Upcycled Baby Blankets

A friend of mine called me a few months ago needing some help. Her dog chewed up her husband’s favorite childhood comforter and she wanted to cut it up and turn it into 4 blankets – one for each of her children. But she doesn’t sew so….

The comforter is super cute, and I see why husband loved it. White background with cute, brightly colored bicycles on it. It’s your standard sorta 70’s or 80’s era comforter with invisible thread and a poly backing that is somehow magically attached to the bike fabric. Except this one had holes.

Lucky for me, the blankets didn’t need to be the same size and I was able to cut around the holes to get four decent sized blankets. Decent enough for kids, at least. Cutting it was a bit of a challenge since the comforter has some puckers in it from the original quilting. Once I did get the pieces cut, I measured them – I arbitrarily picked sizes based on the space I could work with – then I cut flannel to size.

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The easy part was getting a square piece of flannel cut. Because of the gathers in the top, I had to ease in in a few spots from the top and that made sewing down the binding a little less straightforward. I sewed binding to the flannel on two of the blankets, folding the binding to the top, and for the other two I sewed the binding to the top, and folded the binding to the back. I’m not sure which I liked better as they both presented some challenges.

Sewing the binding to the flannel was much easier but stitching the binding to the top of the blanket was harder because I had to work with all the puckers, folds and gathers from the top piece. The inverse is also true. In the end, though, they all look great and my friend is super excited with them.

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I used a yellow and white polka flannel on the back of each blanket and each blanket has a different binding from my pile of scrap bindings. That also allows each child to have his or her own blanket that they can identify by the binding. I consider that a big win, especially for the littles that can’t read a name or a label.

Even bigger win is that she picked them up this morning and is going to surprise her husband for their anniversary tonight. Sweet!

 

Blocking Your Quilt

Do you block your quilts? If you don’t, you should.

Truth be told, I don’t block all my quilts. They don’t all need it. If a quilt is going on a bed, or will be well used and loved, I see no reason to do the work. However, if you plan to put a quilt into a show you should block it. If the quilt is obviously askew, go ahead and do the work. That wall hanging not quite right? Block it. You will thank when you don’t continually look at a quilt that won’t lay flat or has really wonky, wavy sides.

So, what is blocking? Basically, blocking is the process of squaring up your quilt after it’s been quilted so it’s flat and square.

Even though we square up blocks and borders and all our pieces as we sew, the process of quilting can stretch your top (think quilting it out) and you may need to block your quilt. Sometimes your quilt just isn’t square when it’s quilted. Who knows? But it happens to a lot of quilts for one reason or another. Don’t worry if yours isn’t quite right – it can get fixed. Even the professionals have to block quilts from time to time. And, it’s important to reiterate: if you are going to put a quilt into a show, block it. You will never get a blue ribbon if your quilt isn’t perfectly square.

Blocking is one of the most underrated steps in finishing a quilt. I don’t think a lot of quilters talk about it – certainly not high on my list of quilt-related conversations – but for some reason it’s come up twice in the last few weeks. Maybe that’s a sign? I’m taking it as a sign.

I made this Little Lone Star for my friend Sarah to display in her booth during Quilt Con 2017. It’s a quick and easy quilt but I didn’t have time to block it prior to getting it back to her before the show. I knew it wasn’t quite square – mostly square, but not completely – because of all the bias and y-seams, even with starch, thankyouverymuch.

Honestly, I wasn’t even going to mess with blocking the quilt but since it’s not quite square and it’s been a recent topic of conversation in quilt circles (see also: sign), this turns out to be the best little quilt to show you how I do it.

Like most other things quilting, there are multiple ways to achieve your desired results. Blocking is no different, and I’ll go through my process below.

Before doing anything, wet your quilt in the tub. Make sure you get the quilt good and saturated, then press out as much water as you can. I just use my hands and press down into the lob of quilt I’ve created.  Get as much water as possible out of the quilt before transporting it. I roll the quilt out of the tub onto a beach towel to take to the washing machine. This allows the towel to carry the weight of the quilt, meaning you are less likely to damage your quilt from the weight of the water. Gently dump your quilt in the washing machine and turn on the spin cycle.

