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BASIC QUILTER’S TOOL BOX

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX
Source: Google clip art

Are you new to quilting? What are must haves for a basic quilter’s tool box to get started piecing? If you have been reading my blog for anytime at all, you know I am all about keeping my life fairly simple. Several readers ask recently what I absolutely have to have in my basic quilter’s tool box to piece a quilt top.

There are so many gadgets in stores, quilting websites, and advertisements that claim to be “must haves” for the beginner quilter. It makes it hard to decide, and it is easy to get distracted. For those on a tight budget there is no money to waste on something not really needed.

Forty years ago, I started quilting with my sewing box from Home Ec class. All these years later, I am using many of the same tools because they still do the job. However, as I have gotten older and have a bit more money to sink into better tools, I have… if it is something I will actually use.

I am more about my tools being functional than pretty or the “newest and greatest”. There is nothing wrong with those things, but there is also nothing wrong with using simple things to get a project done. It is not a contest, decide what works for you.

As stated numerous times in various posts – get the best supplies you can afford now. You will be happier than just buying whatever is cheapest to save a few dollars. If you continue to quilt then upgrade as time, interest, and budget allow for better tools and gadgets.

Forget the fabric and thread for right now – this list is the “prequel” to that.

Clip art - glass jars containing straight pins, thread spools, scissors for quilting.
Source: google clip art

A super basic list for (in my mind at least) the basic quilter’s tool box:

Flat surface to put the sewing machine on for use

This can be a separate table, an old desk, or any other flat surface. You just need a flat space that will hold your machine safely and allow you enough room to use it.

In my life time of sewing, I have used the end area of a long table, an old sewing cabinet, a small kitchen table, and a plastic picnic table. Now an sturdy old wooden desk with drawers is home to my sewing machine and tools. Post on old blog about my desk (and other useful stuff) is here .

Something to use as an ironing board, and an iron.

I own an ironing board, but the reality is I rarely use it. Why? Because I like more room when ironing. See here . If you prefer to have an ironing board, then get one. They are readily available and not expensive.

However, in the past I have used a table top covered with several layers of towels. I have also (when much younger) spread an old wool blanket on the floor. Think outside the box here, if you do not have space or a budget for an ironing board, what can you use that is already on hand?

For me personally, I don’t spend a lot of money on irons. I am hard on them plus they get dropped routinely (no one ever said I was graceful). I do use a spray bottle for water instead of filling the iron. This one has lasted longer than the normal (for me) six to twelve months. What you need is what will be comfortable and usable for you.

An iron is a basic sewing tool.

A reliable sewing machine that is easy to use and maintain.

Find one that fits your budget with features you will use. Some people get a machine with all the bells and whistles, others go with what can be purchased at Wal-Mart or JoAnn’s.

I openly admit I own and use a Pfaff sewing machine. I use my sewing machine constantly. The machine needs to be a work horse. It needs to be easy to clean and maintain. Another requirement is simple to use. Before you say, those machines are way out of my budget, look at the less fancy ones. Mine has useful stitches, but mostly it is just a hard working machine. No computer to crash, it is functional without lots of extras I will not use.

I just looked at the shop in Indianapolis where I bought this one in 2011 and the new price for the current model of this one is $649 + tax. Ok, not cheap but not unreasonable either.

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX - my sewing machine.

Rotary cutting mat in a size that works for the area you must use it in.

These mats come in all sizes from a few inches to large enough to cover a table top. The original mat I bought was 12″ x 18″. When I had more space and money to upgrade, I got one 24″ x 36″. I still have the smaller mat and it is great for those times I am traveling and take fabric with me to cut. Get a mat that fits for your needs.

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX - cutting mat.

A rotary cutter and ruler that is a “general” all purpose.

Rotary cutters come in different sizes and with various types of handles. If you spend hours cutting what you want is one that fits your hand and is comfortable. I prefer the straight one above and a 45 mm blade. Be safe with your tool, they are sharp and a nasty cut (with possible stitches) will slow down your quilting project.

Rotary rulers come in different sizes and shapes for different projects. I encourage you to get a general size and shape for the first one. My favorite is still the 18″ x 3″ pictured above. When you shop, think in terms of one that will work for strips and squares, is easy to handle, has a safe area for your fingers to hold the ruler down, and is comfortable.

Rotary cutters for quilting.

The yellow handled one is my original and it still sees a lot of use. The gray one is a commemorative model for 25 years of Olfa cutters. The handle is a bit thicker and feels different. I use both, but am looking at the ergonomic ones that are available now. My wrists and elbows are not as young as they once were.

Fabric scissors that you like and will use.

Even with the rotary cutter, you will need at least one pair of scissors. They will be used for cutting threads, small amounts of fabric (like for applique), and just general fabric cutting. Mark them as only for fabric, or store with your sewing supplies. Cutting paper, wire, and cardboard will make them too dull to cut fabric or thread easily.

Sewing scissors come in various sizes with different kinds of handles. Again, try them out if possible and get the pair that feels good in your hands. Make sure you get right handed or left handed scissors depending on your need.

Sewing Scissors in a Basic Quilter's Tool Box

Quilting pins and a container to safely hold them.

