Thursday, January 7, 2016

Events Dedicated to the Art of Appliqué

There was a rumor going around recently saying that “the Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy in Williamsburg, VA is no more, because Elly has retired.”  The truth is that Elly has closed her yearly academy; however, she has inspired others to carry on this wonderful tradition, at Williamsburg and at other locations!

I know it’s true, because I am honored to be one of 12 applique artists invited to teach workshops at Academy of Appliqué 2016 in Williamsburg, and also Baltimore on the Prairie 2016 with other nationally known applique teachers.

Barbara Blanton will continue the Academy of Appliqué at Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg, Virginia from February 29 - March 5, 2016, offering workshops for beginner, intermediate and advanced stitchers with nationally known, award winning instructors, plus an up close and personal tour to view quilts at the Museum of Colonial Williamsburg. More info:

Tresa Jones will carry on the appliqué tradition at Baltimore on the Prairie, September 21-24, 2016 at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, Nebraska City, NE, offering workshops with nationally known, award winning instructors, and a bus tour to the International Quilt Study Center. More info:

Kathy Dunigan will host The Kathy Dunigan Academy of Appliqué, Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront, Rockwall, Texas from February 1-6, 2016, offering workshops with “leading teachers, well known and new on the quilt scene, both hand and machine alike,” plus additional festivities. More info:

Appliqué is alive and thriving! I hope to see lots of applique enthusiasts at one or all of these events.

And another! Don't forget Applique Away on Galveston Bay! February 2016. Teachers are Pearl Pereira, Sue Garman and Margaret Willingham.
Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

Monday, January 4, 2016

Choosing Fabrics for Applique Blocks

Applique students often ask me how I choose fabrics. That's a difficult question to answer. If you are trying to reproduce an antique quilt, or trying to match a photo that comes with a pattern, most of the fabric decisions are fairly easy - it’s just a matter of finding similar fabrics.

For this vase block in my book, Baltimore Garden Quilt, fabric choices were easy by following the antique quilt (also shown here) with reproduction fabrics available at the time.

If you want another color scheme, there are many inspirations and fabric choices.  It helps to know a bit about contrast, value, intensity, but there are no right or wrong choices, as long as the end result pleases YOU. Helpful books for learning to choose fabrics: Jinny Beyer's "Color Confidence for Quilters" and "The Scrap Look." Joen Wolfrom has also written several wonderful books on choosing color schemes for quilts.

This Baltimore Garden Vase is one of the blocks I will be teaching at the 2016 Academy of Appliqué, in Williamsburg, VA, so I am working up some different samples. One version is a simple color scheme in shades of pink and blue.

For another version, I want to find a feature fabric to make the vase center a focal point. Auditions begin with a pattern window cutout for the vase center.  Some fabrics are more promising than others.  This white dove could inspire a Christmas version.
A horse racing theme might be fun.

Chickens are popular, and the black background offers nice contrast.

I love bluebirds, but these are rejects – the birds get lost in a confusing background.



A bluebird with nest is too big – another reject.

But this little warbler has real potential! So I will cut this applique piece to feature her. Next step is to start finding fabrics to coordinate with her --

-- looking for bright red, red-orange, orange to gold, and greens from light to dark with olive tones. I won’t use them all, though. 

Appliqué takes a lot of your time and effort, and fabric costs $$$, so you might want an idea of what your final result will really look like before investing your efforts. Stacking fabrics that blend and coordinate is a good way to start.
For a complex block, I might take the time to paste a mockup – rough cutting chunks of fabric, and pasting them with gluestick to a pattern copy. The paper mockup will be my guide for fabric cutting and stitching, as well as inspiration on my sewing room wall.

