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Couching tutorial

Decorative stitches with a 3-way cording foot 

I had absolutely no idea what couching was when I first heard of it.  I saw a demonstration of couching on a longarm quilting machine, and then very quickly wrote it off (since I didn’t have a longarm at the time), thinking I would never have the means or opportunity to try couching.  You can use couching to emphasize a print on fabric, outline applique, doodle with it, and you can even quilt with it.  

Couching can add a little flair to regular fabric


Well, there are some ways that you can couch without buying a super expensive longarm quilting machine, and then also buying a super expensive couching attachment for said longarm.  You can actually couch by hand–but it takes a while.  And you can certainly try couching by using a domestic sewing machine.  You don’t even have to buy a special foot for it if you don’t want to.  As long as you have a free motion quilting foot that has some sort of round part that the needle goes through, you’re good!  I will say, that if the hole for the free motion foot is really big, you can easily modify it yourself by taking a small piece of scotch tape and covering a portion of the hole (not a portion the needle will travel through).  The smaller the hole on the free motion (or couching) foot, the easier it will be for the yarn to travel where you want it to go.

Make an art piece using couching techniques if that floats your boat!

I wrote a super easy to follow couching tutorial for Janome’s website that can be accessed HERE
So click it and check out how easy couching is!  There are seriously so many things you can do with couching to spice up existing projects.  

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Dresden Placemats tutorial

Do you need a little something special to liven up your table top decor?  How about whipping up some fabulous new place mats that easily reflect your awesome style?  I recently created a cute little tutorial with a free dresden template that can be downloaded HERE !  


There’s also a really cool-no bind technique that is explained in the tutorial that you’ll just have to try out!  I love this fabric by Sarah Jane Studios for Michael Miller fabrics, and think it’s perfect for spring and most of summer!  

I hope you’ll find some time to sew this week and play around with some cute dresdens!

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Applique your way to a handmade Mother’s Day!

I’m always looking for creative gifts to make for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and it seems like it’s always the same kind of stuff that you could really do without…like, how many cosmetic bags do you really need?  

So I was trying to think about what kinds of gifts would be meaningful to me if I were a mother.  What kind of gift would I cherish and appreciate forever?  

Well, right off the bat, I think about things that represent my “imaginary kids”.  Handwriting samples, drawings, things that could be made more permanent.  But then, I thought not all kids are old enough to draw or write…so how could that stage be permanently captured in a cute way?  My answer was hand prints!  But the painted hand prints are kind of cheesy, and lots of those probably come home from school in the form of turkeys,  reindeer antlers, spiders, butterflies, etc.  

So how about making a functional patchwork pillow with traced hands of the kiddos appliqued on top of the patchwork?  

I got to team up with Janome for this super easy tutorial, and really loved the experience.  If you’re in the need for a super cute, but still functional Mother’s Day gift (or grandmother’s gift!), this is the project for you!  Follow this Link to access the full tutorial and supply list.  

The pillow features Karen Lewis’ awesome fabric range, Blueberry Park.  The back of the pillow is an easy envelope closure that takes minutes to make.

Hemming the envelope closures of the pillow


Sweet little blanket stitch on one of the hands prior to quilting

Selecting thread to go with each hand
For more details, check out Janome’s project page and access the complete, free tutorial!
Until next time, I hope you are able to get some good sewing in!


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Free tutorial: Using chalk pounce and stencils to make gorgeous quilted pillow shams

Check out my newest tutorial for Janome on the AQS blog this week!  The tutoiral is for Quilted pillow shams that will really step up your bedroom decor and give an extra special touch.


Follow this LINK to see the full tutorial and add some new tools to your quilting toolbox!

I’ve always loved quilting, and was a little skeptical at the stencils.  Especially before I knew about the chalk pads.  I tried them when I first tried my hand at quilting, and used a water soluble pen to trace each stencil line.  And let me tell you…that will be a wonderful deterrent for anyone to never try stencils again.  Time consuming, inefficient, etc.  Then one of my friends had some of the chalk pounce and pads and so I thought I might just go ahead and try it again.  WAY better than tracing each line by hand.  What originally to hours literally changed to minutes.  So if you haven’t loved stencils, maybe try this and you’ll change your mind!

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Sew organized! Free sewing machine mat and mini pin cushion tutorial

The month of January brings tons of resolutions to improve, organize, etc.  Along with a new year!  I like to stay organized (or at least try to!), and so I teamed up with the awesome people at Janome to bring you a free tutorial for a sewing machine mat/organizer and a mini pin cushion that velcros to the top of it for easy removal.  It’s a fun way to try out some new products that you may not have used and keep your tools handy.  You can find the tutorial at Janome’s project page HERE

Sewing machine mat/organizer with mini pin cushion

There are some really fun features with this tutorial!  If you’ve never used Soft and Stable ByAnnie before, this project gives you the opportunity to try it out.  You can easily substitute regular batting, if you choose to do so.  


Cheater panel for easy quilting
Another fun tip is using a cheater print fabric to guide your quilting!  I picked up this Timeless Treasures fabric at my LQS and quilted around each little square/rectangle to make it look like fun patchwork.  

