The Graduated Quilt Practice Method


The only way to get better at art quilting is to practice. We hear that time and again. What we don’t always necessarily hear how to practice. One method, is the the graduated practice technique. This process starts with a smaller exercises, and rounds out with a more challenging project that will combine the skills you’ve learned. This is the process I have developed over my years of quilting and I find that it really takes away the “scary” part of learning new quilting methods.

Stage One: Get it down on paper!

Drawing on paper is one of the most cost effective ways to practice your quilting. Paper is cheap and can be brought pretty much anywhere with you. I have a sketchbook specifically just for practicing new fillers.

Here are some practice pages you can print out to get you started.

1 Stippling

2 Pebbling

3 Maze

4 Shells

5 Feathers

Stage Two: Small Scale Practice


Coasters are a great way to practice free motion fillers. It doesn’t take much time, and you can use scraps from other projects.

Materials Needed:

8 Small fabric scraps at least 5×5”

4 Batting scraps also at least 5×5”

Threads of your choice

Make four quilt sandwiches. If you wish you may spray bind them, however they are small enough to not really need basting at all.

Coaster 1: Stippling

Coaster 2: Pebbling

Coaster 3: Maze

Coaster 4: Shells

Stage Three: Making Spaces

Pet Beds! Many animal shelters accept donations of 12×18” pet beds/pads, those kennel floors can be cold and uncomfortable. Everyone benefits from your quilt practice in this scenario; you get the practice and the knowledge you brought comfort to a animal waiting for a forever home and the animal gets a soft cozy place to sleep and feel safe on. Bonus? They don’t care how bad OR good your quilting is!


Materials Needed:

Fabric or orphaned quilt blocks sewn together into a 12×18” rectangle

Backing fabric (single or pieced) 12×18

Batting 12×18

Threads of your choice

Take your top fabric; draw three lines with a chalk pencil or your preferred marking pen. Draw three (or more lines if you wish) as shown.




Next, draw out your feathers. I have found until you are comfortable with process of quilting the feathers after some experience, it’s helpful to mark the feathers first and just follow your own line. Try and fatten up your feathers to fill in the space evenly and nicely.


Layer your top, batting and backing together in a quilt sandwich; again, if you feel more comfortable with it basted go ahead and pin or spray baste at this time.

Simply quilt your feathers then bind using your favorite binding method. Make a bunch of them and donate them to your closest animal shelter. This is also a great way to use up fat quarters you may have stockpiled.

Stage Four: Putting It All Together

Materials Needed:

Quilted Top: Sew scrap squares/rectangles together until piece measures at least 21” x 28”.

Quilted Backing: Fabric 25” x 32”

Batting: 25” x 32”

Back of Pillow Sham: 2 18” x 21” pieces of a fabric that matches

Take your scrap pieced top, and using an embroidery hoop or plate places in the center, trace with chalk pen/marking pen

Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner, each way as shown (including through center)

Draw your feathers on starting on the inside, then drawing the outer feathers:

Quilt the circle line first; then quilt the feathers


Forgive the bluriness!


Quit alone the diagonal lines.

You now have 4 quadrants made from the diagonally drawn lines. Use each filler you learned during the coasters quilting, to fill out those four spaces.

Once quilted, trim to 28” x 21”

Pillow shame case construction:

On each 18” 21” piece that you cut turn 1” and press on one 21” side, turn under 1” again and press. Take to your machine and stitch turned edge in place.


Place the turned edges pieces you’ve just sewn, right sides down on to the right side of your quilted piece, the hemmed edged will overlap around 4” in the center.

Pin all the way around:


Sewing all the way around the rectangle.


Turn right side out and your case is ready for a pillow!



This Foot Was Made for Walking

walking-foot…and that’s just what it’ll do…

Seriously though, lets talk walking foot! To be honest, this is on of the key weapons in my quilt making arsenal!

When I was still quilting on my domestic machine, this was seriously one of my favorite feet on my machine when modern quilting started to become more and more popular. This foot is a pretty much a MUST HAVE when it comes to straight line quilting on your machine.

The dual feed type action of this foot helps keep the layers of the quilt from shifting while you are stitching. This comes in super handy when doing a long straight line on a quilt. A lot of the time, if you attempt to do this with a regular sewing foot you will find weebles and wobbles along the line, even though you were quite studious in keeping on the straight and narrow stitching! This is because your foot has likely pressed down and shifted your layers, creating a wavy quilting line. Using the pressure foot will diminish this problem, because it is helping to “feed” the layers through more evenly with less pull and distortion.

When else does a walking foot make sense?

