Confession of a Quilt Blog Reader

I am a avid quilt blog reader. I love when one of the blog that I follow put up a new post. I find most of the blogs that read is through blog hops or other bloggers links. I find inspiration from these blogs and the ability to win fabrics and other notions! Some of the blogs that I read are:

Swim, Bike, Quilt

Pink Chalk Studio

Whipstitch Fabrics

Pile O' Fabric

Freshly Pieced

Quilt Story

Fresh Lemons

Diary of a Quilter

Don't Call Me Betsy

Stitched in Color


In Color Order

Ellison Lane

Stitchery Dickory Dock

i'm a ginger monkey

I hope that these blogs bring you inspiration.

Saturday series--Quilt backs

I think just about all my ideas for quilt backs have been used up already, so I decided to make a Flickr mosaic out of a few backs I liked from the Flickr pool, Quilt Backs.

I will add, though, if my quilt is not super-precious or I am giving it to charity, I will often just use a pretty sheet from the thrift store as my back. Instant backing, no piecing, and usually less than $5. Yippee!

1. back (center photo). Giant words--so cute on a kid's quilt! You could also piece the kid's name.

2. Scrappy rainbow quilt - back (top left). Use a single strip of fun colors to widen a single chunk of yardage enough to fit.

3. Wildlife Portraits WIP back (by Flaun!). Use thin strips of a dark or light solid to frame, outline, or offset chunks of fabric.

4. Kill that Cancer Finished Quilt Back. Inspirational words.

5. blue and black granny square back. Make a giant version of a square from the front.

6. Anne's Quilt - Back. Applique handprints or other meaningful things onto the back of a gift quilt.

7. R├╝ckseite Farbrausch. Consider slicing and inserting a solid into a print.

8. Central Texas Wildfires Donation Quilt Back. A great way to use lots of tiny scraps for big impact. Most of the back is still three giant chunks, which is very fast.

9. Empire Quilt Back. Use one or a few simple blocks paired with giant chunks.

10. geometric quilt - back. Even more small pieces with giant chunks. Love this idea!

11. Back of Finished Confetti Quilt. Just go crazy in your tiny scraps!

12. Mod Mosaic Back-Totally Finished!. Things don't need to be cut straight.

13. Off Centered Sherbet Squares Back. Just small pieces of improvisation have a great impact without being busy or very time-consuming.

Hope that gives you some more ideas!

Hand Quilting My Way

As much as I love my sewing machine, there are times when hand quilting is the break I need from my hectic life. It makes me slow down and be patient and connects me to a long, rich history of sewists and quilters before me. In the spirit of  the Take It With You challenge, I thought I would give a quick overview of hand quilting.

Materials needed:
A basted quilt top or small project (maybe a pillow top to start?)
Hand quilting thread (100% cotton, usually waxed or coated/glazed. I prefer YLI.)
Quilting needles (Betweens are the needle of choice for quilting, size 8-12)
Small thread snips
Quilting hoop (this is like a monster embroidery hoop)

Of course, you can quilt with regular needles and no hoop, but I have found it makes it much easier to have  the "right" tools. There is also perle cotton quilting which uses a type of thread called perle cotton, which is thick like embroidery floss, and larger-eyed needles. This gives a much showier, larger stitch and really stands out on modern quilts. A good example is here on Molly Flanders Makerie.

The most common quilt stitches are the stab stitch and the rocker stitch. Stab stitching is where you stab the needle straight down and then straight back up along your line of sewing, making one stitch at a time. Slow going, but necessary where there are a lot of layers or tricky bits of a design (like tight curves). The rocker stitch is what is considered the "quilting stitch" by most people and is what I am going to attempt to describe. If you are reading this you are probably a quilter already so I will not describe quilting designs or marking your quilt. 

