Behind the Curtain · Housekeeping · Live-Online Classes

Live-Online Class • Technical Side of Things

First, I apologize for sending out two posts right after one another. This is the nuts and bolts side of setting up a Live-Online Class, one where you will be hosting the class, but also include some online extras for the students to watch during the week while they work. If you don’t plan to do this, or could care less about knowing what goes on behind the curtain, feel free to ignore.

Zoom Codes, Zoom Tips, and Zoomzoomzoom…

Guild Evening Meeting: I suggest you let the Guild set up their own Zoom codes for their evening meeting, as they can set up security any way they like, as they know their members if they choose the Waiting Room option. This way, the presenter just has to worry about their presentation. I recommend getting the Zoom codes from your Guild about a week ahead, just to alleviate worry.

Workshop: We bit the bullet and got our own Zoom Pro access this year. I like that I can set up the access codes for this myself. Our workshop schedule went like this:
Class (live): 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Break: 11 -1 p.m.
Class (live): 1-2:30 p.m.

I set up the Zoom to start at 8:30, but then got on early to put on some music and post this sign:

If you don’t know how to do this, I recommend taking the Zoom Training Course, level 2, found on their website.

I used the Advanced Share when I had to share screen (showing them how to get onto the Password Protected section of my website…read on for more details), but mostly, I kept the Zoom Gallery View up and going, except when I shared my iPad as a document camera on the cutting table.

Yes, I wear a headset. When I presented my program the night before, I didn’t use it, but by the end of the evening, my voice was hoarse. (Funny how we think we have to talk louder to reach them All The Way Over There.) One of the tips in the Zoom training I took was to wear a headset. I prefer a lightweight mono-headset, with the ear pad on only one side. I use an adapter to plug it into the side of my laptop in the audio port, as these are the headphones I use when on long calls on my telephone handset.

For some reason, the Apple Earpods don’t work for me. Whenever I use them, people can’t hear me, so it’s old school for me. I do know you can get a Bluetooth headset if you don’t like wires, or one that plugs into your USB port: do your research to find one that works for you.

Setting up the Video Station

Early version of our set-up

I used my cutting table for the place where I recorded my videos. Equipment I would not want to be without:

Daylight Light. It covers the entire area with well-balanced light, and has dimmer settings. It can swing it out over the cutting mat if I need more light in some position. It was a birthday gift and I use it every day.

Just before starting class

Device Holder (Document Camera workaround) Initially we used two smaller tripods and yardsticks stretched across them. Clearly we needed to upgrade. We went with this gooseneck device holder, also called “Lazy Supporter.” It’s made for people to lie in bed and have their video devices held for them, but hey! it worked great for me. One end of the long arm clamped to the side of my table. The flexible arm is really strong, so it stays put when I move it into position. I learned not to bump it, though, as it would jiggle.

Document Camera. I read that some people buy dedicated document cameras, but since I have a smart phone, why not use this? This holder, made for an iPad, was a little tricky to use on the smaller iPhone, but no worries. I just slid it out of the bracket a little more. I turned the iPhone sideways (landscape) to do my videos. When I hooked up the iPad sideways (landscape) to do an Advanced Screen Share on Zoom…no go. Apparently the software is not yet available to do that, so I just lifted the device up higher and kept it in Portrait mode.

(I just read over this, and boy, what a lot of jargon. Basically I’m writing this post for someone who wants to try this, and maybe for my own reference in the future. Again, if you aren’t interested, just slide on by.)

Recording a Video and Putting it Up on YouTube

I researched what else I should make available for my class and short, technique videos were mentioned over and over. TECHNIQUE VIDEOS?? I think this was the scariest part of getting ready. I have some friends in the movie business and I knew about storyboards and editing and splicing and I didn’t want to do any of that.

made with Affinity Designer software

What I did have going for me was having taught this class multiple times. I knew what technique students wanted me to demo over and over. I knew where the tricky spots were. And I knew how to teach adults, given that I taught ten years at a community college. I have new classes coming up, and I will apply those same criteria to any new class: What will be the hard part? What is tricky? What might make the difference between a successful quilt construction experience and a total fail?

