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Mary S.’ First Quilts

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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My Kind of Party

I know a lot of quilters whose social life revolves around quilting. I’ve never been organized enough to quilt in a group. For me, quilting is mostly a matter of snatching a few minutes here and a few minutes there in between all the other things I have to do. It takes place in my sewing room/garage, with only my dog for company. But it’s still a party! Colors! Textures! Excitement! Surprises! Coffee! Old Law and Order episodes on Netflix in the background!

Is quilting your kind of party, too?

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Sewing Machine Magic: How Your Machine Makes Stitches

I’ve been doing some research for my next book and came across this wonderful animation that shows how a sewing machine links the upper thread and bobbin thread to make stitches. Have you ever wondered how this happens? To tell the truth, I never did until just now. Once I saw how clever the stitching mechanism is, though, I was impressed all over again by the ingenuity of these machines we quilters rely on every day.

How your sewing machine makes stitches.

Image by ru:user:NikolayS (ru:Файл:Lockstitch.gif) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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I like making quilts for Valentine’s day. Maybe because the seasonal reds, whites, and pinks are so cheerful in midwinter.  Maybe because I make my Valentine’s quilts to hang on the wall, so they are small and easy to make.

The inspiration for this heart quilt came from a wonderful banner quilt  I saw on Lisa Calle’s blog, Vintage Modern Quilts. Her quilt featured flags, but I had made this heart garland last year, and my thoughts instantly went to a quilt like hers with hearts instead of flags. 

About a year ago, I made a big push to get rid of scraps. (Did it work? Of course not.) During my scrap-busting period, I made some fabric out of my little bits and pieces of red fabric. This quilt was the perfect place to use that improvised fabric.

I used a heart template to cut out applique shapes from my homemade fabric and from several pink and white fabrics. I marked the hearts with a pen, then used a rotary cutter blade that gives a pinked edge to cut out the hearts.  I lived to regret using the pen, though, because it left some stains on the back of the quilt.

Heart Template

Then I arranged the hearts on the background as if they were hanging from a line. I used [amazon_link id=”B0018N73C6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]temporary spray glue[/amazon_link] to hold the hearts in place while I stitched them to the quilt top. I left the outer edges of the hearts unstitched so they would look a bit like they are fluttering.

One of my decorative stitches made an imitiation line for the quilts to hang from. If I make this quilt again, I think I would use rick-rack to make the line more visible. 

Heart garland quilt 2

 

Heart garland quilt 3

Then I stippled the rest of the background. A red striped fabric for the binding, a hanging sleeve, and the quilt is done! It is now hanging in the living room window. 

I guess that means it’s time to take down the last of my winter decorations.  Funny how much more I enjoy putting things up than taking them down!

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What’s the best way to try out new quilting techniques you  would like to master, but don’t feel comfortable with yet? Go small. It’s much easier to experiment on a project the size of a placemat or a small wall quilt than it is on a large bed quilt. If you make a mistake or even ruin the whole project, oh well! And you are bound to learn something useful by trying something new.

I followed my own advice yesterday by making a little landscape quilt to put on a sweatshirt I gave my husband for Christmas.

Landscape quilt on sweatshirt

I have always liked landscape quilts, and I’ve made a couple of them, but I would like to get better at giving them visual depth. The design area of a men’s Large sweatshirt was the perfect size for trying shadows and a landscape with trees at different distances from the viewer.    

I cut out a piece of 14″ x 16″ white fabric to use as the foundation, then got out my scrap box full of motley pieces of fabric that already have fusible glued to the back. These pieces are leftovers from fusible applique quilts I’ve made over the last few years. All the fabrics you see in the landscape came from that scrap bin. I knew I wanted to make something fast and easy bold and graphic, so I picked a winter scene, whose monochromatic tones lend themselves well to abstract shapes. 

I used a pebbly pale grey fabric for the sky and some assorted white prints for the snowy ground. A snake-patterned print made the birch trees, and textured dark prints made the other trees.

If you are interested in trying this, learn from my mistake: it’s best to fuse the background pieces to the foundation fabric first and stitch down the whole background BEFORE you add trees or other foreground elements. I made the mistake of fusing everything first, trees as well as snow and sky, and then doing all the stitching. This made the sewing much harder because I had to sew lots of little stop-and-start segments of snow between all the trees, instead of sewing easy long lines across the whole quilt.

After quilting everything, I drew the shadows on with fabric marker pens.

At this stage, I liked the design, but the whole thing looked a little — how to say it? — bleak. I needed something to connect the monochromatic design to the colorful sweatshirt. The answer was in my regular scrap box, which produced this red spiral fabric. I added a strip to the bottom and felt satisfied.

Landscape quilt on sweatshirt detail large

After that, the project was smooth sailing. A little temporary spray glue to keep the quilted piece on the sweatshirt front while I sewed the quilted layer to the sweatshirt, a few lines of quilting to secure the middle of the image to the sweatshirt, a zig-zag stitch around the edges, and the whole thing was done.

Time elapsed: about three hours.

Lessons learned:

  • Fuse and quilt the background elements first before adding foreground elements.
  • Make the next sweatshirt landscape a bit smaller. The 14″ x 16″ landscape looked overwhelming when I laid it out on the sweatshirt. I trimmed a half inch from each side and cut off the top corners to make the quilted image look a little less bulky. Next time, I’d start with a smaller foundation, maybe 12″ x 15″.

What quilting techniques would you like to experiment with? What new ideas could you try out on a fabric postcard, a t-shirt, or a miniature quilt?

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Quilting for Valentine’s Day

Are you working on any Valentine’s Day projects? I’m planning to quilt with cupcakes. Food = Love, right? (At the very least, Chocolate = Love). Maybe that’s why I associate cupcakes with Valentine’s Day. 

I do have some plans for fabric Valentines that feature red and pink hearts, but I was also captivated by these cute fabric cupcakes and polka dots. Here’s what I bought, in case you’re tempted yourself:

  • Large cupcakes: Sweet Treats, by Michael Miller Fabrics.
  • Small cupcakes by Linda Solovic for Timeless Treasures.
  • Green polka dots: Guess How Much I Love You, by Clothworks.
  • White polka dots: Essential Dots, by Moda.

I haven’t decided what pattern to make yet.  Maybe one of my favorites, a [amazon_link id=”1571203230″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]9-patch Pizzazz[/amazon_link], from the book by Judy Sisneros. Maybe something completely new! I also scored some wonderful green-and-white Minkee fabric on sale after Christmas to use as the backing. Here are all my finds together:

Cupcake quilt fabrics with Minkee 1 2014

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