Once you have a damp quilt, you are ready to start blocking. There are several different ways to block:

carpet over foundation trick
use a plastic drop cloth
use insulation foam/board

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For all methods you’ll need:

rulers
t-pins
tape measure

Here’s the skinny on each:

In my old house, I worked in semi-finished basement room with an inexpensive carpet over the concrete foundation. I may have blocked quilts on the rug from time to time. The carpet on foundation trick worked extremely well. I mean, really well. I had a really solid, stable surface, I didn’t have to worry about t-pins scratching the floor and my quilts came out unbelievably square. So if you have an unfinished basement, get an inexpensive piece of carpet (perhaps a remnant?) and use that on the floor if you have space. Works like a charm.

Recently, I used  a plastic drop cloth over carpet. I didn’t really care for the method. I should have cut down the drop cloth and taped or tacked down the edges. Not doing that resulted in  a plastic sheet that shifted as I worked.  I had to continually pull at the sheet and the quilt to get my quilt to square up. And it didn’t come out quite square on one side. I didn’t like feeling like my quilt wasn’t as taut as it could have or should have been because of the carpet and padding below, either. It could have been a rookie blocking-over-carpet and using a plastic drop cloth mistake, too, but I found greener pastures.

Method three is by far the one I like best. Insulation board. I am currently in the middle of blocking a 77’x72″ quilt and absolutely LOVED using the insulation board! You can buy it in 4’x8′ sheets. I had the home improvement store cut the board into 4′ square pieces so I could get it home. You can also buy 2′ square pieces of insulation board. The smaller pieces are more expensive but if you can’t fit large sheets of insulation board in your car then it’s the way to go.

Tape the insulation board together. I used painters tape because it’s easy to remove so I can store the 4’x4′ boards in the workroom. The example I have here uses a small quilt that fits onto a 4’x4′ board.

Open the quilt flat onto the board(s). You do not need to pull or stretch it, just open it.  I make a few initial measurements (see diagram below).  I block my quilts to the largest measurements. For example, if I measure 76″, 76 1/2″ and 77 1/4″ from top to bottom of a quilt, I make sure the quilt is 77 1/4″ long across left, center and right of the quilt.

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Use t-pins to mark the longest measurements in those 6 spots, gently stretching the quilt where necessary.

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I like to block with the binding on the quilt but not sewn down. I do this for two reasons. First, the quilt can stretch when you sew on the binding. If the binding is sewn down then I can’t stretch it as easily, though I have done that too, like with this example. I use bias binding so I have the ability to stretch the quilt. Second, you can stick t-pins through the seam allowance and not have to worry about messing up the top of your quilt since you’ll sew down the binding and cover up any holes the pins make. If this isn’t an option because the binding is already sewn down, carefully place pins along the edge of the binding where it meets the quilt. You can use your fingers to manipulate the fabric back into place once the pins are removed.

Next, I place a large, square ruler in the corner of my quilt. Gently pull the quilt so the edge of the binding is lined up with the edge of the ruler. Place a t-pin every 3-5 inches.

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I like to have a long ruler that meets my square ruler to continue working along a side to get a straight edge. Line the rulers up along the binding (second photo). You can also pick a spot along one edge and measure a straight line across your quilt using rulers and tape measures (top photo). This works well if you have a lot of acrylic rulers or a small quilt.

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I work my way across the quilt, extending from each side of the square ruler. When I am halfway down an edge of the quilt I place my square ruler in the corner to make sure I get it straight (not straight here).

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I measure and remeasure as I pin to make sure all sides are the correct length or width. You might have to adjust and remeasure here or there.

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Once you have the quilt square, leave it to dry. I like to put a fan on the quilt to help it dry faster. If it’s a nice day, I’ll leave the quilt outside to dry. I put a white sheet on top to keep of animals and debris.

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When the quilt has dried, sew down the binding if you haven’t already, and enjoy your flat, square quilt!

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Remove the Clutter and Create

I strongly believe that in order to create freely, we sometimes have to get rid of the clutter in our lives. That clutter can come in different forms: doing the laundry, cleaning the house, volunteering, helping with homework, and many times for me, cleaning up my sewing room and knocking out some unfinished projects.

