Sunday, July 15, 2018

Baltimore Garden Quilt Layered Flowers

On the original antique Baltimore Garden Quilt made in 1848, many of the flowers were created by arranging and sewing tiny fabric petals one at a time, building up layers to form the flower. 

While making my reproduction quilt, I devised a method to make these flowers easier to arrange and applique by sewing petals in layered groups which rotate and overlap. With this method, we can assemble these flowers in layers instead of sewing single petals one at a time.

This technique is shown In the book, Baltimore Garden Quilt, for a flower with pointed petals. In workshops, I taught the technique on a flower with round petals, and with the luxury of more time and more detail, students received a detailed, illustrated, step-by-step handout to follow along. Now I invite you to give it a try! 

For those who could not attend my workshops, or want to begin their own Baltimore Garden quilt, I offer a FREE Layered Applique Flowers Tutorial (PDF).The tutorial includes a pattern and templates you can print onto freezer paper with an inkjet printer. (My method of applique is "freezer paper on top," but you can use other applique methods.) There are also helpful references to the book, Baltimore Garden Quilt, so you will want to keep your book handy as well. My books and patterns are available at my website Store. 

*Adobe Acrobat Reader can be found here:

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c)2018 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Monday, February 12, 2018

How to Use a Hera Marker

A HERA MARKER is a traditional Japanese tool used for marking fabric by making an indent on the fabric.It leaves no residue (no chemicals), works on any fabric weave or color, and disappears completely after quilting or washing.

Two styles of hera marker are made of hard plastic by Clover. Both styles have a sharp edge for making straight lines by pressing down and drawing across the fabric, guided along the edge of a rotary ruler. 

Press ONLY hard enough to make a mark you can see – it IS possible to mark too hard and make errors difficult to remove. (I mark a lot of background grid lines on my quilts, so I prefer this wider style; it is more comfortable to hold against the palm of my hand.)

The thin style has both a sharp edge and a pointed end. The pointed end is guided by drawing as you would a pencil, either freehand or with a stencil.

I have also used the pointed end to perforate a paper design leaving a dotted line in the quilt.

Lots of marking errors show in the photo above, but no marks were left after quilting.

* If you have trouble seeing your marks while quilting, it may help to change your angle of view.
* Make a plan on paper before beginning to mark.
* I prefer to mark my quilts AFTER basting the quilt sandwich.
* If you do not have a hera marker, you can substitute a knitting needle or darning needle for small projects. Do NOT use a butter knife, as it may leave dark marks on the fabric.

* Pre-crease applique stems and strips for ruching.
* Draw reference lines for fussy cutting.
* Crease skirt and pant hems, pleats, darts.
* Add hash marks to match up pieced curves.
* Finger press pieced seams without ironing.
* Paper folding.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2018 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Baltimore Friendship Quilt - Woman's Day

In October 1965, Woman's Day magazine published a 4-page article about the "Baltimore Friendship Quilt" which tells about the history of the quilt. 

The quilt had recently been discovered and donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. You can see the full quilt and closeups at the Met's website here: Baltimore Presentation Quilt.

There is a nearly identical quilt in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art, which is often called "The Sliver Quilt,” perhaps made by the same quiltmaker. You can see that quilt here: Baltimore Bride's Presentation Quilt.
A pattern was made from the quilt, and at the back of the magazine was a form you could send to order the pattern set from Woman's Day for $1.00.

The pattern was produced half-size, and intended to be enlarged 200%.

This is my original pattern, exactly as it was printed. My pattern is quite old and yellowing, even splitting at the folds, poor thing. 

Back then, you had to draw out squares to enlarge the pattern. (Photocopiers were not readily available in 1965.) So, to make the full size quilt, you had to enlarge the patterns 200% by drawing squares and then drawing the pattern on the larger squares. 

Then the 8x8-inch block designs become 16x16, the 4 large baskets become 16x32, and the center design becomes 32" square. For the larger designs, I photocopied the 8x16-inch blocks and the 32-inch center onto more than one page (obviously) that I had to tape together.

Over the years, several individuals have offered the pattern (photocopied) for sale. In 2005, the Folsom Quilt Guild produced a raffle quilt made from this pattern, and sold the full size pattern for $50. I don't think they offer it any more, but I wondered about copyright, so several years ago, I contacted the magazine regarding copyright for the pattern, and the person I spoke with told me that "copyright is not a problem."

It amazes me to see how much technology has changed, yet these beautiful applique quilts continue to retain their charm and beauty.

Keep stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2018 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Never Enough Time to Sew?

I love this time-saving tip from Pat Sloan that I heard on her podcast.

