Sunday, March 5, 2023

I make quilts, but for now, they aren't for sale

My quilt inventory keeps growing. For some, this might be a problem, but not for me. Seeing quilts all around me makes me happy. When I look at them, I remember working on them as well as the techniques I learned while making them. I like seeing colorful quilts on the back of chairs, couches, hanging on doors, and on display wherever I can place them. 

I recently purchased a ladder on which to display several of my favorite quilts all in one place. 

Oh wait, they are all my favorites!

Ironically, I do not have a quilt covering my bed. I do however have one folded neatly at the foot of the bed. I also have one hanging from a rack on the wall, above, and another quilt rack on the floor that holds the first quilt I ever made and a couple that my husband inherited.

I have been asked many times if I would ever consider selling them, but I just can't. Only on rare occasions have I given some away, but only to family members. I have never been commissioned to make a quilt. 

I have made many different small projects to give away as gifts but I have nearly all the quilts I've made in the last 20 years. None are "put away." They are all out in plain site, which is just how I like it.

For me, quilting is a quest, a project, a challenge, a skill, an art, a learning experience, and therapy; quilting is basically a highly personal endeavor that takes a year or more to complete. There is no way to put a price on that. 

I truly love the process of making a quilt. From choosing the colors and selecting fabric to hand or machine quilting, to hand-sewing the binding to washing the finished product, I do every step of the quilting process myself. I don't employ long-arm quilters. I don't just piece a quilt and then pay someone else to quilt it. I love all that goes into making a quilt and revel in all the many steps it takes from start to finish. 

The only possible exception to that is putting the quilt top together with batting and backing and securing it through some sort of basting to get it ready for the quilting. Because of my limited space, basting is not an easy task and one I'm not too fond of. But once the quilt is sandwiched together, I am back to loving every stitch, whether it be by hand or machine. I love both methods.

I don't quilt when I have the time so much as I make the time to quilt.   

I don't have as much time to devote to quilting as I would like, but I steal away hours here and there.

For the past eight years, I have been the sole caregiver for my husband who is disabled. I do all the chores around the house and in the yard, all the cooking and cleaning and take care of our three inside cats and feed our three outside cats. I do not have much spare time, but when I do, it often involves quilting. If I'm not sewing myself, sometimes I just watch other people sew on You Tube or my favorite quilting sites. Quilting is my obsession.

All this said, I can see a time when I may want to make quilts to sell. It just hasn't happened yet because the challenge is what inspires me the most. I guess that is because I am still learning, still trying to perfect my skills, and most importantly, still challenging myself. But I am getting there. Some day I may go into the quilting business, but for right now I am content with the way things are. There are still so many techniques I want to try and traditional patterns I want to make.

I don't have a quilting studio, so any business I would undertake would have to be limited. I basically have a breakfast bar that I've converted into my quilting space. I've written about my space in the past. It is very small, but it works for me. There is a place for my sewing machine, as well as a cutting and pressing area. What more could a girl ask for? I've machine quilted large quilts there quite handily. The only drawback to a small space is that it must be tidied often. I am limited to one project at a time because there just isn't room for more. That is OK too, since one of the other things I love is all the organization necessary to keep my space functional. I use baskets, cubbies, jars, and whatever else I can come up with for organizing the myriad tools and multitude of what-nots that are necessary for quiltmaking. 

So, for now, I have no interest in turning my obsession into a business, but stay tuned, because who knows what the future will bring. 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Every quilter needs a quilting cat

I can't help but share the photo of my quilting cat, Sally.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

A new quilt top to close out the year

I can't believe I finally finished this. While it is only a quilt top and remains a long way from becoming a completed quilt, I am totally enamored with it. I've never thought quilt tops had much personality--that until they are quilted they are rather boring. But, I can't say that about this one.

I almost didn't take this on. When I was making the decision whether or not I wanted to make it, I almost reverted back to my my old way of thinking, back to when I favored traditional, simple, monochromatic quilts. At first glance, I thought this was way too busy for my taste, has too many colors, too many pieces, and just has too much going on for my liking. I wondered if I could even do something so complicated. But that was before I started working on it, but I do love a challenge. And, this certainly fits the bill. Interestingly, I have thought the exact same thing with each of the last several projects I've done. And, I have fallen in love with each of them.

Old ideas are haunting, but I think I have actually changed my thinking, grown in my appreciation for the artful work. It didn't take me long to realize how much I appreciate all the pieces, all the colors, and how it all fits together. 

This was a project offered by, one of my favorite goto's for all things quilting. 

This is a design by Australian quilt instructor Irene Blanck who named it Garden Party Down Under. I have an absolute admiration for her and people like her that dream up beautiful quilts and then write clear and concise instructions for others to follow so we can re-create their work in our own way.

