Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Question for Readers

The big question is how do I get my name and business out into the public?

I have been quilting off and on for more than 30 years - mostly on the past 5 years. I bought a longarm about two years ago and love doing free motion quilting with it. I enjoy it enough that I started my own quilting service, called Quilting Dreams, when I was living in Tennessee. As part of my business, I made several baby quilts and a few shirt quilts. I also quilted and bound several old family quilt tops and put together a few quilts from blocks found in an attic. The Quilting Frog members also provided me with a few quilting jobs. On the personal front, I made a number of wedding and t-shirt quilts. Then it was time to move to Minnesota where I am hoping we will put down lasting roots once my husband finishes his final Naval tour in Minneapolis. Once again, I have hopes of really getting a quilting service going. I have registered with the state and am using the same business name, Quilting Dreams. I have been doing some quilting for the Frogs and their families, and I have done a few Quilts of Valor. Even when I have no paid jobs, I am piecing tops or quilting because it is something I really enjoy doing.
My business goal is to offer good quality quilting using edge-to-edge free motion quilting designs. However, I am always up for a challenge, just like the two bears I recently finished. I believe that I offer my services at a reasonable price and so far have been able to have very quick turn-arounds. However, ALL, but one, of my clients live in other states. How do I find a niche for myself in Minnesota?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baby Quilts for Zoe

During the waiting period for my first grandchild to arrive, I started making baby quilts. Jamie had selected a jungle theme for the room, so I did several using the fabric she selected, but my favorite was the grandma quilt I made. I have put pictures of several other ones at the bottom, but the grandma one is my favorite Zoe quilt. I did foundation piecing for the first time on the corner hearts and used my embroidery machine to put heart quilting designs on all the blocks. This quilt was made to go with the beautiful cradle that my husband designed and built for Zoe.

When I was making the quilts and comforters for Zoe, I had not purchased my longarm yet. I tied the comforters and did stitch in the ditch for the embroidered animal block quilt. Once I had made a few of the quilts, Jamie had to tell me that I could slow down because others were making her blankets as well. Besides the quilts and comforters I also hemmed several pieces of fleece for Zoe. At 2 1/2 she has two favorites for sleeping: the animal fleece and the Curious George fleece rather than the others. Wouldn't my mom be surprised that her great-granddaughter chose brights over pastels.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bears Are Complete

The bear project is complete. I have never worked with sweater material so that offered me a challenge. I ended up putting a lining inside to help with the stretch factor. Now that I have finished this diversion, I am back to quilting tomorrow. I listed all the projects I have yet to start along with all the ones I have yet to finish. I should be busy for some time to come. Watch for another post on Wednesday.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not Quite Quilting....

A customer asked if I would consider making her two bears from clothing that belonged to her parents. She had seen some bears I had made as gifts using a pattern from Indygo Junction called Buster and Mr. Brown. I affectionately refer to these bears as pinhead bears. Sometimes it is just nice to take a little side trip and play so I accepted the challenge. I have completed the one made out of a flannel shirt and thought I would share the results. Looking at the photo does not do it justice, in my humble opinion. The collar and button placket were taken from the shirt and then sized to fit. When I finish the one made out of a sweater, I will post another photo.

Christmas Quilt Block of the Month Update

As of a few minutes ago, I have finished all the blocks for April. The mistletoe was the most difficult applique I have done so far, but the little houses are by no means perfectly aligned. I am having so much fun watching this quilt unfold. I have actually been letting the blocks hang on my design wall, but I may have to create another space for them because I do have other projects in progress. Next month I have two involved appliques (sugar plums dancing in their heads and a circus train) and a pieced tree. Doing all of them will actually mean that I will have another seven blocks, if I remember correctly, but the quilt still has a LONG way to go. Check back near the end of May to see the next installment.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How the Frogs Plan Friendship Quilts

Last time I wrote about the four friendship quilts that the Quilting Frogs have made. I thought it would be worth sharing what we did in case you have a few friends that might like to do the same thing. It is such a treat to receive the different blocks, and such a challenge to figure out an arrangement. More on that part later.