When you are attaching your binding. When attaching your binding, you are now dealing with FIVE layers of fibers if you doing the double fold binding method. (The one where you machine sew it to the front, then hand turn and hand stitched the folded edge to the back.)

When piecing rag or denim quilt that have a pretty hefty thickness going on. Against, it helps keep the layers from shifting and can help you keep an accurate seam allowance much more easily.

When you are sewing with stripes or plaids and need the pattern to line up. Why? Again, it comes down to avoiding that old enemy the fabric shift! Using the walking foot here can make sure those precious minutes/hours spend fussy cutting and pinning the pieces don’t go to waste!

So there it is! I know that the walking foot can be a pricier foot some some makes and models, but I assure you it will be well worth the purchase!

Top Five Favorite Quilt Items

  You know those questions about, if you were on a deserted island, what x number  things could you not live without? 
Well, what FIVE quilt items could you not live without? Here are mine:

  1. My APQS George machine
  2. My fabric stash
  3. My Dritz rotary cutter
  4. My Bernina 1260
  5. My Aurifil threads

Your turn!

Top 6 Tips on Cutting Fabric With a Rotary Cutter


Use the right size ruler for the job! 
It’s important to pick the “just right” ruler for a cutting job. If you’re cutting strips for example, most times you want to use your 6″x24″ ruler. For squaring up large blocks, a 12.5″x12.5″ or larger square ruler. And for those half square triangles or small blocks, go down to as small as possible ruler (I love my 6″x6″.)

Height matters!
It’s very important that you are cutting at the proper height. Too low or too high and you’re compromising not only the quality of your cutting, but potentially your well being also! I have found the most success when standing to cut, and being just high enough above the surface.

Keep it clean.
Dust, fibers, cat hair, all these things tend to settle on the cutting mat. Not only is this not so great for your cutter or the cleanliness of your fabric, it can also cause the ruler to seem more slippery. So make sure you wipe down your cutting mat with a damp rag often to keep it clean!

Under pressure!
Another key to accurate cutting is providing the right amount of pressure to your ruler. Too little and that ruler will move freestyle, and too tight and you’re risking it slipping out just to get away from you! You need a constant, firm pressure. The easiest way to obtain this is to spread your hand/fingers out a bit, and apply pressure all the way to your finger tips. This distributes the pressure more evenly and gives a larger area of stability.
* Extra tip: If you’re cutting using the 24″ ruler, it’s helpful that once you have move the cutter past the area where your hand is, that you lift your hand carefully and then place it down further up the ruler to ensure the stability continues the entire length. Be sure to check that the fabric you’ve already cut is still lined up with the ruler!
IMG_7523 2

When cutting long skinny strips:
In this case you want to be sure and plant your palm down on the table next to the ruler. This gives you a lot more stability and reduces the slipping that can occur when cutting thin strips.

My final tip?


Much like everything else in life, it’s better when you slow down! Slower allows you to really focus on keeping that ruler steady, which will increase your accuracy AND keep your fingertips attached to your fingers!

Gender Kisses


One of my favorite songs is “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo and the Bunnymen. One of the verses is ringing true in a new way the last week or so, as it points out that gender is two sides of the same coin, we’re all in this together:

“She’ll be my mirror
Reflect what I am
A loser and a winner
The King of Siam
And my Siamese twin
Alone on the river
Mirror kisses
Mirror kisses”

Recently, I posted the article on Men and Quilting. My temper was high. Commenters tempers were high. Other blogger’s tempers were high. At first, I was worried that my piece wouldn’t do as I hoped, but then it started to happen! I started to be able to communicate with people one on one.

One of those people, was Molli Sparkles. I think we managed to come to a common ground – not agreement on all things – but rather a place from which we could really have a dialogue on the bigger than the quilt world gender issue. Despite how my article came off, my intent at heart is a community that works together and in which gender doesn’t really matter. I’m also a big believer that you need to be the change you want to see in this world, and that you have to start from where you are. I’m a quilter, so why not start with quilting?

So I told Molli that I had an idea. I wanted us to each make a quilt with equalizing rules, to see whether or not gender plays a role in quilt making itself.  Molli readily agreed to this experimental challenge. (I would actually love to have an entire exhibition on this idea, perhaps if this small test challenge goes well it could be a reality?)

We set some parameter rules to level the field:

  • Use the Raspberry Kiss block tutorial (based off the block “Pattern without a Name” attributed to Nancy Cabot) in any way we choose
  • The finished quilt must be approximately 40″x40″
  • Solid fabrics only

Men and Quilting: Follow Up


Wow! I didn’t know my previous post would take off quite like it did! I wanted to do a follow up sooner, but I decided I needed time to process all the comments and posts from other blogs first. Most of you put forth passionate comments (actually, on the blog here itself, there was only one person whose comments I almost did not approve. I won’t dignify those comments with responses, however.) So the first thing I want to say is THANK YOU for conversing!