Quilting pins are a must for pinning blocks together at intersections. They are helpful for bindings, and pinning rows or blocks together. They are just a great tool with numerous uses. Sometimes I think mine act like extra fingers.

Along with a pin cushion or some form of container to hold the pins is necessary. Unless you find the game of “pick up pins” to be fun. I store my pins in a regular canning jar. When I am using them they get put in a magnetic cup that I bought for $2 at the Dollar Store in the automotive section.

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX - Quilting pins are a useful tool.

Seam ripper.

This basic quilting tool comes in various sizes and shapes. Find something that fits your hand. When sewing it is easy to make mistakes or not sew a straight seam. A seam ripper is tons easier to use to fix this then a pair of scissors.

Two different seam rippers - another necessary quilting tool.

A BASIC QUILTER’S TOOL BOX Needs a container to keep all the small items in.

This can be a clear plastic box with a lid, a cardboard shoe box, a fancy sewing box, or something else. The important thing is to have a container to keep all the small tools in.

I use my ugly orange Tupperware sewing box that originally held all my sewing tools for Home Ec class in school. It still does the job, and with a tight fitting lid can travel or be moved around without loosing items.

BASIC QUILTER'S TOOL BOX - sewing box for tools.

A good reference book or website that will walk you through the steps to making your first quilt top.

I still have these books for reference and ideas. Do some research and talk to other quilters to see what they use for instructions. There are some really good books. If you prefer videos, see what you can find on YouTube.

The important thing is to find an instructor or instructions that help you. I remember seeing an Eleanor Burns video and being so excited because she was fun and made the quilts look easy.

Finally for your basic Quilter’s Tool Box…

There is a learning curve to using the tools and getting comfortable with them. The most important thing is for you to like the tools and practice with them. This is especially true with the machine and the rotary cutter.

But it is something you can learn. Quilting is not rocket science. It is very do-able. Just remember to have fun with it. Find another quilter who can mentor you when you get stuck. The most important tool is you being willing to learn, and enjoying the process.

Happy Stitching.

Clip art of girl sewing.

PLEASE NOTE: 
ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE MY OWN UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

SPENDING THE DAY CUTTING QUILT PIECES

Spending the day cutting quilt pieces ?? Is the scrap bin or space on your shelves too crowded for more fabric? Are you really wanting to get started on a new quilt but just not getting to the cutting part? The solution maybe to block off some time to spend part or all of the day cutting quilt pieces.

Rotary mat with ruler and rotary cutter for cutting quilt pieces.
Source: Google clip art

This week, I was able to sort out scraps and iron for one entire afternoon. I turned my phone off, listened to music I like, and just enjoyed the process of pulling various scraps out of the bins, ironing them, and laying them flat on an extra plastic table.

woman ironing fabric to cut out quilt pieces
Source: Google clip art

A prior post on my ironing area https://indianaquilter40.com/my-fabric-ironing-area-aka-a-folding-table-for-ironing/

The next day, I got up early to get my work done. Then I was able to make a block of several hours to cut up those ironed scraps. Again I turned off the phone, put in music I like, and enjoyed the process of cutting.

a word about messy sewing rooms

I have been working from home for several weeks thanks to the COVID-19. It’s a really nice change to not be traveling each day. The downside is that I have more and more quilting ideas – which leads to an even messier quilting area.

The perception and reality of a quilting room.
Source: Google images

Did I say messy – what an understatement!! I am one of those creative types who does not clean up the mess until I am done with said project. I feel like there has been just one continuous project the last several weeks. What that means is that in several weeks, the mess has grown because I continue to go happily from one project to the next.

I didn’t realize how bad it was until another quilter was here over the weekend. Her first question was, “what happened in here??” I really looked at the mess then. I am going to simply say there is no excuse (I can certainly relate to this kids book).

I can relate to this photo of a messy room - my quilt room looks just as bad today.
Source: Goggle clip art

I’m too embarrassed to post photos, but this is the cleanest looking area. It is one shelving area that goes to the ceiling. I have dug thru here several times looking for the “perfect” fabric. I do not have a pretty sewing area – it is functional. See my post about the sewing room on previous blog: https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2019/07/waste-not-want-not-or-tips-for.html

Quilt fabric semi- folded and stacked on shelves.
I know what is here sort of, but I need to go through and straighten, and move some to the donation closet for baby and veterans quilts.

Just remember that I have quilted for 40 years…I did not gain all this overnight. Nor did I buy all of it. Some was traded for other items (quilting and non-quilting items). My hubby, kids, and mom-in-law buy me yards of fabric for b-days and holidays.

A MARATHON OF SPENDING THE DAY CUTTING QUILT PIECES

Do you ever have days you just feel like cutting fabric?? I tend to do marathon ironing and cutting back to back. I work with some standard sizes of strips and blocks so I can cut up a pile of fabric fairly quick with a little preparation.

Step 1

Sort out the fabric you want to work with – whether scraps or yardage.

Iron and then lay out on a nice flat surface that will not be disturbed.

Step 2

I personally cut fabric from the largest to the smallest blocks/strips I want from that fabric. In my case, I keep a bin of 2.5″ strips, 3″ blocks, and 5″ blocks on hand all the time. I will cut up the piece until there is nothing left but a scrap that does not fit with what I normally use.

