Meet Missouri Star Academy Instructor, Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill

Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill is the founder of Whole Circle Studio, LLC which specializes in the design of custom modern quilts, patterns and other licensed products. She is an active member of the modern quilt community and recognized from her many outstanding awards from several major quilting events. Sheri also teaches and presents her creative skills all over the world, but works mostly from her home studio in New Haven, Connecticut.

With all her adventures in tow, we were thrilled that Sheri said yes to coming all the way to Quilt Town, USA to teach one of our online classes, Piecing Curves with Confidence! Let us introduce you to Missouri Star Academy‘s newest instructor!

When did you first conquer the curve? How long into your quilting journey was it?

I decided to make a modern flowering snowball quilt as an entry to a challenge back in 2014. The inspiration for my quilt, Picnic Petals, was the fabric challenge collection, entitled Petal Pinwheels. Going into the challenge, I looked at a lot of photos of pinwheels, flowers and sketched elements of these objects to study how I could convey organic shapes and movement in a block quilt. As a relatively new quilter at the time, this was the first time I worked with curved elements. This challenge encouraged me to work with fabric patterns and techniques I might not normally work with. Out of 750 entries, I was one of the three winners! 

What are the staples/must have tools in your sewing studio?

First and foremost, a space that I’m comfortable in. I love having natural light, so whenever possible I keep lights off… I also love having a design wall that I can put up random swatches, blocks or quilts that I’m working on. It’s amazing how different things can look from hour to hour or day to day. Sometimes if I’m stuck on something, I’ll walk by it days later and figure out the next step.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

I’m usually either listening to a podcast or have a video streaming through my computer, ALWAYS coffee, and sometimes salty veggie chips, cashews or chocolate chips!

Why do you think people find curves so terrifying? Are there any misconceptions about sewing them that you can clear up?

I think people are scared of curves because it looks difficult. The truth is, it’s super easy. I teach this technique all the time and there is always at least one skeptic in the room who thinks they can’t do it. I’ve never had a student NOT be able to sew a beautiful curve by the end of class. All you need is experience sewing a ¼” seam, pins and patience! Seriously!

When did you start quilting? What brought you into the quilting world? 

Wanting to make a quilt, I bought a sewing machine for $100 and my first quilt pattern book in 2006. There was only one problem—I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine. Busy with work, that book sat on my shelf for seven years until I needed a distraction from a stressful situation in my life. My first few quilts I made for others—to celebrate the births of babies, weddings and friends moving into exciting new phases of their lives. I became addicted to quilt making and then realized that with my graphic design and technical skills I could design my own quilts. After sharing my work with others online and in quilt guilds, I was asked to share my patterns. In 2015, I started Whole Circle Studio, LLC. Whole Circle Studio specializes in the design of custom modern quilts, patterns and other licensed products.

Where do you find your inspiration for new products? 

Inspiration for my work comes from my everyday life… I believe design and content have a symbiotic relationship. Both need to support one another and require a strong concept to fuel them. My quilt designs start with a concept and the content (research, backstory, color, fabric selection and technique) which help shape the design. Never without my camera and sketchbook, I’m always taking photos and sketching from everyday inspirations… My mission is to enhance people’s lives through beautiful, meaningful design as well as to empower and inspire others to enjoy the process of making.

What’s your favorite tip to share with new quilters? 

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Rarely is there ever just one way (and often there is never the “perfect” way to do something in quilting. If a specific way of doing something doesn’t come naturally to you or isn’t fun, see if there is a different way to do it. Quilting should be fun! 

Learn more about Sheri and her work at wholecirclestudio.com and on Instagram at @wholecirclestudio.

Join her latest class, Piecing Curves with Confidence, and learn a new skill with Sheri! Don’t forget to come back and show off your curves!

If you aren’t quite sure this is the class for you, get a sneak peek of what you can expect HERE!

What curvy project will you make?!

Start Piecing Curves with Confidence

Meet Annette Ashbach, a Missouri Star Academy Instructor

Missouri Star Academy is all about providing education and empowering you to create. From weekly tutorials to online in-depth classes, events and even classes held here in Hamilton, MO at our Education Center where there is something for everyone!

