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Saturday, September 12, 2009

What ispires me

I'm always asked, "Where do you get your ideas for your quilts". When I first started quilting, I was just like most quilters; I would get a pattern, find the fabrics (had to have a light, medium and dark) and make the quilt. My first quilts all had to match my decorating colors. I was so proud that I could pick the fabrics! Can you see something in common about the quilts and figure out the colors on my home? This was the color dejour for the mid 80s.
As my children got older and didn't need my constant supervision, I started working in a quilt shop (in 1995) and teaching quilting classes. As I started gathering fabrics for customers I began to see colors in a whole new way. I expanded my color palette and experimented with putting fabrics together not with my home colors in mind, but with colors that I liked working with. My quilts no longer had to match my home.
I wanted to challenge myself and started entering contests. I was intrigued with miniature quilts and subscribed to Miniature Quilts Magazine. (These quilts I actually finished since I could quilt them easily on my sewing machine!) They had a yearly contest, Quilts from the Heart. I had just finished designing and working with a bed size quilt for the band's mom group raffle quilt for my son's high school band, so I decided to miniaturize it, donated it to the band dinner's silent auction and enter it into the contest. I was so surprized when I received a letter from the magazine tellng me that they wanted to publish it. I was even more surprized to see it on the cover! Mine is the red, white and blue one. (The person that won it in the auction would not sell it back to me so I don't have that quilt.)

The biggest revelation about fabrics and design for me was when I started entering the Hoffman Challenge in 1996. I  realized that by starting with a fabric or collection of fabrics, I could design my own quilts to show off the fabric's designs. After winning a second place prize in the 1997 challenge I was spurred on to create and enter more contests! As I entered more contests and won more awards, in 2001 I decide to contact fabric companies about designing for their new fabric lines. P&B Textiles was the first company to take me on as a designer. Now I currently work with P&B, Timeless Treasures, Hoffman, Benartex, and RJR as a commissioned designer.

So to answer the question as to what inspires me to design a quilt.... I find that the fabric lines "talk to me" on what kind of quilt design best enhances their theme or colors. If it is a specific theme, such as Americana or Oriental, I would use a block or blocks that reflect that theme. Some fabrics scream "curved block", some "simple block" (well they don't really scream just a voice in my head). No, I'm not crazy, I don't hear voices! It's just my brain is always on design mode. I will lie in bed at night trying to think of the best way to work with a fabric group and get up in the morning with the idea clear or at least clearer. I encourage everyone to try that at least once. Even if it is looking at a fabric group and finding a pattern to go with it, instead of visa versa, you are thinking in a different way. For more about me and what inspires me take a look at my recent interviews and .

Everyday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til tomorrow, Toby

Friday, September 11, 2009

What motivates me

I am a procrastinator by nature. I have always been like that. It's not that I don't want to do the task (except when it comes to house cleaning) it's just that I have to have a motivation to do it. (Like company coming over so I have to dust!) Most people do not work well under pressure, but pressure is a wonderful motivator. If someone gives me a project to do and says "Get to it when you have a chance", there is a good chance that I will not get to it very quickly. However, if they tell me I need it by such and such a date, then I know I have to get it done by then. Now that doesn't mean that I may start on it right away.

When I was in college and the professor would give us a project to write, I would wait until a couple weeks (or days) before it was due to start writing. The stressors of needing it to be done quickly was what motivated me not only to get it done but also got my "creative juices" flowing. I can't explain why that happens but it always worked for me. I am the same way when working on a challenge or designing a quilt. The closer it gets to the deadline the more creative I get. My husband is just the opposite. When he had to write a paper, he would get it done way before it was due. He can't understand why I procrastinate. The problem I had when I did that, was that each time I would proof the paper, I would find a different way to write it and would keep rewriting it. I was never satisfied with it. If I waited until later, then I had to finally say enough!

I retired from education after 25 years of working in Special Education in 2007. The last few years I was working, I was doing two jobs, my education job and my quilting job. I would come home from work, eat dinner and then start sewing, writing patterns, or designing. I knew I had only a few hours to get my quilting jobs done since I had to work 8 hours a day in school. I seemed to get both jobs done (with not too much sleep). Now that I am retired, I don't seem to get as much done. I have difficulty focusing on doing one task at a time; I get easily distracted. That is my biggest problem with working from home. There are so many things that I can be doing besides the current project.

I think people are born with different inner "mechanisms" (for lack of a better word). Some are very organized and other aren't. Some are night people and some morning. Some are procrastinators and others are not. I have tried different ways to get myself organized, reading books, advice from people, but never seem to pick up those skills. I just don't think it is in my nature. Maybe I don't have the motivation to change. Whatever it is, I have resigned myself to the fact that that is the way I am. I still get things done. I could write myself a schedule and try to keep it but chances are I will do it for a few days and then go back to my old ways (or lose the schedule)! So, take a good look at yourself, embrace the way you are. Don't let other people tell you that you should be such and such when it isn't part of you!

