As every quilter knows, the true value of a handmade quilt far exceeds the monetary price tag that could be placed upon it. During Christmas 2017, I quilted about 10 quilts for customers to give as gifts. Four of them presented a particularly interesting challenge.
These particular quilts were made as gifts for family members as a remembrance of their father’s/son’s passing. Four identical lap quilts made from his shirts. How to quilt each to reflect the personality of the recipient was the specific challenge. The customer left it up to my discretion, which can be both a blessing and a curse. I was very pleased with the results and in the end, created 4 beautiful and cherished quilts.
This quilt was a tag-team effort with my sister. She is an awesome cross-stitcher. We teamed her stitching skills with my quilting quilting skills to come up with this quilted Christmas tree, made of cross-stitched Christmas trees. This was also my first experience with “bling-ing” a quilt with rhinestones. It was so much fun and much easier than I thought. I look forward to finding the right project to use them again.
Quilting for Primary Children’s Hospital
Each year, the Festival of Trees is held in Salt Lake City. Hundreds of trees displayed and auctioned to benefit the Primary Children’s Hospital. Millions of dollars are raised each year to benefit the hospital and help provide patient care for families. This year, I was asked to quilt a vintage tablecloth, turned tree skirt to go around one of the trees to be displayed and quilt a few panel, wall hangings which were sold in the gift boutique.
Three different customers brought quilts to be given to special family members. Two were gifts for special siblings and the other two were given to special grandsons. All in all, a lot of warmth being shared during this season of giving.
A Family-Style, Quilted Christmas
In September, my wife and I were wandering through our local Sam’s Club. Amid the king-size bags of chips and 6-month supply of Advil, we found a great selection of “Minkee” type of blankets that were 2/$12.99. The thought came to us they would make the perfect backs for lap quilts for our 4 children. After all, I’m not sure you can get a back measuring 60″ x 70″ for $6.50. A warm, cuddly quilt was going to be the gift of the season. So, we loaded up the cart with 6 blankets, enough for the whole family.
Of course, a wise quilter would have gotten started on the project straight away, but in my quilting world, it would become a task put off until nearly two weeks before Christmas. I did at least have the foresight to have all my customer quilting out the door and returned to customers by December 10th. It was shortly after the last customer quilt was completed that we decided to up the ante and create quilts for the members of my wife’s family that would be visiting, adding another 5 to the mix. So we needed to piece, quilt and bind 9 quilts by Christmas day Fortunate for us, we had a “UFO” only needing binding, and I had 2 tops already completed and ready for quilting.
So, the following 9 quilts were completed completely from our sizeable stash (with the exception of the minkee backs). The task was able to be completed with 9 minutes to spare on Christmas Eve. It was a very Merry Christmas!!
Every once in awhile, a quilt becomes more than “just” another quilt. The quilt carries special meaning that adds to its beauty and value. It could be the first quilt a grandmother makes for her grandchild. A special graduation gift given before a young adults heads off to college on their own. Or it is given to mark a milestone…in this case a 70th birthday, as showcased in the quilt below.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by my cousin to attend a surprise party that she and her 7 siblings were putting together to commemorate their mother’s 70th birthday. Her birthday fell on Mother’s Day this year, which made it especially poignant for her children to return home from 3 different states to celebrate.
While a gift was definitely not necessary, I wanted to do something special for this aunt. As a small boy, she lived up the hill from me. Many days were spent playing in their backyard with my cousins. Then we moved out of state to Colorado. A few year’s later, I was back in Utah attending college. Being away from home for the first time, it was nice to have my Aunt and Uncle just a short bus ride away when homesickness set it. To be able to escape to a second home for the occasional weekend made being away from home much more bearable. Everyone was always welcome and Buz and Jan’s.
So, how to celebrate this wonderful woman and her family…how else? With a quilt of course!! If I were a baker, it would have been with a special cake. Since I am a quilter, it was with a quilt. But, not just any quilt. This quilt needed to be special and here is what I came up with.
At first glance, this is a quilt consisting of rectangles, squares, triangles and sashing, which is true. This is no different than any number of quilts I have made over the years. However, each rectangle, square and triangles holds deep and special meaning. This quilt is more than a quilt…it is also a family portrait.
The rectangles at the top represent my aunt and uncle. Down the left-hand side, each of their eight children are the smaller rectangles, starting a row that symbolizes each of their families, made up of squares and triangles. All in all, my aunt and uncle, their children and their spouses and 27 grandchildren are “pictured” in is this family quilt.
