Safeguarding our Quilts – a New Look at Best Practices (1 of 2)

Today’s blog post is the first in a two part series about safeguarding quilts – today’s blog will cover the physical quilt, and the second will talk about the electronic image of your work. One of the things that I have been diligent about over the years is putting labels on my work…but recent events have had me rethinking how I place them

I’ve had a couple of stories about stolen quilts cross my newsfeed recently – alas, they are becoming more and more prevalent. Quilters have long known about the Lost and found quilt page, but in the past month or so alone, I read about the Quilts taken off the porch at a shop in Minnesota, and then another story about a Dream Big panel taken from a shop in Oregon. Any quilt stolen is heartbreaking, and it does seem to be a sign a the times, unfortunately. A label is no guarantee, but it does offer some peace of mind.

This was for a guild challenge, so I added information about the challenge to the label. It’s always where I need it.

As a quilter, my quilt labels have evolved a lot over the years. Truthfully, most of mine now are done on the computer – because I can do them to some extent in bulk, but also because handwriting has never been my strong suit, and the more I type, the less it’s legible. I select the fabric that I want to use – usually something that’s part of the quilt, when I can – and cut it to the size of a sheet of paper…then I iron a piece of freezer paper to it, and send it through the printer.

The labels are printed in Microsoft word, and the can include any type of text, or photograph, or image that I want. A regular sized sheet of paper can easily make 2 or three labels…and even if they’re more generic in nature than I might like, I can always add details later. Once the paper is printed, I remove the freezer paper, and apply Mistyfuse to the back of the label…that way I just need to fuse it into place when I am done, secure the edges by hand, and move on.

A label which is fused is harder to separate from your quilt than one that is just stitched on, but I received a quilt in a swap that had the label done in a way that I had never seen before…she fused it to the back prior to quilting, and then quilted over it…the label isn’t going anywhere!

My Teal Mini from 2016
Alison Church Bird

I don’t know whether this is a regional difference – Ali is in Alabama- or not, but I had never seen a label sewn in this way. I admit it took me a little by surprise, but I’m now adopting it as my official favorite way to attach one. It does require you to think about the label a little earlier in the process…instead of my tail end of the process way, but I think it’s important to learn and to grow.

Labels should also be fun – especially when they are being gifted to someone who’s little. My last two grandbabies quilts have hearts – and labels on them from Nana – on the front (where they’ll be seen!.

Henry’s quilt – look at the bottom left corner.

You can find premade labels in almost every quilt shop – so whatever method you choose, please label your quilts (especially if they leave your possession professionally). Get that pile of quilts that are almost done anf think about how you can add this one little detail to them.

So now I want to hear from you….How do you label your quilts? And most importantly to me…how have you changed how it gets done?

Room Organization – better, but not yet done!

The saga continues (but you knew that, if you’re a longtime reader of the blog. Part one of this series can be found here, and deals with getting my fabric organization under control…or did it?

I have always maintained that organizing a space is a highly personal endeavor, and what works for me won’t work for you. It also evolves as you move through your quilting journey. In my case, this time I’m making changes that align with my quilting goals, and makes it easier to work in my space. There’s still 5 months to go in the year, and things that I want to accomplish along the way.

First off, I want to explore more ways in which my Cricut Maker can help me cut out projects more efficiently. That was hard to do when it was in a bag, on a shelf…in my sewing world, I like things to be easily accessible so that I can work with them. My cutting table is actually 2 base cabinets which have an oversized counter top on them…it’s slightly over 4 and a half feet in length, and the perfect height for me to cut with…and the perfect size for my room. The Maker’s footprint is slim, and it now sits on the edge (near the wall), plugged in and waiting. The drawer beneath it holds accessories needed, and the door space below that holds my cutting mats. I love using vertical storage space…

A proper workstation…easy to access, and to use.

