I made this large lap/small twin size quilt for my nephew, who turned 16 in July 2018. He requested the color red with dogs and cats for the quilt.
It was fun to work with fabric that is not a theme (the dogs and cats) I would normally have or use. It forced me to shop for fabric I would not normally even look at. I had plenty of solid red on hand already.
The blocks are cut 8″ and the black borders are 2.5″ strips. The “piano key” border was 6″ wide and made of the small strips of left over fabrics from the blocks.
The backing was a solid red and the binding was self bound (the back fabric folded over the sewn on the front). This is a fun quilt and intended to be used.
Machine quilted by RLM.
Our families met in Illinois for that 4th of July weekend and he received this quilt in person. He was really excited to get a quilt that was very personal to him. I would say that the Color Red with Dogs & Cats Quilt was a hit!
Today fabrics come in so many designs and themes. If I am making a quilt for a specific person, I really do try to make the theme and/or colors very personal to that person. Besides, it also pushes me to work with colors or fabrics themes I usually would not even try to do.
Should the thread and fabric match? I have been asked this so many times, especially by beginning quilters. We were taught in a sewing class taken back in the dark ages that the thread and fabric should match. And honestly, if I am sewing clothing, I want the thread to match. However, we are talking quilting here.
Should the fabric and thread colors match? Does it really matter? I decided years ago that it was more important to me to cut and sew accurately, then be concerned about matching thread color for piecing the pattern.
Here’s my take on matching threads to fabric (this is my opinion) – it depends on what part of the quilting process I am working on.…
If I am piecing, I do not care what color of thread that is being used. Oh, thescandal!! Every time I changed fabric colors, I would have to change the thread and bobbin. In my mind that is such a waste of time, and I would rather be happily sewing.
Your quilt is about you, and only you can decide what steps in the quilt making process are priority to you. You need too decide what you are willing or not willing to do. I know I am in the minority on the subject, and I am comfortable with that. I really notice this each fall when a group of us get together every September in Maine to quilt for several days – I am the only one who does not spend time matching the thread to the fabric. Clearly it is not a priority for me, but a high one for the others.
However, when I am piecing a planned top with purchased
fabric for that project, I try to find some neutral color and use that for the
Right now, I am trying to clean out my scrap bins – how would I even begin to match the fabrics and threads? I already feel my head starting to hurt. When I am piecing with scraps, I use it as an excuse to use up all those partial spools and bobbins of odd colors.
This is the biggest reason I rarely use white as a background fabric – combined with the use of many different colors of thread, there are all the loose hanging threads. I just make sure they are at the back when I am sewing those seams.
This is a good time to address sewing thread – buy the best you can afford. My own mistakes showed me a long time ago that usually the store brand is not quality leading to frustration as I sew (knots and shredding) and it does not hold up to use. Another issue is that some of the dyes are not set right, and bleed through the quilt top after the first washing.
I do match the thread if I am doing applique, or a binding. Why? Because I want to see the design, not obvious stitches. For both applique and bindings, I usually like to use a thread that matches the background because it seems to blend in better. This is also how I end up with partial spools and bobbins of various colors.
I personally use Coats & Clark machine thread because the color range is fantastic, and it holds up well for both hand and machine sewing.
There is also the budget issue, after all I have spent money on quality thread, and I can’t see letting it just sit in a cupboard unused. My goal is to use the fabric up until it is gone, and I personally to have the same attitude about the thread.
Using serger thread
I am going to really be controversial!! Once I discovered thread adapters (I bought mine at JoAnn’s) I started using neutral serger threads for much of my sewing. I buy quality, but the cost is so much less than buying the same amount of thread on regular spools.
My grandma told me that the only thread colors I would ever need were black, gray, light brown, white, red, and navy. I buy those colors in serger threads because they really are versatile and neutral. Only you can decide if this works for you, but I have done it for well over 30 years with very satisfactory results.
Only you can decide if matching threads for piecing is a stress or a joy to you.
Quilting should make you happy. If you are distracted or stressed by some part of the quilting process that does not matter once the quilt is finished, then maybe it is just not worth it. My grandma would say “don’t stress the small stuff”.
PLEASE NOTE: ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE MY OWN UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.
I have nothing against a real ironing board, I just usually seem to need more space than what a “real” ironing board provides. Many years ago, I discovered that in my ironing area, I preferred to use a plastic folding table for ironing. Some days, I just do not want to struggle with large pieces of fabric and small ironing boards.