First, decided who wants to play. For the blue and white wall hanging, there were four of us. We pulled most of the fabric from my stash. The only requirements were to use the fabric shown in the border and to make the block 12 1/2" unfinished. Everyone then made four blocks: three to share and one to keep. Within a couple of months the blocks had all been made, but getting them turned into quilts took longer. Actually, would like to have my memory refreshed as to who really finished their completely. I still was not machine quilting, so I used motifs on my embroidery machine to finish off mine.

Because we had so much fun with the first blocks, we found that we were showing them around school. That lead to creating our second friendship quilt with a Christmas theme, and brought us another staff member to be part of the fun. My daughter also played long distance from Iowa. Christmas came and went without anyone completing their blocks, maybe because the only required piece of fabric was the one with the black background, holly, and ornaments. Whatever the reason, once I had mine I knew I wanted to make it bigger, so I added three more tree blocks. I still was not well versed on machine quilting, but I tried a quilt as you go method to finish mine. It was worth the effort simply because I could now use it and my regular machine to do others this way, but it was a pain to figure out, at first. In the last post I showed the back of the quilt, done MY way. Once again, I know everyone had fun making the blocks but I only know of one other person who finished hers, and that is because I used my longarm to finish it for her.

The third friendship quilt started as a way to give one of the Frogs support during a very stressful time. The rest of us were doing the Spring Fling shop hop in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but she was home caring for John. In order to keep her involved and maybe even to distract her from her sadness we decided to make a quilt using the colors of her choice. She choice black, pink, and green. You can not begin to imagine the discussions we had about what colors pink and green were. We ended up buy far too much fabric and letting her choose the beginning pieces. Even as we worked on those blocks the sometimes intense color discussions continued, but in the end we all seemed to find something we loved about them. Maybe it was simply that these really were more about the bond of friendship than anything else. I have quilted several of these on my longarm. I used hearts, vines, and loops to represent all the love, as well as, the twists and turns of that time. Quilting is a powerful way to share your feelings.

During the time we were finishing up the third quilt, my husband and I moved to Tennessee so he could accept his new orders. It was very emotional for me to leave my dear friends, especially because of all the time we had spent together quilting, laughing, and enjoying life. I was back to being a lone quilter. However, they started to visit me in Tennessee, and we started our latest friendship quilt. We wanted to keep the friendships going. This time we kept the rules about the same, but used Debbie Mum's "Creative Woman" fabric as our focus. By the time we were really set to begin, I had found another teaching friend who wanted to quilts, so we added her as a "friend." If you look at the last post you will see that we are all very creative with our blocks, but it was also fun to see that some of us chose similar blocks even though they had not seen what others were doing. Originally, there were nine of us working on blocks for this quilt, but one person had to bow out for personal reason. Since many had already made their nine blocks, I just made another block for each of them and took the extras. I added to mine quilt so I ended up making 9 or 10 of the blocks for mine. Now that I do longarm quilting on a regular basis, I decided to quilt it with another new design, but retained the heart theme because of the love and caring that we all put into these friendship quilts.

I do not know what our next friendship project will be, but many of the Quilting Frogs, Friends and a couple of Tadpoles will be getting together this summer for the first annual quilt camp. I will let you know what we decide.

It is said that the first person to sleep under a friendship quilt will experience all the love and caring that was put into the quilt. My question is, does it count if I am putting on the binding and end up taking little cat naps? I know that I feel the love that went into each treasure.

Quilter's Note: When you decide to do an exchange block quilt, you need to know that every quilter is not exactly like you and neither are their blocks. By this I mean that some of the 12 1/2" blocks will come back to you in need of size adjustments. In each quilt that we have made, there have been blocks ranging from 11 3/8" to 13 1/4". The challenge is to find a way to make all of them fit into the same quilt. I have used what I call "framing" to bring some blocks up to 12 1/2", and have carefully trimmed others to bring them down to 12 1/2". (Some blocks need nothing while others may need as much as 3/4" on two to four sides. The idea is to make it look as natural as possible. It also means you should save whatever scraps you have until you have received and measured all of your blocks.) After trimming all blocks to 12 1/2", I have used sashing to help showcase each block. In every single case, I feel like once the blocks were sized, arranged, and quilted, I had another beautiful quilt that will remain in my possession for my entire life. I have labeled them to tell the story so that future generations will know that I consider all of these quilts to be true testaments to friendship.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How did the Quilting Frogs get started?