The next space I tackled also deals with the cutting table…of sorts. I usually have a pressing station on the right hand side of the counter, and move it when I need to. One of my frustrations was not being able to locate a good spot for my Martelli rotary cutting mat…it simply took up too much space (or maybe it was the shape) on the counter, and if I put it away, underneath, I usually couldn’t be bothered to get it out. Then this solution appeared to me one night…and it’s a winner.

My cart tucks unter the overhang of the countertop, and provides a great solution for my Martelli round mat and pressing station, which I covered.

Another problem solved, and truthfully – a great solution for the wool pressing mat that’s a new addition…it just lays on top.

One of my goals for the year is to become better at my free motion quilting…and we all know that there is only one way to do that…practice, lots of practice. Funny thing, my pieces to be quilted – and the practice sandwiches – needed to be corraled and located next to my machine for easy use. They also needed to be put onto my calendar so that as I look at a month ahead, I can see consistent practice time in my planner. I TOLD you there was a shift coming on.

More sandwiches than a school field day…and Ribbon Candy as well!

This bag is a great shape…it sits on top of my sewing machine bag right between my sewing station and my desk. Perfect height, and the perfect place to keep things corralled. I’ve had problems with muscle memory for my ribbon candy pieces…and I found a solution for that as well…there’s a stencil for that!

Now, onto two areas which I haven’t resolved yet…but which are on the calendar for August. This August. The first is what’s probably the root cause of clutter in the sewing space…I’ve cleaned around it, I’ve moved it, I’ve shoved it in bins, buried it in a closet…I’ve done everything but deal with it. Batting scraps…just thinking about it makes me feel icky. But I’ve also put it on the calendar, and I’ve come up with a plan to deal with it. I’m too frugal to toss it (tempting as that might be)…it’s time.

Batting scraps – it’s time to deal with you. I’m done.

And finally, something that will bring this full circle. More fabric scraps that need to be dealt with. Does it ever end…yes, this month it does. This is the pile of miscellaneous fabric that I’m tired of tripping over…in a laundry hamper, of all things. It’s amazing how long I can put things off. But this month, I’m determined to go through it, and get it under control. I have time, a plan, several patterns, and a need to work through this. And if you’re in the market for scraps, let me know…I can hook you up.

Cheers!

If you get a bigger bin, you can hide more scraps. Time to deal.

Organizing My Quilting Space – Again!

I can’t tell you exactly what kicked off my latest frenzy of sewing room organization, but this one is different. If you read my blog post from late February titled My Quilting Room sparks Joy, you should have set an egg timer on this. Or bought a lottery ticket and waited. In my defense, that post dealt with my methods of sorting and organizing my thread collection. It’s funny how I never mentioned fabric – or heaven forbid, my scraps!

I recently finished up two major scrap based projects, and that meant that I needed to put the leftovers back into my stash. I’ve often thought of my sewing space being organized, but when it came time to attempt this – which admittedly doesn’t happen very often, I found myself very frustrated…where did it belong? The pieces which were regular cuts – yards and fat quarters, which is pretty much what I buy – were easy. Once I put those back in the shelves, I was left with one big pile of ugly to deal with.

My scrap system is small (I’ll come back to that in a minute). I have a finite amount of space to work with, and I’ve made it a minor obsession with trying to organize it – which can also be quilter’s code for keep it out of sight and out of mind. I don’t have enough space to keep the fabric in plastic drawers, but I do have an over the door shoe organizer in the closet. It’s incredibly handy, and keeps fabric at eye level…but the before picture above shows what it can look like after a year of working with it.

It was clearly time for some maintenance, and to ponder the question of how much fabric can I realistically deal with. The Maintenance was in fact pretty easy…go through each of the pockets (which are supposed to be organized by color, and take out any fabric which isn’t in the right pocket, then take the largest piece in the packet and roll the smaller pieces within it.

Turquoise scraps
The inside of the turquoise packet.

Repeat until you run out of fabric, or pockets…in my case, I didn’t run out of pockets, but found I had some extra spaces to fill, which allowed me to find room for some interesting finds that I unearthed along the way.

Where did all these bindings come from?