Annette Ashbach is one of our Education Center instructors and she teaches many things ranging from making full quilt tops to smaller projects like aprons and totes!

Annette first found interest in sewing after she became fascinated with watching her grandmother’s hand-stitching and embroidery techniques. Her love for sewing continued as she grew up watching her mother create costumes and dance uniforms on the sewing machine. Today, Annette has been quilting on and off for about forty-five years and teaching for the last twelve.

Annette has a very diverse taste in fabrics. She adores anything wool, but also enjoys batiks. She has a soft spot for appliqué and is always up for a challenging pattern!

Take a peek at our Education Center Class Schedule and sign up to learn something fun with Annette!

“Don’t be afraid to try something new… It’s just fabric! Have fun and be creative! That’s all there is to it.” she says.

Annette Ashbach

Meet Missouri Star Academy Instructor, Monique Jacobs

Monique Jacobs of Open Gate Quilts, is also the instructor of one of our Missouri Star Academy Online Classes! She teaches how to color coordinate and piece together beautiful quilts from just picking through the loose ends of your already-made stash. Learn more about Monique and then join her in Stash Busting with Style!

Have you always had an eye for color combinations or was it something you had to teach yourself to do/look for?

I’ll be honest. I had to learn. According to my mom, she had doubts about my sense of color when I was young. I used to change clothes at least 3-4 times a day and things didn’t always match. I loved trying different combinations and it was when I started quilting that I learned how to match colors. A lot of it was trial and error. As I was working with fabric, I would play around with it until I liked what I saw. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some quilts that weren’t great but I learned from those mistakes and the more I did the more I felt confident in my choices.

Tell us a little about your background – when/how did you first get into sewing and quilting?

I’ve always loved fabric. When I took Home Ec in high school, sewing was my favorite class. Both my grandmas sewed and made crafts. My dad’s mom made quilts and although I didn’t appreciate them when I was young, I sure do now! She used old dresses, curtains, whatever was available and hand stitched all the seams using a feather stitch. They are all crazy quilts and having to repair one, I know how much work goes into them!

I got into quilting because my sister-in-law mentioned that she liked quilts.  I looked at them and thought, me too! So, I took a class and that was the beginning!

Where do you find inspiration for trying new fabric and pattern designs – especially for using fabrics from your stash?

My inspiration comes in different ways. One, I will see a fabric that I like, whether in my stash or in the store and think, what can I make out of this? Or I see a pattern and adapt the pattern to my fabric. Sometimes, I will look at my stash and pull some out and think…what quilt can I come up with to go with this fabric? Truthfully, that’s how I started designing patterns, I saw all this beautiful fabric and couldn’t find a pattern to use it with. So, I started making my own. Same thing with designing fabric, I would see a pattern and think, what fabric could I use for this. Again, nothing would work for what I wanted to do, so I started designing fabric.

Do you have a favorite color combination to use in your quilt patterns and fabrics?

I love them all! If I’m doing a more traditional quilt, I tend to add red in and if I’m doing batiks or modern, I love purple. But, there isn’t much that I don’t like! 

Do you find yourself looking at color, scale and print in other aspects of life? (i.e. home decor, clothing, etc)

Funny that you ask that because I didn’t think about that until you mentioned it. Yes, I do. For sure, color is a huge factor in decorating. I like to have a warm, welcoming home but that doesn’t necessarily mean warm colors. I know what I like, just like my quilts and go a lot by what I’ve learned on how to put quilts together.

Take the class, learn something new, explore new color combinations and most of all, have FUN! Come back and show us what you’ve made out of your stash!

Start Stash Busting with Style


Meet Courtenay, a Missouri Star Academy Instructor!

Courtenay Hughes is one of our talented instructors here at Missouri Star. As part of our education team, Courtenay teaches quilting, embroidery, and appliqué classes through Missouri Star Academy. This includes our online courses, in-town classes, and some of our free tutorials!

