Let there be light! Adding an LED lighting strip to Your Sewing Machine.

The thing that I most wanted for a Christmas present this year was LED lighting for my sewing machine. And, oh joy!, I go it!  The LED light strip, with self-adhesive backing, mounts under the throat of your sewing machine. Once switched on you have lots of light, exactly where you want it!


LED Brightness

This is the light that I get with the LED lighting! This picture looks dark, as my camera registered all that extra glow. A great improvement from my earlier situation, see below:


Janome sewing machineThis was my sewing machine before, with just the usual sewing machine light turned on. A pool of light around the needle.

LED-Lighting strip-on-sewing-machin

Here is how the LED strip looks on my machine. I have tape holding the connector in place, but will replace this with double-sided tape, placed behind the connector.

I added a dimmer switch for those times when I don’t need as much light. You could add a regular switch or plug it into a receptacle. The whole setup cost $44.50, before tax, at Lee Valley Tools

The parts purchased were one foot of LEDs (minimum length you can buy), a lead wire to connect the LED strip to the switch, a dimmer switch and a power supply.

Since I only used half of the light strip on this sewing machine, I have another 6″ to use elsewhere. The cost without the switch was $21.00.

The dimmer switch sits just behind my machine:



And the power supply sits next to the sewing machine.



I am quite pleased with how these lights work! I can now easily see my stitching, but find it especially helpful when I do free motion quilting with light thread on a light background.

Cool Quilting Gadgets – Wonder Clips

A lot of you may know about Clover’s Wonder Clips already, but I just recently tried them out, and I am thrilled. This is one of those cool quilting gadgets!

Close-up of Wonder Clip - cool quilting gadgets

Close-up of a Wonder Clip

These clips work well for holding the binding on the edge of the quilt when you are sewing the binding to the quilt by machine; are great for when you are hand sewing the edge of the binding down, or for holding the edge of the facing in place for sewing.

The back of the clip is flat, and this allows the layers of fabric to move smoothly towards the presser foot, when machine sewing. The rounded top edge allows for all those layers of fabric and batting to lie flat. The  clips are easy to remove as you sew, and do not distort the edge of the quilt, as happens when you use straight pins. The clips have a good firm grip as well.

Wonder Clips -cool quilting gadgets

Wonder Clips holding the binding for machine sewing

I can see a further use for these amazing clips, such as holding the layers of fabric together while I sew a tote, or other bag.

Note that Clover has just recently come out with Jumbo size Wonder clips for those bigger projects.

The smaller clips, reviewed here, come in two different size packages. The small pack contains 10 clips, while the larger pack contains 50 clips. I bought the smaller pack, but quickly realized that the larger pack is a better deal. With more clips, I can clip all along at least 2 sides of a big quilt, so when I am sewing I spend less time moving the clips, and more time on the actual sewing. With a wall hanging, I can clip and go. I keep a small container close by to put the clips in, as I remove them from the project. No more getting poked by straight pins!

At first I thought that they were too pricey, so avoided trying them, but I am so glad that I did! Definitely a product worth the cost.

Have you tried these clips? What did you think of them? Tell us about it here!

Portraits Class

A recent class on Portraits was a lot of fun, and the students did some really great work!

Class members at work.

They were a quiet group, as they were concentrating hard!

They started by making a tracing of their enlarged photos. The tracing is shown here used as the overlay, for help in positioning the pieces of the portrait.

Adeline's tracing

Adeline adding small pieces of fabric for the face.They then progressed to adding small pieces of fabric, like a jigsaw puzzle, to a base fabric. Adeline was doing a portrait of her grandfather.

Adeline's grandfather finished

Adeline found some great fabric, that mimicked the 70`s print, that was in her grandfather’s shirt in the original photo. Her portrait looks great now, but will look even better, when the final details are added with the stitching!

Ricky had some initial problems with values in her fabrics:

Ricky working on portrait

But was able to overcome these early problems to create a good likeness of her husband:

Rickys portrait of her husband

Of course, this portrait is still in progress. Here Ricky was auditioning fabric for his hair.

Helen chose a photo of a friend, who had been in a Passion play with her. Although, the fabrics that she had brought to work with were a little on the green side, they made for a dramatic portrait.

Helen's start

Here is Helen hard at work:

Helen at work

The face done:

Helen's man

Adeline said that she had had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I can hardly wait to see the completed portraits!


Flowers, leaves and ribbons in free motion quilting.

Portrait of a Grand Lady

This woman is the subject of  my latest portrait, painted in fabric. I loved the photo of this woman as she looked so regal, and had just a hint of a smile.A lady wearing a lacy gown.

I decided that she needed a rich colour for her dress; and chose a deep burgundy fabric that I had hand-dyed.

It took a lot of searching to get the lace for her dress. I wanted a good quality lace in white, and  a large enough size to fill the bodice area. I  ended up using two pieces of lace for the front of her dress, to get the look that I wanted.