There are many ways to approach fabric selection for applique - this is just one example. I'll try to post some more ideas soon.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c) 2015 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review - Mi Amor by Margarete Heinisch

Mi Amor, Legacy Appliqué

by Margarete Heinisch
©2014 American Quilter’s Society
ISBN 978-1-60460-140-4
Proudly printed in the United States of America

Margarete’s exquisite quilt “Mi Amor” was exhibited at American Quilter's Society QuiltWeek in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 2012, and this quilt certainly deserved the Best of Show award. I was fortunate to be able to view this magnificent quilt 'up close and personal' and take photos before the show officially opened. The first thing that caught my eye was a peacock in full display – a stunning feat of skill with fabric and thread.
There is so much to see and enjoy on this quilt, I hoped the maker would publish a book. Gladly, she has!

Born and raised in Vienna, Margarete moved to California in 1971. After visiting a quilt exhibit, she was inspired to make a log cabin quilt, and like many of us, found herself immersed in the quilt world. Mi Amor was made as a 25th anniversary quilt for her daughter and son-in-law.

Sixteen original Baltimore album style blocks highlight her family life, loves, America’s history, patriotism, social compassion, and spiritual expression.

Margarete includes imaginative use of many kinds of fabrics and threads on her quilt, and some unexpected materials. Hidden among potted flowers is a baby bird in a nest woven from yarn and Margarete’s own hair!

Flowers are made with gathered yoyos, hexagons, yarn, and rickrack. Some are folded, frayed or fringed. No flower garden is without critters, so she included ladybugs, potato bugs, caterpillars, bumble-bees and many birds. Huge butterfly wings with bound edges seem ready to lift off the surface of the quilt. A multitude of embroidery stitches add final touches on the appliqué.

Margarete makes creative use of iron-on ribbons and acrylic fabric paint. Pigma pens form delicate facial details, eagle feathers, lettering, and a detailed drawing of a church scene. Step-by-steps show how to handle dimensional features such as a bound book, a written scroll, a little girl’s dress, and a woven basket with ruched rim. A unique partially-pieced compass block is framed with bias, rickrack, and prairie points.

The book, Mi Amor, offers close up photos and diagrams explaining how to achieve these techniques and more. From the CD-ROM included, print patterns in sections on 8½"x11" paper, or .pdf files for commercial printing. Print full color pages of each block for reference or fabric shopping. Appliqué fans will enjoy Margarete’s beautiful book, Mi Amor. Try some of Margarete’s fun techniques in your quilts, or be inspired to create your own original appliqué designs.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c) 2015 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Precision Pieced Binding

Precision Pieced Binding
Binding is usually the final step to finishing your quilt. Make it special! Whether your quilt is pieced, appliqued, painted or crazy, you might want to try my binding technique. Made with multiple matching fabrics, you can choose exactly where binding seams meet, and sew the binding seam at any chosen angle. It could add a nice finishing touch on a landscape quilt, and carry the scene out to the edges of the quilt with matching fabrics. 
"Precision Pieced Binding" is now published in American Quilter, November 2012Editor-in-Chief, Christine Brown asked me if I could explain - and photograph - a technique for precision pieced binding on her quilt. Yikes! I had no idea how I would do that at the time. However, the deadline was generous, and I agreed to give it my best effort. The technique I've worked out can be used with bias binding or straight of grain, with single or double fold binding.
Bonus:  At the end of the article is a technique makes that last binding seam (which can be the most challenging) easier and more accurate than any other method. I have not seen anyone else join their seams in this way, but it is SO easy!
I hope you will try my Precision Pieced Binding technique on your next quilt. This issue is available now at news stands and bookstores. Support your local quilt shop or order at

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2012 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Friday, November 6, 2015

May I Interrupt Your Quilting Design?

Deborah Y. sent a question to AppliqueAddicts, a Yahoo group: “I feel like I'm stuck in a handquilting rut. Any suggestions other than cross hatching and echo quilting to complement applique?”

There’s nothing wrong with quilting a classic background grid or echo quilting. It’s relatively easy to mark and so relaxing to stitch; almost meditative. Your mind can ponder the world as your needle and thread gradually bring the surface of your quilt to life.

