Cathy Wiggins – Quilting with Leather

Photo by Bonnie McCaffery.

Make an entire quilt out of leather? Who would think about doing such a thing? Is it even possible? Wouldn’t it be kind of like trying to iron a shirt with a crockpot?

Cathy Wiggins not only figured out how to quilt on leather, but her award-winning leather quilts have gained international recognition, a book deal, and a booming new business.

As a matter of fact, while on her journey to master quilting on leather, Cathy single-handedly created a whole new genre that has rocked the quilting world.

This is her story . . . .

Cathy and her twin sister were born and raised in eastern North Carolina. They got their first pony for their sixth birthday, and grew up riding horses. Her mom liked to say, “Cathy rode until she discovered boys.”

Once a girl has that love for horses, it never goes away.

In college, Cathy wanted to major in art. She loved creating in any medium, whether paint, papier-mâché, clay, or anything she could find. But her mom said she couldn’t make a living at art, so she majored in math and software engineering instead.

Cathy worked for twenty-five years in the telecommunications industry helping build the infrastructure that our cell phones use today. During those years, she painted acrylics on paper gaining recognition, winning awards, and magazine covers. It wasn’t until 2002, when she left her high tech job, that she discovered quilting.

Here is Cathy’s remarkable quilt journey in her own words . . . .

I started out like any other quilter, cutting little pieces and making traditional quilts. But those techniques never felt quite right with my creative spirit. I attended my first quilt show, Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, in 2003. I saw there were no limits to quilting, and I didn’t have to make traditional quilts. I could make pictures! And I fell in love. For the next three years, I worked hard to figure out my niche, and I bought my first longarm. I knew two things, I wanted to become a competition quilter. When people left a show after seeing 300+ quilts, I wanted them to remember mine.

Clowns on Parade
the first of the “Just for Fun” series.

I began creating my “Just for Fun” series of quilts. “Clowns on Parade” was the first in the series. For this piece, I created each clown individually on it’s own background and then put them together on one large quilt top. Each clown has its own three-dimensional element, like hair that sticks out or costume collars. It was like an “I spy” quilt with lots of hidden images quilted in the background. It went on to win several ribbons, and when I saw how people reacted to it, I had to make more.

Do you want more as well? Click HERE for the full story.


Solutions to Common Sewing Problems




Upper Thread Breaks



  • Incorrect threading
  • Knots or twists in thread
  • Tension too tight
  • Damaged/old needle
  • Needle too small
  • Re-thread machine properly
  • Replace thread
  • Reset bobbin and top thread tension
  • Replace needle
  • Use correct needle for thread and application

Bobbin Thread Breaks
  • Bobbin case incorrectly threaded
  • Bobbin case incorrectly inserted
  • Bobbin does not turn smoothly in bobbin case
  • Lint in bobbin case
  • Bobbin tension too tight
  • Remove bobbin and re-thread with bobbin turning clockwise
  • Remove and re-insert bobbin case
  • Check that bobbin case and bobbin are in “round”; replace if necessary
  • Clean bobbin case and surrounding machine area
  • Check and reset bobbin tension

Skipped Stitches
  • Thread tension too tight
  • Needle damaged
  • Needle wrong size
  • Sewing machine out of adjustment
  • Reset top and bobbin tension
  • Replace needle
  • Use correct needle size
  • Have sewing machine adjusted for timing; hook to needle clearance; needle bar height

Frayed Stitches
  • Needle too small
  • Tension too tight
  • Damaged thread
  • Increase needle size
  • Reset tension
  • Replace thread

Thread Loops on Bottom
  • Thread not in top tension
  • Machine incorrectly threaded
  • Top tension too loose
  • Burr on hook mechanism
  • Re-thread machine with presser foot “up”
  • Re-thread machine incorporating take-up lever
  • Reset top tension
  • Remove burr

Irregular Stitches or Malformed Stitched
  • Wrong needle size
  • Incorrect threading
  • Upper tension too loose
  • Operator pulling fabric
  • Bobbin wound unevenly
  • Ensure correct needle for fabric & thread
  • Unthread machine and carefully re-thread
  • Reset lower and upper thread tension
  • Check presser foot pressure
  • Rewind bobbin

