Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Quiltmaking 101--the Beginning

Since 1989 I've been teaching the beginning quilt class, Quiltmaking 101, at my local quilt shop, Patches & Stitches. I love teaching beginners, encouraging them, watching them succeed when they didn't think they could.  I also teach the hard stuff:  feathered stars, mariners' compass, etc. but my heart is with the beginners.  I tell them I have 3 goals for the class:

1.  They feel they've gotten their money's worth from the class.  It's not inexpensive to start quilting.
2.  They finish this project so their descendants won't find a box under the bed and wonder: What was she doing with this?
3.  I addict one of them, completely and totally to quilting, so the industry continues to thrive--I am always successful, every 5 week class, with this goal.

Here is the project:

Mix N Match Stars, pattern by Glad Creations, my sample

While this is not the usual beginner's quilt, I have found it to be the right amount of challenge for the person who really wants to learn to make quilts.  It is also perfect for the self-taught person who wants to improve and learn tips and techniques.  People often come back a year or two later to take it again.

The pieced border is optional--when I tell them it took me 8 hours to make those borders, most of the students choose to go with the Super Simple Borders option.  I have prepared a 7 page handout with both options, instructions for a practice 1/4" test block, a Rail Fence, and lots of piecing instructions. 

The most difficult thing for beginners to intermediate quilters to master is the dreaded "scant" 1/4" seam allowance.  What is "scant"?  How do you find it on your machine?  I  have them practice that in the first week at home, between gathering their supplies at week 1, to making their first block in class week 2.  Most get it or get a lot closer than their first effort.  It takes practice and maybe, drawing a line on the fabric, using a taped guide on the throat plate, getting a 1/4" foot, etc. 

The next most difficult thing for beginners to intermediate quilters is choosing fabric.  I help them start with a focus or theme fabric, or a theme:  Christmas, Baby, Patriotic, etc.  Find that first fabric that will usually be the border and select fabrics that go with it.  It takes a little while but most get it quickly and they leave the shop excited about their quilt-to-be. 

We spend 5 weeks together and I can say many of these students become my friends and many join our guild, Heritage Quilters of Huntsville.  One of the best perks of my job is receiving a thank you note or email from a student who has found her/his bliss and is so excited to continue their quilting journey.  I received one of those just recently and with Terri's permission, I share a bit of it here:

      I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to
teach a beginner's quilting class. I learned so much and I am definitely hooked
on quilting. I have already started my second quilt.

      I finished piecing my quilt together on Feb 20th and found a sweet lady that said she would
long arm quilt it by the 27th. (The baby shower was on Feb 28th). She totally surprised me and had it done on the 24th. She did a beautiful job of quilting it in a butterfly pattern.
      Thank you once again for your time and patience! I hope to take another class from
you soon.


Here is Terri's finished quilt, a baby gift for a new grandbaby, Ella.  Even though she was under a tight deadline, Terri made the pieced borders and got it done on time.  Great job, Terri!

One lucky tool my students have to help them is a series of videos I did several years ago for www.monkeysee.com   It's called How to Quilt and you can find it here.  It took 6.5 hours to video the seven 3 minute segments.  I wasn't paid anything for this but it has been very helpful for the students at home as they try to remember everything I taught at week 2.  Each segment covers a small bit of the process.  I laugh when I tell people about it:  I can teach you everything you need to know in 21 minutes!  I thought they were pretty hokey the first time I saw them but they sure have helped my students.

To finish, here are just a very few quilts from past students, some tops done, some not quite yet--one week between finishing the blocks and having a complete top can be a challenge when life gets in the way.  I am always happy to get photos of their finished quilts and I add them to my slideshow of QM 101 quilts:

Linda R

Debbie E

Peggy H

Rhonda St.

Sophie on the right

I'm off to Chicago today to work at International Quilt Festival . To help fill the schedule, I'll be teaching 2 classes at Make It University on hand-piecing Lemoyne Stars and doing 2 two hour demo sessions on String Piecing at Open Studios.  If you are anywhere near Chicagoland, come to the show--don't miss a great opportunity to see quilts and shop vendors and take classes.  I am also taking a machine quilting class with Catherine Redford--I've got a busy week ahead!  Two of my quilts that were in the book 500 Traditional Quilts will be in that Special Exhibit and the Red and White--By the Numbers, the 40th anniversary Commemorative Quilt will be displayed. I'll be very happy to see it again.

Let's quilt!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I made 2 more Stars in a Time Warp, these in overshot green.  When we had the lesson in overshot green, a few weeks back, I used more bright greens.  Then I realized I had the perfect overshot green in my stash, the beautiful Peppered Cottons designed by Pepper Cory for StudioE fabrics.  So I added them to the group--can you find the new ones?

Here the are

Tomorrow, Barbara Brackman will introduce the next color we will learn about and I will make 2 new blocks to join these--I am having a blast with this project!  Check it out:  here.