On this particular day, the antique wooden ironing board that did belong to my husband’s grandma was folded and leaning against the wall. It had a piece of fabric hanging over it (it was the border print I did not want to accidentally cut up while cutting the blocks).
Recently, a woman (JG) stopped at my home to bring me another quilt to be hand quilted. After directions were given and noted, she asked what was I currently piecing. We went to the sewing room, and as usual, fabric in various stages of being cut, ironed and sewn was scattered around. I am not a neat “working on a project” person.
Obviously she was distracted, because she kept staring at the plastic folding table I was using for an ironing area. I tend to use this folding 6′ plastic table covered with a 5′ piece of insulated iron board cover fabric more than the actual ironing board that was currently leaning against the wall looking decorative.
I realized at some point that I just like having the big flat work area to iron on. Plus, no fighting to keep the fabric from sliding off the ironing board. If I am working with small pieces of fabric, I do use the ironing board with this therma fabric put over it. Either way, I get the fabric ironed.
I like having two “ironing boards” available based on the need of the project, and it is also nice to be able to fold one or both up. That way they are not taking up needed floor space.
I have seen women put a bath towel over a wide board and iron. I personally have put a bath towel on a counter and ironed – this is simply being resourceful and using what is available. The important thing is that (1) the fabric gets ironed, and (2) that no surfaces are melted, or catch fire while ironing.
Remember that our quilting predecessors would have made do and it is just fine for us to as well.
I was in that difficult 10 – 12 year old stage and was totally stopped in my tracks by an Amish Lone Star quilt that my Aunt Fran had hanging in her antique shop. This quilt is what started my quilting obsession.
Wow!! The colors were so bright and the design was beautiful and I can still see the vivid turquoise colored background of that quilt in my mind. This was not a scrap quilt like the one on my bed or in my surroundings.
I remember telling Aunt Fran that I wished I could make a quilt like that for myself. Her response was that I “could do anything I set my mind to”. That encouragement was the first step. Little did I know then, but I hold that beautiful quilt responsible for starting my quilting obsession.
I learned the basics of sewing from my grandma and one year of Home Ec in school. My grandma had her sewing machine in a corner of the kitchen, and it always seemed there was some project on it. I don’t remember her making quilts, but she made a lot of clothing. Once I expressed an interest in quilting, she would give me her cotton scraps and lots of encouragement to make a quilt (for many years, she was my biggest cheerleader).
Maybe I just absorbed how to hand quilt because I don’t remember learning the actual quilting stitch. Grandma exposed me to quilting bees. I do remember loving the texture of the quilting.
My mom owned 2 sewing machines but hated to sew and avoided it. She was glad to let me use her machines but was no help when it came to mentoring me on the quilt piecing. I think she believed that I would do one quilt and give it up. She saw quilts as “poor” (which we were but she did not want to admit to it).
Money was not readily available for extras in my younger years and so it took awhile of saving scraps from Grandma, and buying fabric or good used clothing (it had to be interesting fabric) at yard sales to have enough to make my first quilt, and that one just fueled my need to quilt.
Keep at it…
The years have taught me that anyone who wants to can learn to quilt. I have heard many people say it requires patience. Yes, I suppose but more than that it simply requires the need to not give up on one self. Quilting has helped me through tough times, happy times, and just day to day life.
I can encourage and inspire you in your quilting journey:
Do not break the piggy bank. Basic sewing supplies are fine – just use the best you can afford.
Check at a local fabric store, the extension office, or the library to find other quilters. You are not alone in this journey.
Start with a simple project. Something small like a table runner or baby quilt is quick to finish and boosts your confidence. If you really want to start out with a bed quilt, the easiest patterns are squares or rectangles.
The best thing is that after all the hours that go into a single quilt I have something wonderful to show for it. Each quilt is an individual object. I also do not have to follow the rules when quilting – other than using good quality supplies and making sure my seams are even. This is a wonderful hobby and stress relief and I fully enjoy it.
And the journey continues…
I have never regretted my journey through quilting. My quilting obsession brings great joy to my life.
I love quilts for my own enjoyment, but they are a wonderful to make as gifts or to reach out within your own community.
Most of us don’t think of embellishing quilts with beads is very practical. But I really wanted to try my hand at beading for embellishment with hand quilting. This pre-printed square was the perfect choice for this experiment. It is the Queen’s Crown #1 (small quilt with beads – hand quilted). I would later make another mini quilt using the same technique.