Now to my latest project. I finished the top of the Hoffman quilt I was working on. I was unable take a picture of it with the borders, but I did photo the pieced top. The block is Rob Peter to Pay Paul. I use templates by John Flynn to make the quilt (which I sell on my website). I had to take time off to write a couple patterns so I did not get a chance to quilt it. It is being sent off to Hoffman today so they can quilt it for a trade show in Las Vegas next week. The fabric collection is called Treasures from the East. It is a beautiful collection of colors. As soon as the pattern is posted on Hoffman's website, I will let you know.

Well, on to my next project; working with Paula Nadelstern's new collection, Nuance for McCalls Quilting. I'll post my progress as I get it done. Take time to look at the collection on Benartex's website

Everyday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til tomorrow, Toby

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No post today

Sorry guys. Due to deadlines, I will not be able to post today. I have to work, work, work (and I'm suppose to be retired!) Come back in a couple days and I will have lots to show and tell.

Everyday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til next time, Toby

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Scant Quarter Inch?

I love teaching beginning quilters. They don't have time to develop bad habits yet! Even when I am teaching more experienced quilters one of the first questions I ask is "Does anyone know what a scant quarter inch is?" Being in a guild, I know when many member participate in the optional block or raffle quilt, where everyone is making the same block, they all come out different sizes! Why is that? Because everyone's definition of a scant quarter inch seam allowance is different. No one can tell me what it is. I think it is a mysterious number. Many books define it as one or two thread widths from 1/4". One or two? What kind of thread? Some threads are heavier than others. Can you see the dilemma?

I've taken many workshops from national teachers. Even though I teach, it is always good to see how other people teach to find better (or other) ways to do something. I'm not so stuck in my ways to say my way is the only way. I have my degree in Special Education and I have taught children who use different methods of learning; visual, auditory, tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (movement). Most quilters are visual learners and learn from observation. I learn things through a combination of visual, tactile, and kinesthetic. I can see a technique demonstrated, but until I touch it and do it, it isn't really stuck in my head. I admit that I am a terrible listener, not that I don't listen to people when they are talking, but I do not remember the information as well as when I am doing something with my hands. For example, if someone gives me directions to their house, I need to write it down (kinesthetic) and look at a map (visual). Once I drive there, I usually remember how to get there. Now if my husband does the driving, I may not remember. In that instance I was just an observer, not the doer.

Let's get back to why I brought up taking workshops from national teachers. The first time I learned a good method for getting a consistent quarter inch seam was from a class by Sharon Craig. She uses Dr. Scholl's Molefoam Pads to get a consistent seam. She recommended that you put your needle in the furthest right position that your machine will allow, measure 1/4" from the needle and place a small piece of molefoam next to the ruler. Before I took her class, I had been fighting with my quilting foot because I was concentrating too much on whether the edge of the fabric was under the foot, just outside of the foot or where it was. With this tool I was able to see the edge of the fabric and it was always touching the molefoam. I could relax and just sew, always knowing that my seam would be the same each time.

There is another reason that I do not like that 1/4" quilting foot. Many of the newer sewing machines have very wide feed dogs (those teeth under your sewing foot) and the quilting foot did not cover both feed dogs. I always felt that my fabric was not being fed evenly without the fabric touching both feed dogs. This is why I like to use my regular sewing foot with the molefoam.

The next teacher I learned about the 1/4" seam allowance from was Sally Collins. You know, that quilter who makes prize winning miniature quilts that are perfect! Her work is amazing! I purchased her video "Sally Collins Teaches You Precision Piecing" and was lucky enough to take a three-day workshop from her. She discussed an "accurate" quarter inch. Now if everyone made an accurate quarter inch wouldn't you think they would all be the same? She uses a ruler by Collins called Machine Seam Gauge (which I sell on my website). It has little holes in it, that you can stick your needle in, to measure the 1/4". So, I combined Sharon Craig's technique with the needle-right and molefoam and Sally Collins technique with the ruler and voila....a perfect 1/4" each time! Consistency is the key.

Well, got to work on writing a pattern for the quilt I'm making. Tomorrow I will discuss another topic on accuracy.

Just a little self-promotion...I am celebrating my first anniversary on my website all this month. Become a Facebook fan (link on my website) and get $5 off any purchase over $24, all this week, until Sept. 14. That is $5 off my new book St. Louis Stars. If you make a purchase, send me a message on my "Contact me" page with the words "Facebook fan". You will get a $5 refund on your purchase. Please spread the word to all of your friends to join my blog and become a facebook fan. Fans will be privey to special sales and promotions.

Everday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til tomorrow, Toby

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The right tool for the right job.

