It just came through the laundry. For the 500th time. The one who owns this quilt is now 11, nearly 12, and I started piecing it before he was born and got around to finishing it a few days before his little brother was born.
I didn’t know what I was doing at all, just that I needed to make it because this kiddo didn’t get one from his great grandmother like some of the older ones did. It’s just simple rectangles, but I remember that I was scared of messing up, so it seems like piecing took forever. Probably what really was the issue was not having a proper space to cut and arrange, so I had little stacks of colors on the corner of the very small table I was working on. What I know now is that having a clear surface to work on is a big part of what my brain needs to focus on a single project, instead of 45 half finished projects cluttering everything up.
After I pieced the top, it sat while I just recovered from him being born (it was traumatic) and moving, and after we were finally settled in a new house, I got it back out and did a lot of free motion meandering on it, not knowing there was more that could be done.
The binding doesn’t really match, but I remember as soon as it was done, Judah called it his Happy Quilt, so that name has stick. Happy Quilt has been washed so many times and yet it is still intact. It’s amazing to me that it has held up despite all that I didn’t know. I’m glad Happy Quilt is doing it’s job well and is still in service and very much loved.
These Accuquilt dies are so magical to me. I’ve always been pretty happy that I could cut a straight line, maybe a little arrogant about it, but I’m terrible at making triangles the correct size or squares exactly square. It’s the math of it all that makes me freak out a bit. And then having to duplicate the cutting the exact same way a hundred million times for a single project and that was it. I’m out. But since I started hoarding collecting dies, I’m finding that there is a lot of fun over here on the quilt-y side of sewing.
For the last few weeks I’ve been practicing some FMQ (free-motion quilting) techniques. These were kind of frustrating in the beginning, until I went to a local quilt shop just to talk about it with someone (this is the part where we diverge from the “crafting is cheaper than therapy” mantra, because I’m pretty sure my therapist is cheaper – and covered by insurance!) My quilt shop compadres asked, did I have gloves (no), did I have the right foot (yes, but I bought a ruler foot too, just so I could fall back on using rulers if I had to) and did I try out the long arms yet? (yes, surprisingly they let me drive one everytime I go in! It’s easier to test drive a long arm than it is a new car, that’s for sure!) Ugh. The longarm seems like it would be so much easier. And faster. But I have this gorgeous new sewing room that I filled up with the things that were overflowing from all over the rest of the house and I don’t really have room for a long arm until at least several more kids move out. (yes, there are a lot of kids here!) So, I go back and take the new gloves and the slippy slidey slider mat home and practice some more.
It’s like an attempt to get inside the mind of the woman who was entranced by the Yellow Wall Paper. Maybe she needed something like quilting to practice, as an outlet for the anxiety she experienced. My stack of practice quilt sandwiches is my yellow wall paper pile, and I’m just keeping them close in case…I don’t know why – maybe to ward off the anxiety.
Somewhere on practice run 5 or 6 something clicked. I wasn’t having to force the curves and loops and they just flowed. like really happened. So I went a little faster and decided I needed to try it out on a real quilt. But I’m still to chicken to do that much so I broke out a new Accuquilt die, the spool block and made a few of those up, thinking they were going to sit horizontally in a row. I am still working out of a box of mask scraps, so there is plenty of raw material there. Enough to get three little spool blocks out. And then white background.
The spool blocks finish up at 6 inches, so I cut some 2.5 inch strips from the white to use as a border, and decided that would work between each block, but it felt better to do the blocks vertically at this point, and then I could hang it on the wall – I need a few more soft things on one side of the room to absorb the sound just a little more.
Of course, then I got distracted by wanting to have a quilt label, not that these are heirlooms or anything, I just feel like it’s important to practice all the other things on even the little things so that I will remember to do them on the bigger things when I get to that point. So I digitized a little quilt label really quick and embroidered it out, then used a few more scraps from one piece of beautiful fabric that I’ve been saving from scraps for the last 15 years to frame it out, and then inset it into the backing so it’s not an afterthought, it’s part of the whole thing. One of my sewing inspiration friends always said “done is better than perfect” so I took her mantra and used it to help me push through this project. But I may have to use this saying on many more of my quilts. It makes me happy to integrate her wisdom into my little sewing quilt.
