Well, things are about to get pretty "exciting" around here. We are finally starting a mini kitchen remodel. The best part about it is that the husband of one of my best friends is doing the work. We've waited a long time to have this done because we specifically wanted him. His work is meticulous! So, I'm excited about that part. The allergy-girl half of me is anxious but hoping for the best. Fortunately we can block off that room really well so, at this point, I'm remaining positive. But if I disappear for a day or few over the next month or so, you will know why.
Today I'm doing counter top shopping after my shooting lesson. It seems like a natural transition, doesn't it? I just hope I get to end the day with some quilting or sewing.
But let's get back to quilting. Today's veterans quilt is one that I'm calling Blockade. I think this name actually makes sense since it's a square surrounded by a square. This quilt is great for scraps and jelly rolls because it's all based on 2.5" squares and strips. The finished block size is 6".
This particular one is made with the scraps from my Indonesian batik quilt. I pulled a variety of green hand dyed fabrics to go with it. The color in this photo is actually pretty bad. I promise that the real quilt looks a lot better in real life. The quilt top went together really quickly and I was about to do a lot of string piecing. Then I had fun in EQ designing some alternative layouts.
I think it would be cool to divide a huge variety of scraps into light and dark to make one of these quilts. If you haven't already figured out how to make it you can get the tutorial here.
I was going to wait until I did my program next week before I shared these quilts but this is pretty much all I've been working on so it's all that I have to share!
I've gotten motivated to focus more on the veterans quilts because we have such a wonderful group of nurses at the veterans hospital that make sure these quilts are given to people who appreciate and love them. The nurses are so grateful to have these to give to their patients that really need a boost. I just want to make sure that they always have a supply.
We also have a great set-up at Country School Quilters to make these. We use our dues money and other fundraising money to purchase backing and batting. I used to get printed backing but now I only buy white so that I can dye the backs. Here are a few that I dyed in November and December that are all ready for some quilts. I used to do all of the quilting but now we have 4 longarmers in our group and we share the work.
I decided to do a program for January with 4 new quilt ideas and that's what I have been working on. I wanted projects that were easy and I'm even cutting a couple of kits out of each one for members who don't like to do the cutting step.
This first one is SOOOOOO easy. I decided to call it "Strength" because it's pieced in columns, or pillars....get it? I know, it's a reach, but it was late and that was the best I could do. The real point of this design was to make a quilt that would make great use of large scale prints or other "special" fabrics that just need a little framing to show them off.
For my version I used my "waste" fabrics and I think it created kind of a stained glass look. This could be easily adjusted to make a QOV or bed quilt size. I'm thinking about doing one using all of the Paula Nadelstern fabrics that I've collected with a black background. I think that could look pretty awesome. The kits I made have blue background, red bars and patriotic plaids as the feature fabrics. I think they will make a couple of really cute quilts. I could probably make about 30 kits just with my collection of waste fabrics!
The pattern, such as it is, is here.
They are done! All 11 sets (22 bowls) are done and ready for gifting....except for the 2 I'm keeping for myself.
I wrote a tutorial for the way I made mine. I was really disappointed with all of the other tutorials that I saw online. They looked very pretty in their styled photos but once I read through the steps I knew that none of them would hold up through one trip through the washing machine. I don't know about you, but when I microwave soup or oatmeal there's almost always overspill. These hot pad are going to get washed a lot so I added some steps to make them last.
Get the tutorial here.
For my booth at the AQS Virginia Beach show, I am displaying several quilts but I wanted another way to display the fabrics. After lot of research I discovered Martha Stewart's giant fabric flower. Fabric flowers would be perfect! But I needed mine to hang on a wall instead of filling a vase. So I set out to modify her instructions for my needs. My new tutorial, Big Fabric Flowers, is the result.
I'm going to make several flowers in different sizes and designs but this prototype was designed specifically to show off my Color Wheel fabrics that come in a set of 10.
Here are the 3 flowers for the Color Wheel fabrics and I love them! Color Wheel fabrics come in dark, medium and light shades so there's one flower for each pack. They will be shaped before they are hung but I'm keeping them flat for travel. I used 3 shades of gray/black for the centers.
I have more planned including a bigger one made with a Crystal and flowers of Shibori and Shades Packs.
