Changes coming

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Wow. I mean, I’m not a fan of “sorry I haven’t updated” posts but here I am again.

Anyway, big changes in the background – even more quilting happening. Except this time it’s professionally, not just with our longarm but we now own a fabric shop. I also quit my day job and am running a quilt business full time.

That being said – I’m blogging more on our business site and will eventually move over the best posts from here to the business blog.

Follow me now at Ridge Machine Quilting.

2017 finishes

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Well it was a busy year! I spent all of my free time quilting for others and a little for myself.

I did a quick count through my photos and :

– 5 tshirt quilts for people (I slowed down the second half of the year)
– 3 wall hangings
– 8 quilt tops I quilted for other people (didn’t count the ones Ron did)

And a whopping 23 completed quilt tops for me. Some of these were tops I made in previous years and they sat there waiting to be actually quilted and bound, so their finish counts this year even if all I did was grab the quilt top from the stack and quilt it, then bind it.

This included 6 quilts that were sold, where I made the entire top, quilted it and finished it all myself. Including the tshirt quilts, that’s 11 sold quilts. (plus a tote bag and two pillow shams I forgot to count)

I have at least 5 quilts/wall hangings ready to be bound and finished that weren’t in this number either. If I pushed a little, I could finish some of those today.

So far, I counted the photos of quilts Ron did in my photos and got to 9 completely finished ones, some that I pieced and he quilted. Not too bad for someone who officially started quilting this year.

I’ve been wondering where I crossed 100 quilts and started a spreadsheet to track things. It will take some time to put together, but it showed me ones I missed in my count above and also how many I START and don’t finish.

I’ve got some big changes coming up in the new years and some fun announcements, so this year my main focus for the personal quilting is to be a lot more deliberate and intentional. No more making a quilt just to “use up” the fabric.

8 Things I Learned After I Bought a Longarm

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Well it’s five or six months since we bought our longarm and I figured I should write down the things I’ve learned that I didn’t know ahead of time.

It really is as physical as they say.

I read up all I could find ahead of time, and everything more than a snippet talked about physical limitations and pacing yourself and more things that I just glossed over, because this was written with a senior audience in mind, right? I didn’t have to worry about mobility issues or anything, right? Not like I sit at a desk all day and type or anything.

Let me tell you Internet, working on a longarm all day is WORK. That machine may be on the most engineered ball bearings rail system known to man and woman kind but you’re still moving a 40 pound machine with your arms and standing for hours to do it.

And ruler work? I did a queen sized with a diagonal grid across the background, all over two days. The third day I got out of bed, raised my arms and… ow. I’m secretly hoping this helps with the aging biceps flaps though. I’ll let you know when I’m done icing my knees from standing (yes, with a mat). Heed those warning of frequent breaks and alternate tasks between sitting and standing. Stretch a lot more than you think you need. Hydrate. Remember to blink.

Sometimes it’s intimidating.

So you spent all this money, you have all the new tools, visions of complicated custom quilting in your head, a stack of quilt tops ready to go and… nothing.

One morning I walked in, saw the big hulking machine and started breathing faster. My pulse raced. Not in a good way. What have I done? Who did I think I was, Judi Madsen???

If you’re also doing this for a business, then you have all the regular business headaches on top. If you’re never run a business before, then you have the pressure of wanting to be successful as a business person too.

No pressure, right?

I work in tech for my day job, and we often reference this thing called Imposter Syndrome. Turns out it happens for quilters too.

You have to just suck up and move forward. Keep going. Shut that little voice up. Like diving into the lake on the first weekend of summer, you know it’s gonna be super cold but you have to jump in and get over it.

Also remind me to come back and read this bit again in a month.

You really are only as good as your tools.

So yeah – you’re Pinterested up, you’re on fire and you just KNOW once you get that longarm you will finally be on the road to being an awesome quilter!

Well. Yes. Eventually. It’s re-learning all over again, some days. So many more steps to remember! So many differences! But one day it comes together for you and you lean back and go… that’s not too bad. And you keep going. So much sucking at it until you don’t suck.

This was the same when we got our first digital camera. We took decent photos but then we had ideas and wanted to take better photos. So we got a new camera -and took mediocre photos. Then we took more photos and tried some things and one day there were a few really good photos.

Quilting is the same. You see all this fantastic quilting but what you don’t see is the tools used, and the practise. You also don’t see the mistakes! That’s why some days I share my mistakes too – so people know it’s not just them.

The ideas won’t stop.