I glued the lace on using tiny drops of fabric glue to get it to stay in place, until I could sew the edges.

Detail shot of a ladies portrait in fabric.

Close-up of Milady

I debated what motif to use for the background as I wanted a vintage look. A friend Julia, from New Zealand, suggested trying to use the motifs from the lace.

It worked out really well, with a few ideas from a fabulous book called Doodle Quilting by Cheryl Malkowski. This is a great book for learning how to start free motion quilting and then how to combine different motifs. You can find the book here.


Flowers, leaves and ribbons in free motion quilting.

Floral free motion quilted background

I stitched this lady’s hair extensively as I wanted the upswept look and the little wisps sticking out.

This is the final result:

Portrait of a lady circa 1900 in a lacy ball gown.

Milady finished!


I am now on to my next portrait. Another portrait of a lady. This one in a white debutante gown. I’m not sure about doing a white dress, but I will give it my best shot!





An Insiders Look at Creating an Art Quilt.

People often ask how I create my art quilts, so I have gathered together some process photos for you to enjoy.

My piece, The Ladies, evolved from a black and white photo taken of a garden party, sometime in the 1920’s. What fascinated me the most, about this photo, was all the hats, so they became the focus of the design. One woman, wearing a trench coat and beret, seems quite daring, in comparison to the rest of the “ladies”. The faces were less important to me, than the hats, but still convey a lot of character through the use of hand-dyed and batik fabrics.

These women belong to that era when women were called “ladies”, and thus, the name of the piece – The Ladies.

Sketch for The Ladies art quilt.

Sketch for The Ladies art quilt.

With each piece, I start out by enlarging the photo, or sketch, to my desired size. Then I create a tracing to overlay the foundation piece of fabric. This helps me to be sure that I am placing the pieces in the correct spot. I use a fusible web, on the back of the fabric, and temporarily stick the fabric pieces to the foundation.

This is what the start of the process looks like:

Detail of hat

Detail of hat

I start placing small pieces of fabric, fitting them together, in a similar fashion to piecing a puzzle.

Gradually the picture develops:

Four ladies in various stage of dress.

Four ladies in various stage of dress.

If I am satisfied with the look of the picture as it develops, I keep going. Otherwise, I can replace pieces, as needed, to get the correct shading, and look, that I want.


The Ladies showing the progress.

The Ladies showing the progress.

I love adding little details, such as the purse, that the woman in mauve is holding.

Finally, I look at the whole piece, and decide what background I need, to accent the piece.

A process photo of The Ladies art quilt.

A process photo of The Ladies art quilt.

In this case, this lovely, multicoloured fabric creates the look of a garden behind the ladies. Just the look that I wanted!

Next I add stitching to hold everything in place and to bring out all the finer details.

Here is the finished piece:

Full view of The Ladies art quilt.

The Ladies – full view

And a detail view:

Detail of The Ladies art quilt, showing a close-up of the hats and faces.

The Ladies – Detail

I hope that this glimpse in to my process, answers some of your questions. If you have further questions, please leave me a comment. I would be delighted to help out!




Have you tried Lumi’s Inkodye?

A friend and I recently tried out the Lumi Inkodyes, a photosensitive dye product that goes on clear, and changes colour (rapidly) in the sun.

  • First the product is painted on the fabric. (It can de diluted with water to make it thinner.)
  •  Then a variety of objects were placed on top.
  • The fabric (on a piece of cardboard) was then placed in the sun.

Using all kinds of objects on top of the wet dye, we created different effects:

Stamp and brush marks with Inkodye.

Result of stamps placed on the Inkodye, and brush marks with Inkodye.

Stamping with blue Inkodye and effects of mustard seed on the Inkodye

Stamping with blue Inkodye and effects of mustard seed placed on the Inkodye.

Ghost images of maple leaves on red and purple Inkodye.

Ghost images of maple leaves.

Ghost images of maple leaves on red and purple Inkodye.

The effects of maple leaves and thread on Inkodye.


One issue is the initial ammonia smell.  Another is the cost. Each 8 oz. bottle, of one colour,  cost us $14.95, so if you want the basic colours it does get expensive.

  • The Inkodye can also be used to transfer an image from an ink jet transparency to a piece of fabric (or a T-shirt). In this case, the picture is made black and white in a photo program, and then the colours are inverted to create the negative.
  • This negative is then printed on to an inkjet transparency.
  • The Inkodye (colour of choice) is painted on the fabric, then the transparency (ink side up) is placed over the Inkodye. Clips at the outer edge can help to hold all the layers together.
  • The assembly is placed in the sun. Whatever was black on the negative, stays the colour of the original fabric, and the clear parts turn the colour of the Inkodye chosen.

This product works amazingly fast, as you can see the colour changing, as soon as you are close to sunlight. We used it indoors, as well as outdoors with great success.

There are some comments, in other reviews,  that in afternoon light, or on a cloudy day, the Inkodye takes a longer time in the sun, to fully develop the colour. We did notice, that initially we got weird colours, when the dye was just starting to develop its colour. For example, initially the purple looked a weird shade of brown.

