Monday, March 22, 2021


 My favorite applique method is freezer paper on top. I trace motifs onto freezer paper and cut them out to make templates which are then ironed to the front of the applique fabrics. Seam allowance is cut around the templates adding 3/16”. 

The applique pieces are arranged and thread basted onto the background fabric and appliqued with needleturn using the freezer paper edge as a turning guide. As I am right handed, so I stitch from right to left.

To applique a V-Point, such as the indentation of a heart shape, here is my advice, step by step:

       As you get close to the V-point, you will not be able to easily turn the seam allowance under. So you must make a clip in the seam allowance. Use a small, sharp scissor that can cut all the way to its tip. Hold the scissor perpendicular to the V, and make JUST ONE CLIP into the seam allowance. Do not clip all the way into the freezer paper – leave one or two threads of fabric uncut.

       Approaching the V-point area, make shorter (closer) applique stitches. Continue turning the seam allowance under, and stitch all of the first side of the clip. Make the last stitch into the V slightly DEEPER than usual, and at a slight angle as shown at (1).

       Sweep any frays under with the needle, and hold them down with your thumb. Take the next stitch shown at (2) slightly DEEPER than usual into the center of the V.

       Turn under the seam allowance of the second side, sweeping under any frays, and take another DEEP stitch into the V-point at (3). This DEEPER stitch can be angled slightly toward the second side of the V, as shown.

       These angled stitches must be made with a STAB STITCH (needle goes straight up and straight down through the block), and they form what I call a “bird’s foot.” If you use matching thread, the deeper stitches will not be noticeable, and they will encase any frays.

If you were able to see underneath the applique after stitching is completed, this is how the cut will appear. 

The seam allowance will spread wide apart; therefore, the V MUST be secured.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c)2021 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Hand Quilting with No Hoop

When I teach hand quilting, I offer several different ways to make the stitches (rocking, running, and stab stitch), with a hoop or without. (The stab stitch must be done with the quilt in a hoop, a subject for a future post.)

I prefer to quilt with a hoop, but some students just do not like to use a hoop. For small projects a hoop is not necessary, because it is easy to wrap your hand around the edges. But for a larger quilt, you have to get to the middle somehow first, right? 

Before you start stitching, be sure to baste the quilt well so layers will not shift. I baste with thread overall about a hand's width apart. 

My friend, Jeana Kimball taught me many years ago how to quilt without a hoop, and I will try to explain how I do it. The photo above shows the middle of the quilt. (Sometime soon I hope to prepare a video.)

The bulk of the quilt is loosely gathered in my lap, or across a table to support the weight.
I am right handed, so I stitch with my right hand as my left hand maneuvers the stitching area from underneath. 

To begin, close to the stitching area, I pinch the whole quilt with my LEFT hand first finger and thumb. The other three fingers form a flat area under the quilt. My RIGHT hand holds the needle, and adds some tension on the stitching area. I do a "rocking stitch" or "running stitch" with a thimble pushing the needle eye to make the quilting stitches. As I insert each stitch, the LEFT hand "tall man" finger feels the needle tip, the same as when I do use a hoop.

Give this a try. It's easier to do than it is to explain!

P.S. Thread shown here is Coats Cotton Covered Bold Hand Quilting, Tango.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c)2020 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Applique Stems on a Curve

To applique curved stems, we usually recommend fabric strips cut on bias grain; it is easier to bend. 

However, this antique quilt shows that applique stems CAN be curved with fabric cut on straight grain, and uses less fabric. However, it is more challenging.

It can be done beautifully if the curve is gentle enough or narrow enough, and the quilter is determined enough. 

Maybe this quilter of long ago had to be frugal with her fabric, or there just was not enough yardage to cut on bias, so she had to use straight grain strips.

Binding with straight grain can also be made to curve gently around corners, with a bit of encouragement.

To learn a technique for curves on straight grain and more about applique stems and vines, I offer a helpful booklet, “Applique Stems and Vines, So Many Ways,” now also available as an eBook.


Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c)2020 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Park Your Needle Safely

If you sew by hand, you know how vexing it can be to lose your needle. Maybe you were interrupted from your hand quilting, and upon return, you cannot find where you left your needle.

What if the needle is on the floor? That is a real hazard! It happens, but it can be easily prevented with this little trick of mine, whether you piece, applique, or quilt by hand, even embroidery, cross stitch, etc.:

Stop when the thread is not pulled through, and leave the needle hanging with the thread tail still "caught" in the work. 

Upon your return, pick up your quilt (or sewing project) and shake it - the needle can be easily found. The needle will not fall out, or be lost inside a quilt, and is less likely to stick you (or others) accidentally as you search for it. Then you will pull those stitches through and hear "that lovely sound of thread being drawn through fabric" (as my friend, Gina Prosch enjoys in This Day's Joy).

Whenever I teach hand quilting, hand piecing, or hand applique, I always leave my students with this motto: “Park Your Needle Safely!”

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c)2019 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy

Do you make quilts, or collect antique quilts? What do you do with them? How do you care for them? What should you be doing to preserve these treasures?

My friend Laura G. inherited her mother’s unquilted top; hand pieced baskets every color in the rainbow with embroidered flowers and signatures of family and friends – truly a keepsake. But hmmm, there is a slight odor. Should she launder it? Take it to a dry cleaner? Maybe she will quilt it, but will that lessen the value?

