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Pantone_Color of the Year Paint Pot

Really? That was my reaction when I saw the color Pantone chose as the trend-setting color for 2015.  It’s called “Marsala,” and it’s a subdued (all right, drab) wine color. I guess you can tell from my tone that I’m not exactly feeling Marsala for quilting. For winter coats, purses, and shoes, yes. But quilts? Not so sure. I like rich colors, and I also like the white-and-bright combinations I see in a lot of the quilts being made by young quilters today. Here’s an example of “white and bright” from Angela on Flickr.com:

White and bright 7711418978_6f8b454746_bNo Marsala there!

You know where Marsala would have felt right at home? Back in Victorian days, when the first (mostly) colorfast red dyes were just coming on the market. Quilters just snapped them up. Reds and browns were all the rage then. They were also great at hiding dirt in a time when all washing had to be done by hand.

If Marsala appeals to you, you can find it and lots of Victorian reproduction fabrics online at stores like ReproductionFabrics.com, or at quilt shops that specialize in helping quilters produce authentic-looking reproductions of historic patterns.

How about you? Have you found a color palette for quilting that feels like your natural combination of colors? I’d love to see what kind of quilts you’re making and which colors you prefer.



Cutting up Fat Quarters: Method #1

Chevron__87169.1407934152.1280.1280A fat quarter is a quarter-yard of quilting fabric that is cut in a taller and fatter shape than a standard quarter-yard. You will find fat quarters everywhere at your local quilt shop, in bundles like the one on the right, or folded up and sold individually.

A regular quarter-yard is cut across the full width of a piece of fabric. It measures 9″ by the width of the fabric from selvage to selvage (42″ to 44″, depending on the manufacturerer). A regular quarter-yard cut looks something like the picture below. It’s great if you want to cut long fabric strips, but not so great for cutting other shapes like larger squares or triangles.

A fat quarter contains the same quarter-yard of fabric, but it is cut into a blockier shape that lends itself better to cutting squares, triangles, and other shapes.

Fat Quarter Cut

Buying a fat quarter of a fabric you see and just have to have is a great way to get your hands on the fabric without spending a fortune. Quilt shops make this easy for you by displaying fat quarters everywhere. I bought lots of them when I first started quilting. But how can you cut them up into useful shapes? There are a number of different ways you can do this. Here’s one way we like: cutting the fat quarter into four 9″ squares and one 3-1/2″ x 18″ strip. All very useful sizes.

Cutting Fat Quarters 1



Easiest Little Rag Quilt Ever

Baby Rag Quilt 3

Rag quilts are the simplest kind of quilt-as-you-go quilt — which means just about the simplest and easiest of all quilts you can make. Learn how to make one here. I like making them because they are really easy to cut and sew, forgiving of mistakes, and are often made of flannel, which makes the end result wonderfully soft and cozy. Have a few extra fabric squares or strips lying around? Throw them in! Bad at cutting or sewing straight lines? No problem! Crooked lines look just fine.

With technical specifications as relaxed as these, Christine and I have made quite a a number of rag quilts over the years. You can see a few here, here, and here.

Most of my earlier rag quilts were made from fabric squares. The little rag quilt featured in this post is the first one I’ve made from flannel strips. I cut the strips the full width of the fabric, machine quilted each strip to a backing strip of polyester fleece, sewed the strip sets together with straight-line seams, and then clipped the seam allowances and outer borders. Quilt done in just a few hours.

Here are the fabrics I started with:

Baby Rag Quilt Fabrics

I cut them more or less at random into 2-1/2″, 5″, 7-1/2″, and 10″ strips. Then I laid out the strips into a pattern I liked. I cut strips of pink-and-orange polyester fleece the same width as each of the flannel strips in the top, then used a wavy decorative stitch to quilt each flannel strip to its matching backing strip. Here’s what the backing fabric looks like:

Baby Rag Quilt 7After all the strips were quilted, I sewed the flannel/fleece strip sets together with a 3/4″ seam allowance. The deep seam allowance gives the seams their fluffy ragged edges. I took a couple of extra strips of flannel and sewed them to the top and bottom edges of the quilt to make the ragged edges thicker and more luxurious. And here’s the end result:

