An Interview with Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

Knowing that I wouldn’t be quilting for a while post surgery I interviewed 2 fab quilters and will have a guest blog.

My first quilter is Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero of Kaleidoscope Collections.   I met Jeanie in the green room while we were both in OH to tape for Quilting Arts TV.   Shortly after our time together Jeanie asked me to quilt for her and here we are now having finished our first competition quilt together.

Teri: How long have you been quilting and how did you get started?

Jeanie: I started quilting in late 2004.  It was quite a circuitous route. I designed some software (Kaleidoscope Kreator) for the scrapbooking market and at the first scrapbook tradeshow I went to, I had three other vendors say, “Have you thought about quilting?”  Well, no, I hadn’t thought about quilting, but after hearing about it from three different people, I decided it might be a good idea to look into it.  Also at that tradeshow, I just happened to be across from a booth selling inkjet fabric (which is what makes it possible to use Kaleidoscope Kreator for quilting.) Not only that, but a distributor at that show was also in the quilting market and told me that if I could get them some samples, they would love to include them in their booth at Quilt Market (just five weeks away). Not only did I send them some (very simple) samples, but I also attended the show to see what this quilting world was all about.  I was totally blown away – and totally hooked on quilting after that!

Jeanies first quilt using the Kaleidoscope software and lame
Jeanie's first pieced quilt

Teri: As a quilt maker I’ve found that I have an affinity for certain patterns and colors.  I’m always inspired by what other quilters find as their favorites.  Can you share your favorites?

Jeanie: One of my very first quilts was based on a log cabin block and I still love that pattern!  I like how different a quilt can look based on the arrangement of the blocks, colors, values, width of the strips,  traditional vs. wonky, etc.  I like just about any color as long as it’s bright!  Jewel tones are probably my favorite, but they need to be balanced with lighter accents.  No pastels or muted colors for me – though I do love neutrals!


Teri: Each quilter has a favorite part of the quilt making process, which part is yours?

Jeanie: I think that designing is my favorite part of the process.  I usually design in Photoshop (because that’s what I’m most comfortable with) and then have to figure out how to construct what I’ve designed – which is my next favorite part of the process.  I love the challenge of constructing something after I’ve designed it!


Teri: Jeanie, you’re best known for the Kaleidoscope Collections software, how did you get started?

Jeanie: Back in 2003, I was working as a photo restoration artist – scanning old, faded, cracked or otherwise damaged photos and “repairing” them in Photoshop.  I was an active member of an online community of other photo restorers and one of them posted an image of a photo kaleidoscope that she had made by flattening out a coffee filter, cutting a wedge out of it, placing it over a photo and scanning it in – and then creating a kaleidoscope design from the wedge using Photoshop.  I took the process a step further and figured out how to “cut out” the wedge in Photoshop. A bunch of us in that forum had a lot of fun making kaleidoscope designs from our photos!  I happened to send some of my designs to my sister (who was into scrapbooking at the time) and she said, “Hey – this could be really big!  There’s a whole book written on how to make photo kaleidoscope for scrapbooking!”

The process for creating photo kaleidoscope by hand is fairly tedious, so my sister and I decided to try our hand at offering a service at a scrapbook show to make kaleidoscope designs for people who dropped off their photos and printing them out.  It was a hit (maybe too much so – we were swamped!), but perhaps more importantly about half of the people who stopped by our booth asked if we were selling the software to make the kaleidoscopes. And the rest is history!

Jeanie's second quilt.



Teri: What is the most difficult part of writing the software?

Jeanie: I should be clear that while I defined what I wanted the software to do, I didn’t actually write the code.  I do have a degree in Computer Science, but I had always worked on large mainframe computers and got out of that field before personal computers were on every desk.  So I hired someone to do the actual coding.  With that in mind, I think the hardest part of writing software is coming up with a good description of what you want it to do and how you want it to look before any coding actually starts – and then sticking to that plan.  “Creeping featurism” is really, really hard to keep under wraps – there’s always a little tweek or small feature that you’d like to add, but the more changes to make to the code, the more chances there are that you’ll introduce an unintended defect.  Perhaps even more difficult than that however is actually pulling the plug and saying, “It’s done!”  No matter how much testing you’ve done, there are bound to be defects that you didn’t find (and won’t find) until the software is installed on a bunch of different systems.



Kaleidoscope software on the back of a denim jacket

Teri: Do you see the Kaleidoscope software growing and changing?

Jeanie: All that I can say right now is that I have a ton of ideas – probably more than will ever see the light of day.  So stay tuned!