Then the quilt sandwich. I love doing this. It’s like a mark that the quilt top is actually going to become an actual quilt. Like a REAL quilt. Like when a tadpole gets his legs and starts to look more like a frog.
And then some deep breaths, but I remember that I JUST today made some pretty swirls and swoops and can do it again. Just change the machine foot and get on with it! Swoop, swirl, swish, loop, swoop swoop swoop. It’s easy to get lost in the process, like a rhythm that takes over and you just feel it and no longer have to think. swish-swoop-swish-loop-loopy-loop.
Oh, there’s that feeling again. I should have made the quilt bigger. It’s already over? I think I like this part the best. The QUILTING part of quilting. I like the piecing, and I like the arranging, but I LOVE the quilting. I don’t have a word for it yet, but maybe the word will come in time. Or maybe there’s not a word, just the feeling, but I want to feel that more, because it is just so freeing. Just the rhythm of the swirling, and keeping the stitches consistent. It’s coming, and I can feel it. I didn’t expect to get this part already. If it didn’t turn out, I could just put it in the yellow wall paper pile, but it’s definitely looking good. All swoops and swirls in the background. The spools themselves are just a tight back and forth, to give the idea of thread, made out of thread, on a block that forms the image of a thread holder. It’s all very redundant. But still so satisfying.
I know that I could harness the digitizing of machine embroidery to get a technically perfect quilted pattern, even to accurately fit this block, since everything lined up perfectly, But I still want to do it like this, with this free motion low tech process. It connects me more to myself in the process, removing the computer and the software. It’s just me and the machine.
Quilt as desired is such a big scary sounding proposition. But maybe it’s just the infinite possibilities. I’m getting braver for sure.
Since it came out OK, and actually accurately square (rectangular) it can hang. When I bound it with the same gradient material as the grey spools, I slipped two little triangles in the top corners and asked Paul to hack off the ends of a small dowel to slip in to stabilize it as a hanger. Perfect. And now it’s hanging (appropriately) over one of my thread cabinets.
Done is better than perfect, and practice gets you closer to the done part quicker. But in order to get done, you just have to start.
What better way to jump full into this new obsession than by joining a Quilt A Long (QAL for short)? While lurking in the quilting facebook groups I saw this dramatic quilt and decided that since the whole thing was broken up into manageable parts, maybe I would be able to keep up.
I got the downloadable pattern from Slice of Pi and printed it out and started thinking about the colors that I wanted to use. The weekly QAL emails from Laura were super helpful and encouraging, giving me a little bit of confidence that this project could be completed even by a beginner like me. She guided us through the fabric selection as well as the cutting, and I’m really glad that the pattern included the cutting directions for using the Accuquilt Die system. I can cut long straight lines, but the precise cutting of small bits still eludes me, so having HELP really helps! One of the secrets of quilting – piecing really – is that the finished piece is absolutely dependent upon accurate cutting at the very beginning. Once I’ve gotten that HUGE part down, all the rest seems (seams?) ridiculously simple. The fabrics I chose were really random bits of small pieces of fabric that were from various other projects. I know of two fabrics that were specifically from dresses I made for my girls when they were little, and it’s nice to see them again preserved here since those dresses have long since left the house.
Week by week Laura’s emails came, explaining what to do, so I set time aside after all the regular things were finished to work on the Exploding Heart. I was really surprised by how quickly things came together with a manageable plan in place. I understand the value of a well written plan, but I got to put myself under someone else’s plan and just let them tell me what to do for a while, and I’m really glad that I didn’t try to break any rules with this project.