They have one “angel” grand-daughter who passed away as an infant. Baylee is shown in the quilt as a sweet grand-daughter who is currently behind the “veil of heaven” watching over her family.
This quilt was truly a labor of love. Happy 70th Birthday Aunt Jan!! Thanks for letting me be a part of your Allen clan. And, thanks Jan for naming blue and pink as two of your favorite colors. That was truly the inspiration and jumping-off point for this quilt.
Last weekend, my wife and I made our annual trip to a fantastic quilt show held locally in Utah. The Home Machine Quilt Show has been a favorite excursion of ours for years. However this year, it was re-branded as the Utah Quilting and Sewing Marketplace. Same fantastic show, just a new name.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
This show is a great combination of a vendor mall and a “regular” quilt show…though it is not your grandmother’s quilt show. The vendor mall is a great way to be introduced to new quilting techniques, products and other fun “quilty” stuff.
For years I have admired quilts that were embellished with crystals. This year we took the plunge and we purchased a hot-fix applicator and sequins. I plan to use them on a Christmas quilt I have been wanting to make for quite a few years. Perhaps this year will be the year to make it a reality. My other favorite find was a new seam ripper. Stacy got one at last year’s show and it is wonderful. It has a hand-turned handle that just feels so nice in the had. My jealousy got the best of me and so this year I bought one for me. The unique finish is created with electricity. The artisan showed us a video of the process and it was so awesome to watch.
Inspiration Around Every Corner
After strolling through the many booths featuring fancy long-arms, rulers and accessories, it was time to stroll through the rows and rows of quilts. Each row provided a beautiful machine-quilted masterpieces. Each quilt has something to offer. Some are true works of art that I can appreciate, but would never want to attempt on my own. Others are also works of art, that inspire me to strive to be a better machine quilter and try something new. What follows are some of these quilts that struck a chord with me. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well. Enjoy.
What’s Old is New Again
Old quilts became new again in this first set of quilts. Vintage quilts were given a beautiful update by the machine quilters.
“Rescued Hexi” by Shelly Sieverkrop of Creston, WA
“Pure Vintage Joy” by Deborah Scott of Haslet, TX. This was her mama’s dresser scarf doily given new life as a quilt.
When is a quilt not a quilt? When it is a vintage, embroidered tablecloth. In days gone by, something like this would have been a staple in every bride-to-be’s trousseau. The quilted result is stunning.
Amazing “Art” Quilts
Quilting Technique Inspirations
This next group of quilts include quilting motifs and ideas that I would like to incorporate into future projects.
As I put this post together, I realized two things:
Photographs don’t really show how truly spectacular these quilts were. Not to mention that this is a minute fraction of all of the amazing quilts that were on display. If you ever have a chance, visit a quilt show near you. I promise you will walk away inspired to try something new.
I’m a much better quilter than photographer. This pictures aren’t too bad, but I definitely should have taken the time to do a bit of editing. But, I was way to excited to share them with you.
After the time spent enjoying the trips to the fabric store, reviewing all of the possibilities of both colors and patterns, you finally decided and made final selections. Next came the hours of cutting, sewing, pressing…hopefully with limited “unsewing”. You have finally finished your beautiful quilt top…your creation…your “baby.” And just like when it is time to send your kids off to Kindergarten, and then college, you now have to send this beautiful “baby” off to the quilter.
The anxiety builds and the questions loom…Did I choose the right quilter? What will they do with my quilt top? Will I recognize it when it comes back home? Despite these questions though, you excited delivery your work of art to your trusted long-arm quilter, confident that they will transform your top into a gorgeous, completed quilt. Such was the recent journey of a quilt delivered to me, which will be a present for the youngest daughter on the occasion of her marriage in June.
Now, my anxiety as a quilter begins and the questions take over my mind. Will I make the right choices for their quilt top? Will they like what I do their quilt top? Will they recognize and adore their quilt when it is delivered back to them?
My quilting process is pretty much the same for every quilt. Look at the top and ponder, asking, What does this quilt top need? Sometimes, the answer comes quickly. Other times, the customer has their own ideas which I try to translate. Still other times, the quilt is in my mind for days and days, waiting for inspiration to strike. I review various quilting designs on Pinterest and Google. “Old-fashioned” magazines are also good sources, and provided the inspiration for this quilt.
The May/June 2017 issue of Quiltmaker served as the inspiration for the quilt at hand.
Quiltmaker has started adding graphics showing the quilting details, as well as quilting alternatives, for various levels and complexities. Here is the quilting detail that inspired the quilting motif I used on this recent project.