When I head to my sewing machine and see small projects littered in my space, I get a little anxious. I WANT to create what I want to create when I have time to sew. The quilt or project I’m working on is THE NUMBER ONE THING, right? I don’t necessarily want to work on those other things I’ve put aside for another day. That’s why those things have been case aside anyhow.

Then I finish my project, and I’m ready to move on to something else, but I have to find inspiration. That’s when the clutter actually helps. If I knock out the little things that I have pushed aside for a variety of reasons, then I help myself in few ways:

  1. I finish a project.
  2. I get said project off the floor and start cleaning(ish).
  3. If a project is finished, then I have more space in my head to create. I’m not bogged down my the pressure to finish “other” things. This is important for me because I tend to get wrapped up in the minutiae.

Recently I finished a few projects, and put another aside for not cooperating, and I started tackling some things that have been yelling “Finish me!”

First up:  a Daisy scout vest. Just needed to sew on a few patches. It took all of 20 minutes. Done and done.

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2. A seriously overdue baby quilt. A very good friend of mine asked me to make quilts for babies 1 and 2. And I had those suckers finished on time. The quilt for baby 3? Just finishing it. Awesome, except she’s 18 months old now. Hey, I was busy writing a book, y’all.

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I was also struggling with how to incorporate the elephants. I’m not sure why but whatevs. It all finally came together. img_95613. And last but not least, a journal cover for a teacher. It’s part of her Christmas gift and all I can say is I hope she likes it. If not, I do, and I’ll gladly take it back.

img_9584Interestingly, another super groovy idea came into my head late one night after I’d finished round 2 with my Bejeweler, proving that sometimes the best way to get your creative going is to clean up projects and free your mind. It makes me happy.

Now if I can just finish up these projects to get to some stuff I really want to work on I’ll be set!

Piecing Makeover Blog Book Tour + Giveaway

What a week it’s been! Wow! Thanks for all the love, y’all! The week was such a success and I couldn’t have done it without C&T Publishing, AnneMarie, Jodie, Teri at GenQ, Sandi, Mary, and Kristin. Really big thanks to each of you!

My biggest tip to share is to ask for help. I mean – How easy is that!? Seriously, though. When I first started to quilt I always asked my mom but not everyone has a mom that sews, or is near. However,  if you are fortunate enough, your local quilt shop has staff on hand to help you work through your problems. Yes, it means another trip out, and you might come home with more fabric but getting inspired while getting help is fun! And I promise they LOVE to help figure out your quilting problems! If the shop can’t help, they will find someone that can. Honest.

If you don’t have a quilt shop near you, go online to see if you can find the answer to your problem, or send a message to a quilter via a blog or read a book – perhaps, mine?  A little time to noodle on the issue might work for you, too. Don’t be afraid to explore possibilities. And if you are worried about messing up your favorite piece of fabric, experiment with some muslin, or old scraps until you’ve solved your problem.

Most importantly, remember it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s how we learn. I have quilts riddled with errors and almost every quilt I make throws me for a loop at some point or another – I really should plan more! But I’ve learned a lot. Some of my (ahem) older friends have been a valuable source of knowledge, too.

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C&T is giving away one copy at each stop along the way and today is your last chance to win a copy of Piecing Makeover  for yourself (printed copy in the U.S. and e-book outside the States). Leave a comment on the blog and we will announce the winners tomorrow.

Here’s the list again so you can check to see if you have won on another page. Winners will be chosen at random using random.org number generator.

9/13  AnneMarie Chany http://www.genxquilters.com/
9/15 Teri Lucas/Gen Q Magazine  http://generationqmagazine.com/
9/16 Sandi Hazlewood http://www.craftyplanner.com/
9/18 Kristin Esser https://kristinesser.com/
Happy piecing, everyone!

*edited on 9/20 – Congratulations to Sally for winning a copy of Piecing Makeover!

Evolution of a Quilt

It started out rather simply. I had a plan, sketched it out, dug through my stash then bought more fabric. Execute. Right? Well, it went that way until it was time to make said quilt.