When we moved to Texas, I was still a lone quilter, but I was looking for some companions to join me in my endeavors. One day when I was walking down the hall, one of my now dear friends asked me if I would teach her to quilt. Thus, the Quilting Frogs were born. (The school mascot was the bullfrog.)

I was more than willing to share what I knew and hoped to learn more as time went on. We met at my house on a regular basis. I lived on a military base, so getting us all together required me driving up to the front gate and bringing the ladies back to the house. We shared meals, laughter and tears, and also quilted. As we worked together, word spread and we added more teachers. Many days during the summer, my husband would come home for lunch and be greeted by all the ladies. I am certain more than a few threads made it back to his office each day, but he never registered a single complaint. When he returned for supper, he was again greeted by many of them. The dinning room was an unofficial quilting studio with several sewing machines humming along happily each day. The center island in the kitchen was just the right height for a cutting table. The ironing board seemed to move from room to room depending on how many of us were "working." He even skipper the pontoon to take us out to "unwind" after all the "hard" work we had done all day. (He is truly an officer and a gentleman, and the better half of our relationship!!!)

In the beginning we shopped at Joann's for all our fabric and many of our tools. It was part of the whole package. Sometimes we would meet there before coming to my house, and other times we would take a break and just go fill our eyes with color and eat out. The whole time we were also building friendships that have grown stronger over the years. When school started up after our first summer of quilting together, we decided to do some quilting on a weekly basis at school. We added a few more teachers at that point. We even made a blue and yellow sampler quilt to help raise money for something at school.

As part of that friendship we have made blocks for four quilts. The first one is the blue and white one. We were still a very small group at that point.

Then we decided to do one for Christmas. We were then a group of five, plus my daughter who was quilting away in Iowa. I made my block as the corner blocks so that I could make a larger quilt and used a quilt as you go method.

Near the end of the second year of quilting together we made our
pink, green, and black quilt. The fabrics for it were gathered while
we were doing a shop hop. We had lots of discussions about what
colors we wanted to call pink and green, but the black was easy. I
do not know if everyone actually pieced their tops, but I did quilt a few on my longarm.

Our latest friendship quilt included 8 friends, including one that I picked up after my move to Tennessee. Those blocks took us longer to finish and share, but I have mine together and will be sharing it with all my friends when we have our first annual quilt camp this summer. The quilt label for this one says "Blocks by Quilting Frogs, Friends, and a Tadpole" This summer the tadpole will move up in the ranks to a full -blown honorary member of the Frogs. (She did not teach with us, but she is my daughter and a wonderful quilter.)

Quilting and Teaching Don't Mix in Equal Parts, but....

When we moved from Washington, DC, to Missouri, I created a sewing area (for the first time)in the basement and was fortunate enough to have my handy husband around to create a large cutting surface for all of my projects. Even so, I had only small windows of time that were not dedicated to teaching or my return to finishing my masters. Missouri is where I made my first t-shirt classes with the help of my school district's after-school (non-professional development- stress relieving )workshops. That brief encounter with sharing quilting experiences was the beginning of looking for others to share my budding interest. BUT, I had so many other things get in the way: finishing my masters in Middle Level Math Education at the University of Northern Iowa(with one semester's worth of Monday night drives from St. Louis to Keokuk, IA), 911, and making another move to New Orleans.

Quite honestly, the only quilt store I visited during these two moves was when I was in Iowa trying to avoid working on assignments for class during my summer school stay. I also spent quite a bit of time that probably could have been used for studying to research the history of quilting. Because of my growing interest in quilting, I did use my increasing knowledge of quilting and geometry to do a major presentation for one of my graduate math classes. Everyone enjoyed the challenge of fitting the block pieces together. Much to the delight of his wife, my professor gave in and went out to buy a quilt that his wife had been eyeing for several years. He said he finally understood why handcrafted quilts are worth the big bucks.

