Monday, April 14, 2014

First Quilts

On Friday I went to the Des Moines MQG meeting and we shared how we started quilting, our first quilts and our most recent quilt.  It was really fun to learn how people started to quilt and to see their first quilts.  Some were....well, first quilts and some were declared too beautiful to be firsts.  :)  One of the things that was repeated many times was that experienced quilters kept on telling them what they could and couldn't do quilting wise.   Most of the time it had to do with fabric and pattern selection.

It reminded me of Mary Fons' lecture at Quilt Con (you can watch it for free on Craftsy - just search for Quilt Con - I really enjoyed it).  She had two main points (as I remember) 1.  If you want a beginner quilter to enjoy quilting, let them choose their own fabric and pattern and 2.  Never, ever, ever make a beginner feel dumb for not knowing something.  Sage advice to remember as we become better quilters.

I shared my first quilt that I made as a "grown-up".  You can read all about it here.  Click on over.  It's good.  :)

But I made my very, very first quilt when I was about ten years old.  I wrote up it's story and it ran on GenX Quilters as part of Anne Marie's First Quilts series.  I am re-posting it here with permission.  Enjoy!

The Little House on the Prairie books inspired me to make my first quilt when I was 10 years old.  I liked Laura's adventures, but most of all I loved reading about how people lived in the past.   In On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura writes about working on a quilt:

"Mary was still sewing nine-patch blocks.  Now Laura started a bear's-track quilt.  It was harder than a nine-patch, because there were bias seams, very hard to make smooth.  Every seam must be exactly right before Ma would let her make another, and often Laura worked several days on one short seam. " (Chapter 36)

I had romantic notions about stitching away in front of the fire like Laura and Mary and decided to start my quilt making journey with the simpler 9-patch.  My mom let me pick through her sewing scraps and away I went.  I had very particular ideas about how the blocks should be stitched.  I had read something about stitches having to be small and even and unfortunately, my 10 year old mind translated "small even stitches" into "small stitches and seam allowances."  Needless to say, some of the seams are now fraying apart.   And having my own mom critique my work was far less enjoyable than Ma checking Laura's stitches.  Go figure.

I lost steam when it came time to bind my 9-patch block - would it never end?!?  My stitches show this lack of focus - I remember my mom trying to correct my blind hem stitch at this point and I got really angry as I insisted that I was doing it right.  I can see her do the same take-a-deep-breath-decide-not-to-argue-the-point-shrug-and-walk-away thing that I do when my 11 year old insists that she knows better than I.  Oh, how it all comes back around to haunt you...

I finally finished the nine patch quilt, played with it for awhile and then put it away in my box of special things.  It now hangs on the wall of my sewing room.  I started my next quilt 15 years later when a friend talked me into going to a block of the month club at a local quilt store.   

What was your first quilt?
What do you wish more experienced quilters had done/not done to help you when you first started?
Inquiring minds want to know!  :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

How My Husband Got Me To Try Applique

When we visited family this summer I snapped some pictures of some of my first quilts.  
When I first started quilting I swore I would never applique.  Too tricky, time intensive and tedious.  When my sister-in-law was expecting her second child, my husband got it into his head that we should make a quilt with appliqued clouds and a kite in the center.  I don't know why he was so determined to have a kite quilt but I couldn't talk him out of it.  I told him I would do a pieced border but if he wanted an appliqued center he would have to do it himself.  

And He Did!  He drafted the pieces and got to work on it.  He stitched while we watched TV in the evenings and even worked on it in the airport while traveling for work.  He got some really funny looks.  Not very many men applique - much less at the airport.  :)  But he got it done in time for the baby’s birth.  

It wasn’t perfect - neither was my piecing or quilting!  - but He Did It!  And what's more, it has held together through multiple children!  I decided that if my husband, who had never picked up a needle, could applique then I could too.  And it turned out that applique was a relaxing end to the day, not a tedious chore.  Who'd have thought?

We aren't going to like every quilting technique.  I hate piecing apple cores with a passion!  But not to try things because we are afraid?  Well, that's just wrong.  Try new things!  Overcome fears!  If my husband can quilt so can you.  :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Keepsakes Fabrics Giveaway - A lifetime Supply of Fabric

So I just heard about Keepsakes Fabrics' Giveaway and wanted to pass the info on to you.  The Grand Prize is a lifetime supply of fabric! How sweet is that?  I looked up the details and a lifetime supply means you get 52 yards of fabric a year for 20 years!  But what makes it even better is that the winner gets to pick out her/his own fabric four times a year.  No ugly fabrics!   There are also prizes for two years supply of fabric up for grabs and 50 magazine subscriptions.  Not too shabby.  You can click here to enter. 