So now you have the tools, you’re rested up, you’re ready to roll and there’s a hundred and two ideas. There aren’t enough hours in the day. You’ll be in the middle of one project and another will pop in your head. You’ll be in line at the DMV and the tiles will make you think. You have to unfollow people on social media because you tried to keep a list of “someday” quilts and now you’re up to two freaking pages…

Don’t ask about the notes I make myself at 3am. I can’t even read them at 8am. “But what if we just..” Shut up muse, stop!

It can take over your life.

My longarm lives in what is supposed to be the master bedroom. It’s a HUGE room. Hubby and I like small bedrooms, all we do is sleep in there. So the longarm room is the sewing room but now there’s no floor space for laying things out.

But there is floor space in our great room, if we move the dining room table off to the side… and the extra front small sitting room is only storing items so let’s put our batting rolls out there and we can use that floor space to roll out batting, and we can stash these finished quilts here and there. You can come over, but you might need to move a quilt to find a place to sit.

Since we live in the country, we try and group our errands. A lot of these wind up on times when the fabric stores in town are also open.

You’ll learn how to do maintenance whether you want to or not.

When your sewing machine makes a noise or skips stitches, you can just bring it into your local repair guy. Not so much with these beasts. They literally take up a room, it’s not gonna fit in the back of your car. This is an industrial machine so the good thing is they make these easy to access what you need, and most companies provide very detailed manuals and great support – even when you buy secondhand! That’s one reason we went with APQS.

I know many people skip regular sewing machine maintenance like cleaning and oiling, but with a longarm it’s super important. Don’t wait till the needle breaks to change it. This was most surprising to me, having used needles on a regular machine until I noticed issues. With a longarm, you get through maybe two large quilts and you can literally hear the difference with the needle getting dull. A dull needle will also start poking the batting though the backing fabric. (ask me how I found out).

It also needs regular oiling – same oil, but more of it, more often.

The up side is, since the machines are built really well and you have to work so closely with them, even the slightest change is noticeable. We had a wheel that would loosen up over time and we figured out eventually it was worse if we (I mean ME) went super fast. I could feel even a 1/4″ turn the wrong way on the bolt just by how curves went. Ron kept at it until he narrowed it down to a burr on a washer on the wheel. A teeny tiny burr! We replaced the washer and it’s been great ever since.

Since the machine goes a LOT faster there’s a lot more dust. I don’t think I even clean my bathroom as often as I dust and swiffer the sewing room. It seems constant. Or at least after every other quilt. (Also I keep my bathroom pretty clean, don’t judge me internet. I have white tiles. I get antsy after 4 days.)

If you thought the longarm was expensive, wait’ll you see the accessories.

So the machine itself is a big chunk of change. First thing you need is thread. Then you find out the huge range of colors they come in. So pretty! So shiny! I want one of everything! Wait, there’s a thread of the month club?

Speaking of thread – I have white piecing thread, white serger thread, regular white quilting thread and extra fine 60w white thread for super detailed custom work. That’s just in white.  There’s a lot of other colors too.

And the ruler work – so you need a ruler BASE for the machine, And rulers. You want circles? They come in SIZES. There’s straight lines and curves and things for working around applique and specialty shapes. Don’t even get me started on stencils.

Good thing my mom got me floor mats for my birthday. It was hard to wrap, but one less thing to buy.

Then if you’re quilting you need batting. We buy it by the roll now and our last order was 5 rolls. We have 3 left. Good thing we get a price break at this level!

Your spouse may join in.

I admit, I had a plan. I was chipping away, wearing down the husband. I thought I was masterful. Just try the beginner class, I said. It’ll be fun, I said, we can make it a date.


Well now we have a longarm but we have to organize our schedule based on whose turn it is to use the thing. Which one of us has a deadline to meet? Who had a quilt on the frame last and who has to use the sewing machine?

On the up side, Ron is a quick learner and also enjoys quilting. He’s been making patterns and working on improving his skills. It’s a learning process for me since his mind is very different than my freewheeling anything goes. I’m learning how to teach to an analytical mind, and to give measurements instead of “what looks good”. And also when to walk away and not watch.  We had to learn to work together when we were freelancers so we have worked out the major communication issues, which is good. Now we’re working on working together creatively.

Last week I had deadlines, and while I was busy with my day job, he cut out, assembled, and pressed binding for a quilt I needed to finish. When I was next able to work on the quilt, the binding was all ready to go for me to sew it on.

Maybe my plan was a good one after all.

Final thought:

So there you have it – all  the extra things you need to think about before taking that final step. It’s a doozy but.. the water’s fine. 😉

How to quilt the Glimmer quilt

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I finally got around to quilting the Glimmer quilt I made sometime last year. This one was pieced with Carolyn Friedlander fabrics and I kept the colors subdued to greys and white with just a POP of the lime green.