My weekend was solely an ironing marathon. I had gotten very behind because of my arm. But it's getting better now and I couldn't take the pile of fabric anymore. I ironed, ironed and ironed over 115 yards and I'm much happier.
In between ironing sessions I would sit down for a break and make circles for my 2 applique projects. So since I don't have anything except this stack of unironed fabric to share, today seems a good day to share how I'm doing the applique circles.
For starters, I basically use this process from Leah Day. Her video is very clear and it works great! So start by watching that.
My first step was to decide on the size of circles and cut the Wash-Away Applique sheets and freezer paper in those sizes. I based the size on the size of Go! dies that I have. I used 5" for the shibori and 1" for the centers of my flower applique circles.
Leah doesn't use the Wash_Away Applique sheets but I like them because they stay inside the applique and they prevent anything under that applique from showing through.
I fuse the applique sheets to the back of my fabrics. The biggest thing I learned from Leah was to leave large margins around the applique. I used to trim the fabric to about 1/4" but watching the video I learned how much easier it was to work with them with wider margins.That tip was genius!
Next I fused 2 layers of freezer paper together like Leah recommends and ironed that over the applique sheet.
Then it was time to make some starch. I use this recipe. I don't use much but it's cheap to make. I put a little into a small cup and found a small paintbrush.
With the paintbrush I add some starch just around the edge of the applique shape.
Leah's video give more detail about the process but you can see here how much easier it is to get a great sharp edge when you have more fabric to work with. I just carefully work around the applique painting and pressing with the tip or edge of the iron.
After it's all pressed I'll trim the excess fabric, peel out the freezer paper and press it one more time.
That's a pretty cgood circle!
Here are a set of circles ready to applique.
That hideous background fabric is just something I use to cover the ironing board to protect it from getting a lot of starch on it. That gem is from my Aunt's fabric stash that she gifted to me over 10 years ago.
Marcy is back doing more quilting today so we'll have a post soon to show how to fix a major quilting faux pas.
I shared this with you yesterday. I still remember the first time this happened to me and the level of panic that ensued. Fortunately, at the time, I was a member of an online quilting board and someone walked me through the basic steps to fix a short backing....without having to remove the quilt from teh machine.
When it happened again earlier this week I decided to document the process and put together a tutorial so that anyone can find it whenever it's needed.
You can find the tutorial here.
I'm now done with veterans quilts for a while so I'm going to load a quilt of my own and work on some new postcards this weekend. What are your plans?
I'm going to finish up this series talking about the ultimate blankets: charity quilts. When I bought my first longarm it arrived the week before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Alabama. You may remember that there was a huge quilt drive for Katrina quilts. I think that actually got really out of hand but I saw a great opportunity to practice on my new longarm and jumped right in. I bought a couple of quilt tops off eBay and got a few from my guild members.
I'm happy to tell you that I don't have any photos of those quilts. The quilting was pretty awful but they got done and I got practice!
New longarm owners often seek out charity quilts for practice and that's a great thing but you have to be careful that your charity quilting doesn't start to overwhelm you.
Set some rules around your charity quilting.
I quilt a lot of charity quilts for my quilt club. We donate lap size quilts to the local VA hospital. We've been doing it for several years and finish about 60 quilts each year. I decided that quilting them would be my contribution to charity quilting in addition to making 2 QOV quilts each year. I quilt up to 40 of the veterans quilts each year and I'm able to do that because I set some rules. Before you accept your first charity quilt you need to set some rules too or else you will be set up for burn out.
Here are my rules for the quilters:
Here are my rules for myself:
I don't have any problems with people trying to guilt me into quilting. Several of our members make quilts for other organizations. I don't quilt those quilts. Occasionally we make a large raffle quilt and I don't quilt those either. I've set the veterans quilts as my contribution.
You cannot do everything. Maybe your contribution will be baby quilts for the local hospital or the one raffle quilt that your guild makes every year or pet pads for the local shelter. Find the cause that is meaningful for you and doable with your schedule and focus on that. Here's what you say to everyone else:
"I'm sorry, I have quilts to fill my charity quota for the year. Do you want me to put you on the list for next year? I can call you when I'm ready to take another if you still have it them."
"I'm sorry, I can't commit to that deadline. I do charity quilts when I have time between my customer/personal quilts. It could be as long as 6 months before I can get to it."
