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We have not talked about projects.  Where to start?!  What to do?!  I did two things this week that are no different than how I first started my quilting craft.  I started two projects.  Yes two!  One is a design I saw that I love.  The second is a class project that will help me build new skills.  Let me go into more details.

Project #1 is call “Ko Ko” and it was featured in the May/June 2012 Fons  & Porter’s  “Love of Quilting” Magazine.  I like the project for its simplistic color scheme.  The design was done by Evelyn Young.  I have never worked on any of her projects before. But everything seems to be going smooth.  The directions are good.  The project calls for cutting out a total of 1028 small triangles.  That is what I spent time doing throughout the week in the evenings.  It seems like a lot, but I enjoy every aspect of quilting, so I took my time and was done by the end of the week.  I spent time on Friday evening and Saturday sewing the triangles into 514 square and today I ironed out all of the squares.

  The sewing and ironing was mindless and therefore very relaxing.  I am making a few deviations from the pattern thus far.  Instead of doing regular triangles I chose to use the Marti Michell “Perfect Patchwork Templates”.  I love these because they make lining up the pieces tidy.  The specific one I used was B13.  I am sure making this change will slightly change the dimensions of the overall quilt, so I am going to hold off cutting my setting triangles until I have all of the blocks completely sewn together.  There will be 32 in total.  I will keep you posted. 

Project #2 is a block of the month class I signed up for at a local quilt shop.  The quilt is called “The Coxcomb Medallion Quilt” by Susan H. Garman 2010.  Distributed by Quakertown Quilts.  This quilt features a lot of hand applique work with multiple piece-worked borders.  My handwork skills leave something to be desired, however I consider this a challenge.  I took the class because being with fellow quilters is the best way to learn new tricks of the trade.  In addition, I have never met a nasty quilter.  Every quilter I have met is friendly!  You can’t say that about many groups as a whole.  Fellowship with other quilters is a must.  This quilt will be a year-long project.  The first month has many challenging things to accomplish.  I am not sure I will be able to get it all done.  But the instructor, Susan Anderson,  I have had before and she is patient so I won’t let myself stress out about getting every last thing completed.  I would rather have it done right than fast…  For this quilt I spent two hours in the demonstration class and I began some of the prep work.   I had to order a few tools, they should arrive from Connecting Threads this week.   This class is nice, because I didn’t have to pick any fabric.   Every month I will get a new fabric pack with what I need.  It’s a nice change of pace and it spreads out the initial fabric investment; that for a quilt this size would be around $200.    

If you gathered all of your supplies and you are wondering how to start, these are two ideas.  I believe a class is the best way to start; however, if you don’t have that available, try a pattern from a magazine.  I have given you the reference point to one magazine.  Fons & Porter’s “Love of Quilting” is nice.  It features patterns for all skill levels.  You can subscribe online if you can’t find it in a local store. 

I hope you have a fantastic week!  Be thankful for all that you have, even if it seems like less than some others.  This week I found out about a family that is now officially homeless, not to any fault of their own.  Apparently they were renting and the place they were renting was sold.  The new owner made them leave as he did not want to be a landlord.  A mom, dad, grandmother and son on the street.  Like many, they don’t have the means to come up with the extra money needed for first and last months rent to move into a place.  They are not the type of family that will ask for help.  I have only found this out from someone that is trying to help them.  This “someone” has bought clothes and schools supplies  for the son, in addition to helping them pay for their weekly rented room.  I have reached out to a close friend and she is going to help me get educated on resources available so that we can try to educate and help the family out.  It’s always astounding to me that some people who need help the most can’t get it because they either won’t ask, or don’t know where to start.  These are the people you don’t know about.  But the people that scream for help the loudest could probably do something to help themselves get out of a situation.  Thank goodness I live in a small community that will help and respect the pride of others. 

Once again, have a great week!  Hug the ones you love.  Smile at those you don’t.

Happy Quilting!

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I recently, as in today, finished a project that I am not so proud of.  The funny thing is that I actually like it.  It started about four weeks ago when I saw a pattern I loved from “Schibbles by Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co.”  The design is called “Recess” and it is by Carrie L. Nelson.  I ordered the pattern and waited anxiously for it to arrive.  I should have known this was going to be a troubled project from the start.  The first pattern order never arrived after 10 days so I had to contact the online store and they immediately shipped me another pattern.  Okay, so things happen.  I have never made a quilt with one theme of fabric, but for this one I used Windham Fabric, “Greet the Day” Collection by Lori Siebert.  I am usually not so organized as to use one collection, but for this project I thought it would be fantastic.  All things considered, the project went together well.  That is until I went to square it up.  I had somehow managed to get the pattern about 4” out of square…….this has never happened to me before, in fact I was so agitated I did not sew for a week.  I guess I thought if I just left the thing alone it would square out on its own….well, that didn’t happen. 

So today I ventured into my sewing to make this mistake right, the more I worked on it, the less I could figure out how to fix it.  My seams were all good, the layout was correct; there was just no making it straight.  I added the borders thinking this would make it better, but nope, that didn’t do anything but accent the offset.  So what did I do?  I embraced my blunder!

I never knew that a fabric line could so aptly describe a project.  Seize the day!  It reminded me of what life is all about.  I never choose for a day to start out crazy, but like this project, sometimes it does.  I never mean to feel a little “out of sorts”, but sometimes that is how the day begins and ends.  When all is said and done, I may be a little out of square, but I am in one piece!  Just like my finished quilt. 

The pattern name and my grandson helped me put things in perspective.  “Recess”, kids love to play, and they always seize the day.  Why do adults forget to do that?  If we were as anxious to play and enjoy what life offers, maybe we wouldn’t be quite so bothered when something isn’t quite straight.  I share this story with you to help you smile a bit more.  Think of these things:

1)      Take each day as it comes!  It may not be perfect, but what is?  Laugh!

2)      Look at life with the eyes of a three year old.  You will be amazed at the difference.

3)      Embrace your blunders! Rarely are they life threatening.  Laugh!

4)      Remember that your creations are works of art.  Enjoy them no matter what.

Hope your holiday weekend is great.  Make sure you seize the day.  Enjoy my blundering pictures!

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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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