Sew at least 10 minutes a day is her mantra. Her tip is: Always have something out. Have it ready to pick up, and a place for it, so that you don’t have to go and hunt, and clear space, and dig through stuff just to sew ... so you have a way to get to it quickly ... something small, portable. Whether you like to piece or hand applique, or embroider, or finish a binding or a sleeve, a label, etc....

It’s good advice! So I always have a bit of hand piecing, applique, or quilting near the phone or the TV, ready to pick up to sew a few stitches. You will be surprised how much you can accomplish.

My only problem is I can’t stop after 10 minutes!

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c) 2017 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hand Quilting vs. Machine Quilting

Hand Quilting vs. Machine Quilting? This is not a competition! And this post is not a debate about which is better. They are just different -- very different. Each project will vary depending on fabrics and batting, density of stitching, methods and skills of the quilter. But the same designs can certainly be be used for hand quilting or machine quilting. Here is one comparison using the same designs, each done quite differently.

This is a section of the antique 1848 applique quilt that inspired my reproduction quilt and my book, Baltimore Garden Quilt.* On this antique quilt, the various floral quilted designs between the applique motifs are emphasized by very close, straight diagonal lines of background quilting. There was no trapunto or stuffing of the quilted designs on this quilt, and no quilting "around" the applique pieces as we often do today. The batting is cotton.
This is the same area on my reproduction quilt made in 2008. After scanning the drawings that I traced from the antique quilt, Marty Vint beautifully quilted all the floral designs, and closely around each applique motif, with her Gammill longarm. We could have added dense background quilting, but we agreed this was enough. Oh, and there was also that book deadline! The batting is "Matilda's Wool" (no longer available). The quilting thread is a shade or two darker than the background fabric to add emphasis.

How will you decide to quilt?

Hand Quilting - photo courtesy Carla Therrien

Machine Quilting - photo courtesy Marty Vint

In a future post, I plan to show how to adapt these floral quilting designs to other quilts for hand quilting.

*All of the original 1848 quilting designs are included on the patterns provided (on CD) in the book. A full size pattern set (on paper) is also available separately. Avoid outrageous prices on amazon from third-party sellers! Buy directly from my website for $15.00 +3.99 shipping.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2017 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hints for Threading Needles

Sewing by hand requires only a needle & thread, scissors & fabric, plus a bit of dexterity. But first, you have to thread that needle, which can present some challenges.

Over time, I have gathered tips and tricks for threading hand sewing needles. Most I learned from Grandma. Some tips are from stitching friends. When I teach hand applique, quilting, and embroidery, I learn tips from students. A few are gathered from the internet.

First tip:  Relax!
Suzy Mouse, Cinderella
Improve Your View
• Work in good light. My Grandma would say “you’re going to hurt your eyes.” Prevent eye strain.
• Close one eye. We all have a 'dominant eye.' A Certified NRA Sharpshooter, I know my right eye is better than my left.
• Thread needles when light is better, eyes are fresher, when you have more time or more patience.
• View the needle against a white background (or a light); it will be much easier to see the eye.
• Use a headlamp (like for camping) or a jeweler’s magnifier held on your head; some include a built-in light. 
• Inexpensive magnifying glasses are available in the pharmacy.
• Enlist a willing helper with better eyesight and/or patience.
• For hand quilting, thread several needles onto the spool without cutting the thread. Secure the thread end so the needles don’t fall off.

Reposition the Needle or Reposition the Thread
• Turn the needle eye around. Needle eyes are punched out by machinery, and the side punched into will usually be smoother.
• I push the thread INTO the eye. Try bringing the needle eye TO the thread instead.
• Make a clean cut on the thread – cutting on an angle will help.
• Hold the thread end “shortly” between your fingers so it will bend less.
• Flatten the thread end – especially useful for embroidery threads. Grandma taught me how to thread multiple strands of embroidery thread at once onto an embroidery needle. Fold the threads in half across the lower shaft of the needle. Pull the fold tight against the needle shaft. To flatten that fold, squeeze the fold tightly between two fingers of the other hand, as you slide the needle point away. Keeping the fold flat and holding it very shortly, push the fold into the eye, shown below.


Use a Needle Threader
• Needle threaders of various kinds are sold by Clover, Bohin, Fons Porter, etc. Some even have a light. Find one appropriate for your needle and thread. Every needle won’t fit in every threader, and every thread won't fit through every needle! I use one made of a old-fashioned simple wire attached to a holder. The wire is delicate, and cannot be forced with too much pressure, so keep a few on hand.
• Beverly Whitworth uses dental floss as a threader: “Fold the dental floss in half creating a loop. Insert the loop in the eye of the needle, put the thread in the loop, and pull through the eye of the needle.”