Within a few weeks the quilt top was completely done, and it is just waiting the quilting. My excuse for the last few weeks is that I didn’t yet have the batting, but that just came in (Hobbs Heirloom batting in black – which wasn’t in stock anywhere in town). So now the batting is here and I think I will be using a backing that is black with pink polka dots for a little bit of fun on the back. I need to add borders to give it just a bit more width and length. I do have a little quilting plan for the black areas, and I’m just going to let the colorful areas pop.
Overall, I’m really kind of excited that I was able to follow the directions AND that it came out so well so far. I’ll update again when I have the other parts done, but I just wanted to share the progress so far.
So this particular blanket – I hesitate to call it a quilt, except I did some “quilting” – has been in process and waiting to be finished for – oh, 12 years. I started with this piece of fabric thinking it would be sweet for a baby blanket. I picked up the fabric from Hobby Lobby after we had packed up my sewing room in preparation for a move, so I only had the bare minimum to work with. The fabric has a sweet little pattern, that I used some scraps to applique a really simple element in the lower right corner of the fabric piece. I probably was thinking that I would back it with flannel and add a simple crocheted edging, but I never got around to it.
At some point last year, I actually added a very thin batting and a thicker luscious Luxe Cuddle® Velvet, which unfortunately has been discontinued (but I’d still recommend a regular Cuddle®) for the backing!
And it still sat
So when we lost power during the ridiculous situation that we are still traumatized by, this little quilt sandwich got added to the pile of blankets that needed to be finished!
Really, since I had already appliqued the floral element at the bottom, I didn’t really want to add anything else – I really just wanted to get it done and out of the unfinished pile.
Here is where I had some fun. I dropped the feed dogs on my sewing machine and just started echoing around the floral element. That’s pretty much it – I worked to keep the stitches someone even, since it was just really loose free motion quilting, but I went out further and further from each previous run, not in a measured way, though.
I kept peeking at the back, because part of the magic that I am loving seeing is the BACK of each quilt/blanket as it is coming together. There is so much MAGIC that shows up when you quilt, especially in all the negative spaces, and especially on the backs, when you use minky fabrics like the Cuddle®.
And then the binding. Feeling a little cocky, I cut binding strips at 2 inches, forgetting that cotton binding works best at 2.5 inches wide. But the strips were cut and really just needed to get on there, so I bound it with the machine instead of by hand so that I could just zig zag the edge of the binding on.
Now, I know there are LOTS of mistakes here. But really, this little blanket is warm and charming, and I still geek out about the magic of the echo quilting on the back in the minky. What’s the goal here. Well, just get it done, really. And I learned to remember to pay attention to cutting the binding at 2.5″ instead of 2″ so that there is more than 1/2″ to wrap around and attach. No way was I going to fight layers to attach that by hand. The zig zagging is just fine. I hope the quilt police don’t come after me on that one. Done is better than perfect, and really, it’s WARM and cuddly, and even cute!
So if there really is no tomorrow, I better use up all this fabric today, right?
I am determined to unlock all the secrets of the triangles. They stretch and bend and act all weird when they are cut at different sizes. I tried a couple of things that I’m certain are quite basic to experienced quilters, but if you are on the “teaching an old dog new tricks” side of things like I am, you understand having to learn the thing for yourself.
This Carpenter’s Square pattern from Jenny at Missouri Star Quilt Co. has been on my list since before I committed to learn this. I think this may be the quilt that pushed me into the whole process! Having a carpenter hubby I have been fairly motivated to make this star as the first star pattern that I needed to master. First one I thought I’d just use some random grey fabrics. Not a great choice, but after getting them all cut out and it all being practice anyway, I just pushed on. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. If I do greys again, I will do solids for the star shape and then a very pale grey for the background. I am finding that I really prefer the lighter backgrounds right now, but that can change! I just know that I’m not planning on any brown quilts at all.
The MSQC pattern calls for 10″ blocks, but I was certain that I could use what I have and make 8 inch blocks with my Accuquilt 8 and 1/2″ square dies and half-square triangle dies. And figuring that if I was right, I could use the smaller dies in my collection to adjust downward as well. (spoiler alert – it worked!)