Once my degree was accomplished, I really did start using quilting as a stress reliever. At one point I was so frustrated with a situation at school that I actually took a mental health weekend to make a "crazy" quilt. I am not talking a work of art with all the beautiful stitching, etc, but rather the cutting up of many bits and pieces to create something new. I found that working in a quiet space where I deconstructed and then reformed the fabric into a quilt seemed to help me gain perspective on so many things. Afterwards, I was back at school and fully engaged again. My heart and head had come to the understanding that life is like a quilt - You need different pieces, people, and opinions to make the whole thing work. As I said the quilt was not a thing of beauty and should probably not even be shared, but I want everyone to understand that this so called hobby was much cheaper to do than to go out and find a new job. I love working with kids and teaching math, but quilting brings out a different side of me. (The seeds of a new adventure were beginning to form.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Before 2000

During the first few years of marriage, when the kids were young, I occasionally sewed clothes for the them or myself. I made Jamie lots of beautiful dresses for the holidays - about the only time she would wear them. My favorite shirt for Jon was one we still refer to as the banana shirt. It was not covered with bananas, but it was rather tropical. He had matching shorts to go with it, but I think he hid those shortly after I made them. The shirt was worn until it was pretty much threadbare.

I had lots of other interests at the time, but somehow I always had quilting in the back of my mind. I do not remember any quilters in my family when I was growing up, but my Grandma "Fanny" made lots of beautiful afghans from bits and pieces of yarn - Granny squares. Because I always thought I might be able to do something with the sports shirts and the leftover fabric, I boxed it up and moved it along with all of our other treasures, but not until I started cutting all those hexagons in 1989 did I really consider making a "real" quilt.

My husband is a career Naval officer, which means that we move often and have spent many months adjusting to different locations. In 1989, I was looking for a project to take up more of time so that I would not be thinking about where his ship was heading. I got out that stash of leftover fabrics, and I cut and cut and cut. I did not have any real pattern, I really thought I had cut enough hexagons to make 10 quilts (I only had about 30 left when I finally finished). I stitched by-hand on the the blocks sitting on the bleachers watching soccer practice. I stitched on the blocks late into the night when I could not sleep. I stitched on the blocks sitting in the car waiting for the kids to finish different activities, and I stitched on the blocks while I listened to other Navy wives. You would think that during just a few of those long deployments I could have finished the whole quilt, but I did not.

In 1991, I broke my upper arm in six places, my wrist in one, chipped off some of my shoulder bone and did some real nerve damage. For almost two years I worked to regain the use of my arm. I did not hold much of anything in my right hand because of the discomfort during the time, but I finally made a good recovery. During that time, I did not stitch or even think about it, except to have it packed up for another move.

The needle stayed pretty much packed away for a number of years because I went back to college and earned another bachelor's degree and started teaching. Being a mother, a wife, and a teacher left very little time for anything else. When I could not sleep, I did more school work. However, Grandma's Flower Garden seemed to come out and call me to stitch during school breaks.

With another move and my work on a masters' degree put on hold, I finally started working on the hexagons with real dedication. I made the commitment to finish the whole quilt before 2000. Each piece of fabric represented a special moment in our lives, and I wanted to have it finished before the kids graduated from college and moved on with their own families. I finished the top just before my husband returned from a deployment and had it put together before we left for Christmas vacation. It is a special heirloom, but the best part is when the kids sit down on it and discuss the different memories that the fabrics evoke.

The making of that was the turning point in my quilting adventure. I did not know enough to hand-quilt this "masterpiece. I tied it with dark green embroidery floss, and am still afraid of the idea of washing it. I did make two hexagon-shaped pillow which were hand quilted. One pillow was an experiment. The other one features the Looney Tunes "Taz" and made from the leftovers of a wildly crazed phase of making boxer shorts. Should I go back and do something else to the quilt now that I am much more experienced or should I treat it differently. I do not know, but I believe that quilts are made to be loved and to be used by those we love, so.....

Before Quilting, Marriage and Kids

When I was 10, my mom let me use grandma's treadle machine. During one of the first sessions I managed to sew right through my finger. I was so scare that I continued to work the treadle and scream bloody murder at the same time. Fortunately, I come from a big family and someone rescued me in short order. What would have happened if it had been an electric machine? More on that another time. ha! ha!

My mom was the best seamstress I ever knew. She could look at a dress in the story window and then draw the pattern and create a masterpiece. I loved wearing her creations. My very favorite expression was "Whoever fits it gets it!" Because my mom represented so much of what I wanted to be, I think a big part of my early interest in sewing came from wanting to be as creative as her.