My father does woodworking for a hobby and taught me that you should always use the right tool for the right job. I believe that not all quilting tools are equal. For instance, the term "silk pins". What does that mean?
If you have been sewing for a long time you probably have some very old pins. When quilters bring those to class, to pin their delicate cotton fabrics, I pass around the pins that I use for quilting to demonstrate the difference between them (I call theirs "nails"). There is a definite "feelable" (if that is a word) difference. Silk pins is a term used for a lot of different pins. They come in different lengths and widths. I always recommend that if the pin label does not tell you what size they are (specifically the width), do not get them. It is important to get pins that are 0.5mm or less. Sally Collins recommends a 0.4mm pin which slides through even the tightest weave batik like butter. I carry both of these type of pins on my website Without these fine pins I wouldn't be able to do some of the pinning techniques that I do when piecing.
I promised I would show my unique pinning technique for piecing curves. I hope that the photos show up better than yesterdays. I am trying to learn the ins and outs of blogging and adding photos is one of those learning curves. If I can get someone (maybe my DH) to video me sewing, I will try to put in a video of sewing the curve in a few days.

The most important thing about sewing curves, in my opinion, is that the concave (inny) curve is on top and convex (outy) curve on bottom when sewing. The concave curve is the one that is more manipulable. The larger curves you do not have to clip, but as the curve gets smaller you will need to make small clips closer together. Rob Peter to Pay Paul block is a large smooth curve that is easily manipulated.

The first step is to find the center of both sections. I do this by folding each one in half, one wrong sides together and the other right sides together and making a small crease on them. I tried using pins for a long time but always got frustrated trying to get the pins on top of each other. The creases fit into each other and make it easier to match. Here is the first pinning trick.....Weave the pin to hold the two layers together in the center.

I repeat this on the beginning and end of the seam also. The problem most people have sewing curves is, that in the beginning and end of sewing, the edges tend to pull apart. By weaving the pin in and out (just like sewing) it holds the edges together better.
Now here is the second pinning trick....At the end of the seam, weave a fourth pin along the seam line (parallel to it) next to the raw edges. The two pins at the end form a "T". This pin is used to help hold the final sewing edge together and slowly gets pulled out as you get closer to the end. I leave the other pin in to help guide the edge to stay at my exact 1/4" seam allowance. (That will be tomorrow's tip of the day.)

Well, again, got to get back to my quilting. I will show you a photo of the Hoffman quilt tomorrow, hopefully almost done and will give you a tip for getting a perfect 1/4" seam allowance everytime.

Everyday do what you love and love what you do, 'Til tomorrow, Toby

Monday, September 7, 2009

I love my job!

I have the greatest job in the world! I get to see new fabrics before the general public and design great quilts with them! I am working on a couple new collections from Hoffman that are so fantastic (but aren't they all), I wanted to give you a sneak peak at the collection and the quilt that I am currently working on. The first one is called Treasures from the East. The block I am using is Rob Peter to Pay Paul.

I love designing quilts with curves. They add so much movement to a quilt. When I am teaching a class many of the quilters tell me they are afraid to sew curves. After much frustration myself in trying to keep the edges together when sewing, I have developed my own unique pinning method for perfect curves every time and I get so much satisfaction showing it to my students! After taking my class the quilters tell me that it wasn't as hard as they thought. I will post photos of this technique tomorrow.

I am the first quilter in my family. I do come from a long line of sewers. My grandfather was a tailor and my mother a home ec. teacher and seamstress. I started crafting at a young age, teaching myself to knit and crochet and then started sewing at 13. I made a lot of my own clothes. I took my first quilting class in 1985 from Jackie Robinson, who owned the local quilt shop in St. Louis, Missouri (before she became famous). My mother took the class with me. That summer I got hooked on quilting, but sadly to say, my mother didn't. I didn't start designing my own quilts until I worked in a quilt shop in 1995 and began entering contest. It was so exciting to see one of my quilts in print in Miniature Quilt Magazine and then winning a prize in the Hoffman Challenge! That spurred me on to design more.

Well, got to get back to sewing. I hope I whet your appetite to learn more about me and to see what I am working on. Please be sure to visit my website to see my gallery of quilts and lots of wonderful products.

Everyday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til tomorrow, Toby

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My first blog!

Okay, I am going to attempt to start a blog. My name is Toby Lischko. I am a quilt designer, teacher, and addicted quilter. I started quilting in 1985 and got hooked after my first lesson. I have my own company Gateway Quilts & Stuff, that I started in 1998 and a website that I started a year ago. I am now celebrating my first anniversary. I also have a Facebook fan page at Please consider becoming my "fan". I will use my blog to keep you updated about what is going on with my quilting. My FB fan page will also contain things happening on my website.
I am currently working on a quilt for Hoffman fabrics for fall market with a wonderful fabric collection called Treasures from the East. It will be a free web pattern on their website. I will post the link of it as soon as it is on their website. When I get it done, I will post a photo of it.
Like most quilters, I have many projects going on at one time. As I get a hang of this blog thing (and time to work on it), I will start adding photos of my work. I hope you enjoy reading about my quilting adventures, which get better every day!