I had done pillow sized and table topper sized versions of Glimmer but this was the first large version I had done. I wanted to make sure I really went wild with custom quilting on this.

Originally I had planned to do this on my domestic machine with lots of free motion quilting, but I loaded it up on the longarm once I had figured out the best way to start quilting.

Here’s an overview of the quilting I did:

In the background I just did allover swirls. The print is pretty busy for being black and white, so anything fancier would not show. It does create a great uniform overall texture in the background.

Then in each print I did a different free motion design.

Figure eights or L’s in the outermost rings, then ribbon candy. The next section is the green so I did a nice half leaf feathering thing. You could also call it serpentine, but it’s similar to doing feathers, except pointy. Some people refer to this as fern feathers.

The next section formed a V shape so I decided to treat both as a unit and did a swirled hook design that turned a corner. I picked this because it fit and because I’m not so good at it and needed the practise.

The inside ring I did close back and forth lines, also known as switchbacks. It’s a great dense fill and helps flatten the area, because in the inner ring I did feathers! Of course I did. I treated the edge of the block as the spine of the feather and bumped my way out from the center. Just travel back down the seam or around the block to get to the next one.

On the longarm I started at the top with the background fill and as I went back and forth I did each section as needed, even if it was a different motif. I did the whole thing in white 60w thread. This is so thin it sinks into almost any color.

For total quilting time, I did this over 3 days and my rough calculations were about 4 or 5 hours. One of those days I did hardly anything on it.

If you were going to do this same quilting on a domestic, I would do the stitch in the ditch around the main motif following the major seams first. Then I would start in the middle and do all the feathers. I would then do the next rung with the switchbacks. After that, I would likely do the next bits in quarters, travelling as needed to finish off the SID around the pieces and to get to the next sections. When the whole center motif was done, then I would start the background fill around the edges of the center and work my way out to the edges, also in quadrants.

If you have any questions, let me know!

We bought a longarm!

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Oh I have the best news – it took a while but it finally happened. We got word on a longarm, second hand and IN CANADA at a great price, in Canadian dollars.

Just to roll back a little, somewhere this winter my husband came into the sewing room and was watching mush and smush a queen sized quilt through my regular sewing machine. “That looks painful,” he said. “It is.” I said.

And he’d seen the basting process and how long it took.

It turns out, a longarm studio opened up in a community 2-3 hours away from me so I went up for a class. Worst case, I figured I would spend a few hundred in lessons and rental time but at least I’d get things done faster, even when including the long drive.

Ron was so interested after my first visit, I bought him along for my second visit and HE took the beginner class. He did great! And of course he was hooked too, so we started looking around. Then we got word and bit our fingernails and measured rooms and cleared out space and waited for it to get packed up and mailed all the way across the country.

(Canada is HUGE.)


This is our 2004 APQS Millie on a 12 foot table.

It got here just after our wedding anniversary in 8 large boxes, including a roll of batting we had tossed in our order. We spent two days setting it up.

We spent a few hours taking it apart and then putting it back correctly too.

Finally we were able to do some test runs and load our very first quilts. Then we quilted non stop, I swear. The first week the machine ran every single day. Some days we did two quilts, taking turns getting used to it, figuring things out, practising on the huge stack of my own quilt tops I had standing by to get done “some day.”

Eventually I put on the first customer quilt that had waited so patiently. And that bed sized tshirt quilt was done in 5.5 hours. It was amazing.

I can and DO finish customer quilts so much faster now. I had seven piled up. Three are already out the door to customers and two more are getting mailed out this week. It’s only been three weeks at this point.

I keep shaking my head and wondering why it took so long for us to make the jump but I guess it all happened at just the right time.

Ron and I are both quilting and right now I am catching up on customer quilts that were in the backlog. By June we should be ready to take on more quilts and do some machine quilting so all the quilters we know can get those tops done!

How to Prepare Your Tshirts for Quilting

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Hey there quilt fans! T-shirt quilts are one of my most popular quilt requests.  If you’re interested in having a t-shirt quilt made, here are tips and advice for planning and preparing.

Size of Tshirt Quilt

What size quilt would you like?  You can refer to the chart on my t-shirt quilt page.  I do have amounts listed for the number of shirts, but this is a guideline. You can decide how much you’d like to spend and how big of a quilt you’d like.  (Don’t worry if you don’t think you have enough shirts, we can handle that).

This tshirt quilt is in the Queen size range and used 26 shirts.

