Category Archives: tips and tricks

simple suggestions for making life easier

in a bind?

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I don’t know about you, but hand stitching a quilt’s binding to the back is not my idea of a good time. I know there are quilters who love that, for a variety of reasons. Stitching in front of the tv is a relaxing time, the end of the quilt is in sight, love to hand stitch are a few I’ve been told. Only very special “heirloom” quilts get a hand stitched binding from me. Although I do it well, I’d rather take the faster machine stitched route on most of my quilts. Most my quilts are going to be used, (hopefully not abused), and will be going in and out of the washer and dryer. I’d rather use a decorative stitch to make it a bit more fun and snazzy and “git ‘er done”.

Here’s a new technique, new to me anyway, that might give nicer results on the back for many of us. I’m going to try it on a small project to see if the extra effort is worth it. It requires an extra type of thread (water soluble), some cotton thread, and 2 specialty feet for the machine. Luckily all are items I already have. I wonder though if the threaded side came to the front, would it look like a piping? Hmm…

Click here to see how she does it.

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In Dublin’s fair city, where the quilts are so pretty…

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Apologies to all you Irish purists out there. I know those aren’t the right words but I hope you’ll allow me a bit of license.

Are you switching out your hearts and flowers and reds and pinks to greens today (or soon anyway)? I have only a few quilted pieces for St. Patrick’s Day and am thinking I should put together one or two small toppers for the special day. Here’s a link to some ideas, in case you have a similar dilemma. Click here.   I think I’m going to round up some green scraps and try out that shamrock with four patch leaves. It should be quick and easy.

What’s your favorite technique for 4 patches? When I only need a few, and I want them to be scrappy, I like to use the two from two technique I learned from Billie Lauder at a seminar of ours a few years ago. It’s easy to get a scrappy look without having to cut so many individual assorted squares. Click here for a quick explanation of this easy technique. It’s not written by Billie, but it’s her technique clearly explained. click here.

As I’m sitting here typing, I’m listening to the drip of a leak coming from some of the ice dams across my back roof. Anybody else having those issues? I guess I’ll be back out on the flat roof of the addition tomorrow whacking away at the gutters to see what I can knock loose. Oh the joys of home ownership!

TTFN.

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Ya Gotta Have Heart

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Happy Valentine’s Day. With this weather it’s a great day to sit inside and quilt. I’ve done a little search for some heart quilts that could be quick and easy-although you probably won’t get them done today for this year’s holiday, they could be easily finished in time for some other occasion needing heartfelt wishes.

log cabin heart (only 12 blocks): click here

hearts and chevrons (uses only half square triangles and snowball corners, can easily reduce the number of each needed for a smaller quilt): click here

pieced heart block (this is a 12″ block pattern, you can make just one for a small table mat or several for a baby quilt or more): click here

Since we’re a bit of the way through February, those of us  participating in the gifting challenge quilt-a-long should be on our 2nd quilty gift project. How are you coming along? I’ll fess up that my original idea for using a Jenny Doan video for disappearing pinwheels is stalled-not giving up on it though. I have finished up 2 UFO’s that will be holiday gifts. One is a set of “nesting” zippered pouches, and the other is a Christmas quilt which had been incomplete for about 2 years. I’m counting myself as “on track” for the challenge since I have gotten 2 gifts done to check off the list. How about you? Anyone willing to also fess up on your progress?

I try to get out seasonal quilts each month and I do have a few heart themed pieces around the place now. But I am thinking ahead to March and wondering what I’ll get out in the green leafy family. Maybe I could make something up to use myself and then pass along at Christmas time. Is that allowed? Regifting? Since shamrock leaves are basically 3 hearts joined, I think I might be able to use some of the techniques I linked to up above. Hmm…

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Signing your work

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Do you label or sign your quilts when you finish them? I generally do except for table runners and toppers. I’m finding more and more when I change the “quilts” for the seasons or holidays that I like to look on the back to check when I made the piece. I’m often surprised-sometimes by how old the piece is and sometimes the reverse, by how recently I made it. I’m just checking for dates.

