Meet Jo Glover–The BigStitch Quilter

big stitch quilting

BigStitch Quilting by Jo Glover

Big Stitch quilting has gotten to be a big deal in the past few years, so I was thrilled when Jo Glover, who published the original directions for BigStitch Quilting, spoke to our guild last year.  She agreed to be interviewed for this blog.  Here’s what she said about her development of the technique:

Jo Glover photo

Jo Glover

“In 1988, when I started quilting, I was more interested in the line designs of the quilting, rather than the patchwork.  It frustrated me that my fine hand quilting–natural thread on muslin background–didn’t show.”

“In 1991, I went to Japan and saw their sashiko with its strong visual impact.  Thick light thread on solid dark fabric.”

big stitch quilting

Another sample of Jo’s BigStitch Quilting

 “Upon my return to the US, I started using a high contrast #8 pearl cotton, longer stitches, with the traditional rocker motion of hand quilting with a hoop and thimble.
I was pleased to find that larger scale designs looked good with the longer, thicker stitches.  The new needlepunched cotton battings permitted a longer distance between quilting lines.”

BigStitch quilting

Jo Demonstrates BigStitch Quilting

“BigStitch was coined in the booklet I wrote and copywrited in 1993 (under my name at the time, Jo Walters).  It still sells.”   [You can get a copy of Jo's booklet directly from her for $7.50; just e-mail her at GloverGirl52 at gmail dot com for her mailing address, and of course give her your address.]
 “To reach a wider audience, I uploaded a series of BigStitch lessons.  They are available at no cost on YouTube; just search “BigStitch Jo Glover” for the 5 lessons and Gallery.  I’m for the preservation of hand quilting.” [Here is the link to Jo's YouTube lessons.  I am so impressed that she did this!]
BigStitch quilting

Matisse’s Goldfish, by Jo Glover

 “Right now, I’m stitching straight lines about 1/3 inch apart, using crochet thread AND NO HOOP OR THIMBLE, ssshhhh.  My friend Jane Cole brought this style, called chiku-chiku, to my attention.  (Chiku-chiku is the sound a sewing machine makes when stitching) Jane got it from Quiltmania magazine, issue # 100, in an article featuring the originator, Akiko Ike.”

Jo Glover quilting

Pillow with close lines of BigStitch quilting by Jo Glover

 “Mixing fine hand quilting, BigStitch, and machine quilting (and now, chiku-chiku) in the same quilt is fantastic.  I do prefer solids or hand dyed fabrics to showcase the hand stitching.  I see many Modern quilters featuring their machine quilting on solids, and that’s great.”
Quilt by Jo Glover

Amerika Blooms by Jo Glover

 “Quilters I have known and loved include Gwen Marston, Jonathan Shannon, my friend Jane Cole, the Gee’s Bend quilters, Fran Skiles, Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen, and Yoshiko Jinzenji.”

5 Things I’m Grateful for in Quilt-World

Gratitude is always a good exercise, as I was reminded when I met with an old friend the other day. So, here are 5 of the things I’m most thankful for in my quilt life:

1. Good friends! Some of my best buddies are people I’ve met through quilting, and, as I’ve mentioned before, joining a quilt group is a great way to make friends.

quilt group

Some Quilty Friends

2. New challenges. I count any day in which I learn something new as a success.

Amish design quilt

I made this quilt when we lived in Pennsylvania.  The biggest challenge was to design and produce the stencils for the quilting.

3. A creative outlet. Like many quilters, I’ve had careers with a scientific focus. It’s nice to have the opportunity to do something that engages my creative side.

applique art quilt

This leaf, made in class with Laura Wasilowski, was a fun way to be more creative than I am when I make bed quilts

4. The opportunity to help. Giving a quilt, whether through a charity or through a personal contact, gives me the opportunity to do something for someone. Often it’s a situation in which there’s no other way to express my concern.

modern quilt

One of my quilt groups makes quilts for Ronald McDonald House

5. The circle is unbroken. When I quilt, I feel connected to my ancestors who made quilts, to friends who use my quilts, and to people all over the world engaged in similar activities. I don’t think about this very often, but it is definitely part of my quilting experience.

wheel of mystery quilt

I made this quilt to learn curved piecing.

So, what are you thankful for?