Gather Your Shirts

Now, dig out your shirts! Go into the dresser, the closet, the bags at the back of the attic and that storage box in the garage. Dump ’em out on the bed or the floor.

Are you going for a theme? My page mentions WordPress quilts, but we can do any kind of t-shirts you want – concerts, sports teams, colleges and universities, any related hobbies or really anything at all. It’s YOUR choice.

Some shirts are special, and we get that. Many clients of mine have sent shirts with a note pinned on, and those ones we take extra care with. We usually place these in the middle of the quilt, where they are most visible.

Make Your Picks

Now count up those shirts! Are you within the range on the chart? Awesome! No worries there at all. If you’re shy a few shirts for the size you want, that’s not a problem either. What we will do is use some of the plain backs and add in extra blocks around the edges, where they won’t be seen as often. The added bonus is for these plain blocks we usually go a little crazy and do some extra special quilting designs that relate to the themes in the shirts.

On one quilt, I used a blank block to stitch in their twitter handle. On another, we had a small amount of shirts but a large size to build out, so we made a large border and quilted a feathered wreath around the whole thing!

If you have too many shirts, you can consider getting two quilts made, or some accessories like pillow covers or tote bags. We use as much of the shirts as we can so even logos on the back or sleeves are incorporated into the quilt itself.

Some people have mentioned to me they have shirts they still like wearing but would also love to see in their quilt. There are a couple of options here: you can contact the conference organizer to see if they have any spares, or you can check with me to see if I might have one on hand. Once people hear I make WordCamp t-shirt quilts, they donate shirts they do not want or have a use for. So I do have a few on hand for fillers.

Prep Your Shirts

With your shirts all picked out, give them a look over. Are there holes or rips? Any paint stains? As long as any damage is not in the logo areas or around the margins of the logos, we can still use it. While we do some incredible work, we cannot remove paint or stains from the logos themselves. Some things cannot be hidden with stitching. Small holes we can reinforce.  Make sure all shirts are clean. If you do need to wash them first, skip the fabric softener.

Ship ‘Em Out

This is the hard part for me – find a box to ship them in. You can really pack those shirts in tight and they don’t have to be folded neatly. Stuff ’em in real good! They will weigh the same but if you can squeeze things into a slightly smaller box you can save a bit on shipping. It might be tempting to save on weight, but we ask that you do not cut the shirts up. You can leave that to us.

Shipping to Canada

I’m located in beautiful northeastern Canada and receive many shipment from US clients.  If at all possible, please ship internationally via United States Postal Service.

Do not ship by UPS or FedEx. While  faster by a day or two, these services create complications with import fees, duties, and taxes. They will ask for a value of what is in the box. $100 coverage is fine – you are not listing a value of the finished quilt, only the shirts in the box. Anything more than that, we get charged fees and we will charge them back to you. Do not use the commercial form – that is for me buying shirts from you, which is not what we’re doing.

So wrap up that box, mail it off to the address you get when you submit the form, send your payment and I’ll get an email knowing your shirts are on the way!

I know it sounds cheesy, but I do get excited to see people’s t-shirt collections. Every box that has been sent to me has a unique collection of shirts, and even when I see some shirts I’ve seen before, I love coming up with new ways of stitching the same WordPress shirts for a new client.

I moved!

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Well, I didn’t move my blog, I just moved my whole house, over a month ago. We’re still getting settled.

I think I lasted two whole weeks before I set my machine up a corner to sew something, anything, just because I needed to.
After a couple of location changes, I took over half of what will be our home office. The other half is the husband’s tools and things he needs to finish working on some parts of the house.

Did I mention the renovations? No? The house we bought is an old house, but with a new addition. The previous owners bought the place, started renos and ran out of money, then had to sell. Their loss, our gain I guess. All the hard and expensive stuff had been done, as far as we were concerned. We still had electrical and plumbing to finish, and there’s no trim anywhere, but we finally got enough done to move in.

Best part? I *WILL* have a dedicated sewing room some day, in the new basement. It is currently unfinished, just concrete. We even had to build the stairs to get down to it. so it will be a while before that is done, but it will be done to my specifications.

For now, I do have the most incredible view. That helps.


Machine issues

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So, somewhat of an unexpected hiatus on the sewing and quilting front, and the blogging thereof.

A couple weeks ago,  I started quilting on a long-waiting quilt top and suddenly it stopped forming stitches, like the bobbin was empty. Except it wasn’t.

Which meant, horror of sewing horrors, the timing was off. In short, something expensive. WELL, the hubby and I are go-getters, so we took a large chunk of the day to watch some videos and strip down the machine.

