Contemporary Swiss and European Patchwork

A major part of my recent trip to Europe was participation in a family reunion in Neuchatel, Switzerland.  While there I had a discussion with Caroline Junier, a cousin (I think we have the same great-grandfather, if I have kept my family history straight), who until recently worked for the Neuchatel Museum of Art and History.

Naturally we discussed quilting and I showed Caroline some photos of my quilts.  She explained that there is a very active quilting (they call it Patchwork in Europe) community in and around Neuchatel.  In fact she believes it is the largest such community in Switzerland.  In her capacity at the Museum, she was very involved in putting together a number of quilt exhibitions.  She offered to provide me with the catalogs from three of the exhibitions, and delivered them to me at my hotel the next day.

I was very impressed with the quality of both the quilts and the catalogs, which are beautifully done.  Funding support for the exhibitions and the catalogs (if I am translating the French correctly) was provided by Bernina (our sewing machine friends), Loterie Romande (I don’t know who they are but it sounds like a Lottery), and Migros (big grocery store chain in Switzerland).

I have shown the catalogs to several members of my quilt guild and they enjoyed seeing them very much.  I wish I could show you photos here, but of course the images are copyrighted.  I include some web links and names below where you can see some of the work.

The following is a translation of the introduction to the catalog by some of the organizers.  I first used Google translate to get this from the original French to English, and did some fairly loose intrepretation so that it would make sense.  My apologies to anyone I may offend by my errors in translation!

“After having organized three exhibitions of contemporary patchwork of national importance in 1986, 1989 and 1993, Neuchatel Museum of Art and History once again wishes to show Patchwork to a wider audience, as well as how the assembly of textile elements has evolved and has become a means of art expression  in its own right in Switzerland and Europe.

Caroline Junier, curator of the department of applied art of the Museum of Art and History in Neuchatel, has organized this new exhibit, EXNA 4 in 2010. For her availability, expertise and usual dynamism, as in 1993, we are very grateful.

We are grateful to the jury who, thanks to their skills and knowledge in the contemporary art world, with impartiality selected fifty-two works from those presented in the contest.

We also thank the forty-one invited artists- among the best in Europe – who responded eagerly to our request and have enabled the exposition to present their works in the unique format selected: 35 by 35 cm.

by Maryline Collioud-Robert, Lucienne Hool, and Zibull Masson”

I have tried to find a good link to photos of the included quilts and failed to find more than a few photos.   You can find them yourself by searching for “EXNA 4 Patchwork Contemporain Suisse & Europeen”.  One of the organizers, Maryline Collioud-Robert, has a web site and blog.  She had three quilts in the show and shows these and others of her quilts at her blog: .

Other quilters with multiple quilts in the show and current web presence were :     Beata Keller-Kerchner, Cecile Trentini, and Malou Zryd.  You can find some images of their work by typing their names in to the usual search engines.  Nearly all the work is very contemporary, usually abstract, and visually striking. There is a lot of use of texture in the exhibit, much more so than in the earlier 1986 and 1993 exhibits for which I also have catalogs.

St Gallen Embroidery



I recently returned from a trip to Switzerland. While there, I visited a textile museum in St. Gallen.

St. Gallen is a town of 75,000 people located east of Zurich in the northeastern part of Switzerland. This area was historically active in textile production. About 200 years ago they also became heavily involved in embroidery, first made by hand, then by machines assisted by hand, and finally by machine. The area is currently known both for the quality of the embroidery they produce for leading fashion designers and also for the design and manufacture of high quality embroidery machines. This is also the same general part of Switzerland where Bernina sewing machines are made.

I didn’t know enough about St Gallen to have any expectations, but had done   internet research to find the textile museum, plus St Gallen also has an ancient baroque library with many books over 1000 years old, a large cathedral that had been part of a former abbey founded around 600 AD, and a large protestant church – St Laurenzen’s. Since I was interested in the textile museum, I decided that it plus the other attractions were enough to justify the one hour train ride from Zurich. I found the town to be beautiful and thoroughly enjoyed the day I spent there.

Now back to the textile museum. The museum was very nice but the explanations for the exhibits were all in German so I didn’t get too many details. There were numerous examples of embroidery. I will include a few photos here to show some of it.

First, some embroidered dresses that I believe were part of an exhibit called “furor floralis” that features floral designs.

embroidered dresses

And a closeup of the one in front. This looks so perfect that I thought it must be  machine embroidery but  may have been done by hand by someone very skilled.

embroidered dress closeup

Many of the embroidery samples were part of an exhibition called Dreams and Realizations, described by the museum as   “From “white gold” linen to the world-famous “St.Gallen lace” to the high-tech textiles of today: the exhibition “Dream & Realisation” covers half a millennium of Eastern Switzerland’s textile history. Magnificent textiles from the Middle Ages to the present day demonstrate the master craftsmanship and innovative strength of this traditional industry, whose turbulent history has been driven by periods of great economic prosperity and global crises alike. ”

And there were many examples of whitework; this one had a lot of texture to it.

whitework embroidery

And some examples of brown embroidery:

brown embroidery

There was a special exhibit showing the work of a mother and son team of artists, Francisca Artigues and Miquel Barceló. He draws on linen with pens or watercolors and she embroiders on top of it by hand. Here are a couple of photos ; these pieces are quite large, seven to ten feet wide. I have included one closeup to show the stitching detail.

seacreatures cropped

seacreatures closeup

seacreatures 2

And because I can’t resist, I am going to break my own blog rule (nothing but quilting related topics!) and include an interior photo of the cathedral, which is really beautiful in an over-the-top way.

St Gallen Cathedral inside

You can find lots more photos about St Gallen on line and see photos of the Abbey library which I was not allowed to photograph – it is even more over the top than the cathedral!

Landscape Quilt Class prototypes

I will be teaching a beginning landscape quilt class at Quality Sewing in Silverdale in September and I am doing the preparation work for the class.  Recently I taught a practice class at Creative Union in Port Townsend and it was very useful to me, plus my students created some great quilts.

The class uses the book “Lovely Landscapes” by Cathy Geier as the basis. The objective of the quilt design for this class is to make it easy for beginners and simple enough that the students can accomplish most of the assembly process in class.  So I decided to use a sunset scene with a silhouetted tree.

My first prototype is shown below.

landscape quilt 1 Apr 2015

I decided this one was too dark and the tree needed more detail.  Also the water wasn’t right — the horizon was too high and the water wasn’t interesting.

So I altered the foreground design and lightened up the sky some.  Also added a silhouetted sailboat for a little more interest.

landscape quilt 2 Apr 2015

I still think the sky needs to be lighter yet, and the change in the water is more interesting but adds quite a bit of time to the assembly process.  I will need to simplify the design further by reducing the number of strips.  Also the area where the sand meets the horizon line is not good and needs some adjustment.

And here is the quilt made by one of my students and fellow guild members, Susan Sawatsky.  She decided to go with a daylight scene and did some wonderful collage work with embroidery thread to make the leaves in the tree.  Didn’t she do great?

Susan landscape

I will post more later as I evolve the design for the class.

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.