Put your quilt sandwich into the hoop and snug it down fairly tightly. It should have some give as you need to be able to push up on it from the bottom. Decide where you want your line of stitches to be and insert your knotted thread about a half inch from the right-hand end of the line (reverse if left-handed), going just under the quilt top and batting. Bring the needle up where you would start your stitching and pull the knot into the batting to hide it. With your left hand under the quilt hoop, feeling for the tip of the needle, insert your needle straight down just until it comes through. Then "rock" the needle down parallel to the quilt top with your hand in a C shape while pushing down with your thumb. Simultaneously push up with your middle finger from the bottom to create a small ridge or hill which the needle should go through. (Just until you feel/see it.)

That is one stitch! Now while keeping that stitch on the needle, bring it straight up and down again and do another. I usually do 4 or 5 before I pull the needle, but my grandma would get 10 tiny, perfect ones on there each time. I use a small spring loaded pliers to grab the needle and pull it through as it is easier on my hands, but that is just me.
When you get to the end of your thread take a tiny backstitch, make a knot, and pull it into the batting, bringing the needle out an inch or so away and clip the thread, burying it in the batting. One of the nice things about hand quilting is you can "travel" between the quilt layers so your whole design does not have to be one continuous line.
 Most right-handed people quilt from right to left or from furthest away towards them, but it is really about finding what is most comfortable for you.  The same thing applies to thimbles, find one that is comfortable and wear it on whatever finger you use to push the needle. I never worry about stitches per inch or perfectly straight lines as I usually want my hand quilting to look a bit more homespun than machine work.
Of course, there are many good You Tube videos, books, and tutorials out there as well. Here is a good one from Sew, Mama, Sew! by Sarah from Hip to Piece Squares. If I need inspiration for designs, I usually search for sashiko designs or just follow the seam lines of my quilt blocks. While it is definitely more time consuming to hand quilt, it has its own way of being rewarding. Give it a shot and don't forget to "Take it With You" this summer!

Spring Series--Quilt Backs

I have to admit that by the time I get to the quilt back, I'm so eager to finish the quilt that I don't take the time up front to really plan it out before I begin cutting and sewing. Of course, this usually works against me and I spend way more time trying to make it work on the fly than if I had taken the time to sit down, think it through and do the math.

This plus quilt back is a good example of this. I had an idea for the back early on--to include a small inset of pluses on the back. But, it turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. Generally I think it turned out ok, but that uneven pink stripe on the bottom still drives me a little nuts!

In an attempt to change my ways, I recently enrolled in a free Craftsy class called Creative Quilt Backs. The class is taught by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh Fransson. I found the class to be really helpful by giving fairly detailed instructions on how to plan for, layout, and do the math to get your quilt backs to work right the first time. I was a little surprised to see how precise she is even in quilt backs that look very improvisational. I guess I knew this from my own previous mistakes, but I was secretly hoping that I could be done with the math once the top was out of the way!

The quilt back I finished after watching the class did turn out better than some of my previous attempts. If I recall, I still didn't get it exactly right, but it was at least closer than my usual!

My latest back gave me the most trouble. I went back to my "just start sewing" method of piecing the quilt back since it was going to all be one piece of fabric except for one contrasting block with the other colorway (should be easy right?). I think I had to redo this a couple of times and still don't really like it (and it was not quite the right size). I guess I'm a sucker for learning the hard way, even when I know better! Graph paper and math next time for sure. 