Though I didn't deviate from her instructions, I did use my own fabric in the colors that I like. This project was offered as a kit, with fabric included, but I generally like to choose my own. Afterall, that is why I collect fabric. This could even be considered a scrappy quilt, since so many of the pieces are small and leftover from other projects.

This quilt was a real challenge for me for so many reasons, not the least of which was the heavy emphasis on applique. I still consider myself new to needle-turn applique, which I enjoy immensely. I am not completely comfortable with it yet, but I love to practice. I've come to really love hand sewing. 

Once I got through that first month's 'assignment,' the center block, I was hooked. I have said before and will say it again, I love every bit of the process of quiltmaking. With this project, I loved cutting out all the tiny pieces, fitting them into just the right place on a square of fabric, and then hand-sewing them. I took it one step (month) at a time. It took almost every bit of the entire year to make this quilt top. I got a late start so had to play catch-up, but it was something I wanted to do. For a time, it was non-stop sewing day after day, as time allowed. No one is more surprised than I am that I could hang in until the end, right down to those 80 diamonds all the way around the border. 

In the picture above, I laid the quilt out onto the living room floor to get a picture of it. I was surprised to see that it was a pretty good fit for my bed. I had no idea it was that big. 

It will be awhile before I start quilting it. I have one other quilt top that I want to quilt first, and a new BOM to start on next month, not to mention a few other projects I've begun. I will get to it though, and when I do, I will love every minute of it. I'm thinking simple hand-quilting to accentuate the applique. There is no doubt in my mind that I will enjoy quilting it as much as I enjoyed putting all the pieces together. But that will have to come later. For now, I am just happy with how it turned out.

Monday, October 24, 2022

My latest find-best marking tool for quilts

Quilting offers many challenges, which is what I love about it. But one of the most mystifying, at least for me, has been the part of the process of marking the quilt for quilting.  No more. I have found a product I love.

I bought these marking pens at left from Amazon. They are fantastic. The color is easily visible; the point is fine enough for small marks and the pens themselves are small in size. Made in Japan, the marks made by these pens wash out easily with a slight spritz of plain water. I tend to use a paint brush dipped in water to “paint” away the marks, generally, as I go. That seems to work best for me. I have no problem getting rid of the marks.

The color lasts for as long as it is needed. The only possible drawback when trying to hand quilt on the drawn lines, is a slight resistance in the fabric, but it is worth it to have a dependable pen that won’t run out of ink five minutes after the cap is removed. These pens last a really long time. In fact, I bought these in December 2020 and am using my second of five that come in the package. I have marked several projects in that time and my pen is still going strong. The marks show up on most of the fabrics I use. On dark fabric, I use a white chalk pencil.

I admit that I have always been partial to those blue water erasable marking pens that are sold everywhere from quilt shops to Walmart. I have been marking quilts since the early 1990’s, almost always using those. But these pens are far superior to them.

There are so many options for marking a quilt, from silver pencils, plain ole mechanical pencils, tailor’s chalk, pounces, and disappearing ink using water, heat, or just time, to name a few.

We all have our preferences, and this is mine. There is no longer a mystery for me about what to use to mark my quilts. I love these pens.

I have been doing some needle-turn applique. I now mark the the outline of applique pieces on background fabric as well as the small pieces to be appliqued onto it.  The line is fine enough that it is easy to turn a piece right where it is supposed to be. When I am finished, if there is any mark at all on the piece or the background fabric, I simply use my brush dipped in water to paint it away.

I have not yet tried the pink pens that claim to be air erasable, but that may be my next purchase.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Latest project so satisfying

I was once terrified of needle-turn applique. So, when I glimpsed this year's Block of the Month project from The Quilt Show, one of my favorite on-line quilt experiences, I wasn't so sure I could handle this quilt, called "Garden Party Down Under."

I had done some hand-applique, but I knew I wasn't very good at it.  

My quilting journey is and has been since my first quilt about 25 years ago, all about challenging myself. So, I decided to give it a try. Even if my skills are less than stellar, I knew this quilt would turn out to be beautiful. 

I am so glad I decided to give this a try.

Despite my late start, beginning the January block about five months into this year, I am well on my way to getting caught up. I have been working feverishly, but not because I'm behind, but because I LOVE hand applique and this quilt contains a ton of it. I am now working on Month 8 (August) and am loving every minute of it. 

The more I do it, the more comfortable it is to sit in a favorite chair as I listen to music, an on-line book, or the television, as I stitch. 

As the care-giver for my husband who suffered a stroke seven years ago, I don't really have much 'spare time.' I have no problem working on a quilt project while the laundry piles up or dishes fill the sink. Those mundane chores will just sit there until I decide to take them on. I refuse to be a slave to such things. I decided long ago that my freedom to do as I please will always take precedence over a perfectly clean house, perfectly manicured garden or having all my chores completed.