"No, I'm sorry, I don't custom quilt charity quilts. I select the design and thread. If you need a specific design you will likely have to pay someone to quilt it for you."
It's also perfectly OK for you to decline to do any charity quilting. Do not let anyone guilt you into doing any quilt that you don't want to do.
Be firm about your rules to maintain your sanity. Remember that you are doing someone a favor. No one has any right to use your time for free without your full willingness.
I hope you've enjoyed the series this week. As I said Monday, this is a series that I've been wanting to writes for a long time. It's all the information that I wish someone has told me when I bought my first longarm in 2005.
In a couple of weeks I'll move all of these posts over to the tutorial section of the web so that they will be easier to find. On Monday we will be back to regular programming!
One of the cool things about getting into longarm quilting is that you are open to a whole new world of classes and tools to buy. I've been to Machine Quilter's Expo, Machine Quilter's Showcase (now defunct) and Birds of a Feather. I've bought dozens of quilting DVD's and watched hours of YouTube videos. I love the shows because there are so many classes to take in one weekend and so many kindred spirits to meet. But if you sign up for 3 full days of classes you can get very overwhelmed.
Be wary when you hear "this is the ONLY way to do this".
Listen to what the teachers have to say but remember that what they are teaching is what they figured out worked for them. That might or might not work for you but you have just learned another option to try.
Pick one thing from each class you take to practice.
Classes are only good if you practice what you learn. To get the most out of classes pick one thing from each class that you want to practice. WRITE IT DOWN at the class on a "NEXT PRACTICE" list. Then go home and load up some blankets and try them out.
I can't tell you how many classes I've taken that I never practiced. That's nothing but wasted money. Now I often prefer to buy one video, watch it a couple of times and then practice right away. I still go to shows because I love to network with other longarm quilters and I do take a few classes to learn specific things. I have even taken classes specifically to get the opportunity to try different brands of quilt machines. When you go to shows and classes set some goals for yourself ahead of time so you pick smart classes and set aside some practice time right after the show.
Find your own groove. You can't be great at everything.
As you go to quilt shows and study quilts online start paying attention to collections of quilts by different quilters. This is a photo of a quilt by Margaret Soloman Gunn that I took at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show in 2016. Margaret has a very distinctive style. Bethanne Nemesch has a very distinctive style. So does Marilyn Badger, Jamie Wallen and Judi Madsen. They all have individual and identifiable styles.
The problem is that we take classes from all of them and then expect that we should be able to quilt like all of them. That's impossible!
This came to a head for me over leaves. Jamie Wallen's leaves to be specific. I love Jamie. He's a great teacher and I have several of his DVD's. He appropriately calls his style of quilting "mystical" and that perfectly describes it. I have tried over and over and over to quilt his leaves and his style of quilting.
I can't do it. It's just now how I think. I'm a better quilter because of what I've learned from him but you can't really see his influence in my quilting. That's OK.
I can't do Jamie's leaf but I can do MY leaf. This is my leaf. All of my leaves look like this.
While I love the fantastical quilting of Jamie and Bethanne and the formal feathers of Margaret, my true love is ruler work and fills. That's the kind of quilting that is joyful for me so that's pretty much all I do on my "quilts". I still experiment on blankets and I'll occasionally add some feathers but I stay pretty well set in my groove.
Take classes from teachers with all kinds of expertise. You will pick up nuggets of helpful information from all of them. But if what they are doing seems torturous for you then that's not for you and you just learned something!.
It's also OK if your groove is wavy lines. You can quilt every quilt forever with wavy lines. I know a quilter who basically does that. Her quilts are about the color, value and pattern of her quilts. The quilting is utilitarian. She still has a longarm and it does for her exactly what she wants it to. Don't pressure yourself. It's a tool and you need to make it work for you.
So, you've been practicing your quilting and are getting more comfortable with your machine and starting to really like what you are quilting.
Then you go to a quilt show and see this.
These are photos of quilts that I took at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in 2016. I like to collect photos of details instead of whole quilts to store up quilting motif ideas. But the risk of doing this is that you start comparing your quilting to these and think you will never be this good.
Don't compare your quilting to others. Only compare your next quilt to the last one.
