.

Another fun activity this year was Friday night “Quilt” Bingo. Three lucky retreaters went home with the fabric and pattern to make a quilt top. And of course the big show-and-tell Sunday after breakfast was inspiring and highlighted the varied creative talents of everyone attending. At the end of the weekend, I came home inspired and thankful to have spent a weekend with such a wonderful and creative group of women. I can’t wait till the next time we all get together. Look for details of next year’s annual Get-Away within the next month on this website!

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Karen, winner of last year's raffle quilt

Karen, winner of last year’s raffle quilt

Lynn & Nancy, raffle quilt winners this year

Lynn & Nancy, raffle quilt winners this year

Completed tops from guided project

Completed tops from guided project

Handmade Holiday Retreat

Posted By on October 16, 2016

Infinity Scarf

Infinity Scarves

This year’s Handmade Holiday Retreat is scheduled for November 11 – 13, Friday – Sunday at my studio in the Hungerford. We will be making five different stand-alone gift items again this year. At this fun weekend retreat you can come Friday night and set up your work station for the entire weekend. After some holiday snacks (you’ll get the recipes), we will make an easy sewn project, an infinity scarf. This makes a perfect gift for the holidays. The Friday night session runs from 6 – 9 p.m. You will be able to leave your work station set up overnight at the studio.

Roll-and-Go Placemat & Napkin

Roll-and-Go Placemat & Napkin

Then return Saturday morning at 10 a.m. for a full day of sewing. After coffee and a continental breakfast, we will be making a Roll-and-Go Placemat and Napkin. This a great set to pack with your lunch for work or you can make a set of four for a wonderful handmade holiday gift, great for picnics or any meal on the go. We will break for a box lunch at 1 p.m. and then continue in the afternoon by making an easy Seminole table runner. All patterns and meals for the weekend retreat will be included in the low cost of just $99 per person. Saturday’s class will end at 5 p.m.

Seminole Runner

Seminole Runner

Then return on Sunday for the final day of your Handmade Holiday Retreat at 10 a.m. again. We will begin Sunday by making a large totebag using canvas and a leather-like product called Kraft-Tex. After a nice brunch, we conclude the retreat by making an oil cloth coin purse with attached key chain. The coin purse is large enough for a driver’s license, credit card and some cash. Great to grab when you don’t want to carry a purse. All fabrics, including Kraft-Tex and canvas are available for purchase at my studio. I will also have kits available for purchase to make the oil-cloth coin purses, complete with all hardware needed to make these look professional. Before leaving on Sunday at 5 p.m., we will have a show & tell where you can share your finished projects and show another handmade item you have made over the past year.

Oil Cloth Coin Purse with Key Ring

Oil Cloth Coin Purse with Key Ring

Get a jump on your holiday sewing and join us for this creative and fun-filled weekend. Sign up now through Paypal on the calendar page of this website, or mail me a check, but don’t delay since I have limited space available at my studio. When i receive your payment, I will email you a supply list. Down load a signup brochure here if you would like.



Stitch & Bitch Class Series

Posted By on September 30, 2016

Apron (2)I’m offering a new series of classes this fall, every other Friday afternoon. We will spend each Friday afternoon session stitching a fun and easy item perfect for holiday gift giving in the Stitch & Bitch Class Series. From microwave bowl cozies to sock monkeys, join us for a Friday afternoon of sewing with friends at the studio. On October 14, we’ll be making a hip half apron that’s lined and has lots of pockets. Simple sewing skills and easy enough for a beginner, this fun apron makes a perfect work apron. Stop in on First Friday and check out all of the fun modern quilt fabrics I now have available for sale, all perfect for this fun apron.

Caff Crafters-Sock MonkeyAnd back by popular demand, on October 28, make a retro sock monkey from a pair of Red Heel socks. I have 5 different colors to choose from now. This is mostly a hand sewn project with just a little machine work. If you don’t want to bring your machine, I will have a couple of machines available for people to share for this class.

Stop by on First Friday, October 7, from 6 – 9 to see a sample of this fun apron and other Stitch & Bitch projects. Each class is just $20. Get your holiday gifts made early this year!





