Aurifil 2019 August Designer of the Month Karen Miller

I’m Designer, Author, an your host for this program, Pat Sloan.  

This year we challenged each designer to create a block inspired by ‘A tradition’ and I asked them to use  red & white fabrics  with just a splash of a color of their choice.

I first meet Karen Miller like many of you did, by seeing a photo of her amazing Redbird on a branch quilt.  I’ve seen been delighted to have the opportunity to work with Karen now on Aurifil projects, she is amazing!  Not only is she an incredible designer, she is also very curious. Her curiosity is a big bonus for us. Karen wants to understand how and why things work in the quilt making process. So if you are interested in in depth thread topics or learning how to do stunning machine quilting, then get with Karen!

CLICK to Listen to our chat, it was a lot of fun!

Visit Karen at

Missed a month? CLICK FOR PRIOR DESIGNER interviews

Remember we have a Challenge portion of our Designer of the Month interview. Each month we select one random winner to receive a 12 LARGE spool BOX of Aurifil thread for just making the challenge block and sharing it! Details at the end plus last month’s winner!

Let’s get to know Karen!


Where do you live and what is your favorite spot there?

My husband and I are currently enduring embracing a year of transition. We are fortunate to live in the Finger Lakes Region of beautiful Upstate NY and are blessed to be moving from a gentleman’s farm in Owego to a lovely slice of land overlooking beautiful Keuka Lake.

Keuka is one of 11 glacier-formed fresh water lakes spanning some 9000 acres of Upstate NY known as the Finger Lakes Region.

We’ve enjoyed the change of seasons at our cottage on Keuka Lake for many years — saying “goodbye” to our country farmette some 60 miles away will allow us to enjoy the lake year-round.

Keuka Lake is one of a few natural Y shaped lakes in the world and the only lake in the United States that flows both north and south.

Rich with Native American legend, Keuka means “lake with an elbow” or “canoe landing place” to the Seneca natives. Because of its unique shape the white settlers nicknamed it “Crooked Lake” and many local businesses adopted and use this name today.

When we’re not doodling on the dock or enjoying the refreshing waters of Keuka we love to visit the Garrett Memorial Chapel, also known as “The Little Chapel on the Mount” that sits on Keuka Lake’s Bluff Point.

The Chapel was built by the Garrett family in memory of their son, Charles, who passed of tuberculosis in the 1920’s.

The site provides amazing views of Keuka Lake, but best of all it emits an uncanny spiritual energy – a surreal sense of well-being, unconditional acceptance, and love. If you’re ever in the area be sure to visit to this spectacular location.

When was your FIRST quilt sighting?

I honestly can’t recall my first quilt sighting but I’m thankful that my elder sister Janet introduced me to quilting in 2006 when she enrolled us in a Thangles™ block of the month at her local quilt shop. Janet taught me to press, cut, and piece, and to this day, supports all of my quilty adventures.

I made this simple little table runner from those blocks and quilted it in the ditch.

Janet made this lovely little throw.

We’re fortunate to share our love of quilting with our sister Michele – who is also a talented photographer and artist.

Eagle Photo Credit : Michele Morningstar

“The Sisters Three” collaborated on this fun quilt for a special family member:

Our Hexie Love

What advice do you have for Freemotion quilting?

Ahhh… my favorite advice for those new to Free Motion Quilting is: “There are no mistakes.” Turn the so-called mistakes into a design element – embrace them – repeat them – own them – let them become a lesson of the process. Following this advice enables more time to learn FMQ and a minimal amount of time removing stitches. Promise yourself you’ll only rip when your stitch tension is “off” OR when you’ve chosen the wrong color or weight of thread. Your FMQ skills will grow exponentially when you stop ripping out “mistakes”.

Another favorite FMQ Tip: Panels, Panels, Panels – Improve your free motion quilting skills practicing on pre-printed fabric panels. One of my favorite panels is Zoe the Giraffe by World of Susybee. You can’t go wrong by learning to FMQ on children’s panels. The recipients of those quilts won’t mind if your stitch length or design is not perfect. Grab a panel and get going. Check out the free Quilt Along tutorials on my blog.

What does your studio look like, and what would you change in it?

I did mention this is the year of transition right? My “Studio” isn’t a studio at all – it’s generally my home machine setup in the dining or living room at my current location. You see we move from our farmette in Owego to Keuka Lake seasonally and my “studio” travels with me. My machine, my current project, my Gidgett II table, my notions and all of my Aurifil thread are travel ready so I can continue to work and sew in any location. The remainder of my quilty “things” are housed in totes, tubs and boxes to be utilized when I begin a new project. Here’s a peek at my simple quilting setup:

Here’s one of the ways I travel with my Aurifil Thread Collections:

You can read about my FMQ setup on this blog post => My FMQ Setup

2020 will bring my very own quilting space at the lake. Stay tuned to my Facebook, Instagram and Blog for celebration images…

Tell us about your other things

I’m really excited to be heading up the Aurifilosophy Program for the great folks at Aurifil thread. Myself and 20 other certified Aurifilosophers travel the countryside sharing a wealth of information about thread, needles, tension, and highlighting creative projects that use all weights of luscious Aurifil thread. Work with your local shop or quilt guild to host an Aurifilosophy event near you! Read more here => Aurifilosophy

In September I’m joining my long time mentor and friend Wendy Sheppard to shuffle off to Hamilton, MO – Disneyland of Quilting, Quilt Town USA – for our first ever Free Motion Quilting Retreat at the lovely Hotel-Hamilton Event Center. We’ll be sharing our passion for thread and quilting at our evening Aurifilosophy lecture & trunk show followed by 2 days of beginner and intermediate free motion quilting on home machines. Tips, tricks, motifs, and tons of inspiration and guidance. It’s not too late to join in the fun – the event center sleeps and supports 50+ attendees in a sweet retreat style format. Learn more about the event here => 2019 FMQ Retreat

This fall also has me speaking at International Quilt Festival in Houston where I’ll continue to share my love of free motion quilting on home sewing machines. While at Quilt Festival you may find me at the special curated exhibit “Aurifilosophy, Education for the Love of Thread”, chatting away at one of 4 informational forums or making new friends in the Aurifil Booth.