Baby Rag Quilt 8

Baby Rag Quilt 6

Baby Rag Quilt 5

Baby Rag Quilt 2

Baby Rag Quilt 1

Baby Rag Quilt 4









Cheesecloth Ghost Quilt

In honor of my sudden realization that it’s time to get cracking if I’m going to make any decorations in time for Halloween season (which starts in our household on October 1 because my daughter loves Halloween so much), I’m reposting a tutorial for making this little ghost wall hanging with cheesecloth and a few spooky-looking fabrics. As the original post mentions, this quilt was actually finished the day after Halloween. But the way I look at it, what you don’t finish in time for this year’s holiday is really ready for next year’s holiday!

Here’s how the finished quilt looked. Quilting the cheesecloth was a great, low-risk way to try out free motion quilting.



Halloween Quilt-as-You-Go Table Runner

Halloween Quilt as you Go Table Runner

It’s not too soon to start sewing quilts for Halloween! I say that with an exclamation point because I love decorating for seasonal holidays. Making quilts for Halloween is especially fun for me, because I love pumpkins and harvest time and the whole autumn feeling of shorter days and chillier nights and winter on the way. (Apologies to anyone reading this from the southern hemisphere.)

This 15″ x 54″ Halloween table runner came from the tutorial in my beginner’s quilt book. It took about three hours to make, with interruptions to play with the dog and feed our rabbits and our lone chicken, Lucky. We are trying to decide if Lucky is a hen or a rooster. (We are somewhat less lucky than Lucky, so he/she will probably turn out to be a rooster.)

Here is Lucky with a glamorous friend:

D. and Lucky

But back to the quilt. The key to making a simple quilt pattern look seasonal is, of course, choosing the right fabric. Halloween’s colors of orange and black and, increasingly, purple, make this easy to do. I used ten different fabrics in this table runner. Most of them were from individual fat quarters I bought on sale at the local big box fabric store. You don’t have to use that many fabrics to make a quilt that looks good.

The centerpiece of my runner was this creepy spiderweb batik, which says Halloween as clearly as you possibly could.

Spiderweb fabric

These skeletons couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than a Halloween (or Day of the Dead) motif, either. I picked the grey fabric because the pattern looked a bit like crosses in a graveyard, but I don’t think that’s what it was intended to be. Maybe an architect’s T square for making measurements?

Skeletons and gravestones
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Halloween quilt without a good dose of orange. I looked for fat quarters with an off-kilter pattern like the op-art squares. The spirals in the top fabric are actually roses, but they look a bit like spiderwebs too, don’t you think?

Don’t be afraid to combine several different shades of orange.

Orange Fabrics

And finally, a touch of purple. This purple fabric has a Halloween spiderweb pattern, but I only wanted a hint of purple, so I cut thin strips that don’t show the whole design.Purple fabric

A lot of new quilters say that deciding what colors to use is the most stressful part of quilting for them. One way to build your color confidence is to start with a small project like this one and use it to experiment with combinations of colors and patterns that stretch your boundaries. Loosen up and have some fun with it.

If you decide to make a Halloween quilt, I’d love to see photos!







Cats and Quilts for 2015

Cats and quilts cover

My new publishing venture just went live on Amazon.com: a little 2015 monthly calendar featuring cats and their quilts. I know a lot of you quilt with a kitty for company. Don’t you love the way a cat takes over a sewing room as if you and everything in the room were nothing more than humble possessions? This calendar pays homage to the cats that rule our quilting rooms. Here’s one of the images from inside the calendar:

Inside page Cats and Quilts Calendar

The calendar is an experiment created very much on impulse — I have no idea how many people might be interested in a purse-sized paper calendar in these days of calendar apps, but here goes!

If any of you have ideas you would like to see in print, I encourage you to try your hand at self publishing. It’s much easier than you might think. Please comment or send me a message through this blog if you would like any suggestions about how to get started.