I also got a head a bit with the Simple Whatnots Club project I'll be teaching in April:

This pattern is called Cloud Nine and the little one at the bottom is the size in the project.  It finishes at 3.75"--that's tiny.  So, I made a larger one, that finishes at 10".  On the larger block, I added the triangles on the four outer corners, which I omitted from the small block--I just liked it better without the triangles--though I reserve the right to change my mind later.  If I were making the entire quilt, I definitely would add them because they create a super secondary pattern when the blocks are joined with sashing.  See all the projects here:  Simple Whatnots Club Collection 2.

That's it for today--have a great St. Patrick's Day!

Let's quilt something green!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stars In a Time Warp

I am having fun with these Stars, from Barbara Brackman's terrific Blog.  She is at week 9 already, using a different color/style of fabric each week.  It's very educational and fun!

This week is Chrome Yellow

I am making 2 blocks per week

It is less than 2 weeks until Chicago so I am concentrating on getting my kits ready for Make It University and my demo samples prepared for Open Studio.    Almost set with all that.

Our guild does a great quilt show every two years and I'm co-chair of that so we are really ramping up for all that needs to be done, even though the show isn't until October.  We will have one more face-to-face meeting with our committee in May--there was only one date we could make work before late in the summer and that just won't work.  We have wonderful people working with us--ours is a show not to be missed, if you are anywhere near North Alabama.

It's weird--for 34 years I worked for H&R Block and doing my own tax return, along with those of my kids, was just something that got done at work.  This year, I have to make time to do it at home!  Time is flying by, I'll be in Chicago for a week later these month, so I'd better get busy on ours and one son's.  The other son I managed to get done last week.  A word of warning about tax software:  if you say "yes" when you should have said "no", you'll get the wrong answer.  Several times I said "I sure am glad I know what the right answer is supposed to be" because I was not answering those odd questions correctly.  It took more than a few attempts to get that return correct. 

I found out recently I will have 3 quilts on display in Chicago at the Spring International Quilt Festival:  Red and White--By the Numbers, My Joyful Journey, and A-Round with My Friends--the same 3 that were in Houston, 2014.  If you're at the show, come say hello, I'll be in the Education office or working on the show floor.  Here is all the info you need for Chicago: Quilts.com

Let's Quilt!


Monday, March 2, 2015

String Blocks

I've been saving strings of fabric for years to make string blocks.  It's a process that is really popular now and allows you to use very small pieces of leftover fabric.  Bonnie Hunter uses string piecing in a lot of her quilts and her blog is loaded with ideas for this technique, check her out here.

Last fall our guild quilt show committee formed a swap group to make string blocks.  I wrote about that here and this is a tutorial.

At Houston last fall, seven of us in the Education Department decided to do this too.  These blocks start out with paper cut 6.5" and we are only making 6 blocks for each person.  Everyone got to decide what colors and design they wanted.  The deadline is March 31 to have them in the mail to each person so when the calendar turned to March yesterday I decided I'd better get BUSY!  I am also going to demo this process and show the many quilt designs you can get with these blocks at International Quilt Festival in Chicago, March 26-28, 2015.  Don't miss the Chicago Show!

Here are the sets I have done: 
Bert wanted random black and white
Carol wanted scrappy
Vickie wanted scrappy with a 1" finished black strip in the middle
Tanya wanted various greens with a bright light 1" finished green in the middle

Melissa wanted scrappy


Judy wanted red and white from the diagonal out--still have to finish hers

This was a great way to run my Featherweight sewing machine after cleaning, oiling and lubricating it.  The motor needs to be run to help get all the oil/grease through the machine and this was the perfect way to do it. 

Here are a few tips:

1.  I use telephone book pages, lightweight and no cost, and, no, they don't put ink on me or the fabric.

2.  Use a small stitch, 1.5 mm or about 15 stitches/inch--this makes paper removal easy.  Leave the paper on so the recipient can decide if she wants to make them smaller and she can trim them.

3.  If doing a design that puts a specific color in the center, it helps to start with paper larger than needed to allow for trimming the block to get that center in the center--I cut those papers 7"

4.  If doing a design with a specific color in the center, I pinned that fabric in place first.  Then I added strips to both sides.  Otherwise, I use no pins in the process.

5.  I usually piece with gray thread.  For the half white/half red set, I'll use white thread on the white half and sew all 6 of those first.  Then I'll change thread to a gray and do the red side of all 6 blocks. For all the other blocks, I alternated sides, and pressed the blocks after adding to both sides.  You don't have to press until the blocks are done but I like to press and getting up from the machine is my aerobics.

This process can be messy because I have a big bag of saved strings:

So when I start this project, I keep going until I'm done or can't stand it any more.  The larger strips I save are kept much more organized than this, but for strings, they just get tossed into a big tote bag until I'm ready to piece string blocks--then it's a sorting frenzy.

So I'm almost done and that's what's on my design wall today.  Check out Judy L's blog to see what others are doing.

Let's quilt!