Mini Churn Dash Pin Cushion

And if you’re not in the market for a sewing machine mat, you’re sure to love this tiny churn dash pin cushion!  It would make such a sweet “extra” for any sewing swap.  And, Lord knows, I can never have enough pin cushions 😉


Decorative stitch binding finish
I also discuss trying out different binding techniques.  So instead of hand stitching your binding down, try a fun decorative stitch to add a little pizzazz!  

I hope you enjoy this fun project and take some time for a little selfish sewing this week 🙂



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Love is in the Air! Free Heart wall hanging tutorial

Don’t you love seeing all the cutesy Valentine’s Day sewing projects?  I love the typical heart patterns, but wanted to see a different spin on it, so I teamed up with Janome and created this free pattern & tutorial for you–available at the American Quilter’s Society Bog HERE

Love is in the air!  Wall Hanging

This is an intermediate tutorial with a few half-square triangles and some fun quilting techniques.  

Some tips: 
-Pair your bright colors of the hearts with a mellow, low-volume background fabric for more POP!
-Matchstick quilting around the hearts can really set it off, but feel free to try some swirls or crazy feathers for a different effect.
-Try a scrappy binding using all the colors of the hearts.

I hope you enjoy some quilting time today!


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Crayon Box! New free quilt pattern for Janome

I’m crazy about quilting, but I’m also really crazy about modern quilting.  The colors, the patterns, the newness of it all just makes me love everything about it!  Luckily, I got to create something with the curated Michael Miller Cotton Couture bundle available at local Janome dealers.  It’s bright, cheerful, and has the awesomely saturated colors you can’t get anywhere but from Michael Miller Fabrics (and no, they aren’t paying me to say that).  Cotton couture is my favorite solid to work with right now, because it sews like BUTTER.  I’ve even used it in some garments and loved the result.  So if you’re dying to see it, here’s “Crayon Box”:

Crayon Box by Joanna Marsh

You can find the full tutorial on the Janome website HERE and download the pattern for free!  I had a blast creating this and playing with the colors!  Use the hashtag #thecrayonboxquilt to share your creation.  


There’s also a fun tutorial on how to do scrappy bindings in the free quilt pattern, just like in the picture below (and I just couldn’t resist this Loominous Anna Maria Horner print for my backing):
Scrappy binding tutorial
And for quilting ideas, I did a super fun swirly motif.
Swirly quilting
So run and grab your free pattern and get sewing today 🙂


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Blue December Pillow tutorial

I had the awesome opportunity to team up with Janome and AQS to offer a free pillow tutorial!  You can find the complete instructions and supply list here: Blue December Quilted Pillow Tutorial


This is such a fun and easy project to do to add to the ambiance of the season, and I love the blue and white colors, as opposed to the more traditional red and green.  So if you have some spare time, get sewing and whip up this sweet pillow!

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Shopping for a Longarm-TIPS

Almost a year ago, I was presented with an opportunity to try out a longarm.  I’m not really a traditional quilter, in the sense that my family didn’t pass sewing and quilting along through the generations.  I pretty much just jumped in head first and have been mostly figuring things out on my own.  



I had a preconceived notion that I didn’t like longarm quilters.  I did all my own quilting on a little domestic machine (even King sized quilt!), and kind of scoffed at the idea of anything else.  My first time on a Sweet Sixteen Handiquilter really opened my eyes.  Here are the perks:
1.  NO MORE BASTING on the floor with safety pins. 
     That should be enough to get anyone’s attention.  
2.  And while you do still need to press your tops and backs prior to loading your            quilts, you don’t have to press the hell out of them like you would when hand basting,              since the roller bars keep your fabric fairly taut.  
3.  No more quilt wrestling.
     If you are quilting on a domestic machine to take the place of your arm workout, you
     may want to look into lifting weights.  There won’t be anymore tugging and rearranging 
     and rolling and re-rolling your quilt to fit under the 11″ (or less) throat of your domestic.
4.  SPEED!  
     Since most longarm machines are industrial machines, the stitches per minute is so much
     Faster than a domestic could ever dream of being.  
5.  Ease of quilting
      It’s much easier to plan your stitches, use rulers, channel locks, and other quilting
      tools to make your work easier.  Your quilt is flat and easy to work with, as opposed to
      being rolled up and squished.

So why am I writing this post?  
If you don’t own a longarm, there are lots of issues with using one.  

If you rent time on a community machine, the tension on the bobbin case may need to be adjusted every time you start to quilt (which could be the case anyway, depending on what thread you use).  

The machine height may not be right for you.  If the frame has adjustable capabilities, then no worries, but most of the time, these machines are set at one height and you have to deal with it.  Every quilt I did made me feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame when I was finished from stooping over so much.  I was sure that if I didn’t purchase my own machine soon that I would develop a hump back!

Then there is the matter of your tools and supplies.  Hauling them around.  Constantly.  I needed a pack mule just to get all my thread, batting, rulers, etc. from point A to point B.  Seriously a pain in the butt.  This highly contributed to me wanting my own machine.