In the interest of  full disclosure, I get an extra entry every time someone enters the contest from these links, but I promise I will have some really, really great fabric giveaways if I win.  :)  Once entered you can also share a link on your favorite social media and receive extra entries.  So click on over and enter.  :)  Contest ends on 2/28.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Orphan Blocks For Street Children

Quilts for Mexico City's street children. Shamelessly stolen from

At the beginning of the year Alison blogged about how her family went to Mexico City over the holidays and visited a home for street children.  Click on over and read more details about her visit here.  Let's just say that the plight of the homeless children in Mexico City is overwhelming and appalling.  (Google Mexico City Street Children for tons of stories.)

Alison decided to do what she could and find quilts for as many of the children as possible.  To be able to help more children she has been asking people to send her 12.5" square quilt-as-you-go blocks which she will make up into quilts.  (Details here.)  I absolutely love the quilts she has made so far.  They are a happy riot of color and patterns.

So I finally got my act together, rummaged around in my sewing room and found 5 orphaned quilt blocks.  I layered them with some scraps of batting and used some fabric that I wasn't in love with anymore for the backing and quilted them up.  So Easy & Fun.  There was no stress basting because the blocks are so small they just about stick together on their own.  The quilting was a breeze because the blocks are small and easy to maneuver.  As an added bonus I was able to practice some new free motion quilting designs.  A win-win-win.

Find a good use for extra blocks?  Check.
Use up batting scraps?  Check.
Get rid of that less loved fabric?  Check.
Practice free motion quilting?  Check.
Do a bit of good in the world?  Double Check!

Before going to the post office I checked postage rates online and my jaw dropped.'s kinda spendy to send packages overseas.  So here is my plan.  If you would like to send me your quilt-as-you-go blocks and a dollar or two for shipping, I will put together a large package of blocks and send them to Alison.  Win-win-win.  :)

So dig out those orphan quilt blocks that you know you aren't ever going to use, quilt them up and send them out into the world to do some good.  Shoot me an email or leave a comment and I will send you my address.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Leader and Ender Convert

It took me a long time to figure out what "leaders and enders" were.  

(Leaders: patches of fabric you sew together before you begin sewing your main project and Enders: patches you sew together at the end of chain stitching which you keep in the machine until you are ready to sew another batch of blocks thus turning them into Leaders.)

It took me even longer to figure out why you would ever want to do that.  It finally came to my attention that some people use much more expensive thread than I do and using leaders and enders does save thread by eliminating the tails of thread at the beginning and end of pieces.  But still....

 Well, I decided to try it anyway.  I had a stack of vintage inspired eye-spy patches that I had been meaning to sew up into a quilt for at least 3 years that I dug out and started using as leaders/enders.  It turns out that I really like using leasers and enders and have made significant progress on the eye-spy patches.

Some of the remarkable progress is due to the fact that I kinda cheat and regularly sew more than one patch together as an ender.  They are just so dang cute and much easier to piece than the foundation paper piecing I have been working on.  Another unforeseen benefit is that I don't have to trim threads.  Since I am always chain piecing there are never any tails to trim off.  Score!

So do you use leaders and enders?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Christmas in January

So it turns out that I forgot to share these pillow covers I made for Christmas.  

The first pillow is an orphan block (made from this tutorial) turned beautiful pillow.  I think this was the second block I had ever paper pieced.  It is a great block for those new to paper piecing.

I love, love, love this one.  To make it I simply drew a triangle on the fabric and sewed on a bunch of buttons.  I was able to sew on the buttons with my sewing machine by turning the stitch length to 0 and adjusting the width until it was the width between the holes in the button.  Then I just put the pedal to the medal and stitched back and forth about 20 times.

 It's hard to see, but I tried out quilting swirls for the first time.  I spiraled in and then paused and spiraled back out again.  I have wanted to try this design for awhile, but was scared it wouldn't turn out.  Yet again, my fears were unfounded.  Isn't that usually the case.  It seems the more I worry about something the less of an issue it turns out to be.  Some of the spirals weren't total perfect but overall it was a success.

 Leah Day has a great tutorial on quilting swirls here on YouTube.  In fact, she has a ton of quilting tutorials there.  I think I am going to have to work my way through them.  Do you think my husband would watch them with me instead of Almost Human in the evenings?  ;)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Double Star in Thirteen Color Combinations

Over two years ago I made this Double Star block as part of the Skill Builder Sampler and last week I thought that I would revisit it.

This is the block I made.  Much lighter and more open than the original.  Before I came up with this coloring I played with quite a few others.  You see, I bought myself EQ7 as an early Christmas present and had to make it earn it's keep.  ;)  (I love that program!)  After trying a few different color combos I kept coloring to see how many different color/value combinations I make. 