Teri: You’ve been working with the Kaleidoscope Collections software for a long time, what is your favorite feature?

Jeanie: I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I can’t come up with a favorite feature of KK.  It’s a tool for me to accomplish a design that I’ve dreamed up, so my favorite feature is whatever one helps me realize that vision.  And then it changes with the next idea. My favorite quilt is one that I call “Burst of Paradise”.

Burst of Paradise





Teri: Do you design anything other than quilts?

Jeanie: I’ve been an amateur photographer long before I started quilting.  And since I’ve started marketing Kaleidoscope Kreator, I’ve dabbled in a lot of other disciplines.  As mentioned above, I started my business in scrapbooking which then blossomed into card making and other paper crafts.  I love to create 3-D geometric solids and other dimensional objects from paper.  I’ve also worked with image transfer onto polymer clay to make pendants and I’ve transferred images onto glass plates (using water slide decals).  I love working with resin to create pendants and buttons and recently took a wire-wrapping class to learn how to further embellish those. I also just recently purchased an embroidery sewing machine and digitizing software (which is about all I can say about that right now.




Teri: Do you sell any of the 3-D pieces you make?

Jeanie: No, I don’t sell them.  They’re not on the website, but I’ve attached a photo of a couple of lanterns I made a while back.  I’ve also made much smaller versions of these and have a more complex model that I’ve designed, but never actually put together.  Other dimensional paper objects can be made by simply layering.  You can find examples of the layering techniques on my blog:


Teri: One final question, would you mind allowing the readers to see your studio?

Jeanie: Sure.


Teri: Thanks Jeanie!  I’ll see you at the Kaleidoscope Collections booth in Lancaster at the AQS Show!






Happy Quilting!


Take Me Right Into The “Feather Zone”

I’ve quilted for Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero of Kaleidoscope Collections since shortly after we met on the set of Quilting Arts TV in 2009.  As I stitch I’ll send Jeanie photographic updates of the quilting as these quilts are decorating her booth, inviting customers in for a closer look.  I work at being mindful of her needs as the designer of the software and the quilts.  I love playing with the kaleidoscopes seeing where and how I can quilt them without overwhelming Jeanie’s work.  As a side note kaleidoscopes make great practice quilts, more on that another time.

Jeanie sent me photos of a quilt she was working on and I was totally blown away.  These photos came with a different request, “quilt it like a show quilt“.  We emailed one another finalizing the design of the quilt.  I enjoyed this process as we discussed which design we liked best.    (ALL IMAGES USED WITH PERMISSION)

Meet “Feather Zone”

That red border is pieced in because Jeanie asked me what I thought about printing it…that was fine but I know what an excellent piecer she is and I thought she should piece it in.  Turn about is fair play as you’ll see later.  Because Jeanie was getting ready for Market and Festival I needed to do a very quick turn around time on the quilt.


Over the week or so that I spent quilting this I sent Jeanie sneak peeks of the stitching.  I stopped sending them after a while as I needed to finish the quilt and I really wanted to surprise her with the finished quilt.  I did.

As I stitched I followed a lot of the boundaries of the feathers filling in with some detail as I thought it needed it.

And of course I needed to fill the space.  This is the quilt where I realized I didn’t have much, if any, pink thread.  Five spools of Superior MasterPiece came home with me.  All five pinks came home with me the next day and were stitched into the quilt.

I used fuchsia in the border which ends up quite subtle as the border is a very dark purple.  Jeanie overprinted it to get just the right color.

I used a couple of different colors on the back including orange.  I love the orange/purple combination.  And here again it’s quite subtle as the purple is deep.

I used 2 layers of batting in the quilt.  The batting at the back is bamboo, the batting on the top is Hobbs Tuscany Silk.  The bamboo gives the quilt structure & stability while the silk gives smoothness and loft.  At Jeanie’s request I actually hand stitched the binding to the back.  Yes, you read that correctly I did some hand stitching.  Jeanie was right of course hand stitching on a show quilt gives a much better quality & feel to the quilt.

I did not use bias binding, instead after a conversation with Paula Reid I decided to give cross-grain binding a go and I must say I’m pleased.

The other night Jeanie & I finally decided on the name for the quilt, “Feather Zone”.  We’re taking you into the Feather Zone.  I dare say this is the best way to learn feathers I’ve ever encountered.  Mind you Ricky Tims does a phenomenal demonstration at the Super Seminars and I’m grateful for that!  As I stitched this quilt I learned more about the ways the feathers can be stitched up one side and down the other, than I ever had before.  I’m not one for turning the quilt around a lot as I quilt and this allowed me to quilt in a way that was really comfortable.