I made double my samples to work with in the videos as I had decided to do it all in one take. I recorded my demo twice, then picked the better one. On one of the four videos I made for this class, I don’t know what I did, but the video disappeared from off the phone (I was trying to edit it). So I re-did that video, but with already trimmed up samples. I hope they were sympathetic. Important: At the beginning, introduce what segment it is and what project it is (ask me how I know this).

Upload videos to YouTube and set them to Unlisted. You can set them to Private, but then you are about the only one to see them. You can research to find out the difference, if you are curious.

Setting up a Password Protected Section in WordPress

I use WordPress as my blogging platform, and they have a nifty feature: I can password-protect a Post or a Page. I opted for Page so a publication notice wouldn’t go out to my readers.

When properly set up, if an outsider wanders into the Secret Space, they will see this page. Unless they know the password, they can go no further, ensuring that your content for your class will remain protected and only your students can see it.

part of their password-protected webpage

I’m leaving this Page available to my class for a week. At the end of the week, we’ll have a follow-up session to show off quilts, talk about our experiences. After that, I will change the password, set the YouTube videos back to Private, cleaning up after myself.

I’d explored the idea of using a commercial site to upload my content for the class. There is a monthly fee, if done properly, and since I was still in exploration mode, I went this direction. Having a commercial site would be helpful if you weren’t doing a Live-Online class, but instead one where the videos existed without a teacher needing to appear.

And if you are a blogger with WordPress above the free version, you probably already know how helpful the “Happiness Engineers” are in the online chat. They’ve saved me, more than once.

Writing a Pattern

I use the Affinity Suite to write my patterns. I purchased them outright; there are no subscription fees (as in the Adobe products). I began writing patterns using a basic word processing program, but always drooled after those patterns that had nifty illustrations and pages that looked WOW. I’m not a graphic artist, but as a quilter, I do know what I want out of a pattern, and I want it easy to read and easy to find. I’m quite happy with these three pieces of software:

Affinity Photo — does what it indicates…it works with images, mostly photos.

Affinity Designer–you can make illustrations with this, moving around shapes, adding text, and about a billion other things. I barely scratch the surface with this, but I can make a decent patchwork illustration.

Affinity Publisher–It sets up a document where you can load in your text, your illustrations. I can also set up a Master Page where everything I place on there will be distributed throughout the pattern (helpful for page numbers, identifying logos, etc.).

Okay, That’s It!

I’m tired, you’re tired, so let’s stop here. I’ve tried to be specific in what I’ve used, and how I did things. If you found this helpful, pay it forward and help someone else Get the Hang of Things.

Overall, I think I may really come to love teaching this way, so I’m kind of glad the Covid-19 Pandemic forced me to learn how to do this. It’s a hybrid, for sure, but there are many positives I can see to this way of conducting a workshop. I may make comments going forward, changing how I do things, but for now, this is a record of what I’ve discovered and how I proceeded.

Happy Teaching!

Creating · Housekeeping · Quilts

QuiltPro Quilt Software

I’ve used QuiltPro software for about a decade now, choosing it first because it worked on a Mac as well as a PC (I’m a Mac user, and Electric Quilt has ignored people like me).  I’ve been reading about another quilt software program that you rent monthly, and thought I ought to talk about an alternative to that, especially since QuiltPro is having a sale right now of 30% off. 

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.05.42 AM

What I like about this program is its simplicity.  It didn’t take me long to figure it out–click on the square icon and draw a square, click on the triangle (there are two kinds) and draw a triangle.  Click on the paint can and color in your shapes.  It does have a fabric library, but after a few times, I’ve skipped over that and just use the solids, coloring in what I want to show value and placement. (And sometimes I wonder if that’s not why we’ve had such a surge of popularity in using solids–we see them in our quilt software and then want to make those quilts? Who knows, but I’ve thought about it.)

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.06.48 AM

And if I want to, I can change the colors by double-clicking on one of the little squares.