Fabric on cutting board with ruler and cutter.
This scrap is lined up and ready to be cut into 2.5″ strips.

I saw a quilt on Pintrest made of rectangles, so while I am cutting scraps I got out another bin and started putting 4″ x 7″ rectangles in that.

SPENDING THE DAY CUTTING QUILT PIECES
Just a little to trim off this 4+” wide strip for the rectangles.

A word of warning: Rotary blades are sharp and will make a serious cut in your finger or hand. Always, always pay attention to where your fingers are before using the cutter. Keep blade covered when not actually using it.

Step 3

A cutting area for yourself needs to work for you. Below is my cutting table. It is a sturdy 6 foot long plastic table on risers so the table is at a comfortable height. Under the table is the “crumb” bin, then a bin of colored yarn (for tying quilts) with a bag of big plastic clamps (for holding down quilts to table as I tie them). The stacked bins on the right are toys for the grand-daughter when she is here.

Cutting area for quilt pieces.
On top of the table (left) is the three bins of cut strips and blocks I am cutting today. The box in the back is lined with a purple double knit that will be filled with all the too small fabric pieces and left over strips of batting to become a “nesting” bag.

Here is another photo of the area. This is what works for me. When making a work area for yourself, arrange so it works for you.

SPENDING THE DAY CUTTING QUILT PIECES
There are 3 plastic bins: 3″ squares, 2.5″ strips, and 4″ x 7″ rectangles.

That left-over piece goes into the “nesting” bag (that will later be sewn shut and given to the humane shelter) or the “crumb” box (for making string/crumb quilts). Think about the size of scrap you will realistically use for the “crumb” box. The rest goes in the “nesting” bag.

Step 4

As you completely cut each size of strip or block, put it in the correct bin. Here they will stay nice and flat to be used when you are ready.

Bin of 4" x 7" scrap rectangles for quilting.
4″ x 7″ rectangles
Bin of 2.5" quilting strips.
2.5″ colored strips. I have another bin of 2.5″ white and muslin strips.
SPENDING THE DAY CUTTING QUILT PIECES
3″ squares

Conclusion

Set up a comfortable area for yourself to do quilt related activities in. A table the right height. A chair that is comfortable for you. Shelves or some sort of storage area for fabric and books. A way to organize your actual tools that works for your area and budget. Get busy on doing your own spending the day cutting quilt pieces.

I love to see how others organize their sewing areas, however, I am more about function than beauty. I have a budget for quilting and will cut corners by buying the furniture (shelves, desk, chair, plastic bins and jars, etc) at a used store or a dollar store. That leaves more money for fabric, batting, and the annual trip to Paducah quilt show.

Other links about cutting quilt pieces

https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/cut-patchwork-shapes-for-quilts-2821913

https://www.howcast.com/videos/507509-how-to-cut-pieces-strips-patches-quilting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUvyxHWbeWo

PLEASE NOTE: 
ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE MY OWN UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

VETERAN QUILTS FOR OUR PATRIOTS

American Flag and clouds for Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. We probably all know at least one person who has served this country either as active duty, reservists, or as a loving spouse. Have you considered making one or many veteran quilts for our patriots? If not, please take a moment to think what a quilt means to you – it’s a kind of warm hug, right? Our service members would love to have that “hug” as well.

Ideas for places to take or send veteran quilts

There are several places to donate veteran quilts for our patriots. Please check the sites out, find the one that feels right to you, and follow the guidelines they have for the gift quilts if you are interested.

https://americanheroquilts.com/

https://www.quilting-tidbits.com/quilts-of-valor.html

https://www.quiltsofhonor.org/

Please don’t forget that local VFW posts might take quilts for their members, and local quilt guilds can also have members who head up quilts for veterans. Check around at local fabric shops or libraries for points of contact. Also local churches may know or participate in making veteran quilts. Many nursing homes have veterans as residents.

My personal journey with veteran quilts

I am extremely patriotic and have had exposure to military members and their families my entire life. They give an awful lot so I have the rights available to me to as an American.

I have donated many lap size quilts over the years to groups or churches who dealt directly with wounded or traumatized veterans. The need is great. Sometimes I worked on the quilts alone, sometimes as part of an informal group who wants to do more than just say “thank you” to veterans.

I do not have bragging rights because of helping with this worthy cause. It was within my skill and interest simply to do something.

Other people told others that I was involved in this and suddenly people starting donating fabrics and supplies. Many, many thanks to those who help by keeping me or us in supplies. Not all the fabric was patriotic themed, but all of it is used.

With the informal group, the lap “quilts” were crocheted, tied, machine quilted, and even sometimes hand quilted. We give them to local wounded vets, and I know of one woman who keeps several in her car to be given to those “old” men that are seen in caps that say “______ veteran”.

Sometimes I cut the pieces and hand those off to another quilter to piece. Or I tie the finished tops. I bind many that need it. All those involved worked around their own schedules. We only get together every 2 or 3 months for a work day together. Here are photos of a few simple veteran quilts that I have been involved with over the years:

Veteran Quilts for Our Patriots

Veteran Quilts for Our Patriots

More veteran quilts

Conclusion

Quilters tend to be very giving in mentoring new quilters, making quilts for local charity auctions and local victims of domestic abuse or house fires. Here is another idea for volunteering your time and talents by utilizing your quilting skills to make veteran quilts for our patriots. Think outside the box. Look around your community and see who would love to have quilt “hug”.