Beginning Machine Applique

“I want to say I LOVE her teaching style! She is so funny, and I felt like I was spending an afternoon with a good friend. I really enjoyed this video.”

– Customer Review

Courtenay’s Creations

This quilting diva has been a wonderful component to our education team and you can see why! Her gorgeous projects continue to inspire all of us makers!


Now, let’s talk about appliqué, Courtenay’s area of expertise! If you’ve always wanted to try it out, but imagined it might be intimidating, we’ve got the tools, techniques, and tips to change your mind. Appliqué is a lot easier than it looks – and it looks pretty spectacular personalizing and decorating your quilt!

Beginning Machine Applique

We talked to Courtenay about machine appliqué designs and tips…

Q: Courtenay, how long have you been sewing machine appliqué? 
A: I have been quilting for over 25 years. I’ve had about 20 odd years of practice at machine appliqué. And I am really looking forward to sharing some of that with you

Q: What’s your favorite part of teaching appliqué for beginners?
A: My favorite part of teaching is when students who aren’t sure they can complete their projects get to the point where they realize that, yes, they can make them—and they will be beautiful! Whether that’s how to machine appliqué small pieces, how to hand appliqué in the car on road trips, or how to let loose and try something completely new, like a free-motion zig-zag “heartbeat” stitch that looks complicated but is actually very freeing, I love seeing students succeed!

Beginning Machine Applique

Q: What shapes can you make with machine appliqué?
A: Anything you can imagine – and any pattern in your library, really. I like to show you tips for leaves, stems, circles, stars, hearts, petals, and working in layers. While a lot of my patterns are flowers or animals – ask me about placing bunny ears – the sky is the limit. You can decorate any quilt with appliqué, in blocks, borders, even your quilt label.

Q: What are some tools you recommend for appliqué?
A: This depends a little bit on which method you’re using, but some of the applique essentials are:

For Machine Appliqué:

  • Fusible Web  – Use this to temporarily glue fabric pieces in place while machine stitching.
  • Appliqué Pressing SheetPlace over the project diagram to use as a guide while layering fabric shapes.
  • Marking PenUse a fine sharpie or marking pen to trace designs onto projects.
  • Scissors A good pair of scissors come in handy for cutting fusible and fabric pieces.
  • Machine Needles – A sharp needle that is great for stitching through layers of applique pieces. 
  • 50wt Thread – A strong thread that blends with fabric shapes. Or black thread for a “folk art” look. 
  • Self-Threading Needles An easy way to bury threads after stitching pieces to background.
  • Iron and Iron Cleaner – An iron for fusing paper shapes to fabric, and iron cleaner.
  • Embroidery Hoop – (optional) These come in handy when stitching pieces in place on background, especially when using the free-motion zig-zag “heartbeat” stitch.

For Hand Appliqué:

  • Appli-Glue or Lapel StickUse this to hold fabric pieces in place while hand stitching.
  • Freezer Paper Draw a design on the dull side, cut it out and lay the shiny side down on the project to use as a guide.
  • Bias Tape MakerUse this to make stems and more, especially when doing floral applique!
  • Marking PenUse this a pen to trace designs onto projects.
  • Precision Appliqué ScissorsA smaller pair of scissors come in handy for cutting smaller pieces.
  • Hand Needles A smaller point for hand stitching, but also a bit enough needle to prevent hand cramping.
  • Mini Iron – A tiny iron will give more control over tiny fabric pieces.
  • Appliqué PinsThese come in handy when fitting several pieces into place.
  • Fusible Web (optional) – Melts to adhere the fabric pieces together.
Applique Tools

We think it’s time to give appliqué a try!

We currently have two classes for beginners at Missouri Star Academy. You’ll learn multiple methods, troubleshooting tricks, how to machine appliqué a quilt or how to hand appliqué a quilt. Each class also comes with a FREE quilt pattern so you can show off your newly mastered skills! Try appliqué today!

Don’t forget to check in on our Education Center’s class schedule to see what class Courtenay will be teaching next!

If you’ve taken a class by Courtenay Hughes, show her what you made in the comments below ⬇️