Drive time, machine availability (being at the mercy of open calendar days).  Okay–so if you are just quilting for yourself–no big deal.  But if you start taking client quilts, this is a problem.  If you aren’t able to finish a job in the time you reserve the machine for, you have to take your quilt off the frame and re-load it another time.  No me gusta.  

Basically, I wanted to be spoiled and have a machine at my beck and call.  Since I work a full time job aside from sewing and quilting, availability is a high priority for me.  I want to be able to wake up at 5 AM, crank up the longarm and get in 2 hours of quilting before I go to work.  And if I want to, I would like to quilt until midnight, walk to my bed and go to sleep.  And since I have a full time job, I have the financial means to do this.  

So, above are all the reasons I felt made sense to me to get my own machine.  I knew what things I wanted from a machine.  I knew what I liked and what I hated about the machine I quilted on.


Here are considerations you should think about before making the financial commitment of buying your own longarm (in my opinion):
1.  Set a budget and stick to it.
     Know what you can afford and what you can’t.  Don’t try out a machine you can’t afford.
     Be okay with the amount you’re going to spend.  If you aren’t, keep renting!

2.  Make a list of must haves.
     If you’ve tried other machines, you’ll know what you love and can’t live without.  Make 
     Sure the machine you purchase has EVERYTHING you can’t live without, or has the
     capability to add it later (which most of them do).  
3.  Find a venue where you can try lots of brands at the same time.
      Quilt market.  Just about every longarm manufacturer is represented at Quilt market.  
     Go.  Play.  Try all the machines.  Try them again.  It will be easy for you to cross some 
     brands off your list immediately, and you can narrow down your search between just a 
     few machines.  Then try them all again.  And again.  

4.  Make notes each time you try a machine.
     Write down your experiences.  If you are having issues with a machine at a huge venue
     like quilt market, chances are the machine is going to be nothing but trouble for you at 
     home.  If the manufacturer doesn’t bring a top notch machine to showcase, the product
     you purchase won’t be any better.  

5.  Make notes on the frame.
     The frame can be just as important as the machine that sits on it.  Some have hydraulics
     that allow you to adjust the height at the push of a button.  

6.  Ask LOTS of questions.
     Now is the time to ask the vendors.  Ask questions until you are confident that you have 
     all the answers you want and need.

7.  Ask about customer service/upkeep/troubleshooting.
     Will someone be able to come to your house?  Do they have a phone hotline?  What are 
     the hours it’s available?  Web chat?  Will you be able to deal with someone local?  How
    much will a service call in person cost you?  What is the amount of time you’ll have to 
    wait if you have a serious problem?  Is the customer service phone line outsourced, or will 
     you be able to talk to someone in your country?

8.  Ask for the BEST possible deal. 
     The price may be set, but you won’t know unless you try.  Quilt market may be the best 
     place for you to get a show special.  Ask for discounts.  Ask if they sell refurbished machi-
     nes at a discounted rate.  

9.  Training/delivery/setup
     Does the manufacturer provide delivery and installation?  Do you have to pay separately
     for that ?  Is there any kind of training or orientation offered for the machine?

10.  Think about the ability to sell your machine.
     (Should you ever have to…).  You want to have the option to sell your machine.  Even if
     you aren’t interested in computerized programs (which can cost as much, if not more,
     than the machine and frame), other people might be.  Try to purchase a machine that
     has the capability to add this later.  Who knows?  You may want it yourself!

11.  Research before you go.
      Do as much online research as you can.  This will save you a lot of time prior to being at         the venue.

12.  Know about space requirements.
       Not just of the machine, but the frame.  Ask about different frame lengths, various 
       throat depths of different models.  

13.  Ask how long before you’ll get your machine.
       For some reason, I thought I would be loading my longarm up at quilt market and 
       driving it home.  LOL.  4-6 weeks before potential delivery.  That may just be the time
       it takes for the manufacturer I bought from, but ASK.

I’m sure there are lots of other questions and things to ask, but these were the main considerations that I had.  I went to quilt market knowing exactly what I needed and wanted, and what things were not important to me.  Number 1 on my list was to stick to a budget, which I did not do.  I had every intention of buying a much cheaper machine, but when I tried it out, the thread broke several times, and then the machine froze.  It was worth it to me to spend more after thinking about dealing with those problems constantly.  

I ended up purchasing an Innova-22″ machine on a 12′ frame.  One thing I didn’t quite understand was that most of the people who own Innova’s rave about the “Lightning Stitch” stitch regulator (that comes with a whopping $4000 price tag).  I opted to not add that option, but may add it later.  The Innova machines come standard with, from what I understand, a lesser version of this stitch regulator.  I just couldn’t justify a 4 grand price tag on an upgraded stitch regulator (I stitch mostly in manual mode–but for those who stitch mostly in regulated…)  I will say…this machine stitches like a dream and I can’t wait to get that sucker in my house.  

Best of luck to you on your search for your personal longarm quilting machine!