This was the largest surprise of things I found along the way…I don’t recognize or remember making a majority of these bindings. And as far as I know, I don’t make random bindings – I tend to make them and keep them in the project box until needed…so who made these? And why – I made a quick inventory of my UFOs, and no, I’m not missing any bindings. I see an interesting improv project in my future.

Other interesting finds in those pockets included a couple of UFO projects to add to that group of projects. The binding stash was the biggest surprise…I’ma bit embarrassed about that.

So, a reasonable question to ask would be – is this all the scraps you have? Not by a country mile…I also have a big, unsorted bin if scraps that haven’t made it into the shoe system yet…and a deadline coming up. By the end of the summer, I’ll be able to report back on that.

This cleaning cycle is an ongoing project here, and next week, I’ll give you some insight into the other areas that I am dealing with, and some solutions which have presented themselves in the process. As I said before, this cycle is different.

Thanks for reading, and leave me a comment below as to how you deal with scraps – sooner or later, we all have to.

Monthly Color Challenge – May

Blog button for the 2019 Monthly color challenge
Monthly Color Challenge

I’m pleased to be joining the Monthly Color Challenge this month; it’s been a fun and refreshing way to look at basics of color, and it’s a challenge hosted all year by Patterns by Jen. All of the pattern dimensions for each month’s blocks are available on her site, and this is a great way to take a pause to revisit some of the most common quilt blocks in your library.

This month’s color pull is this really light lemony green color way, and believe it or not, it’s one that I’ve been able to use quite a bit over the years. It does pair will with Turquoise, but that’s last year’s blog post. You can actually read more about that one here.

The fabric pull


These two fabrics will work well with each other for this. The variation of the half square triangle block that I’m going to use to illustrate this is acutally a variation of the Broken Dishes setting, and these made into a very nice block.

To make this block, you start with two same size squares (one of each fabric), and place one on top of the other, right sides together. The next step is to draw a diagonal line with a pencil and a ruler from the top right to bottom left – that will become the reference line (and eventually the cutting line) used in this block, and you refer to it when sewing the seams, one on each side of the line.

Square and even

At this point, I square up each half square triangle to make sure that each of the building blocks of this piece are exactly what they are supposed to be. I take a square ruler (slightly larger than the block I want to make) and put it on the block, making sure the diagonal line in the ruler is lined up with the diagonal in the block. Trim any excess and repeat for the other blocks.

my completed broken dishes quilt block
My completed block

This block was very quick and straight forward to make, and the block is completed and squared up as it should be. In fact, I enjoyed making it so much that I used it (with admittedly slightly altered dimensions) on another project that I’ve got up on the design wall…if you change the fabrics to be all low volume, you can get quite a nice pieced background. This is a very special quilt in process, and you’ll hear more about that later on this spring.

Gray neutral pieced backing

Christmas RAPPing Blog Hop

I’m delighted to be back to blogging with a quick project this week, and this is a great idea to take a deep dive into. I have been invited by Margaret Willingham and Nan Baker to help to promote their new collaboration, Christmas RAPPing – a book about Reverse Applique and Paper Piecing patterns (and techniques), which revolve around a central Christmas theme.

This blog hop was generously sponsored by Island Batik, Aurifil and June Tailor, and the authors invited some current and past Ambassadors to join in the fun – in my case, it’s a little like getting the band back together.

Inspiration from my closet – and the fabric pull

This is a Christmas themed book, and if you were to come to my house at Christmas, you would find that I am as much a traditionalist as most New Englanders…and I have quite a stash of traditional Christmas themed fabrics from Island to pick from. That said, I knew from the start that I wanted to give the readers of the hop something different colorwise to pick from, and I googled Contemporary Christmas decorating themes for a month – before finding what I was looking for in my closet. 

If you’re someone with a Midcentury Modern vibe (I’ve heard it called MidMod), this is your holiday project.  My story and I’m sticking to it, and fortunately, I have a significant stash of Island fabrics to pick from – lucky me! 