Working on a sunny day, in the morning, we found that anywhere from 5 – 15 minutes developed the colour fully.

There are lots of videos on-line if anyone is interested. Here are a few links to get you started:



Jacquard also has a similar product called Solar Fast. Jacquard has already reformulated it recently, and without the ammonia, and improved the colours. It would be interesting to compare these two products in the future.

I have used the Setacolour paints in the past, and enjoyed the results. The Inkodyes certainly change colour faster. I haven’t compared pricing for these two products.

Have you tried the Inkodyes? Let us know what you liked or disliked about them?

Have you used  Setacolour paints, and how would you compare the two products?

Inspiration in Downtown Winnipeg?

Last Sunday I went on a Photo walk in downtown Winnipeg, organized by Don’s Photo . People were encouraged to bring their cameras (not camera phones) and focus on Colour. I was looking for something fun to do and this sounded like it! About 40 people showed up and we had a beautiful sunny, warm day. We wandered along a predetermined route, and were encouraged to take photos of whatever inspired us. Staff were available to answer questions about photography, and help with cameras, if needed.  I had a ball! I really had my doubts that I would see much that I would find interesting. It turned out not to be a problem. I have over a hundred photos! Here is a sample of a few:   Reflection, modern buildings   This reflection was really neat! It looks as though one building is inset into another one. Nice contrast between the modern buildings and the old church too.

leaves, plants, nature

This plant was very colourful and fit the criteria for  the day.

 flowers, nature, plants, photography

These flowers were great too!

 shadows, silhouette, photography   A photo of me, taking a picture of my shadow. You can see how lovely and sunny it was that day.

spire, churches, cathedral, photography  A unique view of St. Mary’s Cathedral.

reflections, cathedral, church, modern buildings

reflections, glass walls, photography, modern buildings

These reflections on the sides of buildings were very captivating!

Will any of these find their way into quilts? I am thinking about the leaves and the flowers. The reflection might be interesting in an abstract quilt. Hmmmm…. Tell me where you have found inspiration in unexpected places.

Stepping Out – my latest portrait

My latest portrait is done! This little girl looks as though she has just started walking, and is delighted to be able to get around on her own.

I was thrilled to have it finished! The next thing then was to decide on a title for this portrait. I have a difficult time naming quilts. Do you? My husband suggested “Spokesperson”.  Funny, but no.  After some deliberation, I finally decided on “Stepping Out”.



I did some research on the car, to try and date the photo. I love researching the details! It helps to bring the person, and the piece, to life. I found out that this car was probably a 1920 – 30’s car.

Then at a recent vintage car show in Selkirk, MB I found a 1925 model, beautifully restored! I was thrilled! I took several photos and used these to help with some of the details that were “flashed out” in the original photo.


Vintage 1925 car

Vintage 1925 car


One major part of this quilt was done twice, to get the look that I wanted. I redid the entire car as I decided that, although looking great, it was too bright in relationship to the little girl. I wanted the girl to be the focus, not the car.

Little girl with vintage car

Stepping Out – first attempt

I find that I always resist changing anything, as I see all the work that needs to be done again. I try to talk myself out of changing anything. So I go away for a break, and as soon as I get back, I look at the portrait. If something is still bugging me, I resolve to change it. I am always happier with the result in the end. I then take a deep breath, and just start.

Have you ever had to redo part of your quilt? How did you meet the challenge? Do you have any advice for people facing the same situation?

A Sneak Preview of my Latest Portrait Work

This is my latest portrait in progress. I have done more work on it since I took this photo, so this is only a teaser.

This little girl intrigued me from the first moment that I saw the photograph. She is just starting to walk, dressed in her rompers (puffy looking, probably from her diaper underneath), her hair sticking out in all directions and holding on to the spokes of this 1930’s car. She is just so cute! It brought back memories of photos that my parents had taken of me and my family.  I always wonder what the story is behind the photo.

Little girl with 1930's car

Portrait of girl with 1930’s car

The original photo was quite small – only 2″ x 3″, so I enlarged it, so that the child would be closer to life size. The larger size also makes it a lot easier to recreate the details. This piece will finish at 25 1/2″ x 35 1/2″.

When I start on a new piece, I choose the details that I think are most relevant to the picture, and then decide on the values (e.g. light, medium and dark), and finally the colours that I feel best fit the scene. I wanted the little girl to stand out and be the focal point, so I chose a bright red for her T-shirt. The car will be a blue-green, to complement the red. You can see some of the fabrics, that I am thinking of using for the car, on the right side of the photo.

The method that I use to create my art is fusible applique, where a sticky film is adhered to the back of each piece of fabric, and then the pieces are assembled like a puzzle to create the picture. Once the picture is complete, it is ironed to fuse it and to keep everything firmly in place. Then, I add stitching to add further detail, and finally quilt the piece to add dimension. I am looking forward to getting the car started!

Let me know what you think!