Single design element
Repeated design element placed in an “all-over” design
Whenever I am attempting a new quilting motif, I always practice on paper. Doodling is the quilter’s best friend. It gets, and keeps, the creative juices flowing. It is a good way to test the design. Will it travel easily across the quilt? Can it switch directions nicely so it can be used as an all-over? Doodling answers these questions before thread is put to fabric. As much as I hate ripping seams when sewing, it is worse to have to take out quilting stitches.
When doodling this design, it became very apparent that there was going to be a lot of thread build up. I used to avoid thread build up like the plague. However, as I have expanded my quilting repertoire, I have realized that back-tracking is necessary in order to travel the design across the quilt.
This quilting design ended up travelling over the quilt nicely.
As soon as the top comes off of the frame, the first thing I do is check out the back. I love seeing the design, uninterrupted on the back. When I finally see the back, a sense of relief and awe come over me. It is always a relief to feel like I made the right choice. And after viewing this completed quilt, I was awestruck at the beauty and fluidity of the chosen design.
Thanks to J. Chandler for allowing me to showcase her quilt as part of this blog post. Best wishes to her daughter, as she becomes a June Bride!!
My nephew is getting married this week. As I have done with all of my nieces and nephews, that means creating a quilt for the happy couple. Typically, I have simply “super-sized” an original pattern to make it bed-size.
I will get a bit of input from the couple to make sure I steer clear of definite dislikes of either color or pattern and try to make it fit in with their planned decorating scheme. For this nephew, and soon-to-be niece-in-law (is that really a thing), they told me that they are doing their bedroom in purple and grey. That was really the only direction they gave…which is nice. That means I basically have full, creative license.
So, armed with this little bit of information, it was time to get the creative juices flowing, and get to work.
Which comes first, the pattern or the fabric?
This is really is almost as bad as the chicken/egg conundrum. Do I start with a pattern and then make sure I to have fabrics that work? Or do I look for a great fabric and then incorporate it into a pattern? I will admit, I have done it both ways. When I designed patterns for Riley Blake Designs, it always started with the fabric. However, when working from my stash, I will generally start with a pattern and then find the fabrics that will work…I can almost ALWAYS find something in my stash.
So, to Pinterest and Google Images I went. Scanning pattern after pattern, I was looking for something that looked like this young twenty-something couple. Things I had in mind were, simple design, modern, quick to piece…after all, they are getting married on Saturday and I have pushed this off to the point where I only had about 10 days to accomplish a completed quilt. In an afternoon of surfing, I had found 3 possible designs. However, each were for a lap quilt, and just simply making the blocks bigger didn’t really seem to net a pleasant result. So, I started playing in Excel. (I use EQ6 at home, but when I am “doodling” at work, Excel lets me play well-enough). I came up with 2 designs that I would take home and review with my wife and to start the fabric selection process. I was leaning toward the concentric squares of differing sizes.
Next I went “shopping” in my sizeable stash. Having been a former store owner, I have the luxury of a stash that is enviable. I have fabric still on bolts, as well as 3+ yard-cuts of fabric to go to when selecting fabrics for a project. I pulled just about every piece of fabric I had that was anywhere near the purple/grey color scheme. Here is where I must admit…scrappy isn’t really my thing, so being able to pull this off was really going to push my limits.
Deciding I definitely had what it took, I placed the sketch and fabric aside. Making this quilt would need to wait until after two other projects were completed. I had an “emergency” quilt that needed to be quilted, as a gift for a neighbor battling cancer, from another wonderful, quilting neighbor. And a customer quilt that I had promised back to them by the end of Conference Weekend. (www.lds.org #ldsconf).
As I was working on these projects, my wife did a bit of Pinterest-surfing herself and found another design. And though I hate to admit it…it was perfect. http://www.all-about-quilts.com/joannes-designs-week52.html But like the designs I had found, it was only a lap quilt so it needed to be re-sized and modified. Fortunately, this time I was home and could play in EQ6. We came up with the following design. Still very simple and modern, it had an order about it that made my “it must be symmetrical” mindset calm.
The biggest concern was it required over 8 yards of fabric for the background. Fortunately, we had something that fit the bill quite nicely.
Measure Twice, Cut Once. Strike that. Reverse it.
Now, with new fabrics selected, pattern designed and sized, it was time to start cutting. I had changed the fabric placements from the original design found on Pinterest so that some strip-piecing could be done to save time.
