Author Archives: Shirley at Mystery Bay Quilt Design

About Shirley at Mystery Bay Quilt Design

A quilt designer, author, and teacher located in Washington State on the Olympic Peninsula.

Make a color palette from a photo

I recently received a marketing email from Brewers, a wholesale sewing supply company.  They included in their email a link to a blog post on the subject of color palettes that I found very interesting.  After reading the blog post, I experimented with creating color palettes from a few of my photographs using color palette software available from Sherwin Williams.  They of course intend you to use it to select paint colors the next time you decorate.  And that is a great thing to do with it.  But for us quilters, it is a wonderful resource for designing a color palette.  (link to the original Brewer’s post is at the end of this one)

So here is the process.  Go to the Sherwin Williams site: .

Upload a favorite photo and follow the instructions.  You will have to create an account to save your color chip, but it just requires a user name, email address, and password – so no big deal.  Once you have looked at the color chip card – be sure to click on the “edit colors” button because you will find there are some more colors hidden behind the first five, and you want to see them.  I only discovered this because the first photo I am showing you below came up with NO pink in the first five colors! So I went looking and found them.  Be sure to drag and drop the colors around so that the first five or so are the colors you would really use in a quilt.  Then save the changes.  Click on the “edit colors” button again to make the secondary colors show, if you want them.  Then right click your mouse on the picture and choose “Save As”, giving your new chipcard a name that you will be able to remember.  You should be able to find it again using the search feature in Windows Explorer or whatever software you use to find files on your computer.  On my computer, these files ended up under the “Pictures” folder.

So here are my first results.  I think these chip cards would be a great help to fabric shopping!

A Rhododendron bush in Port Gamble:

Sherwin Williams Color Chip Card derived from my Port Gamble Rhody photo

Sherwin Williams Color Chip Card derived from my Port Gamble Rhody photo

A Rhody Bud in a neighbor’s yard:

Sherwin Williams chip card from a Rhody bud

Sherwin Williams chip card from a Rhody bud

I thought the brown, mustard yellow, and dark red were interesting.  I wouldn’t have pulled those out of the original photo, and yet I think they are interesting additions to the color palette.  In limited quantity, one of them  would make a good accent color or “zinger”.

And a sunrise photo:

Sherwin Williams chip card from my Sunrise photo

Sherwin Williams chip card from my Sunrise photo

Interesting, aren’t they?  I especially like the sunrise photo results because I would have had trouble coming up with those colors.  I would have been inclined to select more vivid yellow/orange/pink shades.

Here is the link to the very interesting blog post that started me on this little journey:

Presser Foot Pressure Adjustment – second post

Recently I posted a short discussion and a link to a youtube video on the subject of presser foot pressure adjustment.  Following that post, I did some testing on my own machines, with walking feet installed.  As I did the tests, I wrote on the fabric to show the settings used.  You can see the settings in the photos.  After sandwiching batting between two pieces of fabric, you sew a crossways seam at the bottom of the piece.  Then the test stitching is done by stitching from the top down towards the crossways stitching.  If the top fabric is being pushed forward, it will show up as a pleat at the crossways stitching.

First, my old faithful Bernina Artista 180.  I was quite impressed with the results.  The range of adjustment is very good.  The lowest setting (no numbers on the machine, but I labelled it 0) was way too light — the stitching wasn’t very straight and the stitch length was inconsistent.  The best setting seemed to be about 8, or two thirds of the way.  Even the highest pressure setting was pretty good.  You can see these results in the photo below:

Bernina 180 walking foot pressure test

Bernina 180 walking foot pressure test

Second, I put the optional walking foot on my Brother Dreamweaver VQ 3000.   I purchased it because it gives  better visibility than the “Muvit™” foot that comes with the machine.  Frankly, up to this point I had never used the Muvit™ foot because it only came with a closed toe sole plate that I really didn’t like.  Also the Muvit™ foot is quite large (since it contains a motor) and I didn’t like that either.  I have recently changed my mind, but more about that later.

The photo below shows the results with the optional walking foot.  There are four possible pressure settings for this machine – 1 through 4 – and I tried them all.  The lowest setting was just barely tolerable.  The results with the higher settings were quite bad.  I tried various other adjustments — presser foot height, auto fabric sensor on or off — and nothing helped.  Here are the results:

Brother VQ 3000 pressure test with optional walking foot

Brother VQ 3000 pressure test with optional walking foot

After consulting with Quality Sewing about this problem, I went to the shop and tested a machine like mine, but using the Muvit™ foot.  The results were excellent, and the visibility problem that so bothered me initially has been solved with a new open toe sole plate for the Muvit™ foot.  Here is a photo of the Muvit™ foot installed on the machine, so you get the idea.