Cutting and piecing the top was surprisingly fast. In my head, a quilt takes years to make, but I think that’s just the fear of the thing. I was always astonished with how many quilts my grandmother made, but I just assumed that was all she did. Looking back, she had a full-time job, so it must have been that she just sewed as time allowed, so my perspective was just uninformed. I wish she was still around so I could ask her all the questions now. She did make gorgeous applique block quilts with really detailed hand applique. Her sewing machine was a simple Singer from 1945 that was a wedding present. Sometime after she died that machine mysteriously disappeared from their house. Such a loss. It sewed so many beautiful things. The last time I got to use it was when we stayed with my grandfather for my other grandmother’s funeral (the grandmother on the other side of the family). I had an unexpected hem for one of the kids that needed to be done so I tried to summon up all the memory I had of how to use her machine. It had NO bells and whistles, but it was a beautiful machine with the most excellent straight stitch.
After the cutting and piecing, I wanted to see the whole thing. Before the final press I clamped it to the shelving in my sewing room.
Then I remembered that the photography background that I have rarely used might work for a photo, so I set that up on the porch and gave it another go after I pressed the quilt well. Really, I’m happier about this serendipitous “quilt photo stand” than I am about this particular quilt top! But I see many more opportunities now that I know this is not a terribly long process!
Here’s the second one done this morning with 4 inch dies from the 8 inch Accuquilt Qube. It seems so tiny at 32 inches x 32 inches right now, but I’ll add 4 inch borders, too, so I can practice some in that area. But I’m MUCH happier with these colors, and will continue to choose these bright, soft colors until I figure out exactly what I am trying to do here.
The quilting bit is already forming in my head. The reason I am compelled to get these out is because I REALLY want to play in the negative space. The negative space is just the thing that is pulling me farther and farther in. It’s the part that really has excited me about the whole quilting process, and it really didn’t hit me until recently that it was the magic of the negative that was where I was headed. Having a plan is half the battle!
So, it’s actually Rodeo time here, and the show must go on, despite a global pandemic. How fitting that I completed this Rodeo themed blanket this week as well.
This kit was from Shannon Fabrics – it’s a strip-quilt that comes with several cuts of wonderful fabrics for the top and binding, and you get to choose how to divide up the included fabric and set the stripe pattern. The fun part is that you assemble the whole thing “quilt as you go style,” do when you get the last strips on, you have already quilted it across all the layers.
The process is simple: choose backing, spray baste a batting on, and start stitching the strips on through all the layers, stitch and flip style. Before long, my blanket was complete. I simply squared it up and applied the binding. And voila, snovid21 quilt 4 was complete.
I chose to let the printed panel shine as an uncut centerpiece of the blanket, and arrange the other stripes according to the suggested layout. The kit includes several suggestions for laying the strips out and very detailed instructions for cutting, assembling, and sewing. it’s a great starter project if you are new to seeing with Cuddle and Luxe Cuddle fabrics, and a chance to build some skills and practice sewing in a straight line!
I chose a batting that didn’t require close quilting, but I think I may go in and do a little bit of machine quilting even though it’s already bound. If I add that I will update this post to reflect how that went.
This quilt I pieced as soon as I got my new sewing machine (a Janome 6700P). I had picked up this jelly roll at the dealer, when I was scoping out their machines, and the fun bright 70’s style just grabbed me. It sat on the shelf for a week or so before I just decided to stitch all the strips together in a Jelly Roll Race style. The actual piecing took just a couple of hours, not even that, really. BUT it provided an opportunity to get to know my new machine a bit, and to learn a little about how fast I really could go. My main criteria of the new machine was that it was FASTER than my previous machines and yet still have plenty of fun stitches AND the capability to do a wide 9 mm stitch. I don’t even understand WHY I like 9 mm so much, but it was an absolute must.