When I volunteered for this, I told Nan that I wanted to select the Mini Star of Light ornament, and use that small 4″ paper pieced pattern from the book to create a small table mat or candle mat.

If you’ve never done Paper Piecing, this is a great fast project to work with. If you have never done any…this is a great starting point. It’s small, and you make the same block 4 different times before sewing it together in pairs. The photo below shows the top set and the bottom set, before joining them. 

The building block becomes a holiday candle mat.

I’ve had a lot of fun working on this project, and I know you’re going to love this book – there’s a lot of inspiration in it for projects throughout the year.

There’s also prizes for lucky winners… Two lucky people are going to win a bundle of 9 fat quarters and three spools of Aurifil thread, thanks to Aurifil and Island Batik. All you have to do is to click on the link HERE to enter.

To see more of the talented quilters who are part of this blog hop, all you need to do is to follow the schedule below…I’ve linked each of the blogs for you, so all you need to do is to be inspired…

Breaks can be good for you

A little while ago, I posted this photo on my Facebook page. It struck a nerve with me because I had just returned from a much needed break on a cruise ship. It was heavenly, and it was very much overdue for me creatively.

I can almost taste what’s in the glass

It turns out, as I’ve been looking into this subject matter, there’s legitimate research into the creative benefits of taking a break…whether it’s in the shower, on a cruise ship, or engaging in a new creative outlet. When I was on my cruise, my most creative tool was the camera in my phone…I brought no sketch pad, no note taking…it was a complete unplug. It’s fun to take a look back at my favorite photos from the trip – and to see what inspired me that week.

The carpeting let my imagination run wild with quilting ideas.
The unique color scheme made me pause and think about how to interpret this. I’m thinking paper piecing.
My souvenir glasses from Nashville never looked so cute!
Remember my love of a pieced background? As it turns out, it translates to bathroom tiles on the Harmony of the seas.

Now, what happens if you need a creative break and you don’t have a cruise on your calendar? There are any number of ways you can give yourself a creative break (did you know that when you take a shower and you get tons of great ideas on that project you’re working on…THAT’s what’s happening!) You can take a walk, drive a different route to work, try a new recipe…these are all ways you can give yourself a break. Your regular routines will appreciate the switch up, and you’ll find yourself noticing things you didn’t before.

I have recently reconnected with Sue Bleiweiss, an accomplished author and award winning quilter who I have known for awhile. Her signature style is relaxing and fun to experience, much as Sue herself is. Here latest book is Modern Art Quilts, and was published last fall by C&T. I had the chance to speak with her about her latest endeavor – she’s taking a creative break (while still working on major pieces of her quilting work), by designing and working on handwork with a line of embroidery designs for Global Artisans Designs. Working in stitchery is something that Sue hasn’t done before, but she has found that the creative switch has given her quilting time a boost. So the concept does translate.

Sue has donated a copy of the book to readers of this blog, and here’s how I’m going to work it. If you’d like to leave a comment on the blog about your experiences with creative breaks – what worked, what didn’t, what your plans are – I will leave this blog post open over this weekend, and I’ll select one winner on Monday, April 15th. We need to celebrate something on that day!

So, with many thanks to Sue, if you’d like to win a copy of her new book, please leave a comment.

Book donation courtesy of Sue Bleiweiss

I’ve entered a new phase of color…

My own preference for color when I am starting a quilt is to pick bright vibrant colors. Earlier this year, I realized that I was drawn to a softer, more opaque color (or rather combination of colors), and I was drawn to it in some very unusual formats. I know that gemstones are a huge inspiration for quilters at the present, and it’s funny to me that my own personal inspiration has been in my jewelry box for quite some time. Opal is my new obsession.

My Opal Dream Big – a slice of fun

When I went on retreat last month, I took one of the Dream Big panels that I wanted to play with. Quite honestly, I’ve had two of the panels here for a while, one which is much stronger in color than this one. For a year, I’ve seen the various versions of this quilt everywhere, and I was finally ready to try it. One of the reasons was that this group of friends was a supportive environment if I lost my nerve – but the best way to begin something is to Begin. This year is going to be my personal ‘just do it’ year. It’s still a work in process, because of deadlines on other projects, but it does make me smile to look at it..

