Monthly Archives: March 2023

Quilting Question #3

Quilting Question #3

What is the best quilt design software?

I love using traditional patterns, but if I want to change the colors or where the light and dark fabrics go, I’m not good at envisioning what the result will be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed with the way a quilt turned out because it looked different in my head.

I wish I had a way of auditioning my ideas before I cut the pieces. I know I can make a few sample blocks, but the full quilt still looks different than I expect. I’ve thought about drawing my ideas out by hand, but it’s time consuming, and sometimes I would like to try multiple settings. That would be very tedious.

If you use (or know of) a computer program that previews what a quilt will look like if you change the color placement, could you recommend one in the comments below? Add a link if you know a website or an online article about it.

Wordless Wednesday


The Writing Date


Pre-Covid, so like 2019 maybe, a writer friend of mine who was also a teacher came up with the idea that summer for a bunch of us writers to get together for a working lunch every couple of weeks. So she’d choose a restaurant and set a time toward the end of the lunch rush, and we’d meet, order our meals, visit while we ate, and then pull out our laptops and write for an hour and a half.

It surprised me how much I got done in that 90 minutes.

Conventional wisdom says it’s important to have a regular space to write. I do have my own private writing space. All my notes are on my desk somewhere. The books I need for reference are right there on the bookshelf. It’s very convenient to work in my study every day. I sit down and I’m immediately in my writing mindset.

But there’s something about being with people you love and doing something that you love together—even though each of you is working individually. Somehow, the sound of my friends’ typing makes me extra productive. (A friend of mine jokes about throwing introvert parties where everyone is instructed to bring a book to read. That’s totally my idea of a fun time!)

Another favorite writing activity of mine is going on a writing retreat and writing outside, usually on a porch or patio with handy tables. (We call our portable computers laptops, but we’re not really going to balance them on our laps, are we?) There are other writers nearby, but we set some time for visiting and joint activities and devote substantial time to working on our projects.

I often think I should try writing in my backyard, except I get out there and I’d rather sip a cold drink and read.

Anyway, my point is that writing rules are good, but breaking writing rules is also good, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. So I encourage you to mix things up a bit. Every once in a while, call up a writer friend or two, and invite them on a writing date. It’ll be fun. What do you think about that?

Monday Morning Wisdom #405

Monday Morning Wisdom #405

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all–in which case, you fail by default. ~J.K.Rowling

From the Creator’s Heart #394

Psalm 112:7

Yay! It’s Quilting Day!


In honor of National Quilting Day today, I’m going to bring you up-to-date on my long arm (really mid arm) quilting adventures.

If you’re a regular reader of ARHtistic License, you know that last November I got a HandiQuilter Moxie. Then I had six private Zoom lessons with a HandiQuilter educator to learn how to use it. I made a practice piece to try out free motion quilting and also the ProStitcher Lite robotic quilting software. The piece was not good enough for a human being to use, but I thought it might work as a quilt for Ralph.

Ralph's quilt

Ralph was not impressed. (Yawn.)

Ralph with his quilt

At the same sewing and quilting festival where I ordered my Moxie, I’d bought some fat quarters of designer fabric. I added some fabric from my stash to it, and I pieced a top for a lap quilt. This was to be my first “real” quilt quilted on the Moxie.

Andrea's lap quilt

Man. I had a time of it. I knew what quilting pattern I wanted to use, but I couldn’t get it to run. The error message said the pattern was larger than the frame area, though it didn’t look like it was larger on the screen. I couldn’t figure out how to make the design a little smaller. I tried setting it up multiple times, but I couldn’t get it to run, so I tried a different quilting pattern.

I didn’t realize how much smaller this new pattern was until I began running it. I didn’t like it, but I figured it would be a good lesson. It was, but not in the way I expected.

I did two passes of the pattern, and then it was time to advance the quilt (shift it so that I could work on the next unquilted part). It was then that I discovered the bottom tension was all messed up.

Tension problem

It’s funny–as the design repeated, the tension improved, but it was still not good. I decided to take it all out and start over. The only good thing about bad tension is that the stitches are easy to pull out.

While I was pulling out those bad stitches, I had plenty of time to ruminate, and I realized that I had watched a video about resizing quilting patterns. If I could find it, I could use the pattern I originally wanted.

