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Archive for August, 2012

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This week I promised to talk about fabric. There are many types of fabric you can use depending on your project goals. Since I promised I was going to keep this blog to basics, my recommendation is 100% cotton. Any reputable quilting store will carry good cotton fabric. You can expect to pay from $9-12 per yard for the fabric. While this may seem a little expensive, the quality of the fabric is what you need to become accustomed to. Once you are used the feel of the fabric, you will be able to shop in other places and know if the fabric you are looking at is as high a quality as you are used to. You will also become familiar with the names of some of the major manufacturers on the market. This is important because if you choose to buy fabrics online, you won’t have the same benefit of feeling the fabric prior to buying.

I understand that there are many people who don’t have local quilt shops to purchase from. If that is the case or if you are looking for some online resources I have a couple for you. I know there are a million places online to purchase from. Two that I have had wonderful experiences with and that I trust are the “Fat Quarter Shop”; www.fatquartershop.com, and “Connecting Threads”; www.connectingthreads.com.

The “Fat Quarter Shop” has wonderful block of the month clubs, which are a great way to start quilting. You will be mailed the fabric and pattern (which may need to be purchased separately). Every month you will complete your block(s), depending on how your club is set up, and after 6-12 months your quilt top is ready is complete. The monthly fee varies and starts at around $20. Like I said, this is a great way to start. In addition, I have used the block of the month as a Christmas present for my mom. She has been quilting for decades, but she anxiously waits for her new block materials every month. She has learned a few new techniques and patterns this way.

“Connecting Threads” is in my opinion hands down the best value for online purchases. Their fabric prices range from $4.96 to $6.96 per yard. You can get cuts as small as a ¼ yard, and that is unheard of at most online retailers. I was very skeptical when I first ordered from them thinking that the quality could not possibly be as good. Boy was I wrong. I love everything I have ever gotten from them and their thread is now the staple thread I use. Like all of their items the price and quality is great and it is offered in an array of colors. When picking out fabrics to use you can add your choices to the design table and get a good feel for how they will look together. I have not found this feature anywhere else, and it is great when you are trying to pick out many different fabrics for your quilt.

The next thing to mention on fabric is color. Obviously when you pick out a pattern you will be told how much of each type of fabric you will need. Such as a light, medium or darks color. Unless you are buying a kit, you will have to pick your own colors. Don’t shy away from this as it can seem daunting in the beginning. Go crazy and pick colors you like. You may be working with these colors for a while and you will want to smile when you see them. Not gag… The first quilt I did was with a local quilt shop and it was a block of the month however I had to pick out approximately 25 colors using a list that said light, medium, dark etc. (Sometimes I just don’t do anything in moderation, LOL). The colors where beautiful and I loved working with them. The quilt was gorgeous. When it was finished, I realized it matched nothing in my house! Oh well, it was a beautiful quilt and I now display it on my bed, who knows, maybe one day I will paint my bedroom to match it.

The last topic I will cover is a much debated one; to wash or not wash the fabric before using it. I have done both. In the beginning I washed, starched and ironed every piece of fabric before I used it. I now believe that as long as you starch and iron the fabric, because it is of high quality, it will be fine. I have never noticed any major shrinkage or color running. When starching I love to use “Mary Ellen’s Best Press”. Her web site is https://maryellenproducts.com. It comes in many scents and can be used on all of your clothes. It does not flake and I use it for ironing everything. If you are budget conscious and this is more than you want to spend, “Niagara” makes a non-aerosol spray starch that also works great on cotton fabrics. You can find this a many of your usual big box stores and it is about 1/4 of the cost of “Best Press”.

That is a good start on fabric, so while you are waiting for your fabric and thread to arrive you need to gather a few more tools around the house to get started.
o Iron
o Ironing Board
o Spray bottle filled with water

Have a great week. Please let me know if there are other topics you would like to see a posting on. I will blog again next week! Happy Quilting!

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My Etsy Shop

My Etsy Shop

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I hope last week was fantastic and that you have been looking forward to this week’s blog.  I put together a new quilt this week using a pinwheel block setting; you can see it in my Etsy shop, http://www.etsy.com/shop/GiftsbySheri?ref=si_shop.   What do you think?  Is it something you get ideas from?  It is a perfect size to be used for a variety of uses.  I also posted a close up picture of a couple of blocks on my blog.

Today I promised I would explore the world of tools that you need to quilt.  Let’s start with the main items:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Cutting Mat
  • Ruler(s)
  • Pins
  • Disappearing ink fabric marker

Now, I have made this list the most very basic listing possible.  Remember, we are trying to take the “scare” out of quilting. 

Let’s start with item #1 the sewing machine.  If this topic is brought up there will be many opinions.  Let me cut to the chase.  The cost of a decent machine begins around $500 dollars.  A mid-range machine that will last for years and do everything you need plus a few you don’t, around $2000.  The grand dream machine will start around $8000 depending on what options you choose. 

Hopefully you are over your state of shock.  I have a mid-range and high-end dream machine.  Except for embroidery on my high end machine, my mid-range does everything I need for quilting.  You need basic stitch functionality.  Quilting does not require anything fancy.  It is what you choose to do that can make having those extra decorative stitching functions fun. 

Here is the secret….it does not matter what machine you choose, what matters is having a shop that will help you take care of the machine and teach you how to use every function the machine has.  When you are buying a machine, don’t look solely at the price tag.  You can get a great deal, but if the dealer offers no support, this will cost you much more in the long run.  See if your machine dealer offers, classes, free machine tuning, trade-in value if you decide to trade up later, phone support, etc.  Believe me support is what is important. 