Your Inner Designer: 3 Formulas for Modern Quilts

It seems to me that, when learning a new skill, there is often a “formula” or basic idea that, once mastered, provides a way into successful practice of the new skill.  So here are 3 ideas for you to try.  See if one of them helps you create designs that you like.

1. Use lots of “negative space”, and start by making this background space in a shade of gray.  (The person who brought my attention to this “rule” of modern quilting has asked to remain anonymous ;-) )  Here are some examples, but I’m sure you know of lots of others:

modern quilt

Shades of Gray by Terry Aske. 2nd place award in the Modern category, Quilts Canada 2014

modern quilt

Found on

2. Another common way to “design” a modern quilt is to make it an obvious take-off from a piece of 20th Century art (or occasionally more recent art).  My design below is by no means an exact copy of any of Piet Mondrian’s work, but it certainly is an imitation of him:

modern quilt design

Thanks, Piet! by Mary  J. Puckett

Sometimes I do see modern quilts that are a direct imitation of an artwork.  However, my preference is to look at a lot of work by one artist, or by a group of similar artists, then close the book and draw something original that “references” the works I’ve studied.

For example, here’s a print I found at an Etsy shop called “Handz”.  Compare it to the quilt just below it.  It’s not a copy, but it could have been based on the print.  Or they could have both been inspired by another source altogether.

modern art print

Mid Century Modern Art print found at Handz on Etsy

modern quiilt

finished – modern drunkard’s path by m_soto on Flickr

3. Just start with modern fabric.  One of my favorite “modern” quilters is Rita at Red Pepper Quilts.  Many of her quilts are traditional designs, but she uses bright, modern, fabrics and her quilts always look fresh and modern to me.

modern quilt

Spools and Nine Patch Quilt by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts

Here’s a detail of another of Rita’s quilts:

modern quilt

Detail of a quilt by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts

Give some of these ideas a try, and let me know what you come up with!

3 Favorite Quilts from 1 Quilter!

When I noticed that 2 of my favorite 11 quilts at AQS-Charlotte were by Jean Larson, I knew I had to meet her. Luckily, while I was trying to figure out how to contact her, she contacted me! Jean has lived in Chattanooga since the early 1970s, so we met at AQS-Chattanooga.

First, as a refresher, here are the two quilts that attracted my attention at AQS-Charlotte:

modern quilt AQS

This quilt by Jean Larson won the Original Design award in the Modern Quilt Challenge!  The Modern Quilt Challenge exhibit was on display at AQS Charlotte as well as other shows during the year.

modern quilt, AQS Charlotte

The Market is Up, another quilt by Jean Larson

Jean entered a different, and maybe even more interesting, quilt in AQS-Chattanooga:

quilt AQS Chattanooga

Jean (right) and I pose in front of her quilt, “Barbed Wire” at AQS-Chattanooga

There are so many things to see in this simple quilt!  First, the design is tessellated!  Jean is a mathematician by training, so she explained it to me, but I’m going to have to ask her to write a guest post to explain it to you.  More on that later.

Second, those variations in yellow are for real, not just trouble with exposure on my camera ;-)  The two yellows add complexity to the quilt.  And finally, although I couldn’t see it until she pointed it out, this quilt is actually a grid of squares in alternating colors:

Look at the quilting, too!

So, here’s a little bit about Jean:

She’s had several starts at quilting.  Her first quilt, in 1976, was a traditional log cabin made with the quilt-as-you-go method and using poly-cotton fabrics, which were about all that was available at the time.  Her second, in 1984, was an orange and turquoise quilt that she worked on while potty training her two adopted boys!  She began quilting seriously in the late ’90s.  In 2012 she discovered modern quilting through a neighbor, and she hasn’t looked back since.  She’s an active member of the Chattanooga Modern Quilt Guild and apparently knows everybody–numerous people stopped to chat with her while we were talking about quilts at the AQS show.  She had a quilt accepted for the first QuiltCon in 2013, and it has been published several places as an example of good use of negative space.  Here it is:

modern quilt

Lanterns, by Jean Larson, was accepted for Quilt Con 2013

Jean says she likes simplicity and alternative grid work in quilts.  She is inspired by geometric shapes and by fabrics–especially stripes.  She loves the mathematics of tessellations and plans to make more tessellated quilts.  I look forward to seeing them!

