It’s Been a Year Already?! (How I Became a Longarm Quilter)

Coleen Barnhardt, Owner – The Quilted Thistle

Today marks the one year anniversary of the real beginning of my longarm journey – the day my Innova longarm quilting machine was delivered and set up by Jack and crew at Boersma’s in McMinniville, OR.  Previous to delivery, I had taken a one-day class with Capri after meeting her towards the end of September at the Northwest Quilt Expo in Portland.  All I really knew was that the machine was fun to drive, and apparently, I showed some talent.  Based upon that little information/experience, my amazing husband supported my wild idea of quitting my job as a special educator and following my new passion into the realm of professional quilting!  What a guy, right?! Continue reading

A New Edge-to-Edge Motif: Dogwood Blossoms

As many of you already know, I specialize in hand-guided free-motion quilting.  I love driving my Innova Longarm from the front of the machine, where I can see what I’m doing and make decisions about design placement as I go.  A lot of the work I do for clients is custom quilting.  I love custom quilting.  Not every quilt needs custom quilting, though.  This leads me to one question that I get asked: “Do you do computerized/pantograph quilting?”  While the straight answer to that is “No,” I do offer what I refer to as edge-to-edge quilting.  So I thought I would share a recent project with you, and one of the ways I go about doing edge-to-edge quilting for my clients.

When I meet with clients to discuss their quilting project, I like them to tell me what they would like to see as a motif.  I’m looking for a place to start the collaboration part of the project.  While some clients tell me to “quilt as I like,” this can be overwhelming as there are so many different choices to make when choosing how to quilt a project.  That’s one of the reason why custom quilting is more expensive than all-over or edge-to-edge quilting.  There is a lot of planning/designing that goes into it before you even start the machine. Usually when clients come to me seeking an all-over quilting job, they are not looking to pay my custom quilting prices.  That doesn’t mean that they are always looking for just a basic meander, or stipple motif, however.

On this project, my client Jean was looking for an edge-to-edge motif that would nicely finish her quilt “Springtime in the Gorge.”  She envisioned some sort of spring flower motif, specifically a Dogwood flower with leaves.  With this information, I could start the design process.

I perused several different photographs and line drawings of Dogwood blossoms via google image search.  Isn’t it great all the references we have instantly available to us these days via the internet? After taking in a variety of images, it was time to put my personal spin on it. Time do doodle!

Option 1 – too simple
Option 2 – I liked the veining
Option 3 – pretty, but not right yet
Option 4 – something a little different (and swirls!)

The one preferred by both myself and my client was this one:

With that agreed upon, it was time to quilt it out!  I loaded up the quilt on the frame, and decided that I liked this so much that perhaps others would as well.  So, here is a video of how I went about quilting my new Dogwood Blossoms edge-to-edge motif:

I really like how it turned out.  Here are some photos of the finished project:
I love the beautiful batiks in this quilt.  I used wool batting and Glide Lilac thread.
What a great job Jean did piecing the back as well as the front – and she pieces her labels right into the back of her quilts!
“Springtime in the Gorge” by Jean Kelly – quilted by Coleen Barnhardt of The Quilted Thistle

I’d love to hear what you think about my new motif, and hope that this was helpful in showing you more ways I can collaborate with you to finish your quilts.  Do you have any WIP or UFOs that need some edge-to-edge quilting?  If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Collaborative Quilting: Put a Bird on It!

When you are quilting for others, you get a wide range of input ranging from “just do what you want” to “I have this very specific thing I want quilted and don’t want it to vary from my idea even just a little bit.”  Between these two extremes, lies my favorite kind of quilting:  Collaborative Quilting.  I love it when clients come with some idea of what they want, but are open to me putting my spin on it.  That’s why I was super excited when one of my clients brought me a pieced top that was primarily negative space, with just a random mini charm square here and there.  She had this great idea that she wanted me to execute. She had also made a bird to applique for the top, and she wanted it to be in a quilted cage that I got to design and quilt for her.  In Portland style, we were going to collaborate to “Put a Bird on It!”

(Now if you aren’t familiar with the sketch comedy show Portlandia, you might not get as excited as I did by this prospect.  But having grown up near Portland, and having lived in the city for many years myself, I just love that show, and one of my favorite bits is about these designers who like to put birds on things to make them suddenly super cool (click here to watch.)  I was so excited to get going on this project!)

The first thing I needed to do was design a bird cage and get my client’s approval to move forward with my idea.  I took some craft paper and her applique bird and started sketching it out.

Once I had the go ahead that the design was approved, it was time to mark the quilt top.  I try not to do too much marking on tops, because of the scary thought that the marks might reappear after removed – but I tested my blue water soluble marker on a part of the top that would end up in the binding, and everything looked good.  So it was time to make some marks!

Once I had it all marked out (courtesy of my new wafer thin light box), it was time to load it on the frame and get to quilting it!  Although the bird cage was the focal point, we wanted a nice background motif to fill up all that negative space.  After much discussion and trying some different options, we decided to go with a swirls with pebbles motif.

At this point, I like to send little sneak peak photos to my clients just to let them know that progress is happening!

I used my longarm to attach the bird applique where I wanted it, and then quilted in the cage and perch.  I even quilted in his little birdie feet.

In order to make the wires of the cage stand out, I quilted those lines several times to build up the thread.  I used Glide thread on this project, which has this great shiny sheen to it.  If you are interested in how long it took me to quilt the bird cage, I don’t know for sure because I didn’t keep track.  I did test out my new camera mount while quilting the details so you can see that quilting like this takes some time:

I tried some new techniques I learned from classes I took with Claudia Pfeil.  I really love how the decorative features on the birdcage turned out.

Here is a picture of the whole cage, bird and all.

I just love how the quilt turned out.

I look forward to more collaborative projects in the future.  They are so much fun!

I’d love to hear what you think, so please feel free to comment below.

Note:  I am not currently crediting my client in this post at their request, because this project is a surprise gift.  After it has been gifted, I’ll come back and edit to include my client’s name.