The pieced top of this quilt leaned heavy on orange, so I knew it would be great as a quilt to cosy up with on the new porch that my husband built during the end of 2020. We did a complete change of color scheme of the house in the summer and the trim is painted to mimic cedar (except real cedar is $$$$$$ here and new paint was $ in comparison!) And then we have these cool picnic tables that he built previously but painted them a bright fun turquoise, and then our trim accents and doors on the house are a bright navy, so the colors of this quilt top, when put together, immediately told me that this was the porch quilt. Most evenings (except for this lately odd snowpocalypse) are mild enough to sit outside together and watch lightening bugs or the fire, and I found myself dragging my own blanket out there back and forth. Since the porch has essentially become our new living room, with the inside taken over by kids’ desks for the distance learning, it’s nice to have a low-tech place to relax.
The quilt top sat complete for at least 4 weeks while I pieced and quilted and finished a pinwheel quilt that was specifically for the backdrop of my video side of the new sewing room (really an extension of the “great porch project”) and then through the busyness of setting that room up, piecing another few blankets, and just waiting for T – I – M – E to do the actual quilting. Enter, the snowpocalypse of the past week.
With no power, we shifted into survival mode, and while I wondered for a bit how in the world Ma Ingalls had any time at all to do any of the sewing of the household’s clothing or blankets or bedding or ANY of it really, when cooking from our freezer took all the time to keep people here fed, the nagging feeling of having half finished blankets that COULD BE ACTUALLY BE HELPFUL TO THE FREEZING SITUATION AT HAND drove me to take a few minutes to get them at least sandwiched with backing and batting so that when we ever got power again I could finish them up really quickly. So, I used a thin poly/cotton batting, and I chose the Shannon Fabrics Cuddle® in Hot Pink for the backing and spray basted them with 505 spray. Normally I do all the spray basting outside, but it was like 7 degrees F outside, and my room is really a decent size, so I just quickly sprayed and got them adhered. I actually made sure that all my lonely pieces got sandwiched, so that they’d all be ready to finish…once there was power!
It took a couple of days for the power to come back, but once it did we did all the things we needed to do with power to take care of the kids, and then I headed to the sewing room. I have been wanting to practice some free motion quilting after spending many hours watching Angela Walters draw pretty little designs so effortlessly on youtube. I thought the jelly roll strips would be a good place to practice different motifs (that was a correct assumption) and that I could just pop on a FMQ foot and take off. NOT the case. In order to get the fabric to glide under the foot, I did have to wrestle it quite a bit. I know that quilting gloves will help this process. I also decided that I did not want to use the extension table of my machine. I don’t think I have my sewing chair at exactly the right setting yet, so the angle of sewing/body/arms/foot pedal was all out of wack, and I felt it in my body as I tried to gleefully glide the stripes under the machine. I remembered that I had heard not to bring the fabric toward you – to work with it going away from you, but I couldn’t see the whole area I was trying to fill with stitching. I needed to see where I was GOING, not where I’d been, so I tried stitching up one strip and then down the other. Pretty soon I felt like I was writing with the non-dominant hand, and at the end of it I don’t know which was the way that felt best. I did different scribbly stitches on each “strip” trying to practice pebbles, figure eights, ribbon candy, and just plain zig zags. Looking at the back, you can’t even tell that is what I was trying to do, because it looks like a toddler trying to learn how to hold a pencil and make a mark. BUT when all the stitching was done, the quilting, which primarily shows up on the back, doesn’t look terrible. And that is what I’m going for here. Not looking terrible.
After trying to find a suitable fabric to bind with (no, I hadn’t decided that earlier, except I knew I needed a solid, not a print from the coordinating fabrics) I decided to use a Luxe Cuddle® Hide in Banana binding instead of a cotton binding. It’s SO much simpler to stitch on, and honestly, I just love the way the edging feels when I need something to fidget with.
I spent a lot of time thinking I was going to do something with turquoise and navy, but when the quilt got to the machine, I just didn’t feel it, so it was pink and yellow and it’s really very happy, and will still work well on the porch!!