Thank a veteran today.

Happy Stitching.

Thank a veteran today

PLEASE NOTE: 
ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE MY OWN UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

MILLENNIUM QUILTS – LOOKING BACK 20 YEARS

Free clip art: 2000 with stars in blue
Source: Free clip art on Google

Millennium Quilts – looking back 20 years. Were you quilting 20 years ago? If so, do you remember if you had a special quilt project for the year 2000? I went through a pile of quilts last week that needed to be aired out and refolded. In the pile were two millennium quilts that I made.

When I found the millennium quilts and realized 20 years have passed – wow!! The time is just flying by day by day. So many changes, both in my quilting and personally.

As far as my quilting, the past 20 years have been mostly fun. I have tried more hand applique. Using the rotary cutter has become second nature and I learned after one serious accident to keep my fingers firmly on the ruler. Combining colors and designs of fabric no longer scares me. I rarely feel the need to respond to the question “how many quilts have you made? – it is not a contest. Quilting gives me joy and a sense of peace, plus I can actually enjoy and see the finished item, which is not something visible in my daily job.

The making of my millennium quilts – looking back 20 years

Judy Martin, a well known quilter, says that millennium quilts… “made to celebrate the year 2000, were made with exactly 2000 patches. Sometimes…cut from different fabric, just like a charm quilt.” https://www.pinterest.com/judymartinquilt/charm-quilts-millennium-quilts/

In the late 1990’s I saw ads in quilting magazines from people all over the world who wanted to trade 3″ squares to make millennium quilts. I thought it would be a fun challenge to make a quilt with 2000 different fabrics. So I traded, and traded…….. Eventually I traded 10,000 three inch squares with other quilters all over the world. Each envelope was so exciting to open and see what new treasures were inside.

The squares came from all over Europe, Canada, and the USA. There were even a few packages from Africa, India, Japan, and South America. I certainly never thought about all the different fabrics that were available the world over. This project really opened my eyes to quilting being international – not just American.

In fact, the post mistress of our little town was so excited about all the places these envelopes came from that I would open them right there so she could see what they contained. The selection of fabrics was amazing. Ultimately, I ended up with 43 repeats out of the 10,000 squares traded!! And only one person did not trade back (or maybe the envelope was lost somewhere in the mail system).

2000 Millennium Charm Quilt – looking back 20 years

MILLENNIUM QUILTS - LOOKING BACK 20 YEARS

I cut the 3″ traded squares to 2.5″ simply so they were actually all the same size. If you have quilted any time at all, you know how my 3″ square maybe a bit (or a lot) different than your 3″ square. I have never figured that out, but that is not the point either.

The variety of colors, patterns, and even quality of the cotton was amazing. The squares were kept in plastic bags by color groups. I changed my mind several times about exactly how I would design this millennium quilt – after all, the year 2000 was a big deal (or was supposed to be!).

Finally opting to do 16 square blocks. It was a simple way to double check to make sure there were no duplicates. This way also allowed me to loosely use the squares by color. I didn’t stress over if my planned look for each block turned out differently – frankly I just let myself have fun putting the blocks together.

16 square blocks for charm quilt
More charm squares sewn together for quilt.

Even as I pieced this top together during Jan. to March of 1999, the packages of 3″ squares continued to come in. It seemed that no matter how many I used, there were more to work with.

I finally stopped making the blocks, and added a navy blue border with “2000” in it. Then I added another border down two sides of more blocks. There is one square of the border fabric somewhere in the top so that there are exactly 2000 different fabrics for this millennium quilt.

Quilt border print says "2000" in it.

It was quilted in Nov. 1999 by MG in an all-over cloud design. The final size is 90″ x 98″. The top is all cottons, the batting is polyester, and the backing a queen size flat sheet.

MILLENNIUM QUILTS - LOOKING BACK 20 YEARS
Photo taken 05 2020

2001 Millennium Charm Quilt – looking back 20 years

MILLENNIUM QUILTS - LOOKING BACK 20 YEARS
Photo taken 05 2020

Still using the 2.5″ charm squares, I simply just randomly sewed the medium and dark ones together. I was still getting packages in the mail and at this point just felt overwhelmed at how many different cotton fabrics there were around the world.

Random squares sewn into quilt top.
Random 2.5″ squares sewn together to make quilt top.

I pieced the quilt header “2001” area using the lighter squares as the background and darker ones for the 2001.

Three borders down two sides
These 3 fabric strips were the borders for two sides.

I worked on this quilt on and off during the first half of 2001. In Oct. 2001 it was machine quilted by CM in the loopy design. The backing is a light colored large flat sheet.

Machine quilting in a loopy design.

While the machine quilting was fine, the quilt was not centered on the backing. Truthfully, it really made me angry to work so hard and long on a top to have it treated so disrespectfully by the machine quilter. However, I wanted it completed. So a creative answer to fixing this issue for binding was to simply cut off part of the borders on two sides. It ended up being finished size 92″ x 104″.