Glass beads in your choice of color (I used gold/yellow)
Quilting thread (I used dark green color)
Binding fabric (I used dark green cotton)
I found that thread basting this very closely in a bright thread that would not blend in to the background was easier than safety or straight pins. It was easier to roll the fabric up in my hand then to use a hoop or small frame. Start the quilting in the center and work on it in quarters. I used shorter lengths of quilting thread (about 15″) than normal because it was easy to get the thread caught in the beads that were already quilted on.
The beads are quilted on – every time the needle came up through the top, I put a bead on the needle tip and I then completed that quilting stitch. Time consuming, but makes for a beautiful finished project. The texture as I run my hand across the top is a mix of soft and hard.
The binding is solid green that matches the front of the small quilt.
When I completed the small quilt, I washed it by hand and laid it between two dark towels to dry flat.
Queen’s Crown #1 small quilt has been part of my Christmas decorating for many years.
Lesson learned –
Don’t be afraid to try something different in quilting. I get many, many compliments on this mini quilt. However, it appears to be unique to me and that is just fine.
It’s fun to have some books or magazines on hand for those days you are struggling to get moving on a project, or are sick, or are just to tired to do any actual sewing.
I am always on the look out for books or magazines that have good patterns or ideas I can use to make a quilt. I encourage you to purchase a few books for your own personal library that you can use the patterns, or that inspire your quilting journey. Here are three of my favorite quilting books.
Books to inspire and encourage:
The Thimbleberries Guide For Weekend Quilters by Lynette Jensen. A nice book and while I have not made a complete quilt from it, I have used pieces of several quilts to make other quilts. It’s fine to do that – I do not have to use an entire pattern and neither do you. Pick and choose what you like.
Back to Square One by Nancy Martin – I have used a couple patterns in this book and been very satisfied with the photos and directions. I love the versatility and infinite amount of ways there are to make a quilt from triangles, and this book covers many of them.
Classic English Medallion Style Quilts by Bettina Havig. This is a wonderful resource for those of us who like old time English quilts – they have a look and style all their own. This book contains greatl ideas, photos, and patterns. I have not made an entire quilt for any of the patterns yet, but I have used parts in quilts of my own. My bucket list has two quilts from here to make before I die.
Magazines I subscribe to:
Obviously there are many quilting magazines available here in the USA and around the world. I have simply chosen these two as to subscribe to:
This patriotic quilt started with one left over picture block of George Washington (who was known for being a prayerful leader) from another quilt and built out from there simply framing the center block with borders until it was the size I wanted for a large wall hanging for my living room. It can easily be adjusted to fit any size desired by simply shrinking or enlarging the border sizes.
Super easy quilt to piece – I actually did it in a long day of sorting, cutting, and piecing. The center block can be any pretty or novelty fabric you want to frame so that it is a “medallion” quilt. Borders can be changed in size and number of them to make a quilt that fits your creativity and project.
Starting in the center, add the first border to the center block. I started by adding the side borders to the center block, ironing, and then adding the top and bottom borders for center block. I used this same method for all the borders.
Please note that the supply list is finished size once sewn.
Fabric supplies for quilt top:
Center block 12.5 ” x 13.5″
First border (on above the red and brown stripe) 1.5″
Second border 2.25″
Third border 3.25″
Fourth border 5.25″
Fifth border 5.25″
Sixth border 1.0″
Seventh border 5.5″
Since it was going to be machine quilted, I used a good quality polyester batting. It was quilted by RLM in a medium size stipple design.
The backing is 2 different toile fabrics I had on hand and a dark red/cream floral print that was aptly named “Martha Washington”. I pieced them together to make a big enough back. In this photo the hanging sleeve is still not sewn on.
The binding is the “Martha Washington” print. I cut several 2.5″strips, sewed them together into one long strip. I ironed this strip in half (so 1.25″) and machine stitched the raw edge a quarter inch along the front of the quilt. The mitered corners are quite do-able with practice and a straight pin to hold the pleat where it needs to be. The binding is finished by pulling the binding over the back and whip stitching down.
Finished size is 60″ x 63″.
This quilt was pieced, machine quilted, and bound in June 2019. Currently, the tag (story of the quilt) for the back is done, but not sewn on.
Two other medallion style quilts featuring George Washington:
I found that the diamonds were harder to baste together than I thought they would be (probably because of the sharp points of the diamonds), plus the more I worked on it, the less I liked my color choices.
I sewed all the blocks together into the “diamond” shape above and then hand appliqued that down to the background. The more I worked on this project, the less I liked it but I was determined to finish it. I added the black border to frame it.