When I was in junior high, girls were required to take one year of home economics, so I took two. We learned to cook and discussed shaving our legs, etc., but my favorite part was the other semester when we sewed. I hate to admit that my favorite thing was making my outrageously bright yellow and orange tent dress and then twirling on the stage for the fashion show. I did not really want to be on stage for everyone to see as much as I loved the way the dress swirled around me.

One of my sister seemed to have a real knack for sewing. I know we all had to take those home ec classes, but sometimes I think she was as inspired by Mom as I was. Even so, I was extremely jealous of her two-piece swimsuit made of little blue and white checks. She looks so beautiful! When she reads this I know that she will laugh, but she looked like a princess to me.

Growing up, I remember my mom sitting at the sewing machine making clothes late into the night. I do not know where she found the time or energy to do this, but I like to believe that she did it as a stress reliever and an outlet to creativity. With so many girls in the family, I do not know if my mom sewed our wedding dresses and the bridesmaids' dresses out of love or necessity, but I remember all the fittings and mock dresses she made to get everything just right. It was so exciting to be the center of attention (like Cinderella and the mice) and feel like I was wearing one of a kind.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

T-Shirt Quilt Thoughts

I was asked about the stretchiness of the t-shirt fabric.
(Here is my edited response.)
As far as the t-shirt fabric goes, the light weight iron-on pellon keeps it from stretching while you sew, but it does add a little "stiffness" to the quilt block. No one has complained that it is really too noticeable, so..... However, I have another book that says you really do not need to back the shirts. It is called How to Make a Too Cool t-shirt Quilt by Andrea T. Funk. I have not tried it. I do know that based on what I read, she really did quite a bit of quilting on hers even though she also talks about tying it. When she gets ready to actually quilt the quilt she puts on a temporary binding to help avoid stretching. The backing is 100% cotton, but not flannel, so that would help keep everything from stretching when you roll it, but I am not certain how this works. I ordered the book from If you try it, I would love to hear about your results.

Why So Many Posts in a Short Time?

My daughter questioned me briefly about the number of posts in such a short time, so I thought there were probably others that were wondering why there have been several posts in a single day. Therefore, let me quickly explain. Quilting is my passion, and I have been asked by friends to share what I have done and what I have learned. I recently discovered blogging and think it is a great way to do this and also do some promoting my quilting services.

I have been quilting off and on for years, and since finishing Grandma's Flower Garden in 2000, I have made many quilts; started a quilting group, The Quilting Frogs; taught a number of friends to quilt; and shared my passion with anyone who would listen. Two years ago, I actually bought a HQ16 and have been quilting for myself and others since then. Beyond the social part of quilting, I also offer several quilting services through my business, Quilting Dreams. I do not have a store front and do not intend to open a "store." However, I love making quilts and doing free motion edge-to-edge quilting, and I am always interested in increasing my client base.

Quilting Dreams Note: If you wish to contact me to help you finish a quilting project, post a private comment and I will send you the information you need. At this point I am not looking for other advertisers to contact me, so I am keeping things low key for a few months.

Photo Memory Quilts

In 2004 I made to very special photo quilts. The first was to commemorate my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. The second was to commemorate my daughter and son-in-law's marriage. Both were a great challenge for two reasons. All the photos came in different sizes and colors, and photo transfer to fabric using a computer was still newer technology. The wall quilt that I made for the folks was first. I gathered pictures for almost a year before I even started. I might have been thinking I could do some kind of framed collage or something, but then I discovered the photo transfer paper and a quilt was born. Laying out the photos was made easier with the help of my husband. We matched different time frames and subjects. While I was adding the finishing touches, my husband and his brother made the quilt holder. It was a very special gift for two very special people.

Once Jamie saw Grammie and Grandpa's quilt, she had a plan. She collected photos from her husband-to-be and dug through all of ours matching up different time frames and topics. Then she sent me some blue striped fabric and told me those were her colors. I panicked for a few days because I was sure I could not work with the stripe. I asked if I could add any other fabric to make it work and was told "okay." Using the stripe for borders and binding seemed to work out well. At the reception it was hung near the guest table for everyone to view. Now it hangs in their stairwell. It is much bigger than the folks' quilt, but then the request was for one that would cover a large section of the wall at the reception.