MILLENNIUM QUILTS - LOOKING BACK 20 YEARS

Finally

I continued to use the millennium charm squares in other projects as I was able. The squares also got bagged up and “gifted” to other quilters for birthday or Christmas gifts.

I loved the challenge of working with the squares. It was fun, if time consuming, to keep checking for duplicates. My challenge to other quilters is to do a charm quilt of some sort during your quilt journey.

The year 2000 has come and gone. But I have two very special quilts to represent that year and am so glad I did all those exchanges with so many other quilters around the world.

I am so glad that I took the time and challenge to do the millennium quilts. It has been fun over the past week to look back over the past 20 years of quilting – wow. For myself, somehow those millennium quilts were really freeing for quilting in my life. They improved my critical thinking skills (as in how am I going to fix this problem/mistake?). I spend less time thinking about the individual aspects (will this fabric really match?) and more about the whole quilt design. There is also just making the quilts because each one suits me or my current need.

Each quilt you and I do expands our skills and allows us to learn something new about ourselves. Have fun with your quilt making journey.

Other charm quilt ideas:

http://quiltspluscolor.blogspot.com/2017/10/another-millennium-quilt-goes-home.html

http://crazyquilteronabike.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-new-millennium.html

https://prairiemoonquilts.com/do-you-remember/

https://indianaquilter40.com/triangle-charm-quilt/

PLEASE NOTE: 
ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE MY OWN UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

LOG CABIN QUILTS ARE AWESOME

Have you discovered how much fun log cabin quilts can be? I was not a fan of them, and it took me a long time to become one. Once I discovered how much fun they could be, I got hooked on making log cabin quilts. There are just so many ways to set them. The color combos are endless. Scrappy or planned, log cabin quilts are awesome.

Sometimes it is hard to see in our heads what we can do with certain blocks or how the final project will look. I thought I would show a few log cabin quilts of mine just to give you some new ideas.

First Log Cabin blocks

Log Cabin table runner
This was my very first try at log cabin blocks in 1989. The strips were super narrow as in 1″ to 1.5″ wide. I used scraps of blue, and brown for the dark strips. Red for the center blocks. Unbleached muslin for the light strips. I was not impressed. Too much cutting and sewing for a really small project. I put it away to be forgotten. In 1999 I hand quilted it in straight lines in the center of each strip. Finished size 12″ x 36″. Sold.

My next try at a log cabin quilt

The only quilt magazine I could find while living in Germany was “Quilt”. Many of the articles and patterns had to do with log cabin blocks in various settings. I still was not really confident in exploring various quilt blocks. Looking at that magazine made me feel like I was really missing something in the quilt world.

So I thought I would try another log cabin quilt with larger pieces this time. Same color scheme as the first one since that is what fabric I had to work with.

LOG CABIN QUILTS ARE AWESOME
Center blocks are 3.5″ square and the strips are 2″. Pieced in 1989. I still was not pleased with it. This one got put away too until 1999 when it was machine quilted in a stipple design. Size was 36″ square. Donated it to a local charity for their auction.

Third try at a log cabin quilt

Once we returned to the US, fabric was readily available. Somehow, lots a fabric ended up at my home and I really started getting confident in just doing what I liked for quilts.

I learned how to really use the rotary cutter and assembly line piecing. Making more quilts also meant there were more scraps in a bin.

I thought there had to be something really great to log cabin quilts – there were all kinds of photos of them in quilt magazines. Folks in the local quilt guild also seemed to make them routinely. Obviously, something was wrong with me that I didn’t like them.

LOG CABIN QUILTS ARE AWESOME - scrappy log cabin quilt.
I pieced this quilt 1992 – 1994. My notes don’t say what size the pieces were, but I was still not happy with log cabin blocks. I just couldn’t see what people saw in them. There was just too much cutting and sewing for a very unsatisfactory end product. This one was machine quilted by BE in 1994 and given as a Christmas gift to a relative.

The ah-HA moment of discovery

So somewhere about this time, a lady at the guild allowed me to borrow one of the first “Quilt in a Day” https://www.quiltinaday.com/ log cabin books from her. At this point, I had that “ah-ha” moment that said, “oh, I can do this now”. I was obviously making this pattern tons harder than it should have been.

Anyone who reads this blog for long realizes that I tend to take the directions or ideas and use them to come up with a system that works for me. The one thing I have stuck with since that first “Quilt in a Day” log cabin book is sticking with 2.5″ wide strips for these blocks.

I find the 2.5″ wide strips are just easy to work with and the amount of strips or “logs” around the center can be adjusted easily for whatever size I want to make.

Color-wise, log cabin blocks really are awesome. Color combos can be anything that appeals based on the project, my mood, or the recipient of the finished quilt.

I keep several bins of already cut 2.5″ wide strips so that now when I want to make a log cabin block or quilt I already have a starting point. I have experimented with the center square though: 2.5″, 3″, 4″, 6″, and 8″.

A plastic bin of already cut 2.5" strips for quilts.
A plastic bin of already cut 2.5″ strips. They are just random colors but remain nice and flat until I am ready to use them in log cabin quilts.