Yes, it was scary. But then we got it working! A stitch would form when we manually turned the wheel. I got it all back together & the hubby went off to do errands. I turned it on, it was fine. I went to sew and… nothing.

Then I couldn’t get the cover back off completely until the hubby came back. Turns out we forgot to reconnect the motor. And THEN it worked again. So many facepalms.

We are getting ready to move into our new (old & renovated) house so not a lot of sewing has been done. Packing and lugging boxes and cleaning, yes, but not much quilting.

I finally got back to the quilt giving me issues, and it seemed like I continued to have them, even though stitches were forming fine. Hubby suggested I go slower than usual, so that was a bit of an adjustment, and it felt like the quilt was hard to maneuver – even though it was only lap size.  I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

At any rate – I did finish the quilt in question, though near the end I thought to myself, “I’ll just put it back to full speed and floor it like I usually do.”

And it happened again. This time it  only took an hour to fix – having done it before – and at 3/4 speed I finished the rest that day.

I’ve since worked on another quilt needing quilting, and so far it’s been fine. I’m not sure I want to test it on high speed again though. I’ve also been extra careful about oiling it regularly (it has a light) and cleaning it way more often and not sewing over pins. So  I don’t know if it’s me pulling something when quilting, or something is slipping when it runs at full speed. It’s a really good, really expensive machine that doesn’t have these issue, so… I dunno.

Charity quilts

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I’m a member of two quilt guilds here in Fredericton, and something most quilt guilds do is make quilts for charities.

The members donate fabric, batting and even money. Some have work days where they sort the donated fabric and plan quilts. Sometimes they even sew them up. Then others volunteer to quilt and bind them.

So that’s what I did.

I got a quilt from each guild to finish and quilted both of them up. I made sure to keep them in separate piles so I wouldn’t forget which quilt went back where. This week, I delivered both.

The first one was this one bordered in a deep green. I liked the green. Hourglass blocks alternated with four path blocks, and I quilted the squares with a curving line next to each seam. The triangles in the hourglass blocks got a looping swirl. I did use my walking foot first to stitch in the ditch and stabilize the entire quilt.


This was the one that also gave me thread issues and I broke two needles because of a pin in the spool of thread, ugh.


Not five minutes after I handed it over to the lady in charge of the charity quilts, it was handed to a fellow member to give to her friend who has cancer. I hope it provides her with some comfort & warmth.


The next night, I went to the other guild and handed over the second charity quilt. This one was backed with fleece and did not use batting. I got overly ambitious with the quilting designs, using swirled hooks in the blue sections and looping Ls in the white print, which wound up invisible. Either way, it’s still cuddly and useable. I think this one is going to Transition House.


On top of donating quilt to various organizations, and things like the placemats one guild made for Meals on Wheels, both guilds regularly contribute to other charities and whoever has a need. At one meeting a couple members are working directly with Syrian refugee families. Many of us have things to donate, so we’re working on pickup, and we also passed a motion to donate money too.

Both guilds heard of a fellow quilter in need – an art quilter and teacher from Nova Scotia has cancer and money was raised from members and matched from the guild accounts.

The big thing I noticed about this is there were no announcements in pubic, no press releases, no social media – the ladies just go out and do it. We see a need, we pass a motion, we send funds and we pull together.

I like that, and I’m happy to do what I can.

(I brought home two more quilt tops to quilt).

Giggles quilt finish

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A while back, I heard that a friend of mine was expecting and told her I’d love to send a quilt. I sent a few pictures of ones I had on hand that were finished and some in progress. She really loved the Giggles quit top I had finished, because of its modern aesthetic.


Thankfully by then it was basted and I was left with the hard part – how to quilt it. I confess I basically did what Angela Walters did on the pattern cover. I have taken a number of Craftsy classes from Angela so I’d like to think I nailed it.

I started out stitching in the ditch, just to divide it up and stabilize it.


Since I deviated from the pattern itself in terms of color placement, I decided to leave the one red portion unquilted. I did use batting that will take up to 10″ unquilted so that should be fine. I also used white thread, top and bottom for white areas, and a navy thread top and bobbin for the blue areas.



After binding in the same blue as the back, I washed it in homemade laundry soap that is scent free and detergent free, then gave it  a spin in the dryer without any dryer sheet, so it has no harsh chemicals on it for baby’s skin. I also remembered to add one of my labels!


Best part it also has that crinkled loved in look already! It will soon be on its way to cuddle the new baby, who has since made his appearance.


I would definitely make this again, and maybe do up some sketches on paper to play with different color placements.