For those of you that want to make a photo memory quilt, there are now lots techniques and sources to help you apply the photos to the fabric. Check out a few before you decide. Some of the transforns hold up better for washing than others, so if it is going to be a well used quilt this is an important consideration. Use you computer skills to resize the photos, but remember if it looks grainy on paper, it will look even more grainy on the fabric. All photos may be turned to black and white with the click of a button, or you can try other options to create the color palette you love. You can consider adding small sentimental objects if the quilt is going to be used as a wall hanging. When you are ready to start, feel free ask me questions, and I will share what I learned.

Personal note: I was not a longarm quilter when I made these quilts, and I had very little experience with any machine quilting, so I selected a good cotton batting and tied the quilts with embroidery floss. This worked fine, but, this winter, I did notice a little sagging in the bigger quilt. I recommend that you use in-the-ditch quilting or a simple all-over quilting pattern to keep everything from shifting. these types of quilt designs will not take away from the main focus of the project.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Have you read Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber?

Before I ever really quilted much of anything I received an advertisement in the mail for this Christmas Quilt-Block of the Month (1994) designed by Jeana Kimball and presented by Oxmoor House. (picture from the kit) Purchasing the monthly pattern was a guilty pleasure because I was only dreaming about doing it, SOMEDAY. Well, after reading Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber, the second thing I wrote down was that I had always wanted to learn to do hand applique and really complete this quilt. There are 36 different types of blocks with multiples of many. My quilt guild offered a class in needle turn applique in January, and I started working on this quilt immediately afterwards. It is a portable project and great for all the traveling that we have been doing. I have promised myself that I will complete three types of blocks each month and have all the blocks made by the end of 2009. It is April and I am on schedule. I finished the mistletoe block last night. So far, that has been the most challenging block, but I am sure Santa and sleigh, the train, and Noah's ark will be equally as interesting. With summer around the corner, I have sorted the fabrics for many of the applique blocks and have them standing by for long afternoons on the pontoon. I will try to keep you posted once a month on my progress.

My Stash

Because we move about every two years, I managed to keep my stash fairly small, until I inherited my mom's fabric. Up until then I had saved the bits and pieces from the clothes I made for the kids (Grandma's Flower Garden). Since then there seems to be a magic multiplier in my closet because the variety seems to increase with the opening of a door. Every time I go looking for a specific piece, I seem to discover so many others that I love. For the most part, I can tell you when and where a piece a fabric came from and whether it was a gift or a purchase. Like many quilters, I consider fabric to be eye candy and a gift of fabric is a delighful treat. It should be noteded that a day without playing in the fabric is not really a complete day, with the exception of days spent with the grandbabies, family, and friends.

For the past several years I have been able to create wonderful quilt studios in our home. I have been able to make the spaces stimulating as well as inspiring. Right now, I have just about finished reworking my stash. I have the pieces sorted by color, value, and yardage. I have taken lots of the "what will I do with this" pieces and cut 4 1/2" or 5" blocks or made lots of strips for log cabins and other strip pieces. I feel very organized and productive at this point.

Next month I have a weekend planned for my nieces to come and sew on kid/baby quilts for the next generation. We are going to see just how many of the needed 15 quilts we can make. I have the fabric and the machines. All they will need to do is create the random rows of blocks and sew 1/4" seams. We should have a great time, but who knows what we will actually accomplish. Might create a few more quilters!

Between the First Baby Quilts and the Flower Garden

During the years between the first baby quilts and Grandma's Flower Garden, I did not produce any quilts, but I did make a number of tied baby comforters and completed many pieces of counted cross-stitch. I even tried to teach a couple of classes using hardanger embroidery, but I found that it was too frustrating to teach women to count to five. If you have not ever done hardanger you might not appreciate the fact that so few can count to five, and that if you can't you will never have a piece that works out. I still love to do embroidery, but most of what I do now is on my Decco 330. I can even do hardanger of a sort.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