The last 10 years of making log cabin quilts

So I really started just having fun with log cabin blocks and quilts. They are fun to make and now go together easy. The logs can be adjusted size wise if needed, but I generally have stayed with 2.5″ wide.

Amish colored doll quilt.
Amish colors and a rectangle center mean one block equals a simple doll quilt.
Red, white, and blue log cabin doll quilt.
Red, white, and blue log cabin doll quilt. Easily machine quilted on the sewing machine.
Sunshine and Maine Blueberries log cabin quilt
Sunshine and Maine Blueberries made 2010-2012. You can see it at my old blog: https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2010/04/sunshine-and-maine-blueberries.html
Lettuce Be Berry Christmas Quilt (another log cabin quilt)
Lettuce Be Berry Christmas Quilt – see : https://indianaquilter40.com/lettuce-be-berry-christmas-quilt/

Conclusion

Is there a pattern that you want to do, or maybe think as a quilter you should be doing?? My advice is simply to keep trying until you either decide the pattern and design is really not for you. Or keep trying until you figure our a system, style, or size that works for you.

It took me years to figure out how to do log cabins quilts easily and that suited me. Don’t give up the first time around. Look at magazines and books, get on-line and watch tutorials, talk to other quilters. That pattern that is frustrating you might be easier than you think.

Happy Stitching.

Clip art of girl with sewing machine and quilt.

PLEASE NOTE: 
ALL PHOTOS AND WRITTEN CONTENT ARE THE PROPERTY OF INDIANAQUILTER40 UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

MY “GO TO” QUILTING BOOKS

I am regularly asked by blog readers to suggest books that I feel are classic and timeless for quilting info. Below are the ones that are my “go to” quilt books for instructions, photos, and inspiration.

All are older books. I have used them hard. The bindings are long since broke and three now have spiral bindings because of that. But the information is timeless and helpful. Beginner quilter to expert, I really do recommend these books for a personal quilting library.

Quilting with Strips and Strings.
This one has simple blocks like log cabins to more complicated such as spider web. Lots of great drawings to help.
Quilts Quilts Quilts and Quilts Galore
These two books contain super simple instructions on basic piecing and cutting to putting a quilt in a frame for hand quilting. Great instructions and lots of photos.
Quilter's Complete Guide
This books covers color, cutting, sewing, various quilt blocks from super simple to complex, quilting and binding.

I encourage quilters to have a few books of their own that they will utilize. I know it can be hard to sift through all the beautiful book covers to find helpful and useful info, but take your time and find a few that will help you on your quilting journey.

Happy Stitching.

Other posts for quilt books:

https://indianaquilter40.com/books-about-amish-quilts-or-a-world-of-stunning-color

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2019/06/more-books.html

http://barbarabrackman.blogspot.com/

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PURPLE WITHOUT APOLOGY QUILT

Purple Without Apology Quilt

Have you ever been fascinated with a quilt kit? You loved the colors, concept, designer, whatever….. Got it home and said “well what was I thinking?” That is pretty much the story of this quilt – Purple Without Apology.

Tip:

There is no hard and fast rule that a kit has to be used as is – if there is something about the kit that you want to change then do it. Your project should make you happy.

I don’t know when I purchased the actual quilt kit. Probably between 1998-2001. You know, it had the fabric, pattern, and probably some colored photos all together and looked really nice. I loved the idea of a purple and off white quilt.

I know that when I got ready to piece the quilt together in 2002, I felt that the purple fabrics just weren’t purple enough. So….I traded fabric from my stash (and probably purchased more purples too) so that the purples were, well purple enough.

Then I had to spread all the purple fabrics out again and make sure they really were purple enough for what I wanted. Another problem being that I would not be sewing it at home and didn’t want to pack all kinds of extra fabric “just in case”. Finally I had the purples that I wanted for this project.

I loved the light fabric selection and kept it the way it was. The red center fabric was also from the kit.

Putting it all together:

I did the cutting before heading up to Maine during May 2002. The blocks were pieced while spending quilting time with my great quilting buddy SB. Instead of the traditional log cabin setting, I opted for the streak of lightening (or Zig Zag) setting.

This book is my “go to” book for setting together log cabin blocks:

Book cover: Quilting with Strips and Strings
Setting log cabin quilt blocks together ideas.
Page 33 shows 6 classic ways to set the log cabin blocks together.

I did 3 narrow borders on this quilt. The inside and outside ones being a deep eggplant purple. The inside border is a hideous fruit print that both SB and I had purchased years before as a challenge to see what we could do with it. She had already used hers. However, mine was still in my sewing room washed but otherwise untouched – it was just too ugly.  Anyway with all the purple fruits in it, it did work well as part of the border for this quilt.

I chopped the rest of the fruit fabric up and used in small portions in several scrap quilts. I still think it is one of the ugliest fabrics I have ever bought. But it worked well as part of the border. Now I think that it would have looked good as the center square too, but there is no going back at this point.

It was machine quilted by RLM in late May 2002 in an all over stipple design.

Finished size: 71″ x 90″.

Backing:

I used to think that backings should be one fabric. One day I realized that was boring. It was also a waste of money when I had beautiful yardages of fabric that would make pretty backs. So the backing for this purple quilt is two different fabrics – one a deep purple with a gold design running through it. The other fabric is a yellow with large purple flowers.