I am the sole writer for IndieQuilter, and as such I am lacking an editor. I regretted that immensely after this post, as many things I said were taken differently than I had intended. The biggest issue seemed to stem from the fact that so many of you read my words as being absolutes (i.e. All men, always, never, etc.) When in fact I at heart, meant some, many, sometimes, etc. These were unintentional omissions.  I don’t usually THINK in absolutes (or at least I really try not to), so it honestly didn’t occur to me that it would be read as such. (Hindsight is 20/20.)

I apologize that my omissions gave the impression that I mean ALL men do this, that or the other. I regret that it resulted in many becoming angry and therefore shutting down the conversation before it began! My intent was, to open a dialogue about an issue I care and feel deeply about; and I fear I may have lost the opportunity for some really great allies!

My other biggest regret was referring to Irene Berry as “honey”. I shouldn’t have used a word that I don’t like to be called. My apologies to her on this!

Despite the bits I regret, I do not regret the post as a whole. It has opened conversations with MANY of you, male and female for which I am grateful! There clearly is a lot of work and effort to be made in this gender equality issue.

There are two things that makes me very sad, that I want to share with you. I received numerous private emails and messages from women about this post. ALL (I am intentionally using an absolute here, because it was unanimous) of the private messages I received from them were messages of support and agreement with my post. My anger was clearly shared. However, they expressed over and over again that they fear speaking out. They fear being attacked. They fear their fellow women turning on them. They are too afraid to speak out, and declare that they want equal opportunities.

The second, is that most of the men who agreed that there can be an unfair advantage for male quilters to get press and fine art exhibitions, would also do so only privately! THEY weren’t talking publicly either!

THIS is where my passion lies. It lies in feeling a strong desire to open lines of communication between men and women in the quilt industry. Yes, I want to change the world, but I have to start where I am at. And my world, is the quilting world. Perhaps I went about it in a less than polite way in my initial post. However, I don’t regret my post, and if I went back I would still post it (with slight editing.) The people I have met, male and female, have made it infinitely worth it.

As a woman, who has had her fair share of sexist experiences in this world, it can be incredibly difficult to say to the other sex, “I need your help!” The need for equality and the need for help in getting it, feel counterintuitive. It is extremely hard to ask men for help in this; we’d love to fix it by ourselves. The fact of the matter is, however, that if we get the equality we so desperately want, we are going to have to work together anyways. I’m not afraid anymore to say, “MEN! We NEED your help here! We NEED your voices, your support, your activism!” We want to be “up there” with you working together! I can do so with the knowledge that asking for help does not somehow prove I’m weak. (I’m appreciative of the revelations the past week’s conversations have brought me!)

Some interesting things are going to be happening as a result of these new conversations, and I hope you’ll watch early next week for the announcement of one of them. It’s a project I am VERY excited about!

In closing:

  • Thank you for those that contributed to the conversation; even if we were in disagreement
  • My apologies for the impression I meant ALL
  • My apologies to Irene Berry for calling you honey (I’d still like to see more thought in choosing the names for the male exhibitions!)
  • My sincerest thank you to; the one working behind the scenes, the forefather of quilting who took the time to write me an extremely thoughtful and helpful email, to the women who came to my aid expressing in more eloquent words what I was trying to say, and to the man that is brave enough to embark on a whacky idea with me!
  • Thank you, all of you, that take the time to read my blog!

Stephanie Forsyth
The IndieQuilter


Men and Quilting

IndieQuilter QuotesAwhile back, there was a discussion that cropped up on men in the quilt world, sparked by a podcast with Luke Haynes on While She Naps. Stephanie Boon wrote a blog post at the time, speaking to exactly what I will be touching on today. The frustrating ease with which male quilters are able to obtain attention, press, and high earning potential in the quilt world, simply because they are male. (Because white male privilege isn’t pervasive enough in every other aspect of our lives.) But more so, the seeming denial they are in, that it’s there.

I was going to write a post back then, but I talked myself out of it. Told myself to stay calm.

Then today, as part of my morning ritual of searching for quilt news, I came across the article “Men who quilt” on The San Diego Union-Tribune. The tag line? “San Diegan part of biennial museum exhibit, ‘No Girls Allowed!’.

*cue the tires screeching sound*

I’m sorry, what was that?

That’s right, the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, CO is doing a three month exhibition of pieces by men only called, “No Girls Allowed!”. One of the participants is the well known Ricky Tims.