There’s a block library if you want it, but I use QuiltPro mostly to work up a design that’s in my head, like this one:

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.28.25 AM

Which became this:


and this


Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.30.04 AM

Or this design, to make use of some lovely bits and pieces from a cherished set of fabrics, which became this:


A quilt for a friend who needed some quilty hugs.  And I’m now thinking about how to make this one, dreamed up recently:


Sometimes when I read quilty blogs, I get the feeling that whatever is being shown, or pitched, becomes an extension of that quilter.  That is to say, that if you buy this, or shop here, then that’s like a ‘vote’ for that quilter, and you say you like her better.  I don’t really care if you use QuiltPro or not.  I do use it and I’ve had great success with it as a tool to help me get done what I really do love: quilting, so I thought you might want to know about it.  I used to draft blocks using graph paper, pencils, rulers, drawing out the templates by hand.  This program does all that for me (yes, it prints the templates too, so I can measure them to use with my rotary cutter and rulers).  It’s my tool.  I’ve used this tool in my little quilt group, Good Heart Quilters, when we do our block swaps, or someone needs me to draft up how their chevron quilt will look.  It’s been very helpful in a lot of ways.


Here’s a photo of Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in combat.  She was recently profiled in the New York Times–go read the article; it’s short and sweet and makes you want to cheer.  But I liked what she said here:

“Q: When you wake up do you feel a sense of loss when you realize what happened to your legs?
A: Of course. But I have a different perspective for what my legs are now. Now they’re just tools, you know? If I still had my legs, I would be in line for a battalion command, and instead I’m flying a desk.”

I want to fly my version of a desk–my sewing machine–making quilts and sewing and playing with cloth and squares and triangles and designs.  I love quilting and am happy to have my rotary cutters and rulers and yes, my QuiltPro software.  It’s just a tool, you know, to get the quilting done.

Housekeeping · Tutorial

Hot Mitts

Hot Mitts

No, this isn’t a reference to our past election and Governor Romney.

Old Hot Mitt

This is in rereference to my hideously stained and abused and damaged kitchen hot mitts.  I went to buy some new ones and didn’t care for the ones at a famous cooking store and at Macy’s–where Martha has taken over everything in the domestic world–there were only hot mitts with ruffles.  Ruffles?  I knew they’d be disgusting looking in short order.  (Ruffles?  I’m still shaking my head.)

Old Hot Mitt1

So one day, I turned the ones I liked inside-out to see how they were made.

Old Hot Mitt 2

Then I traced it with a sharpie onto what was laying around on the counter–an ad from the car dealer.  Actually this ended up being a good idea because it was thicker than regular paper and pretty sturdy.

Old Hot Mitt 3

And after I cut it out, I had a pattern.  But I decided I should allow for shrinkage, because I wash and dry these over and over, so I enlarged it by 10% which yielded the pattern at the end of this post.  Print it out, match up the car writing and making sure your 1-inch guide on the side is really one-inch (every printer is a little bit different), tape it together and you’ve got a good pattern.  I’d actually purchased a pattern but took it back when I realized how easy this was going to be.

Insulated Fabric

Utility Fabric

Go the Big Box fabric store and buy some utility fabric that looks like this: a metallic cotton on the outside, cotton batting on the inside, already quilted together.  Use your coupon.  I bought one yard and I’ll get four mitts out of it. Get yourself some 80% cotton/20% wool batting or some 100% cotton batting, if you don’t have scraps laying around.

Bias Tape Maker

And throw a bias tape maker into your cart, too.  I chose the 1″ version and it worked great. I picked up the Dritz (on the left) and on the right, I show the full complement of Clover Bias Tape Makers.  Either work fine.  They have decent directions on the back of the Dritz.

Layer Up Fabrics

Layer in the following order: (1) Utility fabric, metallic side down  –  then –  (2) your cotton batting – then – (3) your chosen fabric.  I’m using some of Malka Dubrawsky’s first line.  I love it, but I have never figured out how to use it.  This will be perfect as it will brighten up my kitchen every day. Using pins, secure it in a few places.  Cut out what you need by placing your hot mitt pattern down and guesttimating: I think mine ended up about 14″ by 18.”  Roughly.  Quilt all layers together.  Don’t get too precious about it!