Moisten the Thread or the Needle.
• Grandma would often moisten the thread. That doesn’t usually help me, but sometimes it does help to adhere a fraying end. You don’t have to spit on it; you could just moisten your fingers; which I might do for threading machine needles. Sometimes moisture just swells the thread, so just recut it.
• Some people moisten the needle instead (carefully). That has never worked for me.

Beeswax, Thread Conditioners, etc.
• Wax the thread with beeswax, or slide it on Thread Heaven® thread conditioner and protectant, to make the thread a bit stiffer or behave better. These products also help prevent thread twisting. I just hold the project in the air and let the needle dangle to untwist unruly thread.

Buy Quality Products & Use the Best Tool for the Job.
• Find out where your needles are manufactured. Many are now contracted out and quality may suffer. Read the package. “Packaged in” does not mean “Made in.”
• The head (eye end) of the needle should not be rough or pointed, and the eye punch should be smooth. Thread fray and breakage can be caused by an imperfectly punched needle.
• Choose appropriate thread and needle. A student in my workshop was frustrated just getting started because she could not get her thread into her needle. She was sold a pack of needles and a spool of thread by a vendor who sent her off to class with poor choices. Although I provide needles and threads for sale in my classes, she had already spent her $$. I gave her a new needle and thread, so if nothing else, at least she learned about matching needles to threads.
• Switch to a different needle (shorter/longer, thinner/thicker, bigger eye, better quality) or choose a different thread. Sewing should be fun, not frustrating.
• Discard old threads if they are weak. Test them compared to new thread.

Consider how threads are manufactured.
• Hand sewing thread is inserted into the needle as it comes off the spool. However, thread untwists and wears as it travels through fabric. Some threads wear better if the end cut AT the spool is inserted into the needle.
• Hand quilting thread is heavier for a reason – the entire thread must travel completely through all three layers of fabric with every stitch. Machine quilting thread enters the quilt only partway, and only once each time along its length. Video How a Sewing Machine Works in Slow Motion by EverythingForYou.

Manage Short Tails and Avoid Re-threading

• As you sew, occasionally move the thread tail along the needle eye to avoid wear. As the thread becomes shorter, the tail can slip out of the needle and then you have to thread the needle yet again! Train your pinky finger to hold that thread tail.
• With very thin thread, make a slip knot on the needle eye. Video: How to Make a Silk Thread Knot by AngiesBitsAndPieces
  • With thick thread, if you can pierce the thread tail with the point of the needle, snag it and pull it up to the eye forming a loop (one of Grandma’s tricks).

• Park your needle safely -- When you park a working needle, leave the thread tail encased in the last stitch so the needle can dangle but not fall off. Store idle needles in a pincushion.
• When storing a threaded needle, knotting one end of the thread = 50% less chance of the needle falling OFF the thread.

Suzy Mouse - The Work Song
These are all the best hints I've got. Now go sew!

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c) 2017 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Basting and Quilting in an Old Fashioned Frame

Joe Cunningham is a professional quiltmaker with a flair for improvisation and quilting “freehand” designs without marking. “Joe the Quilter” lives in San Francisco, California, a long drive from Baltimore, Maryland. But thanks to technology, I just spent an hour and a half with Joe and his “Zen attitude,” via his DVD, Basting and Quilting in an Old Fashioned Frame.” (found on

As a teacher myself, of hand applique and hand quilting, I always enjoy learning how other people work on their quilts.

On the video, Joe shows step-by-step how to make the simple, inexpensive 4-board frame he uses. While visiting a local quilting group, the Dorcas Quilters, Joe points out similar setup options that they use. This kind of frame can easily be disassembled and stored away when not in use; convenient for a quilt guild, shop, or at home.

He also shows how to use the frame to thread baste the 3 layers of a quilt (backing, batting, and top) in preparation for machine quilting or hand quilting in a hoop.

From his studio, Joe talks about how he likes to work while actually quilting in the frame, how he decides what to quilt, and the tools he prefers. 

Zooming in to view both hands above and below the quilt, Joe maneuvers the needle to demonstrate how to do the actual hand quilting stitch, tie off, and “waddle” from one place to another.

The most useful thing I learned from Joe today is how to quilt away from myself. I look forward to trying his methods, and I can watch over and over until I accomplish the Zen attitude of quilting "without looking." Meanwhile, I can enjoy the music on the DVD from “Music for Squares” by Joe Cunningham and Erik Walker.
Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c) 2017 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.