May Meeting Minutes/Show & Tell Photos

Here are the notes from our May 9th meeting:
  • Lisa brought in a guest speaker for our 10 Minute Tip on Stretching which was great!
  • Please consider signing up to write a blog post.  If we each posted once a quarter that would be great! Kristin is your contact for more information on how simple it is to write a blog post and post it. (minneapolismqg [at] gmail [dot] com). 
  • Please let Flaun know your favorite fabric shop. She is giving a talk on "What is Modern Quilting" at the Minnesota Contemporary Quilters (MCQ) on May 20th and they are interested in learning where we buy our fabric.  Both brick and mortar and/or online are welcome. Shoot her an email or Facebook message.
  • We announced our first retreat which is scheduled for this November 22-24 at Camp Wapo in Amery, WI.  The cost is $135 for members and $145 for non-members. Read the Retreat page, which includes a sign-up sheet. We will have more information on the retreat throughout the summer along.
  • Our next Social is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22nd at 6pm at Common Roots.  This is very casual and open for you to come and go at your leisure. We meet in the back room and you can order food and/or drink. Bring something to sew or just come and socialize.
  • We are hosting a Sew-B-Q at Lisa's house on June 1st from 11-4.  Please bring something to grill as well as something to share.  We will supply a variety of drinks and all paper products.  Bring your sewing machine for some outside sewing and you can also do some fabric shopping at Lisa's fabric studio, PixieSpit/Fresh Stash.  Go to the Members section of the blog and get all the details
  • MN Quilt Show: The show this year will be held in Duluth.  Kristin is going to make a round trip on Saturday, June 15th to Duluth. She will have her van and if anyone interested in carpooling with her, please send her an email or Facebook message for more information.
  • We held the following swaps/drawing:  Name tag swap, the April block lotto drawing and the May block 'cookie' block exchange (lots of stuff since the April meeting was cancelled).

April Block Lotto
April block lotto was a wonderful sight to see, all those warm colors after a too-long Minnesota winter.

  • The June block lotto is curved piecing. See it on the Block Lotto page. Watch for it and give it a try.
  • We announced our Summer Challenge..."Take it with you". [Blog post] Make anything you like with some handwork incorporated in it. You can knit, embroider, hand quilt, hand sew, etc.  It can be all handwork or have partial handwork incorporated in it.  At our next meeting we hope to have a small hand sewing kit to pass out to everyone who is going to participate.  Please note that just some of the project has to have hand work, not the entire thing (some or a lot of machine sewing is allowed).  We will reveal our projects at our September meeting.
  • We hosted our first Garage Sale and it was a great success.  We raised $147 and want to thank everyone for donating AND buying.
  • Our next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 13th at Sewtropolis.  Social Hour starts at 6, meeting starts at 6:30 and we should end around 8pm.
  • Show and Tell projects where shared and as usual, they were awesome!

Nancy's Madrona challengeMarie's Madrona challengeMaria's Madrona challengeCaitlin's Madrona challenge We had a few more Madrona Road challenges shared.

Annik had a very early guild challenge show and tell (polka dot swap from 2010). It is NEVER too late to bring a show and tell!

Rozina's block lotto "Green Monster" And while we are on challenges, Rozina returned with a completed project from the February block lotto, finished quilt titled "green monster."  Many oohs and ahs heard around the room on this layout and quilting.

We had several seriously productive members in the past couple months:

two of Colby's recent projects

Kristin L's
Kristin L's side B (sideways!)

and one of Kristin's latest projects (front and back)

Deb brought in a string of delightful projects....with extra fun!

We learned Deb likes buttons....
 Deb's Owl zipper challenge
and owls (hidden inside the zippered tree)

Steffani B's Single Girl wall hanging

Steffani B.'s
 Two of Steffani B's latest.  

Nancy had quite the collection of show and tell projects too! Nancy's Nancy's Nancy's

This one from Tracy features strips of fabric she used to square up the blocks, nice improvisation and super cute!


 Nikol had some scrappy fun with this weekender bag

  Cameron's latest creation.

Okay, all these beauties remind me I need to get going on some of my projects so I can have something for show and tell next month. Happy creating!

Stretch Break!

We were lucky enough to have a guest speaker for our 10 minute tip at our May meeting.  Julie Mueller (who does Orthopedic and Medical Massage and Craniosacral Therapy) came to give us some pointers on the importance of and proper procedures for stretching.