I shared a photo with the group of an antique (1848) quilt from my collection for inspiration. This quilt has floral quilting designs in the open spaces among the applique. (The applique and quilting designs were traced from that antique quilt for patterns and published in my book, Baltimore Garden Quilt.*)

Here is how the designs look on the antique quilt. Dense background quilting helps to emphasize the floral quilting designs; in this case very close straight lines, almost stippling. But that doesn’t mean that stippling is required, or even necessary, to make use of the floral designs.

Here is how the designs look when they fill an open space on my reproduction of that quilt. My friend, Marty Vint (Dogwood Quilting), skillfully quilted around the applique first. Then she used my tracings of the antique quilting designs and quilted those designs to fill the open spaces; thus background “fill” was not needed.
And here is the back of my reproduction quilt. Plenty of lovely quilting here! (Judges have awarded this quilt with several ribbons at national quilt shows.)

My friend, Carla is hand quilting her Baltimore Garden. She shares her progress on Facebook, and has kindly given me permission to re-share her photo here. Carla is quilting a background grid, and sprinkling just a few of the original motifs in the open areas between the applique.

On another antique 1850s applique quilt (shown below),  various feather motifs interrupt double rodded quilting lines. Antique quilts are my favorite inspiration!

Copy bits of your applique designs and echo them in your quilting. Add a single stemmed rose, a bird, a heart or heart-in-hand, or any motif special to you. I like to add a double heart. Tracing a child’s hand is another fun idea. Wind some leafy vines around your applique or between your blocks to simulate sashing.

Quilt your initials or your whole name into the quilt, and of course, a date within the quilting. Finally, be sure to plan a label for the back of the quilt, and document your quilt for those who will care for your quilt in years to come.

*From the CD included with the book Baltimore Garden Quilt, print selected patterns as needed. A complete full-size paper pattern set is also available as a separate package at my website .)

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2015 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Quilter's Overnight at Golden Eagle Inn, Bedford PA

My friend, Mary Koval, has a lovely quilt shop in Bedford, Pennsylvania. I have wanted to visit for a long time. Recently, Mary offered several workshops with Bonnie Hunter, so we signed up right away and planned our trip to Bedford.

Mary's Retreat Center (above Mary's Quilt Shop) was fully booked, so Mary recommended we stay at the Golden Eagle Inn overnight, just a block away. Thank you, Mary! It was wonderful! We thoroughly enjoyed the Inn, the shopping, and Bonnie's Smith Mountain Morning workshop!

 The historic Golden Eagle Inn, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Bedford, was built in 1794 and completely renovated in the early 1990s. Hardwood floors, high ceilings, and elegant floral wallpaper made me think I had stepped back in time as we walked up the plush carpeted grand staircase.  

 The innkeepers made us feel right at home. The rooms are spacious and bright, decorated and furnished with antiques, vintage curtains, linens and quilts.

 The key to my room was attached to the handle of an antique spoon.

 A full-length mirror, fresh flowers, and some modern conveniences (a television is hidden inside the furniture).

 Someone had lots of fun decorating,

 choosing antiques,
 and repurposing items from days gone by.

 This antique wooden box at one time contained "5 SETS NEVERSLIP SHOES." When commerce and travel depended upon horses, these horseshoes provided steel-centered calks of various sizes and shapes. The calks could be adjusted with a screwdriver to the changing conditions of travel -- cobblestones, pavement, snow and ice, or pulling heavy loads. They saved a horse from sprains and bruises which would constantly result from insecure footing, and saved an owner the trouble and expense of replacing the shoe as often.
 Passageways between rooms offer little surprises and revive memories from the past.

 Sitting rooms for visiting, reading, surfing, or sharing a cup of tea with a friend.

 Vintage linens everywhere!