Does Perfectionism Stop You from Quilting?

20 20 rule front panel

This little graphic expresses one of my most important rules for quilting: “If it looks good from twenty feet away, while you drive by at 20 miles an hour, it’s perfect! Don’t change a thing.”

Silly as it is, this quilter’s saying still expresses something important about how to approach quilting (or any creative endeavor) so you can find joy in doing it, instead of dissatisfaction.

It’s easy to feel dissatisfied with aspects of your quilting: your color choices, your cutting, the accuracy of your piecing, the stitch length of your machine quilting — the list goes on and on!  If you find yourself hesitating to quilt because your quilting doesn’t seem good enough to you, may I suggest a liberal application of the 20/20 rule?


Quilting for Love: Margie’s Story

Audrey's Squares Quilt

I recently posted some photos of Mary S.’ very first quilts. After that post went online, I got an email from another quilter, Margie. Margie saw Mary’s quilts and sent me these photos of the quilts she made for her five grandchildren. If you feel hesitant about making your own first quilt, I think you might find inspiration in the message Margie sent along with the photos. Here’s what she said:

I just wanted to comment on Mary’s first quilt, it is great!

I have always wanted to try my hand at quilting but time was never on my side and I wasn’t all together confident I could do it.
So two years ago, when I became a retiree, I decided I now had the time and I wanted to make a quilt for each of my five grandchildren.
The best advice I got before starting was to “start simple” so I did a lot of research on “how to” on the computer and headed to the store to pick out fabric for my first one (that was the hardest part for me). A little over one year later I finished the last one!
I can tell you, I am hooked. I love quilting and actually find it very therapeutic to sit and sew every night in front of the TV! Even though I suffer from thirty one years of Rheumatoid Arthritis I do all my quilting by hand, I press through and stop when I have had to much but there is something wonderful in the feel of doing it by hand.
Attached are pictures of the five quilts I made. The first was a simple block design and so was the second.
Jonathan's Squares Quilt
David's quilt 1
Then I got brave and did the star flower, pinwheel and heart designs on the last three. I still have not got into anything too fancy, but who knows, maybe some day I will.
Audrey's Squares Quilt
Lauren's quilt 3
Madalynn's quilt 3

Margie, a quilter for therapy!”

I want to thank Margie for sending in these pictures. It’s so encouraging to know that she made five quilts that will be cherished by their young owners, and made them in spite of her physical obstacles — and quilted them all by hand! If Margie can do it, so can you.

Quilting after Enlightenment

Enlightenment Quilting 2This is my quilting version of a Zen saying that goes like this: “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”

The tasks that go into making a quilt couldn’t be more simple: cutting, sewing, and pressing. But the quilt that comes out of those everyday tasks can be deeply satisfying to look at, use, or give. For me, the spiritual side of quilting has been mostly the practice of giving. I give away almost all the quilts I make, either to friends, or to sell for good causes.

Is quilting a spiritual practice for you?


Mary S.’ First Quilts

1st quilt 06 2014 Edited

The best thing about writing a book comes long after the book is finished, when you hear from readers who liked your book and learned something from reading it. I was thrilled to hear from Mary S. recently. Mary just made her very first quilts using the instructions and quilt patterns in my book, Quilts for Beginners. Good going, Mary!

The quilt above is a baby quilt she made using the simple piecing instructions from the book. The quilt below is a Halloween version of the Quilt-as-you-Go table runner, which is the first of three quick quilt patterns in the book.

I promised that quilt-as-you-go would be easy, and Mary agrees that it was! (Notice how she thoughtfully put a copy of my book under the finished quilt? Thanks for that, Mary!)

halloween table runner first quilt project 05 2014

If you got the book and haven’t quite gotten around to making your first quilt, or even if you are thinking about quilting and didn’t get the book, I want you to know that you can make that first quilt! (And have fun doing it.) Mary S. is excited about making more quilts now that she has finished these two.

I would love to hear from you, if you have made your first quilt recently. Send photos! If you’re still hesitating, send me your questions and concerns, or leave a comment on this post.




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