Monday, March 26, 2012

My day with Sharon Schamber

I was so excited when I heard that the Inland Northwest Machine Quilter's group (INMQ) would be hosting a day of classes by Sharon Schamber. March 9, 2012, the group met in Spokane at the Quilting Bee where they meet about quarterly. Sharon presented "Designing the Quilting Process" and "Filling the Spaces". She also had some of her DVDs and project patterns available. Included in the morning class was her DVD by the same name which I had picked up at MQX-Portland last fall, so I now have one for sale if you'd like it! The afternoon class supplied a project pack by the same name. I was able to also pick up "Longarm Stippling the 3 W's (What Where and Why)", "Longarm Couture Feathers", "Longarm Couture Delicate Feathers", and "Piped Binding".

If you're not familiar with Sharon Schamber, check out her website and store (run by her daughter). Sharon also as a subscription 'network'. But most famously known as the only three-time winner @ the International Quilt Festival and two-time winner at AQS Paducah. This quilt is a reproduction that she made after the original was destroyed in a fire. It was painted then quilted. It is a whole cloth quilt. This was the only quilt of hers that was shown during the classes. The following day INMQ hosted Sharon's trunk show. Sadly I was not able to attend.

Here are a few notes from the morning class:
If your machine is on roller skates, you're a long-armer!
We are a cottage manufacturing industry, time is money.
Sharon took us through a definition process for density of quilting terminology so that we were all on the same page. One of her extreme custom quilts used 30,000 yards of thread.

When quilting, what you don't touch is what you see.
Piecing, feathers and applique should be 2/3 of the quilt. The background should be 1/3. Need same proportions all the way through the quilt. A multi-head embroidery needle leaves no holes in your quilt.

When considering size of needle, 3 strands of thread should be able to go through the eye of the needle or the thread should take up 1/3 of the eye.

When considering stitch length, the shortest stitch length should be no smaller than across 5 strands of thread together, the longest should be 8 strands. Different dyes do effect how this might translate even in the same size of thread.

Feather sizes: each spine should be 6-12" in length in a soft S shape. The feathers should be finger length or about 3" for the 'stipple' category (1/2" density). The angle of the feather to the spine should be 45 degrees. Start feathers going OVER the mountain, scoop in to start.

As I do---she also loves the FriXion pens for marking. She recommends using STEAM to remove the marks, no need to then ultimately WASH it out. (Remember, FriXion pen ink will disappear with heat and reappear when frozen but can be washed out).

This was a fun idea that Sharon showed us...take your LEFT hand and hold you fingers straight up palm out. Try to open you thumb and point it down. How much greater than a right angle (90 degrees) is your thumb relative to your index finger? She believes there is a direct correlation between this LARGE angle and the amount of creativity that you have. At first she asked us to check our right hand ...and mine is exactly a 90 degrees and I thought...I am NOT creative! And then she said, oh sorry, your LEFT hand...and mine opens up quite a bit. Whether it is true or not, I don't know, but it sure gave me some new confidence!! :-)

When considering a whole cloth for the first time, draw a square, bisect it on the diagonals and vertically and horizontally. You then have 1/8th of the square, remember the 2/3 1/3 rule and start designing! Use a mirror to show what it will look like by putting two mirrors on the small angle and it will show you the 8 parts.

That is my feather on the far right of the board. Couldn't believe I was called up to I tried! there were a few other secrets that I shall let you learn by getting her DVD or taking the opportunity to take a class from her.

The afternoon class talked about various shapes and considerations for filling them.

Don't forget the 2/3 1/3 rule, consider a 1/4" boundary around any piecing (a feather goes flat in a seam allowance), leave 3/4" (thumb width) at the border.

Create a focus, draw a fence (edge of your feathers --distance away from the spine), echo/shadow back the design ...if you are bored, shake it up! Odd numbers gives a center, scallop and radiating lines are part of the 1/3; contrast of texture is important.

Sharon ditches LAST allowing the quilting to open up the seams making the ditch easy to hit. Not sure about this idea yet, probably depends on how good the piecing was. Sometimes it seems that ditching the piece helps to keep it squared or sized properly relative to the next piece. I wonder what Linda Taylor would say about this?

Quilt backing straight of grain should run the length of the quilt--helps it hang better. Cut borders on the length of grain, same for the sashings.

We enjoyed pitching quilting ideas as a group and Sharon doodled it on the whiteboard.

Every 5th feather or so do something more interesting --sometimes the 3rd, but mostly do it every 5th.

Cross-hatch goes well with applique.

Traditional quilts will tend to use even repeats and the feathers in the border will run clockwise or be mirrored. Modern quilts will use odd numbers have more of an 'art' quality but balance is still important. Folk-art quilts are somewhere in the middle.

Appraisal values are wholesale values.

One of the most exciting parts of this opportunity was showing Sharon my 'Spinner' quilt (wasn't bound yet) and getting some constructive feedback. Besides being very encouraging pointing out several good things that I did, she also recommended how I might do some things differently. You can't learn without getting that sort of feedback. I was really pleased. As a result I will not be putting prairie points in the binding and I added a small green border --carefully done because I had already quilted it, but I thought I ought to heed the advice from the expert and see how it shows.

Hope you found a few nuggets and are encouraged to try some new ideas.


  1. Oh wow, so glad for you! Thanks for sharing some tips... think Sharon is a Great teacher! Bet you learned so much and had lots of fun!

  2. I did find a few nuggets if learning here, thank you! I quilt on a domestic machine and use Sharon's basting technique for domestic machines.
    The 2/3-1/3 idea explains why it is that some quilts just don't please me (aside from the fact that I'm not fond of modern stippling).
    The idea of 6-12" spines for feathers is fascinating--not at all sure I have ever done that intentionally.
    And I love the idea of the eye of the needle corresponding to the width of multiple strands of threads--I'm going to try that soon!
    Thanks for posting this--and I'm so glad I stumbled onto your blog!

  3. What a fun time. I'm so happy you were able to spend the day with Sharon. Of course, I wish I could have joined you. But, the next best is reading your post. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Interested in the DVD. Which one is it?