And I’m going to beg her to write a guest article on tessellations for my next design-your-own-quilt post.  If you know Jean, encourage her to do it!

24-Step Dying to Quilt

Have you ever admired the rainbow of subtle colors offered in hand-dyed fabrics?

Cindy Lohbeck

Cindy Lohbeck

But they are expensive, so, while at AQS in Chattanooga, I took a 24-step hand dye class with Cindy Lohbeck.

Cindy is an excellent teacher.  She has her process down to very precise steps, well explained, that make it difficult for students to make a mistake.

I had NO IDEA how much was involved in fiber-reactive dying!  After 3-1/2 hours in class, we had 24 bins of fat quarters (FQs) in dye to take home and finish.

fabric dying

Part of the fat quarter bins, now at home in my laundry room

It took another 6 hours of work at home, though part of that time was spent waiting for the fixative to work, or waiting for the washer and dryer.  There was a LOT of rinsing by hand in HOT water to get all the extra dye out before the fabric was put in the washer and dryer.

fabric dying

Thank goodness for a deep sink for rinsing!

Cindy’s instructions continued to be thorough and complete, so I had no trouble.  (I think she should write a book and call it “Dying to Quilt” :-) )  She provided all the materials needed for the project, including 24 fat quarters of PFD (prepared for dying) cotton fabric, dyes and reagents, measuring equipment, and even the special detergent for washing the final product!

Finally, after drying and ironing the fat quarters, I had a glorious array of colors!

hand dyed fabric

24 steps of color, plus 2 extras

There are 2 multi-color FQs made with fabric I brought to class to use up the “extra” dye produced in each step.  Can you see them?

Now what in the world am I going to do with this fabric?  Suggestions?

12 Bright Quilts from AQS Chattanooga

There were lots of good quilts, so I’m choosing to show bright ones!  Later this month, I’ll have an interview with a modern quilter from Chattanooga.  Meanwhile, I hope you find these quilts as inspiring as I did.

modern quilt

Sherbert at the Beach, by Stacey Day

art quilt

Art DeCOW, by Connie Donaldson

pieced quilt

Winter Jewels, by Michelle Renee Hiatt and Barbara Bregman

modern quilt

Sunset, by Leanne Chahley

Philippine quilt

Quilt by Gina Abayan, part of a display of beautiful quilts from the Philippines

modern quilt

Freeze Frame in Motion, by Judy Holahan

modern quilt, art quilt

Delaneyville, by Fran Stinson

modern quilt

Red Rectangle, by Judy Mercer Tescher

modern quilt

Rainbow Bright, by Jennifer Hynes

modern quilt

3 Sisters, by Veronica Hofman-Ortega

modern quilt

Fall Migration, by Tamara Watts-McPhail

modern quilt

A Feather Runs Through It, by Veronica Hofman-Ortega

Your Inner Designer 6: Copy Somebody Good!

Truly original ideas in design are really, really rare  More often good designs are inspired by other good designs, and most designers start by copying other people.  There’s nothing wrong with that–just give credit!

Door with art glass window

Glass window, designer unknown

For example, here’s a door I admire in a friend’s house.  It got me thinking that it would be nice to make her a table runner with a design similar to the glass in the door, especially since the dining table is right by the door.  I may start out by copying the design, but my table runner won’t be an exact copy.  I want it to be obviously inspired by the door, but I probably couldn’t make an exact copy even if I wanted to.  And I’m not going to sell it as my own “original” design without reference to the door, either.

Here’s the first attempt:Craftsman inspired table runnerThat may be obviously inspired by the door, though in fact both are inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and Craftsman styles of design. If you don’t know much about those styles of design, Google them.  There are many similar designs to be found, so I can make LOTS of designs of this style without copying any of them.  Here’s the second try:Craftsman style table runner

This one has a little more detail.  Another master of this style, popular in the early years of the 20th Century, was Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  William Morris textile and wallpaper designs were the same historical period, and you may have seen Moda’s extensive line of William Morris-inspired fabrics.

One last try:table runner

So go look at some books on the history of design (the history of advertising works too) and make some designs inspired by what you see.  It’s a good starting place when you think you don’t have any ideas, and you’ll eventually come up with something your really like.  Then it’s time to make a quilt!