Cutting Out1

Now lay out your pattern and cut out one mitt.

Cutting out 2

Reverse the pattern by flipping it over, and cut your second mitt.  Match them up, metallic sides out, then pin in a few places so it doesn’t shift.  Sew from under the thumb all the way around the mitt STOPPING 2″ FROM EDGE.  Leave that edge flapping, as it will be easier to attach the bias tape.

Stitching Inner Curve Hot Mitts

Close-up of the curve of the thumb.  Carefully clip down to the curve, stopping short of the stitching line.  This will make it lay better when you turn it inside out.

Making Bias Tape

(You can click to enlarge this picture so you can see the writing better.)

Follow the directions on the back of the tape maker package for cuting a bias strip.  Basically you fold the corner down into the fabric, creating a bias edge.  Cut the strips 1 3/4″ wide for a one-inch bias strip.  Feed it through the bias tape maker tool, using a pin to help out the leading edge if you need to.  Then use your iron to set the folds.

Bias Binding

I put two pins on the tape, as I drew it out, and then pressed it.  It sounds WAY more complicated than it is.

Open Edge Hot Mitts

Beginning with one of the loose edges, fold the tape over the lower raw edge, and stitch the tape onto the mitt.  I found it easiest to stitch from the “inside” for some odd reason.

Stitching Bias Tape Hot Mitts

Again, don’t get too fanatical about this–just make sure that both folds of the tape are caught in the stitching.  I did one, and then decided I wanted to trim out that seam allowance under the thumb edge for about one-quarter inch up from the lower edge, just to get rid of some bulk.  The world won’t end if you don’t.

Hot Mitt inside

Finish stitching that last two inches, and backstitch to secure.

Hot Mitt binding joining

I also zig-zagged that last two inches to finish it off.  Given that it’s BIAS tape, it’s not going to ravel, but hey.  Just thought it needed it.

Hot Mitt binding finished

Flip your mitt right-side out, easing out the thumb and smoothing out the curve.

I cut some scraps into squares with rounded edges, and used the leftover bias tape to make a couple of coasters.  Don’t examine my stitching, because like I said, it’s pretty obvious I went for sturdy over beauty.

Okay, below are the patterns.  Print them out and adjust your printer settings so the inch mark is true, then tape your two halves together.  I scanned my pattern so it’s pretty true; I’m hoping you don’t have to do too much monkeying around.  My hand size? Medium in rubber gloves, so if yours is smaller or larger, use your copier/printed to enlarge or smallerize your pattern.  

Hot Mitt Lower Hot Mitt Upper

Have fun making them!

Hot Mitts final

This is one of the projects on my Finish-A-Long list that I have completed, from Leanne’s Finish-A-Long!

FinishALong Button



I had need to buy a passel of zippers (don’t ask questions around Christmastime!) and found a great online source I thought I’d share (and no, they aren’t paying me to write this).

It’s called Zipperstop.  I navigated to the photo above (under “closed zippers,” then “lightweight,” then “skirt and dress assortment”), which is an illustration of their 50-pack of zippers.  I only needed 25, and I needed them in rainbow colors.  I called the company (they’re in New York) and the person that answered the phone said to leave a note at checkout–there will be a box in which I could write them a note.  So I asked for an assortment of rainbow colors, which you see in the top photo.  I’m very happy with my zipper stash, and now wish I’d bought the full 50, as it’s such a deal (and they are high quality zippers).  Price? Very good, but  don’t forget that there is shipping.  Overall, it’s WAY cheaper than my big box fabric store.

Plus I like talking to people from New York.  They make my California accent sound bland.  But I do have to say that when I lived there, my neighbor came over that first week, and she was from Brooklyn.  We talked and she was lots of fun, so I told her I was trying to figure out where her accent came from.  “Accent?” she said.  “You’re the one with the accent.”

What else did I do this week?

1.  Graded my brains out (example of a guy-staple job on the corner of stack of papers)

2.  Took my quilt in to be quilted at Cathy’s

3.  Got rid of a sofa, got the carpets cleaned, and went to IKEA four times rounding up furniture (that includes returns and re-purchases of wrong items)

4.  Bought fabric.  This one’s from IKEA.  I think I’m the last to know about their fabric department but I have to say my husband was beyond patient while waiting for me to stop noticing bolts of fabric.