She suggests regular stretch breaks while sewing and daily stretches after a long hot shower to keep everything working smoothly.  She stressed the importance of moving slowly and holding stretches for up to 3 minutes.

My favorite is the Rumble Roller 
begin sitting, perched on the roller/bolster, rocking and slowly moving up the spine toward cranium
turn roller/bolster so you are lying with bolster running the length of the spine, feet wide

Julie has appointments available for massage Thursday through Monday.  Call or text 612 205-4453

After a quick google search of "stretches for quilters" I found this great little article with good descriptions and some quirky graphics to go along with them.
Ten Exercises for Quilt-makers
“Ten Exercises for Quiltmakers” by Christine N. Brown, American Quilter magazine. 

Summer challenge: Take it with you!

Summer is often spent outdoors or away from your sewing machine: lounging on the deck, sitting at sporting events, camping, travelling in the car, and so on. So, we want you to come up with a project that you can take with you! This challenge is due at the September meeting, giving you four months instead of the usual three.

Olympic Ogees #1 and 2
Flaun's Ogees
The rules: this time, absolutely none! You can sew, knit, crochet, embroider, or do whatever hand work you want. Also, if you loathe hand work and want to do something on your machine, go for it! Make up your own rules to challenge yourself.

So, the most obvious choice if you want to make a quilt or quilty item is English Paper Piecing (EPP). To encourage everyone to at least try out EPP, we will be giving out a little EPP starter kit to every paid member, which will be ready at the May 22nd social. You can also pick it up at the June 1st bbq or the June meeting. If you can't make any of these, contact me and I will leave it at Sewtropolis for you.

I encourage you to use these supplies to make your own little EPP travelling kit, like the one below, so when you have the opportunity, you can just grab it and go.

Hexagon kit, by Ms Purrl on Flickr

Moda has generously donated some mini charm packs (thanks Lisa, for setting that up!). Also included in the kit is everything you need to try out a few different methods for EPP—paper and teflon hexies, some fancy thread and needles, clips, and glue.

Fiskars has just started making paper punches for 1/2, 3/4, and 1" hexagons—I got them at JoAnn's (Roseville) with a coupon. I used these to make the hexie templates in the kit. If you want more hexies, I will bring the punches to the next three events, all you need to bring is some cardstock (the kind I used is 110lb from Office Max). Just ask me if you want me to bring them to any future meeting after that.

There are many, many, different ways of doing EPP, so be sure to try out a few different ways before you settle on one! For example, many people save time by just rotary cutting and using squares of fabric instead of cutting out little hexagons with scissors. Some people glue baste, some sew behind the templates instead of through, and some don't use paper templates at all!

And, if you like pre-cuts, some Moda prints, Bella Solids, Kona Solids, and Tula Pink is available in pre-cut 2" hexagons. You can even buy entire quilt kits.

2010 Quilt Show entry - as at December 2005
2010 quilt show entry, by ButtonTree Lane, on Flickr.

Also, don't feel like you need to make a whole quilt. Make a pillow, bag, placemat, mug rug, wall hanging, or pincushion if you'd like.

Pincushion by craftapalooza, on Flickr

Rainbow Hexagon Pillow
Rainbow hexagon Pillow, by Cut To Pieces, on Flickr

If you would like to be inspired by EPP ideas, check out my EPP Pinterest page. I have links to both EPP instructions & tips, and a bunch of amazing projects.

Also, be sure to read Flaun's previous post about paper piecing: "When I can't be at my machine" that contains some great videos.

Lastly, if you don't like hexagons, there are many other options. Take a look at They sell papers in every shape and size imaginable.

Long Term Paper Piecing Project
Long Term paper piecing project, by Lori H Designs.
English Paper Piecing/ Travelin' Pic Stitch Blog Hop
English Paper Piecing, by Amanda Millar, on Flickr
Pentagon Papers in progress
Pentagon papers in progress, by domesticat, on Flickr

Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!
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