I do hope that all of my pieces will find good homes after I’m gone. What would those owners want to know when enjoying my quilted art works? Maybe I should be including more information. Isn’t it fun when examining an antique quilt to find the quilters name and date somewhere-even more fun if it tells where and why it was made? We should be adding those little surprises to our own quilts for their future owners down the road. I recently saw a tip for those of us with somewhat fancier machines which have the capability of stitching the alphabet–not necessarily an embroidery machine. Many higher end sewing machines can be programmed to stitch out words and phrases. The hint I read suggested stitching at least your name and date onto the binding near the fold before applying the binding to the quilt. She suggested you could then position the binding so that information ends up on the back sometimes, other times on the front. She also suggested stitching messages to the recipients-sometimes with a thread that is nearly, but not quite, invisible against the binding color and other times with a highly contrasting thread so the message stands out. That reminds me of a quilt I made for my softball playing niece when she went off to college. Each square’s quilting was a phrase I would hear when watching her games and practices. “Batter, batter, batter!” “Good eye!” “Go, Kara!” and many other of those “sporty” encouragements. Jjust one square had the message-“call your Auntie!” Kara is now 27, working in Washington DC and still has that quilt on her bed.

Generally when I sign my quilts I use a permanent pen and just write my name and date completed somewhere on the back along a line of quilting. I think I’m going to try this binding idea out on my next one. Here’s a link to some other ideas for labelling quilts. Click here.

How do you label your quilts?

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quilting the new year-2015 gifting challenge

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’m hoping that tomorrow will begin a return to normalcy around here. The holiday goodies are all gone-either eaten or discarded. The plan to get rid of excess avoirdupois is in place. The holiday quilts and decorations are coming down and being laundered a few at a time. That chore should be complete by the end of the week.

I’m ready to begin my new quilting-for-fun projects. How about you? Quilting for holiday gifting loses its charm after the 10th project or so. Part of my plan for this year is to spread those “gifty” projects throughout the year. I say we set a challenge for ourselves. Let’s complete one gift project per month through the year and report back here. In that gift project, try to incorporate something that will make it fun for you. I’ll remind us at the end of each month. Since we’re just starting this we’ll give our goal for this month now. As the year goes on, when we report on the month’s completion (we hope), we’ll set the next month’s goal at the same time.  To keep this achievable make it just 1 project per month if you want to join in. If your potential recipient is also a reader, you can cloak your monthly report in whatever verbal disguise you need.

Okay then. I’ll start us off. Most, but not all, of the quilt appreciators in my family already own a holiday lap size quilt from me. I have 2 to go. So my first goal is to make one from my holiday fabric stash. No new purchase is necessary. I’ve taken 2 online classes recently about machine quilting with a walking foot. I’ll use this holiday quilt as a practice piece for another quilting technique I’d like to try. I’m going to use a disappearing pinwheel technique from Jenny Doan’s Missouri Star Quilts as the pattern. That’s another thing I’ve found online that I want to try. (Here’s a link to the block I’m going to use. Click here.)

Please join in on the challenge and share your first goal for the year in the comments section. We’ll give encouragement, and maybe I can come up with a prize or two as an incentive to keep sewing!!

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What are your values?

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

What a beautiful morning we have today! The first canine perambulation of the day was so refreshing! Both of us enjoyed meeting some of the neighbors out walking too, since many of them are working today due to the holiday.

I’ve been playing with a new computer program (EQ7 is new to me and my Mac) which makes it so easy to move the placement of values in a quilt block. I once heard a big name quilter (can’t recall exactly which one though!) say that “value does all the work, but color gets all the credit!”. Definitely is true.

Here’s a link to a short video (click here) which makes this point so well. I think a fun challenge for our guild might be to choose a block, give just a line drawing to participants, and see what everyone does with it. If we all got one of those dragonfly eye lens that multiply the image, we could have fun looking at all sorts of quilts without having to make them all ourself! Just a thought for whichever member is going to be the next challenge chair.

Heading outdoors now to enjoy our last bit of fall, before Old Man Winter comes to visit.

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Don’t hurt yourself!

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’m sure if you’re more than a rank beginner to quilting, you know that quilting does use a lot of muscles. It’s not difficult to make your body tired and sometimes sore after an extended period of any of the processes involved in producing a quilt. We had a speaker at a guild meeting not long ago who gave some tips, but perhaps you weren’t at that meeting or you would like a review.

Check out this video. Tips are given for finding more comfort or less strain in each step along the way, starting from cutting the fabric all the way to the hand stitching of the binding. If you are an embroiderer the hand stitching tips and the stretches suggested would be helpful for you as well.

Have you got your project ready to work on in between tomorrow night’s trick or treaters?

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