Backing fabric of Purple Without Apology quilt.
Canon Inc

I originally planned on giving the Purple Without Apology quilt to the daughter for Christmas, but made a different quilt and kept this one. It still looks good. In fact, the other day I was thinking about doing another purple quilt.

A closer view of this quilt

Other ideas for log cabin blocks:

https://indianaquilter40.com/lettuce-be-berry-christmas-quilt/

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2009/11/log-cabin-la-hannah.html

https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/log-cabin-quilts-photo-gallery-layout-tips-4051119

Another view of the Purple without apology quilt.
You can really see the “Strike of Lightening” or “Zig Zag” when the quilt is turned side ways.

Finally –

Kits are to make life easier since all the pieces and parts are in one place. Just remember that it is just fine to change the kit up. Make the quilt you want. The kit probably has a great idea, but be creative and have fun.

Happy stitching.

clip art of girl, sewing machine, and quilt.

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FREEDOM QUILT

Freedom Quilt

Do you buy cheater blocks on a whim, and then just not know what to do with them? I sure do. I seem to collect them up for awhile and then try to figure out a fun, unique way to use them. That is how Freedom quilt came about.

I am very patriotic and tend to collect patriotic items and fabrics. When I pieced this quilt back in 1996 for my “AF brat” son, I decided the time had come to make something out of the patriotic cheater blocks.

It would also give me an excuse to utilize some of the blue and reds that were stacked in my sewing area.

Red and blue fabrics for quilt.

There is no pattern to do a quilt like this, so you get to be super creative, and use a few of those rusty math skills.

Step 1

The first thing I did for this quilt (after gathering the fabric together) was to decide which cheater block to use for the center. In this case, I wanted to use the flag. It had some smaller patriotic blocks on the same panel that I cut off. I knew I needed a twin size quilt.

More fabric for the Freedom quilt.

I figured that 3 rounds of 4″ wide fabric borders around the flag would make a nice center.

Step 2

The next cheater block I wanted to use was 4 blocks of flags with a border around them. I cut that panel of 4 in half. Now there were 2 sections of 2 flags each. I cut those sections apart and added the navy fabric with white stars.

Step 3

The final step for piecing was to add more 4″ wide strips to the sides of the 2 flags sections. Trimmed off the strips to the correct length.

The Freedom Quilt has 3 distinct sections when looked at. The top and bottom sections are 2 small flag cheater blocks and red/blue strips. The strips are sewn vertically.

The center section is distinct with the flag panel in the center and 3 rounds of strips around it.

Great the top was done. It got ironed and hung up with other tops that needed machine quilted. It would be a few years before I did any more with it.

This quilt was machine quilted by MG in 1999 in an all over “cloud” design. It was done in time to be a Christmas gift for the son.

Finished size was 66″ x 88″.

Wooden plaque with outline of US. Saying is Born and Raised.

I entered this quilt in the local county fair in 2001 and it won a blue ribbon. Not a big deal in the scheme of life, but fun and confidence building.

Finally

Please don’t be afraid to mix and match various items together to make the quilt you want. It is not about whether the “quilt police” like your quilt. You are making the quilt to suit a need you have.

It is just fine to make a quilt from an idea with no real pattern. Those patterns we use regularly started out as an idea. No better or worse than ours. The difference being that some patterns are for sale, while others are done simply for enjoyment.

Other ideas for patriotic quilts:

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2018/07/flags-teddy-bears-quilt-top-for-sale.html

https://indianaquilter40.com/long-may-she-wave-quilt/

http://quiltinspiration.blogspot.com/2014/05/free-pattern-day-patriotic-and-flag.html

Happy Stitching.

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DAYS ARE TUMBLING BY QUILT

DAYS ARE TUMBLING BY QUILT

Do you love being home during the COVID-19 virus and having time to catch up on projects? Do you have trouble keeping track of exactly what day it is without the “normal” schedule of two months ago? I have really enjoyed the time at home working and having time to work on projects. Kind of the best of both worlds. But I do find that I have to pay attention to the calendar or my days blend together. Hence this quilt is named Days Are Tumbling By.

Sewing together the tumblers of Days Are Tumbling By Quilt:

The quilt started with the remainder of the cut tumblers left from these two quilts: https://indianaquilter40.com/scrappy-tumblers-quilt/ and https://indianaquilter40.com/flowers-tumblers-or-scraps-are-taking-over-my-world-part-3/ .

Here is the free pattern for the tumbler size I used:

I sewed the tumblers in rows of 35. The pink sashing between the rows of tumblers is 3″ wide by the length of the row.

The key to sewing tumblers is to sew them with quarter inch “tails” on each end. I just eyeball this. You can see this in the photo below.

Sewing two tumblers together.  Leave quarter inch "tail.

I sewed the tumblers in pairs of two, then pairs of four, then pairs of eight until I had the length already determined for my quilt. Using this method, I ended up adding one odd block to one end of the row, and a pair of tumblers to the other end. Obviously for your quilt adjust the length to suit yourself.

Remember that the rows have to be off-set a bit since in order to square up the row ends you will actually be loosing part of the last tumbler on each end. Practice a bit (and pin if needed) to get the tumblers and sashing sewn so that you have a straight edge once the part of the tumbler is cut off.