It was a cool diamond and hexie quilt with an interwoven lattice. I decided to make the diamonds large, so I could piece the top faster. Unfortunately, I made them too large, and by the time I finished I had 20 diamonds that were 20″ from point to point on the long side, meaning my quilt would have covered the living room floor. No bueno.

So began the task of moving around my pieces and figuring out how in the world I could turn what I’d made into a really fantastic quilt. I was frustrated and thought I’d spent a lot of time and money on a quilt that wasn’t going to happen. And, among other things, I knew I didn’t need more random quilt blocks on my studio floor. After several failed iterations on my design wall, I put the diamonds next to each other.

I paused.

I looked at it.

I liked it.

I waited.

I looked more.

I still liked it.

And so began the evolution of this quilt. img_8580

I’m tackling the borders today because, as one might guess, I changed my mind on them and this quilt will go into another evolution.

 

Piecing Makeover

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My book arrived last week. Friday to be exact, yet it took me a day to open the package. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was because it meant the exciting chapter of writing a book was over. Maybe I was a little scared. I know I was anxious about seeing it, which is funny because I KNEW how my book would look, but alas, I waited. Quiet contemplation, perhaps? And how would I feel the moment I could see what I’d been working on for a full year and a half come to fruition?

It actually took me a day and a half to rip into the box. I may have waited longer but Mary’s book arrived the same day and we opened our books together. Yeah, yeah, such girls (also, you should check out her new book. It’s incredible!).

I grew up sewing. My Mom taught me to sew when I was 6 and by the time I was in high school I had mastered Very Advanced Vogue patterns. At 18, though, my interest in quilting was piqued. The art of quilting was very much starting a revival and I wanted to get on board. I helped Mom make a few quilts through the years, but I wanted to make my own. Mom took me to a local quilt shop and we picked fabric for me to make my first quilt. It was far from perfect but it was perfect to me!

My journey began there, at that shop, well before I even knew it, and part of my journey and my dream was realized with this book. I wished for this book for myself when I was just beginning to quilt. I wanted it for a few reasons. As a bit of a self-proclaimed perfectionist with my own work  (hey, Mom has a degree in fashion design so I picked up all kinds of habits and thoughts about my work), I wanted my quilts to be perfect. I didn’t know how to make that happen AND I didn’t have an extra $30 for a class – it wasn’t a priority for me. I could, however, always find an extra $30 for a good quilting book – one that would teach me a few things and serve as a great resource and learning tool.  But none of the books I ever purchased had ALL the things I wanted to know. This one won’t have all  of them either, but it sure has a lot!  My hope is that this book will help you gain confidence and skills in your piecing REGARDLESS of your quilting style – it’s not about modern vs. traditional it’s about making your work better. I’m eternally grateful that C&T saw my vision, too.

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I’m not going to lie when I say that seeing a book with YOUR name on it is overwhelming, and magical, and exciting, and kind of crazy! Sadly (?) what has continued to run through my mind for the last year and a half is Sally Field receiving an Oscar – “They like me! They really like me!” This journey has been phenomenal, and C&T has been incredible to work with every step of the way! I’ve had many cheerleaders throughout the years, and I’m happy to add the staff at C&T to that list. They even sent me  a card along with my book, full of wonderful sentiments about my work from all the amazing people that helped me make it!

 

Quilts for …..

Last week we woke up to an unspeakable tragedy, and as usual, quilters jumped right in to help. I was compelled to make few block to send to the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild, along with some binding, and then a friend asked me why I was doing it. Why am I sending blocks?

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You know, when you are asked a question like that, it kinda makes you think. Why was I doing it? What would compel a person to send blocks and supplies for quilts to people I don’t even know? The answer is simple: LOVE.

Steven Colbert coined it perfectly when he said “Love is a Verb and to Love is to Do”. And that’s what quilters do. This is how we band together for the greater good. In a time of tragedy, any tragedy, not just Orlando, this is how we can show strangers that we care. Think about it. To receive a quilt, a handmade gift always associated with love and kindness and warmth is truly a gift for people during a trying time. When one might be angry, or full of despair, or any other range of emotions, getting literally get wrapped in warmth and love is a great way to help people find comfort. Even if they are strangers.

So that’s why we do it. We can. We can do something good to help others.

Even if it’s only a quilt.