5.  Had Autumn.  This is it.  This one tree.  Hope you enjoyed the show as next week it will be summer again (we’ve had temperatures in the upper 70s and 80s this week–83 degrees on Thanksgiving, which is just un-American).

6. Had Thanksgiving.  And given the regularity of seeing the leftovers at mealtime, I’d say we’re still having it.  But last night we went out for Thai, today for lunch we just about killed the leftovers, so things are looking up in the meal department.  But it was a good feast and a lot of family put their feet under our table.

I’m completely in a L-tryptophan high, except for the fact that there are 12 boxes of Christmas sitting in front of the cars, waiting for someone to do something about it.


Just Painting

I’ve not been quilting, because we’ve been painting the house.  Back soon.

Read more *here,* especially the wearying story of Choosing the Colors.  Right now I’m working on the front door color and am leaning toward Million Dollar Red.

I miss the cloth under my fingers, but tonight’s Quilt Night with my buddies, so I hope to work on the Halloween House.  Especially since Halloween’s come and gone.  But that’s my life lately!


The Pressing Question of Ironing

I come from a clothing and textiles background, having studied this at two different schools, earning an MS in Clothing and Construction.  So I was schooled in the idea that HOW you press a seam can affect how the item looks from the front. I’ve tried to be comprehensive in this post so put to down all my ideas in one place (translation: there’s some reading, but no quiz at the end).  I’ve also been quilting for nearly 40 years, so have some experience in handling quilting fabrics and the controversial question of whether to use a dry iron or a steam iron.  Read on.

Effects of Directional Pressing

Let’s start with the idea of pressing seam allowances open or to the side. While I see a lot of modern quilts — with their abstract blocking of color —  go for the flat look of seams pressed open, when possible I would rather use the seam allowances to enhance other types of design. Lee (of WIP) has some good ideas about pros and cons on this *post.*  But I think it’s helpful to know what seam allowance direction can do to a design.

You may have to enlarge the pictures to get a good look.

In this instance, I pressed the roof (bright green) seams AWAY from the main roof, so the seam allowances fold over the other pieces.  What this does is make the roof “sink into” the design (as shown on the right).  So the main house is in FRONT of the roof, and the sky seems to press in from the top.  The chimneys look like they are sort of in front as well.

In this view, I pressed the roof seams into the roof area.  Look at the difference from the right side.  The roof now seems to sit on top of the house, and in front of the sky.  If you sew clothing, you are aware that pattern directions will tell you to press the dart seam toward the back, or the waist darts toward the front.  The directions do matter on how the clothing looks from the outside.  Likewise, I think we quilters could use the seams to our advantage in our creations.

Certainly if I hit a place with tons of seams, I’m inclined to let the fabric tell me which way to press; while hard to describe you know what I mean.  And if you want the flat look of the modern quilt, yep–it’s press ’em all open.

Steam? Dry?

To steam or not to steam?  In college there was no question.  Steam.  Of course.

That’s what did the work.  If you pressed hard enough with a dry iron, you ran the risk of breaking down the fibers — esp. if you were working with wool, which in addition gave it a shine (not a good thing). I’ll never forget the day when our professor, who had worked in Germany and US couture industries, took a hot dry iron and burned the wool seam allowances in my gathered wool skirt in order to make them lay flat.  A neat trick that I NEVER want to repeat with my cotton fabrics.  So we used a deft touch (the iron itself was not that heavy) and lots of steam.

So, when I buy an iron, the first thing I look for is LOTS of holes where the steam can exit. Old, icky iron on the right.  New, fancy iron on the left.  I still use the old icky iron because a) it still works, and b) check out those millions of steam holes. Some of the ones on the new iron are just grooves, with no holes.  I’ve read that some people like the flat irons so their piecing doesn’t get “caught” on the holes.  They are probably the quilters that use a dry iron,  just like my Grandmother (born in the 1880s), who heated up her “flatiron” on the coal stove.  I’m not saying that this does not work — it does, but I do think we can learn something from the advent of modern pressing techniques, and the experience of the textile industry.  Let’s draw on their expertise.