Back to the car analogy, NASCAR drivers didn't become NASCAR drivers in high school. The spend hours and hours working to build their racing skills. The same applies to the award-winning quilters. We tend to forget that they have hundreds of quilts under their belts that they had to quilt to be able to do the one that won Best of Show. That quilt that you are looking at didn't just take the hours they spent on it. It also took the two hundred quilts that came before it to be able to do it and a few of those were probably simple stippled quilts.
I have a quilt planned that I want to do some complex Spirograph motifs on. The thought of jumping in on that quilt overwhelmed me.
I decided to start easy with this Quilt of Valor. (I practice a lot on charity quilts.)
I started with some very simple motifs to get some experience with different ruler sizes and controlling my movement of the ruler.
Next I did this little quilt that has a little more complex motifs. Then I'm going to do a larger mandala and THEN I'll be ready for the "real" quilt.
If you are contemplating a quilt that you are procrastinating on that means that you aren't quite ready to do it. Write down the elements that you want to put in the quilt and identify the ones you aren't yet comfortable with and then pull out some of those blankets (or charity quilts) and start building the skills.
When you are at shows take all the photos you want for ideas but don't ever compare your work to theirs until you are at a point of preparing to enter shows yourself.
Hopefully after yesterday's post you have accepted that it's OK to practice on some of your real quilts. Today we are going to talk about some tips to make practicing as stress-free as possible and we are going to start with my personal quilting motto.
Crappy quilting, done consistently, looks great!
I know that sounds funny, but it's true.
Let's say that you are practicing spirals but your spirals are more square than round. No worries. If you will follow these simple tips for your practice pieces your quilt recipients will never know that you were learning on their blanket.
Pick a thread that blends and start with "easy" threads
When you are first starting out and practicing on your blankets, don't make the thread a feature of the quilt. Select a thread color that blends so that when the quilt is washed you will just see texture. Also don't get carried away trying a lot of different kinds of threads. Remember, your focus is on learning the machine and building brain and muscle memory. Don't add any other unnecessary complications like finicky threads. Great threads to start with include:
Polyester threads don't break as frequently as cotton threads and a thinner thread will not be as visible.
Don't rip out mistakes, no one else will notice them.
Unless you can see the mistake from 5 feet away no one else will notice it.
For the first 5 years of my quilting I ripped out every tiny bobble. You can imagine how long it took me to quilt a quilt! After giving away a few quilt blankets and hearing what people said about them I realized that no one looked at my quilting. They cared about the color and snuggle-ability and that's it.
You already know how to rip out stitches so unless the tension is way off or the mistake is an accidental 10" line across the quilt, leave it and continue working on what you wanted to learn.
Add a skill with each quilt.
Don't try to learn 15 new things with every quilt. Add one new skill with each quilt so you can focus on that particular skill.
Let's say that your first quilt was straight lines and now you want to start moving the machine diagonally.
Then for your next quilt you can add some diagonal lines to the straight line. This pattern is really simple and is a great one to practice diagonal movement, getting sharp corners and meeting lines at a point.
Think about the "real" quilt that you want to do first, identify all of the skills you will need to quilt it the way you want and then plan enough blankets to build the skills to quilt that quilt. Once you and your longarm have become one with each other you might want to do a quilt with stitch in the ditch and feathers. I'd apprach that by loading one quilt that square and SID the whole thing. The load another quilt and feather it to death. In both cases pick threads that will blend and don't sweat the mistakes.
DO NOT POINT OUT YOUR MISTAKES!
Yes, that's in all caps and I'm yelling it. Do not ever give a quilt to someone and start pointing out all of the things that are wrong with it.
Mom and I made this quilt for a wedding gift for my nephew and his new wife. When I quilted it I did a poor job of basting and wound up with 2 big pleats in the back. I did not rip out the stitching. I hand stitched down the pleats and gave the quilt to the young couple. They loved it. Maybe they will someday find the pleat, maybe not. It doesn't matter. By then they will have turned it into a blanket and it will be like my blanket that I shared Monday. They will love it flaws and all.
Don't point out your mistakes at guild Show-And-Tell either. Tell people why you quilted it and what you learned and be proud of a finish.
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In Bloglovin you need to search "Colorways By Vicki Welsh" to find the blog.
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.