While I worked on quilting the customer quilt, Stacy, my wife, got started on cutting the fabrics for piecing. After she had cut all of the “purple” squares, she was at a good stopping point and ready to call it a night…and so was I. As I looked at her piles of pieces, I simply said, “Oh” and had what my family affectionately calls my “stupid face” look. Stacy wondered what was with the look. “So you decided against strip-piecing?” She looked at her pile and said,”I guess so.” At least nothing was mis-cut as some of the fabrics only had a couple of inches to spare. So, rather that strip-piecing, she opted for chain-stitching to assemble the blocks.
Putting it All Together
The next afternoon, she sat at her machine and pieced, while I finished the customer’s quilt. By the end of the night, all blocks were pieced and ready to be assembled into rows. The quilt was coming together nicely. And since it is Spring Break, and she doesn’t have to teach this week, we thought we might actually get it done before the “I Do-s” were spoken. Assembling the rows and joining them together to create the top went smoothly. Proper block rotation and pressing of seams in alternating directions really helped when it came time to join the rows into the top. And, it is times like this, when I am very glad that the “modern quilt movement” has definitely decided that borders are optional. Sometimes adding four borders to a quilt seemingly takes as long as creating the entire quilt top. Going borderless on this one, definitely helped meet the impending deadline.
Quilting with Meaning
A few years back, I was asked to quilt a wedding quilt for my cousin’s daughter. It was nothing fancy, but I wanted to make it something special. As I doodled to come up with a fantastic design, a combination of smooth, curvy swirls and stark right-angles came to mind. Filling the quilt with these two juxtaposed designs, was perfect…and it has now become my “go-to” wedding quilt design.
Why this design? Well, for me it is the perfect quilting metaphor for marriage. Two different and distinct individuals come together to create something beautiful. If there is too much swirl, or too much right-angle, the design becomes unbalanced and looks off. However, when they work together, each doing their part, the results are breathtakingly beautiful.
Bound Together Forever
The binding is the final step. Stacy does an awesome job machine-binding quilts. She is very meticulous and thorough. I tend to be more of the mindset…it’s the binding. Let’s get it on and be done already. She however, takes her time to make sure the binding is properly placed with very little “flappy” edges on the back. I love it when she has time to do the binding because her results are astounding.
Best wishes to the happy couple as you begin your journey together.
One of the things I enjoy most about my quilt collection is changing them out for the various seasons and holidays. Where I live in northern Utah (USA), spring weather if finally starting to come. Our tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are beginning to sprout up out of the ground and the temperatures are steadily increasing.
Decorating with quilts is a great way to showcase your talents and artwork. There are a few places in my home that I have set aside for the featuring of quilts that are changed out throughout the year. So, about every 6 weeks or so, the entry hall, kitchen and family room take on a new character and a new life as fresh quilts are put on display.
How do you display your quilts in your home, or recognize the change of the seasons through your quilting? Share in the comments below.
Here is what Spring 2017 has in store around Uncle Paul’s home:
For the most part, I have enjoyed living in every neighborhood. Growing up, I lived on a street with many kids, in Bountiful, Utah. It was a great place to be a kid. Summer nights were always filled with “night games” of Red Rover, Kick the Can and Mother May I. Days were spent running across the un-fenced backyards playing everything from Cowboys and Indians to Superhero/Six-Million Dollar Man and even the occasional football game. Life was good.
When I was starting 6th grade, my family moved to Denver Colorado. Again, we lived in a great neighborhood. Close enough to school that we could walk. As kids we thought we had hit the jackpot, when we realized there was a 7-Eleven just a few streets away. We could enjoy Slurpees just about anytime we wanted. A few years after we moved in, the cities of the Denver Metro Area worked co-operatively to build an extensive bicycle/pedestrian path. We could get on this path less than a 1/4 mile from our home and go for miles in almost any direction…even all the way downtown, if we wanted. Life in Denver was good during my teen-aged years.
When I was a single, 30-something, I found myself working in Phoenix, quite by accident. But a happier accident there has never been. I loved living in Phoenix…warm winters, delightful springs and autumns, and of course, HOT summers. But hey, as I often told my friends and family…you never have to shovel sunshine. When you live in Arizona, you just choose to stay indoors for a different 3 months of the year than those who live in the north. Even here, I lucked into a great neighborhood. It was such a great neighborhood, that when our next door neighbors in Layton found themselves relocating to Phoenix, we steered them toward the same neighborhood…and they love it too!