Laura will find good advice in Ann Wasserman’s book, “Preserving Our Quilt Legacy, Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve” (available at Ann has been studying and repairing quilts for over 30 years, and has received recognition for her repair work from museum and conservation professionals, collectors, and high-end antique dealers.

Another dear friend, Polly M. is an avid collector of antique quilts – at least one she reportedly “rescued” from under a sleeping dog! But most of her collection is quite valuable, like this Mariner's Compass. How should she store them to prevent damage? Flat, rolled, folded? What about environmental conditions in the home? Is it necessary to store quilts in acid free boxes?  Ann’s book offers advice on storing your collection.

Carla T. just finished binding her Baltimore Garden Quilt (hand appliqued and beautifully hand quilted). She wants to display the quilt in her home. What is the best way to display it? On the wall, over a quilt rack, or in an antique cabinet? Maybe not as tea party tablecloth! How do you hang a quilt, or should you really? Several display methods, with pros and cons, are described in Ann’s book, including how to make and attach a sleeve.

Sue C. recently lost her father-in-law, and called me to describe a beautiful quilt made of silks lovingly embroidered with fanciful animals and flowers. Found in an old trunk, it was obviously a keepsake from long ago never used on a bed. Sue believes it must be very valuable! Should this treasure be donated to a museum? Oh, but wait … a few fabrics are torn. Can she repair them, replace them, or cover them with some kind of netting, as shown here from Ann's book?

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy offers a collection of guidelines to help us decide what approach to take to preserve our quilts and textile items. Ann explains the difference between Restoration (often referred to as “repair) and Conservation to stabilize and maintain the current condition into the centuries ahead. Excellent graphics and step-by-steps show how to fix missing stitches or even repair a mouse hole (shown at left), and conservation techniques to minimize further wear, with pros and cons of crepeline, nylon net (bridal veil), and other products.

I will highly recommend Ann’s book to everyone with a quilt! Give our quilts the special care they deserve, and help preserve them for the years (and generations) to come.

Keep Quilting!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c)2019 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting

Choosing an appropriate quilting design really depends on the design of the top, of course, and the possibilities are nearly endless. 

Once again by popular demand, I will teach another session of Hand Quilting 101 at Patches Quilting in Mt. Airy, Maryland this month. Students sometimes bring a quilt top, wondering what patterns to quilt. 

I might suggest a feather vine, or a pumpkin seed design on the sashing.

Wait! What is a Pumpkin Seed? How do I make a feather vine fit my border? What is meant by ‘in the ditch,’ or ‘by the piece’? How do I mark an overall grid? 

That’s when I suggest one of my favorite books on this topic – Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting, by Phyllis D Miller, published by AQS in 1996 – still available Used and inexpensive on; check out the "Look Inside" for a preview.

Diagrams and thorough descriptions explain how to create your own unique quilting designs. From straight lines, squares, diagonals and diamonds, to curved cables, ropes, and feathers, this book shows how to draw them AND fit them on your quilt using simple tools. Then you can create variations of common designs such as the aptly named Pumpkin Seed. Several color photos of quilts also feature examples of such designs.

To inspire designs of your own, one chapter offers simple representational motifs, such as birds and hearts, and ideas to give your quilt a personal touch. 

Why not quilt a small pair of hands drawn by a child who might be the recipient of your quilt?
Keep Quilting!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c)2019 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

More from My Visit to National Quilt Museum

On our way from Maryland to visit the Grand Canyon in September, the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY HAD to be a stopover! 

We saw fabulous quilts from the permanent collection and several special exhibits. (Edie McGinnis’s collection of Kansas City Star Quilts is featured in a previous post.) 

What a treat to see so many amazing works of art/craft, view the details up close, and capture photos. I will share just a few photos of my favorites, with a focus on fabulous hand quilting. (Click on photos for closer detail.) 

I have long admired the work of Jane Holihan. This is her amazing miniature quilt, “Rose Splendor,” at 17x17 inches!

Another fabulous miniature was hand appliqued and hand quilted by Jessie Harrison. "The Bouquet," is an amazing 9-3/4 x 11-3/4 inches! Jessie credits the value of a glue stick to hold small pieces in place for precise sewing.

Patricia Spadero (Delmar, NY) with her classic “Quilted Counterpane” hopes to inspire others to take the time to learn this art and take pride in it.

“Blue Earth Filled with Water and Flowers” – Keiko Miyauchi (Nagano, Japan) hopes to inspires others to enjoy quilting. Click on the closeup below to enjoy her detailed quilting and layered applique.

“Paint Can Posy,” made by Mayleen Vinson (Haysville, KS) was included in an exhibit called “Color Outside the Lines.” What an appropriate title!

Mayleen added some Big Stitch quilting on her "Paint Can Posy," that she made for a Kaffe Fassett fabric challenge.

“Spring of Desire,” on loan from quiltmaker Ted Storm of the Netherlands, can be enjoyed from afar, dazzling with gradated black to gray to white fabrics ...

and even more enjoyable up close – incredible over-the-top hand applique, hand quilting, padding, cording, beading, embroidery, shisha mirrors. 

Just WOW!

Check out the current exhibits at the National Quilt Museum and definitely plan a visit!

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

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