t-Shirt Quilts

T-shirt quilts are a great way to save memories and empty your dresser drawers or closet shelves. I am not a scrapbooker, but give me a set of t-shirts and I am sure they can be turned into a quilt that will keep you warm and bring on memories that will make you smile. Most of the t-shirt quilts I have made have been made in the style shown, but I have made a couple of others that are simply scrap blocks from the leftover shirt material and another that used the little shirt front logos as cornerstones and the back panels as the main block. Jon and Jamie's quilts were made up of the shirts they wore from age 4 through college, so I did need to be creative with the small shirts in order to keep the block size uniform. I left in the neckline and reversed the back to fill the space, and for several blocks I also had to leave part of the shoulder fabric. The overall look must have been satisfactory because 10 years later they are still using them. The photo on the left is of some of my husband's running shirts. (He is back to running again, so there may be another quilt in his future.)

Beyond using t-shirts, I have used other favorite pieces of clothing to create fond memories for a friend. One of my male teaching partners has always worn oxford shirts to class, so we took his shirts and created a design that we both like and then I made him a king-size quilt. It was the first quilt of that size for me to quilt on my long arm. Based on my friend's response, I would say it was a success. When others saw it they immediately recognized it as being a quilt for this man.

There are lots of different ways to construct t-shirt quilts. The bottom line is that you need to remember that t-shirt fabric is generally fairly stretchy and needs to be stabilized in some way to maintain shape. I have used light-weight iron pellon. I place the logo side of the t-shirt face down on a pressing sheet and iron the pellon to the back following the manufacturer's instructions. Then I cut out the squares using a square acrylic ruler as my template. That way I can center the logo before cutting. Next, cut the sashing strips and sew everything in rows. The outer border or borders can be cut larger to increase the size of a quilt. When the quilt is sandwiched together, you have the choice of hand tying or machine quilting. The machine quilting will help to make the quilt wear better, in my opinion. Either way, follow the instructions on the batting concerning how closely you will need to quilt in order to get the best and longest lasting results.

Longarmer Note: If you are going to have the quilt quilted by a longarmer, take the time to press all your seams consistently and trim off all the threads. The more finished your work, the less you will have to spend to have it quilted. Squaring up the quilt top is also very important. If you have been accurate with your cutting, piecing and seam width, you will find that your quilt top is generally pretty square. However, check it again before sending it to be quilted. It will help both you and the longarmer to create a better end result.

Stress Relief

Even today, I would say that quilting is one of my biggest stress relievers, but I think I knew it way back before I finished the Grandma's Garden quilt. My other profession is teaching math, and it can bring on major stress. Many have heard me say things like "If I get fired over this, I will have more time to quilt." I love teaching, and there are many moments of personal joy found in working with middle school students, but quilting is a totally different kind of passion. An hour at the sewing machine or a morning with the longarm allows me a chance to refocus and re-energize.

When I was in one school district, we had lots of extra after-school workshops offeredd by teachers. The workshops were really recreational and not intended for professional development. I am certain the cooking classes and the exercise classes relieved stress for those that took them. I took a t-shirt quilt class and laughed all the way through it. No one missed a single class because it was so much fun. Jamie and Jon received the two quilts I made during those classes, but I have made a few others since.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In the beginning

The first quilt I made was a baby blanket for my son. I remember my mom's comments about it being too bright for a baby. Now days, many of the baby quilts I see or make are much brighter. I think that my daughter still has that quilt, but I am certain that after 30+ years it has been much loved and repeatedly washed. I made another one for my daughter, and I think she has that one as well. Might have to photograph them and add them. (Well, I asked and received. The red one is the one I made for my son and the other is my daughter's. They have obviously faded, but they have stood the test of time and have been well loved.)

The first really big quilt I made was a version of Grandma's Flower Garden. I cut all the flower pieces from fabrics that I had used to make my kids clothes and wall hangings. I purchased the green portion. I cannot even remember if I washed any of the fabrics or just some, but I consider it to be an heirloom. Every stitch is done by hand and considered to be a true labor of love. It took me 10 years of sitting at soccer practices, waiting in the car for the kids to finish up some activity, or riding in the car to some new destination to complete the top. (I did take off 2 years because of a serious injury to my arm.) As 2000 approached, I decided that I would have the quilt completed and on my bed by midnight on Dec. 31, 1999. I made it with days to spare.