A few years later, I accepted a position in Murray, Utah. It was time for my wife and I to purchase our first home together, and neighborhood was an important consideration. Since we were just starting a family, we wanted some place safe, with good schools, and children for our kids to make their friends. We found it in Layton, Utah, despite the fact that it was nearly a 45-minute drive each way for work. But the neighborhood was perfect. Great neighbors, home at the end of a dead-end street leading to nothing but corn fields. It was so relaxing to watch our kids play in the front yard with their neighborhood friends and watching the cornstalks sway in the breeze. But, as so often happens, the fields were soon replaced by a new subdivision, and our dead-end street became the main route to the freeway, and good friends move away (to a great neighborhood in Mesa, AZ). Not so ideal any more.
We got the bug to move, so we did. Now we live on a fairly busy street, but in home that is just about as close to perfect as we could have hoped for. It was still in the same school boundaries, so the move was easy on the children. The home is a rambler, which is easy on my wife’s bad knees and hips. And, best of all, it has the perfect room for my Nolting Long Arm Quilting Machine. No more quilting in the garage for me, now I get to quilt in the climate-controlled perfection of my basement quilting studio. Life in my neighborhood is good.
I hope you find life with my pattern, Pinwheels in the Garden, equally good. In coming up with this pattern, I took some of my favorite elements of previously published quilt patterns and made something new and fresh. As I was creating the row, my wife said that it would be perfect for a co-worker who is having her first child, a little girl, this spring. So, rather than incorporate it into the “In My Neighborhood” quilt, this row got drafted for another cause. If you want to make a similar quilt with the row, I made 3 rows of the pieced and appliques blocks, joined them with 8 1/2″ strips of background fabric and then a small 3″ border all the way around. Very simple, but it made for some fun “play space” for me to stretch my quilting comfort zone.
You will often hear the phrase “There are no quilting police”. While this is true there are still some basic rules that will definitely help you have a better finished product. Choose to follow them or not, but the results are worth a little extra effort.
When I was teaching my wife to quilt it was a trying experience for a newly married couple to endure. She was very interested in learning. She had picked her fabric and her pattern and was ready to go. I reviewed the instructions prior to her starting. I noted that there was no trimming or pressing instructions included within the pattern. I suggested she trim her Half-Square Triangles after certain steps. She said if it was important it would be included. Well, when it was time to start putting blocks together, she was a bit frustrated when things didn’t go together quite right. For her next quilt she realized the value in trimming and pressing.
Here I present some tips to help you trim and press better.
Use the right ruler for the job. One of my favorites is a 6″ x 14″. Line the edge of the ruler with the points, which should provide a 1/4″ seam allowance.
The other #1 tip is to always be sure to use a sharp blade. The Olfa Deluxe rotary cutter is one of my favorite and super safe if you have little ones in the house. It always closes.
Pressing is very important, and it is a two-step process. Press once, with the piece flat, to set the stitches in the seam.
Then open the HST and press the piece open. Here I chose to press toward the dark side. It helps the allowance to not show through quite as much. BTW, I love my OlisoPro Iron. It is great for quilters as it will stay on for 30 minutes.
Just like chain piecing, I like to “chain” press.
Trimming as you go is a key to success. Here I am using a 6 1/2″ square ruler. The 45-degree line is a quilter’s best friend when it comes to squaring-up quilt units.
When trimming 3-triangle units or Quarter-Square Triangle units, you need to use the measurements within ruler, along with the 45-degree line of the ruler. Notice how the 2 1/2″ mark is centered in the block along with the 45-degree mark is aligned with the diagonal seam.
Flip the unit and use the same 2 1/2″ marking to square up the unit.
While the trimmings don’t seem like much, they can add up. Imagine the extra bulk that would have been added to my finished product if this had not been trimmed away. But the extra effort paid off with blocks that fit together nicely in the finished product that will be unveiled in a future post.
Last fall, I was invited by Cheryl Brown (quilterchic.com) to join with other Utah-based designers to participate in creating a Quilt-Along for our followers.
Cheryl is an amazing quilter, whom I met during my days as a quilt shop owner. She was a fantastic employee who always had “Fresh and Fabulous” ideas. She is an accomplished long arm quilter and pattern designer. She has published two books with Martingale Books and many other patterns on her own.
My contribution to this project will debut mid-February, so be sure to check it out and quilt along with us as we discover the quilting talent “In My Neighborhood”.
The time has come for me to stretch myself a bit, so I’m going to give blogging a try.
I love quilting. Whether piecing a quilting for myself or to give away, or helping someone else by quilting their masterpiece, I love quilting. Teaching is my second love. So when I get to help someone learn to quilt and instill in them a love of quilting, it reminds me of one very important truth…I LOVE QUILTING!!
I hope that this blog will reinforce that love of quilting and instill it in those that read and enjoy it.