Here’s what I did not expect. As I got to the end of the quilting, I found feelings that were strange. Was I sad that there wasn’t more to do right then? Was it fatigue because of the strange way I had to grip the fabric to drive it through or from probably clenching my teeth to will it to happen? Was it anger that I had pooh-poohed the idea of ever wanting a long arm machine to do it with a lot less effort? What was that feeling? I still do not know, but I am eager to try again and get back to that place and explore what it was. There are so many things to keep track of while doing the actual quilting. The rhythm of the push and pull against the speed of the needle and the size of the stitches. The layers of material to take care not to jam, especially at the edges. The clenching of the teeth. And the choosing of the elements to try to create in the fabric. I really loved mashing the fabric together and creating something completely new in the process. The quilt becomes a much different material that the pieced top and the chosen backing are on their own. Sandwiched together and stitched they are mysteriously transformed into the QUILT, and that led me to eagerly experiment on the next blanket, which might become a proper quilt when it got some quilting added to it!
It got so cold here in Texas this week that entire electrical grid failed, which led to city water supply failing. Which led to two days without power or water. Houses in Texas are built to stay cool – it never really gets or stays truly cold. But it gets over 100 degrees F every summer, so we need breezeways and open spaces so the heat can rise and escape, which it did rapidly as our temperatures dropped inside after hours without power. This led to cooking what was thawing in the powerless freezer outside over a fire, keeping a pot out there constantly full of what water we had previously collected when we heard the water system might fail, and just trying to stay warm. What I realized as a maker was that I had NOT made enough bedding. We don’t camp, so we don’t have sleeping bags like others might. Everyone has a comforter and a few little decorative blankets, but they aren’t real blankets. Primarily cotton or single layer fleece blankets – more for fun and snuggling than much else!
Well, a mom who’s a maker has to fix that pronto. While I had light, i sandwiched a few quilt tops that were pieced and ready, prepped bindings for a blanket and a whole-cloth quilt that was ready for quilting, and double checked that everything would be ready to stitch as soon as power was restored and food and other nutritional necessities were consumed by everyone. And then I started working through my stack. I went easiest to hardest, or so I thought.
The first blanket I put together was a simple “stitch and flip” style strip quilt made from Luxe Cuddle with a printed cuddle focal strip. You start with laying down the backing, then the batting, and then you add the strips for the accents on the front one at a time from the middle section out.
You can see here that I used wide strips of coordinating fabrics. These were part of a “Sweet Strips” set in the Lagoon colorway. I used all the strips except for a light aqua strip, which I’ll use for another project. And I added a smaller strip of another lighter Luxe Cuddle to the top edge for balance. The binding was the last darker strip from the sweet strips pack that I had cut into 1.75” strips and pieced together.
After it was done it was claimed by a kid right away. And a cat, who often sneaks her way onto whatever project I’m doing with minky.
I’ll talk about the others in a different post. Putting fabric into service for comforting use is definitely a worthwhile project.
Hi! I’m Sheila. I make things. Compulsively, obsessively even. Making is my way to keep sane most days, and getting a finished item is sometimes a side benefit. I’ve been making something for as long as I can remember, and it’s been vital to my well-being at many times along the way. Not only is the making therapeutic, but the process is always intriguing. I dig down deep to find the way it’s been done before and investigate what the reasons were and then I experiment with how it can be done differently and if different is better or appropriate or even wise.
My interests include everything about both traditional and modern textile arts. This blog will be a place to keep the stories of the things that inspire me and possibly provide a record of the things that get completed. Or maybe only started.
Whatever gets accomplished here is just one part of the process. I needed a place to write down the process to get it out of my head and there are only so many people in my house who have interest in this process for now. (and by so many I mean literally only one, and that one probably is more interested after a bourbon!)
I feel like a public place to blog is important because I know there are others that care about these things and that I can enter into a conversation with. I’d love to hear how others #process the making of their things. There truly are so many different ways to accomplish the same things. There are no “quilt police” or “embroidery police” here, though. Only open minds to experiment and discover and enjoy the ride. I want to try new things and hear how the things you have tried have worked or not worked, too.