Fabric Puckers
  • Excessive stitch length
  • Needle point is blunt
  • Excessive thread tension
  • Fabric is too soft
  • Thread displacement – too much thread in a small area
  • Fabric not feeding
  • Decrease stitch length
  • Change needle often
  • Check bobbin and upper tension
  • Use stabilizer
  • Decrease field density; scale embroidery designs; increase stitch length
  • Check presser foot, needle plate, feed dogs



Did you know there’s a needle with two eyes? Really, it’s true! The needle is called the DOUBLE EYE NEEDLE. Unlike threading two threads through one eye, the sequence of the sewing threads is always determined. This is especially interesting if differently colored sewing threads are used for decorative seams (see seam example below).

When threading the sewing machine, the sewing thread spools should unwind in different directions in order to prevent the entanglement of the threads; i.e. one spool should unwind to the right, the other to the left.

The threads should be threaded through all guiding elements, respecting separation elements above the needle; see also the manual of the machine manufacturer.

Insert the needle into the needle bar as far as it will go. At first try the desired decorative stitch in the smallest width and then gradually increase the width of the stitch. If the upper thread is not optimally picked up, the needle can be minimally lowered – less than 1 mm.

IMPORTANT: After that, turn the hand wheel carefully and carry out the first stitches manually. This avoids machine or needle damages. If there still is no optimal interlocking of both needle threads with the bobbin thread, the adjustment of the machine should be checked.

Click HERE for more information.


Morna McEver Golletz

Morna McEver Golletz is the Founder/CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals & Creative Arts Business Summit (CABS).Morna McEver Golletz is the Founder/CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals & Creative Arts Business Summit (CABS). The mission? To help artisan entrepreneurs craft business success.

Morna is, quite simply, the wind beneath the wings of many successful sewing/quilting professionals. She calls herself a “creative arts business coach,” and she refers to her clients as “creatives.”


Christine Sholtz of says, “I was definitely at a crossroads. Business was down and I was trying to figure out what to do and questioning whether I should even continue. I had way too many ideas and lacked direction and focus.

Morna helped me figure out who my core customer was, where I should be focusing my time and resources, and how to handle the increase in business. For every question I asked her she had at least two or three great action ideas or resources to consult. Her skills, knowledge and objective point of view allowed her to point out considerations to me that many times I hadn’t even thought of. Her wealth of knowledge of the industry, and business in general, proved to be invaluable to me.”


Morna was the eldest of five girls and grew up in a home that prized creativity and education. Her mother was a watercolor artist, and arts and craft, including sewing, were a constant in her home.

Morna remembers hearing stories of how she threaded needles for her two great-great grandmothers when she was three years old. “Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers prized education and graduated college. This was in a time when many women didn’t go to college, the early 1900s. My maternal grandmother graduated around 1928 from Parsons School of Design where she specialized in draping. My paternal grandmother graduated around 1910 from Brenau College in Georgia, where she majored in piano. A story that has been impressed upon me from childhood is that my paternal great-grandmother had her husband move to a town with a college. She believed that if her three sons didn’t get a college degree they would be fine. She was insistent on the need for her five daughters to get a college education. They all did, and they all went on to have their own careers.”

Even as a child, sewing was Morna’s passion. She made doll clothes, even selling them, and progressed to finely tailored clothing. She won the Singer Sewing Contest at her local store and made it to the state finals. Of course, once she found quilting, her passion was fueled even further.

The entrepreneurial bug bit early, too. In the fourth grade, she ran a two-week summer camp for neighborhood children. It was filled with arts and crafts and drama. She thinks of this as her “lemonade stand” moment.

After college, she got a “regular” job working in the insurance industry as a commercial property underwriter. Her husband was working his way up the corporate ladder. When he took a transfer to Philadelphia, it was decision time for Morna. Could she actually build a business from her quilting passion?

Her business had an accidental start; it was really at the suggestion of her accountant. In the beginning, she looked at it as a way to support her fabric habit. She did a business plan and thought about how she could make money. Not really to support herself, but to cover the cost of her beloved quilting hobby and add extras to her family. One of the first things she did was to teach quiltmaking. She developed quilt classes for an adult ed program. Whenever they moved, she would offer those classes in their new town.