Happy Quilting!


PS Jeanie & I are submitting the quilt to shows, as soon as we know where it will be we will let you know.

Bernina Stitch Regulator part 2 & Sketch book cover

When the BSR first came out on the market I decided to wait for a while to get the new machine just to see what other quilters thought about it.    The reviews at the time, as they are now, were mixed with lots of quilters loving it and lot’s of quilters struggling it.

When I took a beginner machine quilting class in Lancaster we had the opportunity to play with the BSR’s in class.  I walked out conviced that the BSR wold not be part of  my quilting tool kit.  Nope, not for me.  Frustration set in as I could not get the BSR to work with my movement, I felt like I had training wheels on my mountain bike.

Fast forward to last summer when I was invited by Pokey Bolton as a guest on Quilting Arts TV.  Prior to the trip to Cleveland I spoke with Jeanne Delpit the National Events Director for Bernina just as a check  in for what I needed.  Jeanne was quite delightful on the telephone.

When I arrived Jeanne asked me if I’d demo the BSR on camera, we had a quickie chat about my experience.  She asked if I would try using the Bernina in a different way and see what I thought.  She set the machine up with the BSR set in Mode 2 with the open to “C” shape foot.  I agreed to give it a try and sat at the machine.  Mode 2 starts and stops with the foot pedal – which is how I think as a quilter – and the needle starts moving with my hand movement.

I started playing around and within about 10 minutes I was quilting swirling feathers at top speed with a consistent stitch.   Two happy quilters, Jeanne Delpit and me.  Jeanne because at the end of that time I told her I would be able to demo this on camera and me because I realized this would eventually become part of my quilting tool kit.

In quilting with the BSR (I still do not own one) over the last year I’ve also realized that depending on what kind of stitching I’m working on sometimes changing the stitch length down to a lower is necessary for effective functioning of the BSR.

So when I quilted the piece for Jeanne to use as a sample I followed some of my usual tips:

1) 90/14 top stitching needle & reduced the tension to work with the King Tut thread I used on top

2) reduced the stitch length to something that is more in line with my own stitch length for the pebbles and the micro stippling I dropped it down to about 1.5 or less.  I’ve heard from Renee that the stitch length can be dropped down to “0” and still create a consistent stitch length, however for beginners please don’t set the stitch length at zero, work your way there.

3) set the machine to BSR, Mode 2 and plugged in the foot pedal and got started quilting

In about 2 1/2 hours the 17 x 17 piece was quilted.  Normally that would take me a bit longer than that.  I had a blast quilting and was able to spend a little bit of time talking with a couple of different customers and a couple of my coworkers.

My red sketchbook arrived the other day from the Art House Coop.  My theme is “lines and grids” though we can do anything in them, it’s an exercise in stretching and growing.

As you can see I’ve already started giving the cover a look that reflects me quite clearly.  I’ll be finishing the swirling feathers of it all and probably filling in some more detail with it.

I’ve done one sketch in the lines and grids theme and am looking forward to seeing what comes next

Happy Quilting!


Bernina Stitch Regulator

Last summer when I went to Cleveland to tape episode 503 for Quilting Arts TV I met Jeanne Delpit, Director of National Events for Bernina, USA.  With about 5 minutes of education and 10 minutes of practice I learned to love the Bernina Stitch Regulator .

I’ve shared before how amazed I was and still am having two modes to use the BSR in and finding one that suits me and works with how I quilt.

In playing with it since I’ve learned that adjusting the stitch length is sometimes necessary particularly when doing small scale work.  I did a small sampler piece for the quilt shop I work in and adjusting the stitch length as I did pebbles made all the difference in controlling my work

I promised Jeanne a sampler and now I’m going to share it with you before I head out for a meeting.


approximately 17″ square

Front: Robert Kaufman Radiance 55% cotton, 45% silk

Back: Daiwabo

Batting: Hobbs Wool

Thread: top King Tut, back MasterPiece

Quilted on a Bernina 440 QE using the Bernina Stitch regulator.

Marking: NONE this is all done free hand.

I even signed the piece and wrote in one of the corners that this is quilted using the BSR.

I love the feel, color and texture of these Daiwabo’s.

Oh my goodness they quilt beautifully!

With the cross hatching I used the inside of the foot as the visual to keep my lines a particular distance apart from one another.  I do this quite frequently and will be one thing that I teach in the upcoming Advanced Machine Quilting class at the Quilt Cottage in Mamaroneck!

I love the freedom this gives me to move quickly across the surface of the quilt and incorporate lots of motifs.