But first I had to fix my tension. I reread the section of the manual on tension, and I watched a lot of videos. I followed all the instructions, but no matter what adjustments I made, it didn’t seem to affect the tension at all. I worked on it for days. I must have tightened the little knob 30 rotations, and I still had what looked like couching on the back of my quilt. (It looked like a thread lying on the surface, held in place by small stitches.) One instruction on one of the videos made no sense to me: the instructor said that the thread should snap between the tension discs. I couldn’t make it do that. So I took a picture of the tension discs and texted it to the store technician I’d ordered it from. He told me the discs were too tight together, and I need to loosen the knob at least 10 rotations.

Yep. He was right. I loosened it severely, and then I was able to snap the thread between the discs. It still took a long time until I could get the tension to look acceptable. It’s not perfect, but much better.

I figured out how to tweak the quilting pattern so that it fit within the frame area, and in one day I quilted the entire lap quilt. I wish I could say everything went smoothly; it did not. I forgot the “drag and drop” sequence when I advanced the quilt, and I had to figure out how to make the machine start quilting at the right spot again. I don’t even know how to explain the problem and the solution, but if that ever happens to you, watch this video, starting around the 5:30 mark. (I don’t have the same machine or the same frame or the laser light, but by following his “drag and drop” directions, I got my machine properly lined up.)

I just have to finish hand-stitching the binding to the back of the quilt, and then it’s ready to be my new TV-watching quilt. (Yes, I like to be all snuggled up in a blankie when I watch TV.)

So here’s a sneak peak at my next quilting project, some blocks for quilts for our new granddaughters:

Blocks for a baby quilt

The babies came over on Tuesday.

Me and Etta:

Grandma and Etta

Greg and Robin:

Grandpa and Robin

Do we look like we’re at all happy to be grandparents?

Creative Juice #335


Quilts, books, and a different take on public art; then it’s all about Ireland.

  • Some modern takes on the classic log cabin quilt.
  • Best books for adults to read. I’ve read 7 of the 23 titles on this list, and they all gave me lots to think about. Some of these books are also appropriate for children.
  • Beautiful farmhouse, beautiful illustrations, beautiful book.
  • Earth murals.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! So the rest of today’s links celebrate the Emerald Isle.

Video of the Week: The Versatile Moss Stitch


Wordless Wednesday

Cluster of barrel cactus

The Stool

The Stool

When my father was young, all the boys at his school were required to take a class called Wood Shop, where they learned to make things out of wood. The project for eighth grade was to make a stool, for which Dad earned a coveted A+.

When I was growing up, that stool occupied a place of honor next to the hearth. Every night before bedtime, I sat on that stool while Dad relaxed in his armchair and asked me questions about my day. What was I learning in school? What was my happiest moment of the day? What’s one thing I did that I’d like to do better next time? The questions were often adapted to particular circumstances, but they usually involved expressing gratitude for blessings received, and acknowledgement of areas to focus on for personal growth.

When I left for college, the last item squeezed into the trunk of my vintage Buick was that three-legged stool, with the fatherly instruction to spend five minutes at the end of each day celebrating my accomplishments and thinking about the path toward becoming a man of character.

A few years after finishing my degree, I met the woman of my dreams, married her, and soon we started our family. The stool stood across from my armchair in the living room, and from the time they were very young, each of our three children took their turns sitting on the stool and answering my nightly questions about their day. I found their answers sweet, and at times troubling, but I strove to affirm their successes and their struggles without inspiring guilt, and they rewarded me with disarming honesty and sometimes hilarity.

As my children left for college, I kept the stool at home, and reminded them that it was always available if they wanted to come and talk. And that’s what they did when they had something to share—a disappointment, a milestone, a problem that needed another person’s perspective. I like to think they understood they would always be welcomed and safe.

After sixty years of marriage, my wife passed away. The house felt empty and cavernous. I knew it was time to downsize. I found a little condo in a retirement community, and I said goodbye to most of my possessions.

The final item to relinquish was the stool. My oldest son came to claim it. I walked him to the car, and he turned it upside down to place it on the back seat. “Wait—did you see this, Dad? There’s something written here.”

I squinted, trying to make out the faded, penciled letters written in a childish scrawl: “To my future son. I hope I listen to you like my father never did to me.”

Note to my readers: This is a piece of fiction. My other ideas for today’s post were just too daunting, so I searched a Writer’s Digest PDF called A Year of Writing Prompts for something I could finish quickly. The prompt for February 9 went like this: Your father made the chair when he was a boy, and it’s gotten rickety. Preparing to finally throw it away, you flip it over to carry it to the trash, and notice a message etched in with a knife. It reminded me of a stool my husband Greg made in Wood Shop, which eventually got thrown away when it was too rickety to use anymore. This is the story it inspired.