Quilting is not just a hobby for me. It is my therapy. It is my inspiration, stimulating my desire to be better at something that matters to me. I enjoy the creative process, making something beautiful, and learning new things.

I remember when I first started quilting many years ago. I knew instinctively that I would always be a quilter. I soon realized that there would be no end to learning techniques, patterns, fabrics. I had no way to know that quilting would be my salvation, a lifeline to stave off depression or to renew hopes and dreams during the difficult times of extreme stress.

Quilting is not just busy work for me. I continue to learn new things. I have spent countless hours studying the work of others and adapting techniques that suit my abilities.

At left is an example of the first two months of work, the center medallion of this quilt designed by Australian artist Irene Blanck. There will be more photos to come.

This project was sold as a kit, but I always like to use the stash of fabrics I've collected. While this isn't considered a "scrappy" quilt, I am using my favorite colors and fabrics, many of which are scraps from other quilts I've made.

I really can't wait to see how this turns out and even better; I can't wait to hand-quilt it. 

I've decided that although I love my sewing machine, I really love hand work. I plan to sew by hand just as long as my eyes and hands cooperate. So far, so good.




Friday, December 17, 2021

Latest project-scrappy pot holders/hot pads

CHQuilts: Scrappy pot holders
A friend of mine was shopping for oversized pot holders to purchase as Christmas gifts for family members. She said she had been given some and liked how they could be used either as pot holders or as table pads for hot pans. 

When she asked if I was interested in making a couple for her, I hesitated, but only for a moment.

I don’t usually make anything to sell, though that might be a good idea. I generally just make quilts and quilted items for the pure joy of creating them. I’ve given away some quilts, table runners, and other small items, but I’ve kept most of my projects because they represent a personal challenge to me. Often times, a new project introduces me to something I’ve never done before. I do love the process of quilt making, starting with the decision about the project itself. Each quilt I’ve chosen to make is picked for what I can learn; a method, technique, or skill I’d like to master. I also make quilts to retain my sanity. Quilting is therapy at the same time that it challenges me.

So when my friend came to me with this new request, it fit the bill and I was up for it.

I already had insulated batting that I had purchased years ago for the purpose of making pot holders, but just never did. Of course, I already had fabric and batting in my stash. It was just a matter of figuring out how to make what she wanted. I settled on a scrappy string design.

These measure about 11 inches square. I liked how they turned out. I like the way they look. In fact, I think my kitchen is crying out for a couple of turquoise ones. I may just get on that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

I've overcome a hand-sewing bias

CHQuilts: Halloween candle pad
Hand sewing is just not my thing, or is it?

I have long believed that hand work just wouldn’t hold up as well as the work done on a machine; that is, until I started my own hand-sewing projects.

This small Halloween candle pad, made with one-inch hexis, is my most recent project. I will give it to my daughter, Jenny who is enamored by all things Halloween. I hope she likes it.

What a fun way to practice my hand work and to help me decide if I really want to make that Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt I have longed for.

All that sewing can be grueling if you don’t love it. But the more I do it, the more I think I’m starting to love it. I just don’t know yet if I love it quite enough for an entire quilt.

I had no experience with hand-sewing until recently. I’m in learning mode, so I’m trying out all kinds of new techniques and skills. I did some of my fist hand sewing on applique blocks for a recent quilt—Afternoon Delight—one I’d written about extensively in prior posts. It seems the more I did needle-turn applique, a popular method of hand-sewing small pieces of fabric onto a larger one to form a design and/or motif, the more that became my preferred method of applique.

I also recently hand-quilted that quilt and found that I really enjoyed that hand work as well. Like with most skills, the more you do them, the better you get at it.

Now, I might just be hooked on hand work.

I’m not sure where my bias came from. Perhaps it was just inexperience rooted in my own ignorance of the process. I’ve long been impressed by other people’s hand work—all kinds of hand work dating back to the fancy embroidery on my grandmother’s crazy quilts. Perhaps it was just a lack of confidence on my part.

I think the first time I questioned my own bias was when I learned that Jinny Beyer made all of her gorgeous quilts by hand. She hand pieces as well as hand quilts them and they are spectacular. I couldn’t have been more impressed. Jinny Beyer is one of my quilting heroes.

Like all things quilting, and with the help of so many technological teaching tools, I am teaching myself to hand sew. The joining of my first hexagons was definitely lacking, but the more I do it, the more I can hone my skill. I’ve learned how to place my needle so the stitches don’t show on the front of the piece, but are strong enough to hold the pieces together. I learned the hard way to secure with a knot with each direction change so the stitches don’t unravel.

Everything about quilting is a process and I have yet to find one I don’t absolutely adore. Hand-sewing is just one more.