 There are two elegant dining rooms -- not just a Bed and Breakfast, the Inn has a full restaurant for lunch and dinner as well. Be sure to make a reservation, because the food is delicious!
 Best table in the house, with a view of the garden.

 Begin the day with fresh fruit.

  And start your day right with a hearty breakfast.There were lots of fresh raspberries in between those pancakes! Yum!
I am looking forward to our next visit to Bedford, and the Golden Eagle Inn. Now I am off to finish that quilt I started in Bonnie's workshop.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2015 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Applique A Tiny Bird's Eye

Several people have asked me to do a blog post about how I manage hand appliqué on a tiny bird’s eye. And they keep reminding me. (These things take time!) So here it is.

First, enjoy shopping for just the right fabric for your bird’s eye! On antique Baltimore album quilts, a daisy-like flower might be cut out and sewn as a bird’s eye. I appliqued this tiny flower which made a 1/8” circle – quite challenging!

This fish’s eye was the center of a large flower. His upper lip was appliquéd with the technique explained below.

Polka dots are great if you find just the right size. Circles and ovals provide a nice guideline to appliqué. This eagle's eye seems to have eyelashes.
Here's a wild bird eye! Wish I had more than a scrap of this fabric....

The little block design below was clipped from the full-size block in my Baltimore Garden Quilt book, for a workshop on basics of appliqué with freezer paper on top, tricks and techniques for leaves, skinny stems, stuffed cherries, and a tiny bird’s eye.

The black polka dot is the perfect size for my bird’s eye, and its white background allows me to include a white eye-ring which shows up nicely against the bird. But it’s still really small to applique! Here is the trick: Usually I cut an appliqué seam allowance about 3/16 inch. However, for tiny appliqué, cut out the appliqué fabric with a HUGE seam allowance. Knot a thread, and baste all around the eye. End the basting thread with another knot.

If a white eye-ring is desired, use a circle template to mark a bigger circle. Depending on your fabric, you might not need that, such as the eagle with eyelashes shown above.

Clip out one or two basting stitches – just enough to trim a LITTLE BIT of the HUGE seam allowance down to 3/16 inch (or less) for ONE STITCH of appliqué. The remaining basting stitches will hold the fabric in place while you begin to sew.

Thread the needle with appliqué thread and knot the end. Insert the appliqué needle under the eye fabric (so the knot will be hidden) to begin the first appliqué stitch. Turn the seam allowance under and send the needle to the back of the block. Pull the thread taught and then park the needle.

That first appliqué stitch is now holding one side of the eye in place while the remaining basting stitches are still holding the other side.

At that point, you must clip out more basting, and trim more seam allowance away before you can continue around the circle. The appliqué stitches must be very close together. Instead of the usual horizontal appliqué stitch, send the needle straight up and down vertically for each stitch. You might call it a stab stitch. 

About halfway around, all basting will be gone, but the eye will be stable. From there on, trim carefully and appliqué until the last bit is turned under. This is probably the most difficult part. The seam allowances have to be very small – all the seam allowances have to be cut narrow enough to fit under their its part of the circle.

TIPS: On this tiny appliqué, concern yourself with only one single stitch at a time. Trim only enough and turn under only enough seam allowance for that one stitch. Use the needle to wipe the seam allowance under. Slide the tip of the needle under the circle to smooth the gathers. If too much is pushed under, flattening the circle, use the tip of the needle to coax it out a bit before taking the stitch. Push in any bumps with a fingernail or a toothpick. Hold the block at the eye between your finger and thumb and press to flatten the gathered turnunder (finger press).

Finished! If there are a few bumps in the applique, you can still push those bumps in with the needle, a toothpick, or a fingernail, and take an extra stitch or two.

In my book Baltimore Garden Quilt, there are more ways to make use of this method. Try this technique on a bird’s eye, or any small appliqué piece. I would love to see your photos – visit me on Facebook. And watch for a future post on embroidered bird eyes.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2015 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.