Opals running in the background

This set of jewels dates back to my senior prom. These pastel opals were just the right touch for a prom dress which had a lot of pretty flowers to it, and was sweet. Sweet and innocent, and shades of pastel bouncing around in the light are the prefect way to describe opals. They remind me of a textured background, which will give more depth to a quilt.

Seeing it everywhere…

I’m having my headshots redone next month, and one of the driving factors for that is the fact that I ditched the dye in my hair last year, and they need a refresh. I’m actually loving the new color on me, and my family is getting used to it. I have been in love with this look at the right – the trend is called Opal haircolor. If I were more daring, I’d go for it.

Opal thread – I have choices

Opal even showed up when I was selecting thread to quilt it with. This is a vast departure from my usual go-to favorite brand, Aurifil – but I love the sheen this lends to this project. While I have 2 choices, it’s the bottom one which I am using to quilt with.

It does kind of make me wonder what colors will show up in my clothes for spring and summer, if it ever gets here.

SPARK anyone?

More about Quilters who stitch and Stitchers who quilt

When last I blogged, I was in a bar/cafe/restaurant…I’m not sure what you call it, having coffee and finishing my thoughts on my Nashville adventures. I promised that this would be a 2 part blog post, so here you go. I never really had put Nashville on my must see list, and I can report now that I would have missed out. I want to go back and explore the city. My sister sent me a message about seeing the Angel wings…now I need to go back and see that.

Downtown Nashville

My first trip exposed me to a different side of people who I already know and like hanging out with – whether you call them stitchers or quilters, it’s the creative women of the world. There’s a lot of articles and research on the benefits of staying creative as you age, and my dinner companions on one of the nights have an interesting take on that.

Traveling to a show like this can be lonely, when you’re the newbie in the crowd. This group was incredibly helpful, warm, and funny – but there was a downside when it came to meals. On the first night, I was waiting to be seated in the restaurant, when two wonderful women came up (Kristy and Kathy) and asked if I would join them. They had been through the room earlier in the day, and remembered me. A good meal with great company can become a meal to remember. These ladies had at one point operated a needle arts store, but it had closed…they now serve their former clients as part personal shoppers, part concierge service. They would source out materials for a project, and deliver it to customers who no longer drive, or are housebound for one reason or another.

from compas.org


In the course of my researching this blog post, the graphic above comes from compas.org – a Minnesota based organization which puts creative arts programs (through volunteers) into senior living facilities, giving residents a hands on approach. Although my dining companions don’t live in Minnesota, they have a holistic approach to stitching shared with this group.

Back to the stitchers, it appears that there is one big advantage that they have over quilters, and that’s portability. It’s easier to bring a stitching project with you than it can be to bring a quilting project….there are options in the quiltverse, such as English Paper Piecing and Handwork, but a lot of it isn’t. I know that when I pack for the weekend, it looks as if I’m taking the whole sewing room (and it feels like it). I know that on some of my open sew nights at my local quilt shop, I’m often looking for handwork to bring so I don’t have to haul the machine in and out.

The one downside that both groups have is diminishing eyesight. As we age (as I age), I know that I reach for my ‘readers’ more often than not, and I have several pair stashed around the house.

Shifts: Quilters who stitch are stitchers who quilt.

This shift paradigm that I’m in is taking me to unexpected places…and I do mean that literally. This past weekend, I wound up flying into Nashville to work at the Nashville Needlework Market, which is sort of equivalent to Quilt Market in the quilting world. Nashville must be exhausted after having hosted QuiltCon the week before this, but this show has a flair and a flavor all it’s own.

This kind of scene was repeated all weekend. I wanted to join them.