Fall Classes & What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Posted By on August 29, 2016

Wow! Did this summer go by fast!! It seems to go by faster every year. And with Jazz Fest being so much later now, extending into July, it doesn’t even feel like it starts till after the 4th of July. Both my husband and I have lost our dads over the past twelve years, but our moms are still alive and doing well. My mom, who just turned 92 on her birthday a couple of weeks ago, still lives by herself in Ohio and still drives. I have, however, spent more time driving back and forth to southern Ohio (a 7 1/2 hour drive) this year, to go to doctor appointments with her and to drive her back and forth to Rochester for visits. She used to fly, but now is too stressed by the whole process of flying (who isn’t?!), so I have to drive over and get her for visits. She visited us in May and again in July this summer. We are about to drive to Ohio again and pick her up to drive to my nephew’s wedding in Missouri (another 7 hours).

My husband’s mom is younger, 86, and has lived by herself since Jeff’s dad died 6 years ago. But she doesn’t drive and her house is southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. His brother lives in Cleveland, but was about 45 minute drive from his mom and has spent the last 6 years driving out to her house in the country once a week to do her banking and grocery shopping. Since she suffers from glocoma and is now legally blind, it has been a worry for us having her live by herself so far out of the city. We have finally, after several years of trying to persuade her, convinced her to move into a lovely assisted living apartment, minutes from my brother-in-law. So we spent several weeks of our summer driving over to pack her house, sell the furniture she wouldn’t any longer need, and moving her into Berea, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland). She will now be 40 minutes closer to us, and her meals will all be prepared for her. And we were fortunate enough to sell her house in just a few weeks after putting it on the market and get her off the waiting list and into an apartment within days of the sale. So everything has fallen into place wonderfully, but like I said…the summer has gone by way too fast!

In addition to all of this, I was trying to get my quilt Get-Away Weekend set up in a new location for 2017. It took several months of research, but I think I have found an even better place than where we have been going for the past 11 years. And having just announced this new location about a month ago, it is over half full already! If you are planning on attending this year, be sure to get your deposit down soon. I’ve already had inquiries from a dozen new retreaters, so I expect it to be full this year. You can read more and download a sign-up brochure by clicking HERE.

Bicentennial Quilt, 1975-76

Bicentennial Quilt, 1975-76

But I did get to take a weekend and go to the Thousand Islands with a friend to her family’s camp for a little rest and relaxation before moving Mom Spevak. We did nothing but eat, drink and relax by the water except for one morning when we took a drive and ended up in Cape Vincent checking out their tiny little museum by the entrance to the ferry to Wolf Island. That’s were I saw this beautiful red and white Friendship Quilt made between the years 1925 and 1928 as a fundraiser for the St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Vincent. For just 10¢ anyone could have their signature embroidered on the quit, or they could embroider it themselves. According to the documentation, there were 727 names on the quilt, raising just under $75…a lot more substantial sum in those days than it would be today.  Also, there was another handmade quilt, a Bicentennial project by a 1975-76 kindergarten class, arranged in the order in which their names were called on the roll for attendance each morning. So the summer was not all work and no fun. Seeing these quilts helped inspire me to get busy planning some classes for this fall.


Signature Quilt  Signature Quilt2

Now I am in the middle of painting the hallway outside my studio. This past weekend I painted the bottom half of the wall grey and started painting the turquoise trim. I still need to finish painting the trim and paint the doors. I hope to finish that before First Friday, which is this week, September 2, from 6 – 9 p.m. Stop by and check out my “new” colorful studio! I still have modern quilt designer fabrics for just $7.50 per yard and I currently have a table of some of my stash fabric for just $3 per yard. You can also pick up a brochure for the 2017 Get-Away Weekend and signup if you are interested. This will be the first year that I will take credit card payment for the weekend. And as a special incentive, if you make full payment by September 25, you will receive coupons for 2 FREE open studios in 2016 and 2 FREE yards of fabric. I also will be having a special Class Preview during First Friday. This will be your chance to find out about my fall classes. There will be a special drawing for a quilt kit which you can enter by signing up for some classes. One entry for each class you register for on First Friday. So stop by and see what’s new at Quilting with Margaret, Studio #307, the Hungerford, 1115 East Main Street. Signup for a class, and maybe you will win a quilt!