The first time I saw this block the quilter used this rainbow fabric placement.  I really love the look.  I might have to make another block.  :)  Here are the other designs I came up with:

  "Fire Star" blocks for my 4 year-old super hero girl.

I love the navy and blue color combo! 

 I grant you, there are probably easier ways of piecing some of these variations, but wow!  Pretty amazing what differences color placement and value can make.  You can find the tutorial for this block here.  

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a Happy Sewing New Year!
Keep warm!  The high here tomorrow is going to be -8F/-22C.  I'll be staying inside (and hopefully sewing).  :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Stockings Were Hung...

So last week I finally made Becca a Christmas stocking.  I saw this stocking a few weeks ago, tweaked it and made it my own.   OK, quite honestly, I couldn't figure out the directions the first two times I read it, so I just winged it.  Not exactly the same but good.  :)

When I finished, Colleen asked why Becca got a prettier stocking.  It is definitely the prettiest of the stockings.  So pretty in fact that when I first hung it up I felt a bit uncomfortable.  Like it was a stocking that would be found in a matchy-matchy-home-decor type of house - not ours.  We don't have a great place to hang the stockings, so we hang them from the window latches.  I think I actually like that better than having them on a mantle because it spreads the Christmas decorations though out the house.

So let's take a look at the other, less pretty, stockings - a journey if you will - following the development of my tastes and skills.

The red stocking on the left is mine.  It was made for me when I was a baby by my Grandma Doreen.  She knit it and it says BABE on the side.  I always thought it was cool that my stocking was super long and had bells.

On the right is the stocking I made for Brian the first year we were married.  His stocking from when he was  a kid had been eaten by the dog.  :(  I think I wanted to go for a masculine rugged country feel.  Not what I would choose today.  It is made of flannel and unlined.  Unlined?  How far we have come.  :)

This is Emily's stocking.  I made it when my husband was in graduate school.  I remember sitting on the craft store floor and setting out the pieces of felt and figuring out exactly how many I needed.  You know you're poor when you don't want to spend 25 cents on an unnecessary piece of felt.  :)

Aleah's stocking.  Still in graduate school, but with a larger stipend.  :)  Made of flannel, fleece and buttons.  The back side has snowflakes made out of white buttons.  I must have had a lot of time that year.  I still really love this stocking.

Colleen's stocking.  Ok, she did get the short end of the stick.  When I was in college, my roommate's mom made each of us a stocking one Christmas and I hung onto mine.  One year Emily decided that she didn't like her stocking.  (She was a real pill about it.)  So I cut off the cuff of the stocking that said my name on it and replaced it with the red cuff.  When Colleen was old enough to need a stocking I already had this one and she liked it so...  that's just what she got.  A hand-me-down stocking.  If it was ugly I would feel sorrier for her, but it is totally cute.  I might applique on a big C on the heal to dress it up a bit though.

Kate's stocking was made a bit before I did the Crazy Quilt Along.  Can you tell?  I really like all the reds, the polka dots and the touch of green rick-rack.  So that is our stocking journey.

It snowed a few days ago and is starting to snow again.  Snow is so much prettier than dead grass.  :)   I hope you all have a great Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Flanges! a tutorial for making a flanged binding

I LOVE Flanges!   I have been making a bunch of pillows for Christmas presents and find that I want to use a flange on every. single. one.  Flanges - a narrow flap of fabric - put on a quilt right before binding can make the binding really pop.  I love the look of the double narrow border that a flange makes.  It looks totally tricky and cool, but is soooo easy.  Let me show you.

Make your quilt/pillow and quilt as desired.  Trim the edges like you would before binding.

Cut out four 1" strips of fabric that are a bit longer than each side of your pillow/quilt.  Fold them in half and press.

Take one strip and lay the unfinished edges along the edge of your quilt/pillow.  Zigzag along the edge.  Make sure you are right on the edge so the stitching doesn't show when you put on the binding.

For the next side simply zigzag another strip to the quilt along the edge.  The ends will overlap like so.

Trim off any extra fabric.

At this point it should look like this.

Next attach the binding as usual.  When you pull back the binding you will see about a 1/4" of flange fabric along the edge.  LOVE!!!  Some people choose to top stitch the flange down along the loose edge, but I don't feel it is necessary.

You can also add a flange along the edge of a quilt top before you add the final border.  This gives you a narrow interior border without having to try to sew a 3/4" piece of fabric along the edge. (shudder)

I personally like to have the flange be the same color as the binding.  I think it looks nice that way but they could be different colors too.

Let me say it one more time:  I Love Flanges!  Blessings on the heads of the older ladies at the quilt store who showed me how to make one eight years ago.  How about you?  Have you ever used a flange in quilting?

(And is it just me or does flange sound like a bad word?)