Brother Muvit foot installed

Brother Muvit foot installed

Here is a photo of the two sole plates for comparison.  The 1/8 and 1/4 inch markings on the open sole plate are very helpful.

Brother Muvit foot sole plate comparison

Brother Muvit foot sole plate comparison


And now the test results.  The Muvit™ foot has an adjustment range from -10 to +10.  At   -10, a little puckering is just beginning to show.  All the other settings produce excellent results, so I would be inclined to leave the machine set at the default, which is 0.0.

Brother Muvit foot pressure test results

Brother Muvit foot pressure test results

After conducting this test at Quality Sewing, I purchased the open toe sole plate and came home and quilted a quilt with the Muvit™ foot.  I also put the binding on using the Muvit™.  I am very impressed with the results.  I still wish the foot was a little smaller, but I can now understand why the engineers designed it the way it is.  And I retract all the nasty thoughts I had about it!  Always good to get motivated enough to try new things, especially when your initial emotional reaction was “what kind of idiot did this?”.  Turns out, some very clever (not idiot) engineers did this!

New task lights for sewing

While at Sew Expo I found some great new lights at the Quality Sewing booth and bought  two new LED light fixtures.  I am really appreciating the extra illumination at my sewing machine.  One of the lights is the little kind that you attach to the left side of your sewing machine and then use the flexible stem to aim the  light directly at the presser foot/needle area.  These have been around for some time but this one is by Naturalight, and I have not seen it before.  So far I like it very much.  I assume you can buy it at any Quality Sewing location in the Puget Sound area, or it is available from Amazon here:
Daylight Naturalight LED Sewing Lamp, White and Silver

The other light – which I am really excited about – is also by the same company.  It is a super bright light bar that puts out the equivalent of over 300 watts.    The light has two strips of LEDs and they can be turned on or off separately if you want more or less light.  The whole thing is also dimmable.  Being a “senior citizen” myself I can’t imagine using anything other than the brightest light, but I guess it’s nice to have flexibility.  The light bar can also be rotated to put the light just where you want it. Again it can be purchased at Quality Sewing, or you can buy it at Amazon: Brand New Naturalight Task Lamp LED XL-White Brand New  .

Here are some photos of this light fixture. The first photo shows the box it came in.   The second photo is with the light turned on. It is a little hard to judge the light from these photos due to the camera exposure, but the fixture provides a very nice even bright light.  I am really pleased with it, and the mini light aimed at my needle lights up the one spot I needed that I can’t get with the task bar.

Naturalight Task Lamp in the box

Naturalight Task Lamp in the box

Naturalight Task Lamp on

Naturalight Task Lamp on

Be sure to check these fixtures out at Quality Sewing if you are local.  They had  special prices on them for Sew Expo (about $30 for the little one and $150 for the big one), even better than the prices on Amazon.  Not sure what the prices will be in the store, but you can always wait for a sale.  Several other configurations of lamps were also available — floor mounted, with magnifying lenses, etc – if these two don’t meet your needs.

Sew Expo 2015

I spent a couple of days this week at Sew Expo in Puyallup, Washington.  This is a really BIG show with lots of vendors about everything sewing.  A wonderful place to see all the new products up close and personal.  Many of the sewing and quilting big names come and are in their company’s booths, autographing their books and demonstrating techniques.

All the sewing machine manufacturers come and bring their newest machines.  You can get a demonstration or sit down and sew on the machines, take a “make it and take it” class using the machines, or just get all your questions answered about specific issues you may have with your own machine.  I always go each year with a shopping list and a list of questions I want answered about whatever I am having trouble with at the moment.

I see that Koala has redesigned their cabinets to accomodate the newer wider sewing machines.  The new machines fit in last year’s cabinet, but there wasn’t enough leg room underneath.  When you sit lined up in front of the needle of your machine, your left knee can run into the cabinet structure.  I am only sorry I bought my cabinet last year before they made the change!  I was planning to go complain (politely) about this deficiency, but they have already corrected it.  It’s not a fatal flaw, but with my long legs I would have appreciated the extra room.

I will add a couple of posts later showing what I learned in a couple of classes I took, but here are a few items that I found interesting.