I like the new iron, too, and use it when my quilting group all comes over (we run two irons and two boards).  When I bought this at Target, I went down the line of irons counting steam vent holes and if it could give me a “shot of steam.”  This model had both of those features, and yes, they are THAT important.  Nothing else really matters.  I decided against a Rowenta for a couple of reasons.  Yes, we used the steam tanks at school, but these were industrial irons and I don’t think it’s translated well to the home market (and we had that vacuum board).  I get just as good of results with a lighter-weight hand-held iron.  I have that iron in my hand a lot of the time and I don’t want it to make me tired.  Again, it’s not the weight that gives you a press.  It’s the STEAM. We get that idea of pressure from another oft-used tool, the clapper, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

The Ironing Surface

But first — the ironing board. I also pad up my ironing board so that the seams sink into the padding and don’t show themselves as a ridge on the right side.

Cover on.

Cover off, with padding revealed.  I have like 5 pads on there.  Unfortunately, those are hard to come by now.  Mine are all cotton, so I suppose you could layer up some batting.  Wool batting might work sandwiched in between the cotton layers.  Again, in college we had a vacuum board, which sucked up all the steam.  Yeah, I don’t even think they make those for the home market.  What’s important is that our seam allowances don’t show from the front, which the padding helps alleviate.

Tools of the Pressing Trade

We get the idea that we should press down to make those seam allowances behave from the use of the clappers.

My other tools of the pressing trade.

The taller one with the pointy nose, called a Point Presser, is quite handy.  It’s easily made at home.  Sometimes you want to press open a seam that’s hard to get to (like near the bottom of a bag, or in clothing construction).  Lay the seam on that narrow ridge and you can get it pressed.  I use it more for when I’m making clothing.  I also use the base as  giant clapper when I need to. And there’s the trusty iron cleaner (just follow the directions on the package, but iron iron press press steam steam onto a piece of scrap cloth after using it to get all the cleaner off).

The oval item is a clapper.  After you have steamed a seam and it just won’t lay flat, place the wooden clapper directly on the fabric and lean on it a bit.  The heat will transfer to the wood, the fabric will cool, setting the seam.  I use it only occasionally when quilting, but it’s the transference of heat that sets the seam, combined with the pressure from you.  Pressure, without the cooling transference will leave you a hot, sticking-up seam.  Pressure, with the cooling transference, sets the seam.

Underneath it all is my pressing cloth: an old diaper, but sometimes it’s an old dishtowel.  Handy to have those around when you don’t want to lay the iron directly onto some textile or composite .  Instead lay the gauzy, lightweight pressing cloth on top of the fabric, then apply the iron (but don’t use for fusing).

Further Tips and Tricks

One of my friends once had a terrible accident with the hot water from her iron (not even an issue anymore with our plastic water chambers) so she never used water in her iron.  Instead she would dampen the press cloth, lay it on the seams and get the steam into her pressing that way.  We have WAY too many seams to do that, but there you go.  Another trick of the pressing trade.  And one last one? What do you do if you are trying to lower a hem on a dress and the line they’ve pressed into your hem won’t come out?  Dampen a pressing cloth with a combo of white vinegar and water, and then press.  The old hem line will come right out.

If your iron is spitting when you use the steam–turn up the heat.  You can also clear out some problems with steaming by laying the iron on a pressing cloth and giving it a couple of blasts of steam.  My iron calls for water out of the tap to function well (doesn’t like soft water).  But our water is so hard, that I mix the tap water half-and-half with distilled water.  This way I also prevent a lot of hard water build-up in the steam vents.  I’ve had the old, icky iron for probably 15 years now.  I love love it.

When quilting, think about your seams.  If you like the flat look — or if you have a lot of bulky seams in one area — press open.  If you want to sculpt your piece a little, press them one way or the other.  But always turn that quilt top over and press it from the top, to finish it off and to make sure that you like what you see, speaking strictly of pressing, that is.

The design is up to you.