Looking back, it was also a lifestyle choice. It was the early 1980s, and an appropriate choice was for Morna to support her husband in his climb up the ladder, and build her at-home quilting business. She began to teach more classes, joined two fine arts crafts cooperatives, did juried craft shows and took commission work. She was building a reputation as a successful working quilt artist.

She still teaches, only not quiltmaking. She teaches how to grow a business. Morna has been teaching at Quilt Market and Quilt Festival most every year since 2008. She will be one of the teachers at the inaugural Threads of Success, which premieres at 2019 International Quilt Market.

2018 Attendees
International Association of Creative Arts Professionals &
Creative Arts Business Summit (CABS)
Bonnie McCaffery Photography

Morna credits much of her success to regular networking, persistence and her mentors. “I’ve always had local businesswomen that I’ve connected with on an informal basis to run ideas past. Early on, I began working with a business coach and I still do so today. That’s allowed me to grow my business and my mindset. I wouldn’t be without that kind of support.”

Another turning point came when she went to graduate school in the early 90s and earned a Master of Journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia. She’d always loved writing. Now the challenge was to combine her quilt art passion with her writing. She wrote lots of articles for the daily paper and an article for The Professional Quilter. Shortly thereafter, the magazine was for sale, and she purchased it.

The quilt industry is a $3.8 billion industry. As The Professional Quilter continued to grow, it became a platform for networking and mentoring for quilt artists, quilt shop owners, teachers and designers. Morna saw the possibilities of the Internet and she looked for ways to provide subscribers with relevant business information in a quicker fashion. She began offering teleclasses that were downloadable, PDFs of books, etc.

In 2010, Morna launched the International Association of Professional Quilters (IAPQ), which went on to become the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals (ICAP).

Creating a conference for members of ICAP was the next logical step. Morna jumped in with both feet, not really knowing how it would turn out. The first three-day Creative Arts Business Summit (CABS) was held in 2012. At the first break, one of the attendees came up to Morna and asked when it would be the following year. Her mind went right away to, “You are asking about next year. I have to get through the next three days first.”

Part of Morna’s challenge is to attract new attendees as well as keeping the content different and relevant to continue to attract return attendees.

What would your life be like if you had the right help & support to grow your creative business?“I look for ways to offer content through people our attendees wouldn’t otherwise know. For example, this year I have a 4-time Emmy award-winning newscaster talking about finding your personal brand story. I bring in video experts, image consultants, and financial experts. And, I look for ways for the attendees to share their knowledge with others.

When people go home, I want them to know what’s next and be able to do what it takes to build their business. Along the way, I want them to learn something about their own unlimited capabilities and create a powerful support network with the other attendees. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t joined us before, but CABS is a magical place. People’s lives and businesses are changed. People leave with confidence they didn’t know they had. They are on fire to make changes. And, they do.

I absolutely LOVE CABS, but 2019 will be its last year. It was hard to decide to stop doing it. Like other creatives, I started to feel restless, and I want to spread my wings. For me, keeping it fresh always means change.

Although I’m still mulling over what’s next, I want to keep working with creatives to build their businesses and enhance their lives. That may take the form of smaller group intensive workshops or perhaps a CABS 2.0. I also have ideas for three books, one on business and the other two art-related. I know I want to make time to work on my own art and get it out in the world.

It’s important that whatever I do, it has the same Magic that we created at CABS.

I think my superpower with working with people is that I can listen to what they say and see what needs to be done, the missing link, or what someone needs to address to move forward in their business. One of my clients called me a distiller for this reason.”

CABS website:

ICAP website:
Members’ Studio:




SCHMETZ Quilting Needle

SCHMETZ Quilting Needles, Regular and Chrome

What needle should be used for quilting? One choice is the Quilting Needle. This needle has a thin tapered point allowing the needle to smoothly pass through fabric layers. The thin tapered point helps eliminate skipped stitches and promotes even stitches.

Quilting needles are available in both nickel-plated and chrome-plated finishes in two sizes: 75/11 for piecing and 90/14 for heavier plain or variegated 40 weight threads for quilting. If the SCHMETZ Quilting needle is new to you, try the assortment pack containing both sizes.


SCHMETZ Quilting Needles

SCHMETZ Professional Grade Chrome Quilting Needles