In addition to the machine, you will want the following add on items that are usally not included with your machine:

  • Straight stitch plate
  • Stitch in the ditch foot
  • ¼” foot with edge guide
  • Walking foot (unless your machine has a built in one—this is a feature I LOVE and highly recommend).

I could go on for hours, but there is no need.  Explore every machine seller within a good driving distance, find the one you like, and then pick your machine.  At the high end, all machines are basically the same, differing features are usually minimal.

Next the Rotary Cutter, there is not much to say about this except it will be one of your most heavily used items.  You only need the 45mm rotary cutter with extra blades.  The smaller rotary cutter is something you can add to your collection at a later date.

The cutting mat is an obvious need with the rotary cutter.  The minimum size needed is the 36” x 24”.  Like most things the mat can be a costly investment; however, if you have a store that offers a 50% or 40% off coupon for one item every week this is a great item to use it on.

Next is the ruler.  Remember I am only suggesting the bare minimum items needed.  My most useful rulers are the clear acrylic 6 ½” x 24 ½”.  The next most used one I have is the 6 ½” square.  You can get a lot of use out of these two rulers and add others as you progress. 

Small but important are pins.  Pins could be a blog unto themselves, but I promised simplicity.  You will need some silk pins and some long pins with flat heads. 

Last but not least is the disappearing ink fabric marker.  Not used for every pattern, but when you need it, you need it!

Once you have all of the above items, you are basically equipped to quilt.  There are tons of other items on the market that look useful.  The truth is, some are and some are not.  Start with the basics and adapt needs as you progress.  You can spend a lot of money on items that look great and you never use.  Trust me I have drawers full of these things. 

Next week I focus on fabrics.  If you have other topics you would like let me know.

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My Pinwheel design

My pinwheel design

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In this blog I will attempt to talk about why you may want to quilt.  In my introduction I talked about quilting being the one thing that that transcends time.  Historically I can think of nothing else that has the same enduring quality as a quilt to display love.  If a soldier was lucky, he would have one quilt of his own to comfort and protect him.  The message and symbols in the quilt may have been stitched for him by his mom, wife or a group of women determined to send the soldier off to war with as much love and caring as they could offer.  Wrapped in this quilt the soldier surely never felt alone.  The quilt is a hug that endures generations.   Quilts welcomes babies, congratulate new brides and grooms, cover sleeping children (yes even the grumpy teenagers), comfort the sick and give us memories of long lost family and friends.

 I am certain I am overly nostalgic when it comes to quilts.  I do know that quilts were very often made out of necessity.  Quilts were a way to use every scrap of fabric possible from flour bags to worn clothing.   These quilts kept families warm in the winter and comforted in times of need.  And of course the stories continue.

When I am quilting, I find myself relaxed and I take comfort knowing that I am performing a task that has been repeated billions of times throughout history.  I am picking fabrics, carefully choosing a design, and putting every bit of love and attention to detail as possible into my creation.  Sometimes I am free to splurge and buy everything I need to make an entire quilt, sparing no expense.  At other times I am checking my scraps to see what will work together.  I want the person receiving the quilt to know that it was made especially for them and that a quilt is made to be used.  The wonderful thing about quilts is that the more they are used, the softer they become. 

When my daughter and grandson moved away, I took his baby receiving blankets and pieced together a new large blanket for him.  This was a practical use of the fabric, and a way to piece together that short period of baby time that goes by so fast.   My grandson loved the blanket and carried it to daycare…..a hug across the miles.

Ok, so maybe this does not answer why you should quilt.  I guess I can’t tell you why you should.  But knowing you are a part of a larger group of strong women sometimes eases the burden of the day.  I hope you will want to continue a long tradition.  Think about joining centuries of quilters, in my next blog I will talk about basic items you will need to get started.

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Welcome to the “Gifts by Sheri” blog.  I have a few goals for this blog that I will share, but first let me give you some background on why I am doing this.  Like many of you I juggle work, home, children, grandchildren, marriage and yes my crafts.  I will focus on quilting in my blog, because I think it is a connecting block (ahh…a pun already) for woman that transcends time, age, politics, economic status and well …anything that divides us otherwise.  I know that men are more a part of the quilting world than ever before.   I have never met a male quilter, they are still mythical creatures in my world, but I hope that one will follow my blog and chime in.

So why would I do a blog?  I have always taken for granted that every family has crafters and heirlooms to pass down through generations.  Society over time has changed this.  Folks can’t find the time.  But I believe that if the world of quilting was not so overwhelming in the beginning, anyone could find the time.  I want to remove the scary portion of quilting, share some stories and make you anxious to join the quilting world.

Why my blog is called “Gifts by Sheri”?  Because I hope some piece of advice I share will make you laugh, give you an idea to have an outlet to be creative, and along the way I will also make some items and put them in my Etsy Shop so that you can have gifts at your fingertips if you just can’t manage to get yours together in time for a special someone.

I will give tips on machines, fabric, how to start…and the list goes on.  I was amazed at how many topics came up when I began brainstorming for this.   Thanks again for following, please look for my posts on a weekly basis I have scheduled time on Sunday evenings for this.  If you have any ideas don’t hesitate to send them.  I hope to learn as I share.  My contact information is GiftsbySheri@comcast.net.

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