First, using a lightweight fusible interfacing to assemble a quilt.  This has been used for watercolor quilts (where the quilt is made from a lot of small squares) in the past but would also work well for simple quilts made from squares or rectangles.  You can even buy the interfacing with a grid already marked on it.  Just lay the squares or rectangles down on the grid, fuse them lightly in place, and then fold and sew on the lines.  This year a company from Montana – Crooked Nickel quilts – at – showed their variation on this technique using sashing and cornerstones.  It looks like a superfast way to make a table runner or quilt.  Here is a photo from their booth showing several table runners in various stages of construction on the table, and a completed one hanging on the wall behind.  They sell these as patterns or kits on their website.  Another one of their features is Tee Shirt quilts, again using a fusible interfacing to back up the shirts.  You need an applique pressing sheet so you won’t get your iron all sticky, but otherwise this looks really simple:

A sashed table runner made using fusible interfacing

A sashed table runner made using fusible interfacing

I was pleased to see one of our local quilters, Barb Schultz, with her  Enchanted Valley Arts company booth at the show.  Check out her business at . She was super excited about her first time being in Sew Expo and it was great to see her there:

Barb Schultz of Enchanted Valley Arts at Sew Expo

Barb Schultz of Enchanted Valley Arts at Sew Expo

I took one of the “one needle” classes – about 45 minutes long – from Karla Alexander.  Karla has terrific techniques for amazing quick quilts.  She has just published her ninth book, “Stack, Shuffle, and Slide” and it looks terrific. If I wasn’t in the middle of developing a landscape quilt class and about a dozen other things I would have bought it.  Here is a link to buy the book at Amazon:  Stack, Shuffle, and Slide: A New Technique for Stack the Deck Quilts  .  I particularly liked her great technique for creating one of those quilts that look woven,  Check out her website for photos: .

Here was another cool idea that would be fun for a kid’s quilt. Not a new idea but still fun.  My apologies to the company, I didn’t note the name of the booth:

blanket stitch applique with variegated thread Feb 27 2015

More from my other classes at the show in the next post: doodle art, and using Tsukineko inks to paint fabrics in really cool ways.


New classes added to Classes and Calendar pages

Just a note that I have updated the Classes page with my new Landscape Quilt class description and supply list, and added several classes to the Calendar page for this summer.

I will be teaching a practice session of the Landscape Quilt class at Creative Union Fabrics in Port Townsend on March 21 and 28.  This will be at a very nominal fee since it is a practice class.  The first official session of this class will be at Quality Sewing and Vacuum in Silverdale in September.

See the Classes and Calendar pages for more details, and I hope to see you in class sometime soon if you are in the area.


Adjusting the presser foot pressure on your sewing machine

Today I was quilting a good sized quilt using Warm and White Batting and had some problem with the top fabric puckering.  I reduced the presser foot pressure – an easy task with my Brother Dreamweaver, since it is one of the basic settings for the machine that can be adjusted using the touch screen.  This is a topic that has come up a couple of times lately and is an adjustment many of my quilting students aren’t familiar with, so I decided to mention it here.

Note that we are talking about how hard the presser foot pushes down on the fabric.  This is totally separate from thread tension, which is another important adjustment that we talk about more often.

Most higher end and/or older sewing machines have a presser foot pressure adjustment.  Some low end newer machines probably don’t.  On the newest high end machines it is probably computerized and can be set from the touch screen.  On older machines it will be a manual setting.  As always, consult your sewing machine manual or your local dealer.

I found a very nice video by Marguerita McManus on youtube that shows several different machines and where the pressure adjustment is located, and then also shows you how to do a very simple test to determine the proper setting for your quilting.  She shows a couple of examples of different settings needed for different quilting sandwiches, depending upon the batting being used.  I like her examples because you can duplicate her tests quickly with your own fabric, batting, and sewing machine to determine the settings that work best for you.

There are also several other places on the internet where descriptions are given of how to adjust the presser foot pressure, but I think Marguerita’s video gives the best simple explanation for quilters.  Here is the link to the video:

You will have to wait through the ad at the beginning before the actual video starts  — so don’t panic and think you have gone to the wrong link.

Hope this is useful for you!



Rainbow Scrap Quilt

I received a quilt book as a Christmas gift that I am enjoying.  It is called “Lovely Landscape Quilts” by Cathy Geier and can be purchased either at your local quilt shop or at Amazon through this link: Lovely Landscape Quilts: Using Strings and Scraps to Piece and Applique Scenic Quilts .

This book presents some very simple techniques for creating impressive landscape quilts.  The techniques produce results that will be satisfying to an experienced quilter, but at the same time are simple enough for a confident beginner.  I like the techniques enough that I am considering creating a new class based on this book.  First I have to make a few quilts so I am sure I can get good results and be confident that my students will also get good results.  I started with a very simple quilt using scraps.

Before describing the landscape techniques she uses in the book, Cathy Geier presents a range of landscape quilts by other artists.  The very first artist presented is Ann Brauer.  If you are interested in Ann’s quilts, she has an Etsy store where she sells her quilts and smaller items.   She may also have a website or blog, but I haven’t looked for those.