The sashing of Days Are Tumbling By Quilt:

Days Are Tumbling By Quilt.  Sashing between the rows of tumblers.
Center rows with solid pink sashing.

I decided to continue working strictly out of my scrap bins and stash to complete this quilt. I choose to work with pink as the sashing simply because I rarely work with pink. It is not my favorite color and I had 3 pieces that appeared to be solid or basically read as solid.

The sashing is 3″ wide. When I ran out of the pink solid for sashing, I started on a small pink geometric for sashing and used it as sashing for the final three rows on each side of the quilt. That way it looked planned, right?

The borders of Days Are Tumbling By Quilt:

The outside border, and two different pink sashings between the rows of tumblers.
The outside border, and two different pink sashings between the rows of tumblers.

I continued with the “sashing” as the border on the two sides (or top and bottom) of the top so that there is two borders on this quilt. The 3″ wide sashing was used for this “inside” border.

I then used the dark pink fabric for the outside border. It is cut 5″ wide.

To complete the top, give it a good pressing.

Finished size of top is 88″ x 88″.

Summary:

This is how far the top got (about 3/4 of a twin) before I ran out of tumblers that were left over from the above two quilts. So I had to cut more to complete the top here.

Days Are Tumbling By Quilt top partially complete.

I find it is easiest to get a bunch of scraps out and cut them into sizes that I have bins set aside for (tumblers, 3″ squares, 2.5″ strips, and hexagons in two sizes) when I am in the mood to cut fabric. When I am in the mood to sew there is already some stuff cut that I can use.

Just FYI – if you are a scrap quilter and you find yourself using the same sizes over and over, make bins for those sizes. Keep some cut and always ready to go for when you are in the mood to just assembly line sew pieces together.

For more instructions to put together tumblers:

https://www.quilterscache.com/T/TumblersBlock.html

Happy Stitching.

clip art of girl with sewing machine.

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SCRAPPY 4 PATCH QUILT (or diving into that scrap bin)

Many of us have been in “stay at home” or quarantine mode for several weeks at this point. The situation can make for some creative solutions to quilting when it comes to supplies. I was going through my scrapbook of quilts recently and this quilt, Scrappy 4 Patch Quilt (or diving into that scrap bin), was made in a similar manner just because of my location then.

Scrappy 4 Patch Quilt of 2" squares made into four patches.

I lived in Germany (then West Germany) from 1985-1989. As a quilter, supplies could be a problem to get depending on what I wanted. Muslin was unknown and had to be shipped from the US. Cotton fabric was very limited in color and design. It was also very expensive. Batting as we know it was unknown. Thankfully sewing thread was easy to obtain in many colors.

Typical of quilters everywhere, I already had a lot of scraps from other projects. In 1987 I started cutting those small scraps into 2″ squares. Please realize that I did not have or have access to a rotary cutter so this entire quilt was cut one piece at a time. With scissors. Using a cardboard template for the squares.

The making of ScrapPY 4 Patch Quilt

Through 1987-1989, I continued to cut needed 2″ squares and 3.5″ alternate squares. I used a strawberry pink cotton purchased locally as the alternate blocks for most of the quilt.

A creative solution to the continual rows of small blocks was to make a center medallion square with blue alternate blocks framed by 2 borders of 3.5″ solid fabrics (my mom sent the blue from the US). This same blue also was used for the binding.

This quilt was great for using many of the scraps. Soon after this quilt was made I moved back to the US and started collecting scraps all over again. Quilters just seem to do that.

The batting was an old flannel blanket I had on hand. And the backing was thick curtains given to me by a German neighbor. The color was a hideous neon orange, but it made a very warm backing and this quilt was made to be used.

This quilt still holds my personal record for most needles broken while making it (3 packages) because of all the pinned seams of all those small pieces and my not slowing to go over the pins (we do learn as we get more experience, don’t we?)

I used embroidery floss in pink and blue that matched the alternate blocks to tie this quilt in June 1989. It was really heavy and would have been very hard to quilt. Besides, I just wanted to get it finished.

And now –

This quilt is in my daughter’s possession at this point.  It has been washed frequently, is faded, and parts of it have been re-tied over the years. However, it is still warm and makes a great quilt to snuggle up in, especially while camping.  The grand-daughter has also been known to make a tent with it to play under/in.

2010 - Scrappy 4 Patch Quilt still loved and used.
Here is Scrappy 4 Patch Quilt in 2010 – worn and faded – but still used and loved.

A tip for you –

Not all quilts are meant to be heirlooms – don’t be afraid to make a quilt to actually use hard. Some quilts are for snuggling and comfort.  Using an old blanket or a large piece of flannel for the batting is fine.  Using an old sheet or curtains (no holes please) for the backing is a way to deal with this and also is a way to reuse/recycle. 

More 4 Patch Quilt Ideas –

https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2018/07/4-patch-buttons-quilt-top-for-sale.html

https://indianaquilter40.com/amish-4-patch-doll-quilt/

https://www.mybluprint.com/article/four-patch-quilt-patterns

When Life Hands you Scraps, Make Quilts!

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