Here are the first 5 posts in this series:

Your Inner Designer 5: A Program to Make Your Own Palette!

Quilt Design 4: Choosing Your Color Scheme

Your Inner Designer 3: New Blocks From Old

Your Inner Designer 2: Many Block Arrangements

Find Your Inner Designer, Part 1

10 Quilty Secrets

Several of the blogs I read have recently revealed “10 Quilty Secrets” and I thought it sounded like fun, so I’m playing along. If you would like to see some other bloggers’ secrets, here are the links: The original post seems to have been at, and the idea has been picked up by several blogs I follow, including Catbird quiltswombat quilts, and Christa quilts.

And so, here are my 10 Quilty Secrets:

1. Although I’m participating in Marti’s UFO (unfinished object) finish-a-month this year, I had FAR MORE than 12 UFOs at the beginning of the year. Oops, still do! Here’s the August finish, a quilt for Ronald McDonald House made from orphan blocks:August-finish

2. My nearest LQS (Local Quilt Shop) is an hour away, which I take as an excuse to have a good stash at all times ;-)

3. If I start a quilt and don’t like it for some reason, I abandon the plan and turn it into something else–another quilt design, a table runner, whatever.

4. And sometimes those I-don’t-like-this projects just become long term UFOs :-(

5. In my world, a good quilt is a fast quilt.  I’m not patient enough for the zillions of little hand-pieced hexies, for example.cartoon hexie

6.  For that matter, I DON’T EVEN LIKE hexies!  Yikes!

7. I value good design in quilts and in other useful objects.

8.  I LOVE to learn new techniques and try new things, so I take lots of classes  Even if they seem like stuff I could do easily without a class I always learn something.

9. We’ve moved a lot, and one of the best ways I’ve found to make new friends is to join a local quilt group.

10. I think every quilt needs a little purple!

So, what are some of YOUR quilty secrets?

3 Perfect Ideas

Pieced quilt, circles

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

1. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

I made this quilt a long time ago to practice circles, and the quotation that inspired it came to mind recently when I was debating which quilts are “good enough” to be submitted to juried shows.  It probably is obvious that the design above is more interesting than the “perfect” one shown below:

pieced quilt, circles

Perfect Isn’t So Good

2. “Perfect” is well enough done that you are satisfied when you look at it, but not so over-worked that you’re sick of quilting by the time you finish it.

To make a perfect quilt, It helps to start with:

  • The right pattern for your skill level
  • Fabric you love
  • Techniques you enjoy (e.g., paper piecing, applique, whatever)
  • The right tools, well maintained

3. You may be more capable of “perfect” than you think.  It helps to have friends who keep you honest!  I recently had trouble making my seams line up on a medallion-style block and my friend Jerri said, “You’re too good a quilter for that!  You just don’t want to bother!”  Oops, she was right.

And here’s a book that helped me with “perfecting” my blocks:  

Sneaky Piecing by Beth Ferrier

I found this book with lots of tips on how to improve piecing accuracy and got a lot better with just a little practice!

I recommend the book if you want to improve some of your skills, too.

pieced quilt block

Swap Block–88 little squares!!!

And look at this lovely swap block with the corners all matched up!  It isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough :-)

6 Orphan Blocks, 1 Donation Quilt

I’ve probably mentioned that one of the ways I’m motivating myself to get rid of the excess in the studio is by joining Marti’s UFO finish of the month over at 52 Quilts.  As part of my ongoing effort to “clean it up, move it out” I’m making a series of donation quilts out of my orphan blocks.

pieced quilt blocks

Orphan blocks from a recent project

I had these 6 blocks that I liked, so I looked for fabric to go with them. The bright turquoise went well, but I had enough to join them only, not to frame them.  Searching for something to make it wider, I found a piece of black/white chevron fabric and decided it needed to be used, and FAST.chevron fabric

My daughter recently point out, “When you find chevrons on your mouthwash bottle, they’re on the way out!” :-D

Finally, I had some colorful Michael Miller dots that seemed to fit in:Michael Miller dots

And WOW!  A very “lively” improvised quilt.Donation quilt

I’m going to practice free motion quilting it on my new Bernina, and it will be the August UFO finish of the month.  Then off to Ronald McDonald House it goes.