I quickly learned it’s a bit like traveling to Spain but speaking French. It’s very similar – and very different to the quilt world. The kindness, the generosity of greeting a newbie (on her own) and welcoming her made me feel very welcome. But for someone who’s trade show experiences are mostly based on expo and convention centers, this was far more intimate. It was in a large hotel in Nashville. There is a lot, it turns out, to be said for southern hospitality.

How did I get here? A lot of my work in the past 6 months has been with a company called Global Artisans Designs, and it does a lot of vending throughout the country, covering both retail shows and wholesale shows. Global Artisans imports absolutely wonderful threads from Africa in a variety of weights. It actively supports Fair Trade Practices, which makes it especially attractive to me. This weekend, there were two shows at the same time, so I took the wholesale show in Nashville. This was an opportunity to speak directly with the shop owners and designers who love the brand and support it, and others who were intrigued.

My biggest takeaway from this is a new vantage point on our creative people. They really don’t exist in a vacuum. They are quilters who stitch and stitchers who quilt. The stitching universe has one distinct advantage over the quilters, and that’s that they don’t have to deal with a large volume of fabric.

I tend to make a lot of smaller quilting projects, and I’ve recently worked on getting two large ones to my longarmers. I can appreciate a smaller project, for sure. Their one disadvantage is the need to do closework on highly detailed designs – as we age, our ability to see work closeup has seriously declined. At least mine has.

Note: I’m writing this in an airport (Baltimore) this afternoon, as I am waiting for my connecting flight to Manchester. So this is going to be a two part blog post – next week’s will run next Monday, March 11th.

For more information about Global Aritsan’s Designs, please drop me a line and I’ll be happy to help you out.

My quilting room sparks Joy!

Precious Cargo Inside

In an interview recently, I was asked what my preferred brand of thread is, and that question became the impetus for this week’s blog post. I am becoming more aware of the amount of supplies that one accumulates as a quilter – the fabric, the books, the rulers, and yes, the thread – and the amount of space that it occupies in my home. There may come a time when I need to downsize, but for now, what i have is sparking a lot of joy. It’s all about the joy. I may have slowed down my fabric purchases for a bit, but I’m learning to appreciate the items that I have picked up along the way.

I will get to my brand preference shortly, but I ask your indulgence for a moment. Thread is a very important (and potentially expensive) supply in my sewing space, While it’s spacious, I don’t have an unlimited amount of space – or multiple rooms – to store things. It’s all here, and it’s all in tidy boxes, which make a tall tower when stacked on my cutting table.

I’m a sucker for the storage boxes…

The top box is where I keep my colors of piecing threads – which has evolved to pretty much beige and grays. I keep this box on my sewing table, where it’s available at a moments notice if I (dare I wish) finish a spool and need to make a quick change. The large cones in the box are Bottomline threads by Superior.

This is the box that has all of my other threads –

The bottom box in the first picture in the post is for the collection of other threads that I have been using over the years…Superior, Mettler, Gutterman…they all have been in the rotation for a bit, and they are all where I can get to them easily when I need to. There is a bottom layer in there, and it’s all easy to access.

This brings me to the middle box, the Holy Grail of my thread. Aurifil threads, in all the pretty colors.

This box isn’t as chaotic as you might think, and the thread weight I prefer is Aurifil’s 50 weight, the orange cone.

You can see that I’ve got several gray tone spools, several white, and still more beige tones. Most of my piecing is done in tones of gray or yellow, and I’m trying to clear some space in the box to add additional colors. I am hoping to have cleared some space in the box in the next month of so, allowing me to decide which new colors (if any) I will be adding to when I go to the MQX show in Manchester in April.

Here’s a lesson I have learned along the way…

Keep all your thread in one location; when you begin a project (in a box, or in a planner), keep notes as to which threads you want to use with which project. The note goes with the project, the thread goes back into it’s home. That will eliminate this from happening to you….

I hate it when this happens…I need to make a purple quilt.

And if you know me at all, it’s no surprise that I have several spools of turquoise. It’s a fun color!