The exhibits managers at the museum, Irene Berry, is quoted as saying, “Women have been quilting for centuries, and then men start doing it and suddenly it’s important.” Irene honey, if you’re the exhibits manager, don’t you have a say in whether this “man only” show tradition the museum has had going since 1992, can keep going? Why are you pandering to the patriarchal bullshit we have been dealing with since the dawn of time?

As far as claiming that there is a “gender barrier” for men in “our” quilt world, you can just screw right off if you believe that people men. Bitching and moaning that you’re not as welcome, or that people assume you’re the husband when you’re in a quilt shop, really? That must be rough.

But, do you know who REALLY pisses me off? The women that fawn all over male quilters. I’ve seen it, and you know you have too. Well passed middle age women, flirting and acting all giddy towards a male quilter (including openly gay quilters with husbands, making it all the more disrespectful to be flirting with them.) Really ladies? C’mon and stick with “the team” here, would you?

We are living in a society where women are STILL not paid equal to men. We have to fight every day to keep our medical rights OUR rights and decisions, and not some white male in Washington’s. We are often expected to work full time and STILL take care of all of the children’s needs as well as the housekeeping and cooking duties despite a perfectly physically capable husband/partner (Which is why I am thankful everyday for having found a man who can take care of himself.) We live in a world where, when we are raped the patriarchal society we live in questions if we wore something, or went somewhere, or too late at night, that makes us deserving of the rape. In a society in which our daughters are being sent home, education disrupted for wearing leggings and accused of distracting boys from THEIR education (which you should find just as insulting for your sons as they are say your boys are to animal like to control themselves.)

But yeah, you go ahead and lose your mind over a dude, because he can quilt, JUST LIKE YOU CAN.

I just don’t know what to do anymore ladies. There are women in this industry that have put DECADES into trying to make a decent living with our art in quilting and still come up profoundly short of being able to anywhere near support ourselves with it. But a man can start quilting, and seemingly months into it, is making a living and being invited to fricken museums for solo shows. Or having fundraisers to get a machine, or pay for a one man traveling exhibition. Well I call bullshit. Double bullshit!

Pretty much every business that profits from we quilters, is owned by a man; fabric companies, machine companies, thread companies, etc. Men are profiting from us, when we as a gender can’t readily make a profit from this industry that is keeping them housed and fed comfortably.

What I want to see, is women like Pokey Bolton, to become like the Martha Stewart of our industry and give the male dominated companies a run for their profits.

So tell me, are you a company that is owned and operated by a woman/women? Please tell me and I will feature your company on my blog. Do you know of a fabric/thread/need/notions company that is owned by a woman? Tell me about it and I will contact them for a feature here on the blog. It is time we start helping each other (ourselves) and stop giving one of the few businesses that WE should be profiting from to some guy who decided it might be neat to learn to sew on a button.

Please email the female owned companies you run or know of (or for you men that are going to be all pissed off at me) at

Ready for a New Year

I’m currently sitting in a waiting room at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, MN. My mom is having surgery this morning, hopefully minor to fix a kidney draining issue. It meant getting up at 3am to drive through the current snowstorm, to be sure we were here on time. We arrive an hour early – better than late, right? My family has had a rough couple of years healthwise. I’m seriously hopet hat 2016 shows a turn around towards better health and less hospital stays and operations!

It’s the end of the year, and that means posts about resolutions, etc. For the last few years, I have gravitated towards choosing a word for the new year. This year, I think I am going with two words.

Learn and Focus

Learning: I have several classes I will be taking from Lilla Rogers this spring. I also signed up for double drawing classes for the winter 1 session at the local community centers, and then a single class for session 2.

Focus: I need to start focusing on my art, and my quilting more again. As I said, it’s been a rough couple years, and rough means not having much energy or drive for creation for me. 

I have a trip to Arizona in about a week, after that things will quickly shift in to overdrive as my classes begin. I am already beginning to feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder, so I am even more grateful that I chose to double up on my drawing classes. It will get me out of the house and around other people two days a week. (My family will likely be incredibly relieved!) 

What are your goals and plans for the New Year?

Quilt Art and Oil Changes

I’m sitting in my dealership waiting for my oil change and tire rotation to get done. I brought along some reading material and my laptop today. IMG_6182.JPG

I’m so glad I brought it too! There was a bit in there on Patricia I. Caldwell, aka The Butterfly Quilter. Just look at these beautiful shots in the magazine:


There are instructions on doing these technique in the article, for doing thread art.


I am such a sucker for anything bird related too, but isn’t this just a gorgeous quilt?  Be sure and stop by and like her Facebook page and pilfer through the “Photos” on the page, there is so much good work in there!