One thing I frequently tell my students “short attention span quilting” is my style.  I like to do lots of different types of quilting motifs.

The micro stippling will also be featured in the class, scaling down a variety of motifs as background filler for trapunto or small quilt projects.

Happy Quilting!


Journaling with Natalya Aikens

I had the privilege of meeting and spending some time with art quilter Natalya Aikens last summer when we were at the taping of series 500 of Quilting Arts TV.  Natalya taped episode 509 with Pokey Bolton and taped a workshop called “texture transformation“.

Natalya posted last week that she was a teensy bit scared to come and talk with us.  Can’t say as I’m surprised – I know that even as much time as I’ve spent in front of people talking about a wide variety of subjects opening up on a personal level of art and quilting kinda gives me the whole sensation of butterflies too.

Natalya shared about the art journaling she’s done over the last several years.  I can tell you this…I left with some ideas swimming around my head.  She made it seem simple and fun and well worth the effort to “feed the creative muse” regularly to keep the art flowing.  I took notes.  Natalya confirmed what a few other quilters have been telling me and I’m trusting that I need to go for it.  I have size limits in mind and I have a photo from a facebook friend that will be the basis for the first piece.

If you have a chance and can work it out with Natalya have her come and visit and share her “journaling” journey with you.

Happy Quilting!


coming soon –  a photo of some incredible mac & cheese and my blooming Mountain Laurel…

How “Twilight in the Bronx” became cover art

A while back I shared the journey of “Twilight in the Bronx”.  This quilt has been in two shows winning ribbons without me being able to see it hanging in either one.

I was able to have “Twilight in the Bronx” on the set of Quilting Arts TV.

And now “Twilight in the Bronx” will be the cover art on Generation Jones CD “Gallimaufry”.  Generation Jones is a folk duo from Chipping Campden, UK, I like their sound.  They’ll be playing at the American Museum in Britain in  June.  When they got the gig to play at the American Museum Geoff & Jon visited the museum and got interested in quilts.

Geoff approached me on the blog about 2 weeks ago asking if they would be able to have permission to use an image of “Twlight in the Bronx” as cover art on the cd.  At first I thought this was some kind of spam so I didn’t respond to them.  Geoff was persistent and contacted one of the other “Quilt Designers” blog ring members for my email address.  Good move on his part.

I was able to do some checking around at that point and after emailing back and forth a bit we were able to work out the details.

I can’t quite tell you how excited I am that “Twilight in the Bronx” will be cover art on their CD.  I’ve been able to see the entire play list and what clinched this for me is one of the songs on the list is James Taylor’s “You’ve got a Friend”.  Bob and I fell in love to this song.

Happy Quilting!


i can’t believe I’m going to say this…

I posted this the other day on facebook and want to share with you that

When the opportunity presents itself for me to get a new sewing machine I want one BSR capable.  Truly I want the Bernina 820.

First – the space from needle to right side is huge 12″
Second – the bobbin holds a larger quantity of thread
Third – it’s BSR capable
Fourth – the sewing area is huge!
Okay that was First however, I’ll elaborate.
When I share some photos of the work that I do a lot of people think I quilt on a long arm.  Any part of a quilt that I do from piecing to machine quilting is on a domestic, the Bernina 1080.  As posted previously the 1080 is a simple machine and we do good work together and quite frankly I’d keep both 1080’s I have  – one for piecing and one as a back up machine.

I’ve given serious consideration to APQS – George, which is basically a long arm on a sewing table & has 40+” of space from needle position to the right.  Mary Anne has George and while quite nice, he take up a lot of space, at this point in time I don’t have room for George.  *if you’re in the area and would like to demo George contact Mary Anne & make an appointment* I do have room for the 820.

Second, after Jeanne Cook-Delpit gave a less than 5 minute tutorial on the different modes while preparing to tape the Quilting Arts TV segment I was able to give a brief demo on camera.   I’ve taken what I’ve learned and shared that with my quilting students with great success.  One of my students has let me come play with her 440 with the BSR and in Mode 2 I was able to get into that quilting rhythm that I love so much and the BSR allowed me to pick up the pace.
If you’ve taken a class with me you know I give little back rubs to help keep your shoulders down and relaxed, I issue speeding violations for quilting too fast and sometimes bring dark chocolate peanut m&m’s.

For me having a BSR isn’t about a consistent quilting stitch.  Nope, I’ve got that.  Having a BSR would allow me to work more quickly, particularly on customer quilts where time is an issue.
Coming in a day or two I took a trip to the Benartex offices and have a few pictures.
Happy quilting!