The quilt I “copied” is called Rainbows of Summer.  It uses a string piecing technique, making blocks using four to six fabric strips of varying widths.  I started with paper foundation rectangles that I cut 6 inches by 8 inches.  The paper rectangles were good for ensuring that my blocks were all the right size, but tearing out the paper afterward was tedious so I might try making the blocks using a template rather than a paper foundation the next time.

I spent a lot of  time sorting fabrics into colors of the rainbow and cutting strips.  My strips were all about 9-10 inches long and varied in width from 1 inch to 2 inches.  Some of them were narrower at one end that at the other; this adds some visual interest to the finished quilt.

Sewing the blocks is very straightforward once you have selected the colors for each horizontal row of the quilt.  I laid out piles of strips and picked out assorted fabrics as I went along, trying not to repeat the same fabric in one block and to vary the use of the fabric so that it did not always appear in the same position.  I  had 10-15 different fabrics for each color, so I had enough to choose from to create nice variety.  Once I had enough blocks of each color, I squared up all the blocks to 6 by 8 inches.  Then I assembled the quilt top one horizontal row at a time.

Here is the finished quilt top:

Rainbow scrap quilt based on Ann Brauer's "Rainbows of Summer", 64 in by 66 in

Rainbow scrap quilt based on Ann Brauer’s “Rainbows of Summer”, 64 in by 66 in

I really like the variety of fabrics and found this a great way to use up scraps.  Of course I had lots of scrap strips left over so I will have to dream up another project to use them!


Printable Fusible Web

I am working on another quilt with Kamon, or Japanese family crests.  These crest designs are quite intricate and are a real challenge to fusible webs.  They need a really good adhesive to keep the pieces in shape.

Recently I read about a fusible web I have not used before.  It is by June Tailor and is sold in 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheets and can be run through your inkjet printer.  The obvious advantage is that, for the right size applique pieces, you can copy or print the shapes right on to the paper back of the web — no tracing of the designs required!  The main disadvantage (compared to Steam-A-Seam, for example) is that the adhesive is not “sticky” before ironing.  So you can’t stick  down all the pieces, repositioning them as needed, and then permanently adhere them by pressing them with a hot iron.  I have found that it works better to place one or two pieces and press them with the iron, then go to the next couple of pieces, etc.

I had completed a couple of blocks using Steam A Seam and wasn’t satisfied with the results.  The particular fabrics I chose were regular cotton and tended to fray on the edges.  One way to solve this problem is to use batiks, which fray much less than regular cottons.  But since I am experimenting with these block designs, I just grabbed fabrics from my scrap bins and some of them were not batiks.

Here is the result of the fusing with Steam A Seam.  You can see the frayed edges.

frayed edges show with Steam A Seam fusible.

frayed edges show with Steam A Seam fusible.


And here is the same block fused with the June Tailor product.  The edges are much cleaner.

much less fraying with the June Tailor fusible web

much less fraying with the June Tailor fusible web

For these intricate designs,  I will be using the June Tailor fusible web in the future.  It is more expensive than other fusibles, so I will be ordering it from a wholesale source to get the price down.  But it can be purchased easily either at your local shops or through Amazon at the following link:  June Tailor 8-1/2-Inch by 11-Inch Ink Jet Printable Fusible Web, 6-Pack  .

The importance of open-toed presser feet

Today i have been testing a new fusible web product.  I will talk about it once I have completed the test (which includes running it through the washing machine a few times) but another topic came up in the process.

I fused some simple shapes to a background and stitched around the edges with a small blanket stitch.  I used the “N” foot on my Brother VQ 3000, also known as the monogramming foot (could also be called the satin stitch foot or embroidery foot).  I had trouble seeing my stitching and was not very happy with the result.  Here is a closeup of the stitching; you can see I wandered off on the bottom right side and the background fabric shows between the thread and the fused piece.  Yes,  I know it could be a lot worse — but I freely admit to being way too picky! If I can make it perfect or nearly so, then that is what I want.

applique edge stitch wandering off on the left

I used the “N” foot supplied with my machine.  I was so frustrated by the lack of visibility I was about to take some cutters to it and cut away the plastic parts in front of the needle.  Fortunately I calmed down enough to call my dealer, Quality Sewing, and ask it there was another presser foot that would do the job. There is another foot and they have it in stock!  The two different feet are shown below — the first photo is the “N” foot that comes with the machine, and the second photo is similar to the other foot I am going to buy.  Nice and open so you can see what you are doing.

Plastic in front of needle makes obstructs the viewopen toe embroidery

Next time I visit the dealer I will get the new foot and I expect my machine applique is going to improve significantly when I can see what I’m doing!