What do you collect?

Santa’s, fabric, Aurifil thread, and beautiful grandchildren…

What’s on your playlist?

We enjoy listening to a wide variety of music and in the last few years we’ve taken to following and supporting a couple of bands local to our area. Do checkout Driftwood and Milkweed — two amazing, up and coming bands from upstate NY. You’ll love their Americana / Folk style.

Dog or Cat?

I grew up with dogs – lots of them – but I always dreamed of having a horse. My dream came true when I graduated college, bought a home, and with the help of my dad, I bought my first horse Chief (right)… A year later Nuisance joined the team and these two were our closest friends and cherished family members for nearly 30 years. After bringing smiles, rides and a few crazy times to the family they now enjoy their time running wild in the great green pastures of heaven. Sure miss them.

In 2000 we adopted a new longtime friend, our pet bird Cayman. Cayman is a yellow naped Amazon parrot. He has a HUGE vocabulary that includes hundreds of words, songs, and a wide variety of bird, dog and cat calls. He acts more like a human than a bird. He laughs with us, sings with us, keeps the grandchildren busy and is recognized as a regular in our home. This year he’ll be 19 years old and we expect he’ll still be going strong when we’re long gone. Sure hope those grandkids like their inheritance… HA HA HA.

Here’s Cayman picking out his favorite Aurifil thread color to go with Jan Manley’s – A Wing and a Prayer Quilt.

About your block – What Tradition are you celebrating?

In our family it’s tradition to plant, grow and cherish colorful flowers, shrubs, and trees. The Redbird Garden block was inspired by this tradition that began with my mom’s love of gardening. Trees and shrubs produce berries, shade, and nesting locations for the beautiful songbirds we love to observe.

I hope you enjoy creating the Redbird Garden block. I’m honored to be included in the great lineup of Aurifil’s 2019 Designers.


2019 Aurifil Designer BOM Karen Miller August

CLICK for Karen’s supporting tutorials for her techniques


Visit Karen at:

Each year I make the Aurifil blocks in a totally different set of fabrics.

CLICK TO MY Website for a tutorial on using fusible applique

Pat sloan thread kitEnter your block BELOW by Sept 15, 2019 to be in the running to win a BOX of Aurifil

This is SUPER EASY to enter all you have to do is make ONE BLOCK.

And  JOIN my fantastic online quilt group with the most incredible  quilt show each day… I’d love to meet you!

1 Watermak-Needle-Black

******* JOIN our Aurifil Family  *******

EACH MONTH we will pick one random winner that has made a block.. that person will receive a special Aurifil thread prize! Winners are all contacted email

Our RANDOM picker selected Lori’s block! you’ve been emailed

CLICK to see all the great versions for last month HERE


  1. Fantastic Blog featuring a ROCK STAR:) Thank you for this insightful article. Peeking into Karen’s world brings a smile and fills my heart with such JOY!

  2. The finger lakes region is beautiful. Driven through there a few times. Wish I’d known about that chapel, it’s so pretty. Not sure what a “farmette” is though? ! Love the fluffy flower on your original block. I gotta get on my FMQ. I have lots of old panels. One of my Pat Sloan books also mentions panels for practice. Like minds, huh!

    1. HI Sheila — Yes on those like minds. I love Pat’s Teach Me to Machine Quilt book — she has awesome suggestions and projects in there. Don’t you just love the Finger Lakes? I hope you have a chance to visit again and get to the Chapel. It’s amazing up there !!

  3. I didn’t realize you lived on Keuka Lake!! I grew up and went to school very close to Keuka Lake, in Kanona and Bath. Mom would take us swimming at the lake every summer. After high school I bought myself a motorcycle and every afternoon when I got home from work I’d jump on my motorcycle and take a drive all the way around Keuka lake!! Love the area, but joined the Army and never went back. Now I love quilting and love your designs!! Thanks for the memories!!! 🙂

    1. Aww Vivoaks…. what a wonderful story — I’m picturing you on that motorcycle enjoying the beautiful lake views. We’re about 10 minutes north of Hammondsport on the East Side — so beautiful there. Do reach out if you ever return to the area. Also — thank you for your service !

  4. Love, love, LOVE this article (and all of your gorgeous creations). I grew up over Ithaca way (little village of Dryden) and your chapel reminds me of our beautiful little Southworth Library. You go girl! 👍😊❤️

  5. So enjoyed learning even more about you Karen!! Living close by (Buffalo) I share your love of the Finger Lakes and changing seasons – endless inspiration!! And I did not know about the Chapel – so gorgeous!! A must visit soon!!
    I love your block and will definitely try to make it!!

    1. Oh — thank you so much for writing Marija — so nice to hear from you. If you decided to head toward Keuka you be sure to reach out to me — I would love to meet up. In the meantime I can’t wait to see your block. There’s only 4 entries for the giveaway so far !! You go girl.

  6. Congratulations Karen! I love your Redbird Garden block! Just beautiful. The Chapel sounds wonderful and so inspirational. LOVED this article friend! So talented! Much love! xo jan

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