jo goranson

My Bio

I finally got a picture just of me! Every picture I looked at had someone else in it. I am an avid contemporary quilter and I teach classes, give demos and talk at quilt clubs. My nickname is "The Thread Lady". Ever since I took a class from Libby Lehman in 2002 I have been obsessed with thread. One of the classes that I teach is called Thread Fun. It is a 6 hour class and I teach bobbin drawing, couching, how to make perfect circles, using 2 or three threads in one needle, thread painting, twin needle sewing, how to adjust tension, what stabilizers to use, how to do a perfect satin stitch, and I also teach Libby's Ribbon Illusion as a way of teaching my students how to use metallic thread. My class is a technique class, rather than a class to end up making a quilt, but I do show them all of the skills needed to make a bag that I carry with me all the time. It is one way that quilt shop owners notice me right away and want to know how I did the bag. My maximum in class is 8 people and my classes are almost always full. As far as I know, there is no one in the Twin Cities (Mpls & St. Paul, MN) or the surrounding areas that teaches what I do. I also teach Free-Motion quilting, but I teach it in a totally different way than any other teacher I know. I took 4 Free-Motion classes and never figured it out. It wasn't until I took Libby's class that a bolt of lightening hit me and I figured out how to Free-Motion. I have a lot of private clients where I go to their house for 2 hours and teach them one on one how to free motion. I charge them $50.00 and tell them that if they can't Free-Motion by the time I leave they don't have to pay me. I have never had anyone not pay me. I just taught a Free-Motion class for 7 people and everyone of them was Free-Motioning by the time the 3 hours was up. They all paid me and were all amazed that it was so easy to learn the way I teach it. It is unorthodox, but it works. (By the way, everyone paid me and there are more members of that quilt club that are now clammering to learn. Many of the students in the class were just like me---they had taken traditional classes and still couldn't Free-Motion! I'm not going to give away my secret over the internet, but if anyone is interested, just contact me and I'll tell you privately how it's done. In addition to teaching and lecturing I also dye and paint my own fabric and just had a soy wax batik party at my house for 10 people. I belong to 3 quilt groups----Minnesota Quilters, Chaska Quilters, and my favorite group Minnesota Contemporary Quilters. I always thought I was a little bit different until I met the members of Contempory Quilters and found out they are all like me, just a little off-center. Minnesota Quilters has a large show every year in June (this year it is in Duluth). The members of Minnesota Contemporary Quilters always have a challenge and our quilts are hung in one place. This year our challenge was to make a humerous quilt. I love to watch the more traditional quilters look at our quilts and I love to hear the comments!  Most of them are amazed that we use just about anything in our quilts (including dryer lint) because they are so used to using just cotton. My quilts are always sort of glitzy because I live metallic thread and metallic bobbin drawing. I couch just about anything and use anything I can wind on the bobbin to bobbin draw including ribbons, metallic embroidery thread and thin metallic crochet thread. There is nothing I won't try! I also love to use all kinds of fabric, not just cotton and silk and have found some absolutely outrageous stuff at one of the fabric outlet stores in the area. You usually don't know what it's made of because the bolts say " of unknown origin" but that doesn't stop me from using it in a wall quilt! I take every off-beat class I can find at the Minnesota Quilters show, and we are very lucky to have the Minnesota Textile Center in Minneapolis that has lots of classes too. It offers a place to meet (Minnesota Quilters and Minnesota Contemporary Quilters have their meetings there) but it also houses the Weaver's Guild, the Dollmakers, the Embroidery Guild, and any other club or guild that you can think of that pertains to textiles (including the lacemakers and of course, the knitters and tatters). It also has a dye lab that is run by the most marvelous person who seems to know how to use any and every dye. It has the Joan Mondale Exhibit Hall and also a gift shop. There is always something going on there for people who love textiles. If you are ever in the Twin Cities area and want to go there just look in the phone book under Textile Center, or check it out on the web under Textile Center of Minneapolis or St. Paul. I think everyone will be amazed at what we offer and what you get if you are a member. It's an amazing place!

I have to go now to finish writing proposals to quilt shops, but I would love to hear from other people who love thread as much as I do. I don't have a website set up yet (i've been doing too much teaching and haven't had the chance to do it) but I will have one up soon since one of my best friends owns a computer company and has promised to help me get it set up. You can contact me at my e-mail address at


  • 4 Sep 2009
  • Free-motion quilting

    My secret to free-motion quilting (which a number of people have asked for) is to hoop the fabric (all three layers) with a plastic 8 or 10" hoop. I learned this trick from Libby Lehman in a class I took in 2002 from her. When we were doing her ribbon illusion from her book Threadplay, we had to hoop the fabric to keep it from shrinking up from all the thread we were putting on. It dawned on me that I could learn to free-motion if I tried that and went home and tried it and it worked wonderfully. Now, I have my students hoop the fabric (all 3 layers)  and get their foot speed going fast and their hand speed slower. This promotes more even stitiches. Those who have speed controls on their machines can set the control so they can floor it when they free-motion (usually it's about 3/4 speed). After an hour I have the students take off the hoops, put on Machingers gloves and they now know how to control the hand and foot speed. It works every time. I have a money-back guarantee---if they can't free-motion at the end of my class, they don't have to pay me. I have never had anyone not pay me! Just remember to hoop the fabric the opposite way you would with embroidery. The fabric must be on the bottom of the hoop. JO (The Thread Lady) I would like to pay tribute to Libby Lehman, who transfrormed me from a not-so-great traditional quilter to a thread and embellishement artist, contemporary quilter who gets to teach what she loves to do. Thank you Libby!!!!