Studio Paint      Studio Paint2     Studio Paint3

ANNUAL GET-AWAY WEEKEND, April 27 – 30, 2017

Posted By on August 8, 2016

Beaver Hollow Conference Center

Beaver Hollow Conference Center

Exciting new developments for the 2017 Get-Away Weekend! The dates for this, our twelfth year, are April 27 – 30.  We will be getting away to a new location this year: Beaver Hollow Conference Center  which is located on 300 acres of natural woodland in Wyoming County. Open since 1989, Beaver Hollow has earned a reputation as the premier location for group and corporate business meetings and events. Being a private conference center, they specialize in catering to clients like us, with no restaurants or bars open to the public. We will have 4-star cuisine planned just for us by their culinary staff who believe in using organic, locally grown and harvested ingredients whenever possible with their Farm to Table initiative. Since Beaver Hollow is designed for corporate retreats and events, a majority of the guest rooms (renovated in 2012) are designed to accommodate two guests with two double beds and offer all of the modern conveniences found in corporate hotels including complementary high speed internet, cable TV, worktable, phone with voicemail, radio alarm clock, terrycloth bathrobe, iron, ironing board and hairdryer. Many of the guest room baths have a separate sink area from the bathroom/shower area for optimal morning use. Also, several adjoining rooms are available for those of you attending with more than one friend.

We will have a spacious 3000 square foot “sewing room” equipped with plenty of cutting, ironing and basting stations. Everyone will have their own “sewing station” which will include an adjustable ergonomic executive office chair. The “sewing room” has plenty of natural and artificial lighting and will be equipped with plenty of electric outlets for sewing machines and task lighting. The dining room is located in the same building as the “sewing room” in the Main Lodge. Also located in the Main Lodge is a lobby area with several pool tables, a TV sitting area, large  stone fireplace with sofas and a coffee bar. Additional recreation will be available for our use in the nearby indoor aquatic center featuring a large heated saltwater pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and locker rooms. For those of you wishing to include some spa-time during your weekend you can pre-schedule any of the many spa treatments offered by the premier spa and salon, Spa Alexis, located in the Main Lodge. There will be more information about scheduling at the Get-Away Pre-Party in March.

Our personalized weekend consists of three full days this year for everyone, beginning on Friday, April 28 at 9 a.m. and concluding on Sunday, April 30 at 3 p.m. For an additional  add-on cost, you can opt to arrive Thursday evening and set-up early although no dinner will be provided Thursday. Each night you can participate in the optional and legendary Beaver Hollow bonfire with an amazing view of the property and lake. Weather permitting, there is an outdoor pool area with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and bar area. It probably won’t be warm enough in late April to swim outdoors, but the outdoor Jacuzzi may be open, and if the weather permits we will have our welcome tasting in the outdoor bar area Friday night. There are also plenty of hiking and walking trails around the property so pack your sneakers if you want to commune with nature.

Cost for this all-inclusive weekend is $555 per person for a double room and $650 per person for a single room. All-inclusive means the cost includes hotel accommodation, all meals, meeting space, class fee and lots of little extras like a complementary welcome reception Friday night, welcome bag, pre-party prior to the weekend and of course, chocolate. There will be a cash bar set up for anyone interested on Saturday night. And if you choose to come on Thursday night the add-on cost will be only $110 per person for a double and $150 per person for a single. If you choose the add-on, you will get to setup early, but no dinner will be provided so you will either need to eat on the way down or bring your own dinner.

And as a special incentive to signup early, pay in full by September 25, 2016 and get a coupon for: 2 FREE open studios in 2016 and 2 FREE yards of fabric of your choice (a $55 value). For more information or to register, download the sign-up brochure by clicking below:
2017 Get-Away Signup Brochure