For me, the lesson learned with this quilt was cut the fabric shapes bigger than the recommended amount because it made basting the fabric to the paper easier.
In the last few years, I have simply started cutting squares that I can fit comfortably over the paper pattern. Once they are basted, I trim off the extra. For me there is less frustration even if there is a little bit of wasted fabric.
It’s alright to admit that there are some quilt patterns we don’t like or want to do again. If you listen in on discussions among quilters, you will hear comments like, “I never want to make that pattern again” or “I don’t know what I was thinking when I started that quilt” etc. That being said, if you like any pattern, please make it. If not, recycle the fabric into another project or give it away. There are just too many quilt ideas out there to struggle with one we really do not like or want to do.
The same can be said for the color choices we all make. If the colors are what you want for that quilt – go for it honey!!!! Do not listen to those who say that you should start over in such and such colors. This is the quilt world, and you can make the quilt in any color scheme that you want.
So this Tumbling Block top got dropped into a box of UFO’s (unfinished objects) and did not reappear until 2002.
I did some really simple hand quilting on it in 2002, bound it with bias tape, and gave to a local church for their yearly auction. I was glad to see it go to a new home.
Finished size was 30″ x 50″.
Cotton fabrics and poly batting.
A side note is that I have been working on another paper pieced quilt using diamond shapes. My grandma left me several boxes of 1930 and 1940 feed sacks and other cotton fabrics. I decided to try a different setting and have gone with flowers.
Background of Flowers & Tumblers quilt: FLOWERS & TUMBLERS (or scraps are taking over my world) part 3 – I have been trying to use only scraps to make quilts during 2019 and am making a dent in the two boxes of scraps. For this quilt I was inspired by a row quilt that I hand quilted for a customer this past summer and thought that some sort of row or section quilt would be fun. See previous posts:
Once the sections of tumblers and flowers were complete, I added 2.5″ strips of lightweight denim sashing around the sections. Now to come up with a border.
What to do about a final border? I decided on Flying Geese. So maybe I should change the name of the quilt from Flowers & Tumblers….No, I like the name. Anyway, I wanted big geese so started with 9″ squares that I will mark down the center diagonally and then sew the foot width from each side of the line. Those will be cut apart on the pencil line, turned and sewn together as geese. The advantage of this method is that there is no stretchy side to deal with and they can be made any size.
I sewed 20 big geese blocks, but I wasn’t thinking about how each goose is 2 blocks so after sewing the geese together, I realized they were way too big (um….ever heard of measure twice and cut once?) so I just went thru the scrap bin again and pulled out scraps to cut 5″ squares that sewn together as geese will make 9.5″ geese (the correct width for this project).
How to make the flying geese for the border
I cut 5″ squares of white or cream muslin and cut 5″ squares of various scraps. Just FYI – making geese this way allows you to make the geese any size you want for any project.
I drew a line from corner to corner on the light colored squares with a pencil. This line will allow me to sew a straight line beside it and use the marked line as the cutting line for a half square triangle (HST).
Below are the sewn blocks all ready to be cut apart and be ironed. I assembly line sew the geese all one way along the drawn line, and then sew them the other way. Here are the long line of blocks all sewn on both sides of the line.
Once I have sewn on both sides of the drawn line, then I cut the geese apart so they look like below. Now they are ready to be cut on the drawn line and ironed.
See below that the blocks are ironed and stacked by twos so I can match them and complete the “geese”.
Here are two sewn geese. They are ironed and ready to go into a row.
I sewed the geese together in pairs of 2, then those into pairs of 4, etc until I had the border the length I wanted.
And that is how I make HST geese. It is time consumptive and I have no doubt others have methods that work just as well for them, but this is what works for me.
I came up a few geese short so I added white fabric to the borders to take up that space. I just wanted to be done with this quilt and move on to another one. Who says that the geese actually have to go all the way around the quilt border anyway?
Here is the PDF pattern for the exact size tumbler and hexagon I used:
What about the other Flying Geese blocks that were too big?
As for the blocks that are now complete but too big for this project, they are in the shoe box with the left over tumblers from this quilt. I believe the next scrap quilt is already started. I am starting to visualize a whole bunch of section quilts to use up the scraps.
I am already planning……
So what happens once the scraps are under control? At that point, I get to make a planned quilt. I have an idea for one that will be Christmas themed. On hand, I have a black and white Paris themed fabric and if I combine it with red and green Christmas prints, I can make a quilt dedicated to my trip to Paris at Christmas in 1985. My mind is already wandering to other possibilities……..