Sunday, 8 December 2013

Friday, 6 December 2013

Christmas quilts

I am finally decorating the house for Christmas - and along with my regular ornaments, Santas and snowmen, I pulled out my Christmas quilts. I have more than I thought, so I'll take a couple posts to share them with you. 
Here's my tree skirt. When we lived in Beaumont, Alberta (not Texas!) I was part of a wonderful group of women who quilted together. The blocks in the tree skirt were 6" blocks exchanged by that group. I don't have a pattern for this - its just made up as I went, but I think of my friends every time it comes out for the holidays! 

I love that there are so many good happy memories with this little quilt!


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Continuous Piecing

There are many ways of sewing a quilt together. Some quilts are meant to be sewn together piece by piece by carefully hand stitching. Those are reserved for very special people and occasions. Other quilts are pieced together with methods that are quicker and I'm going to show you my favourite way to sew blocks together while keeping their layout intact.

Continuous piecing is just sewing blocks together, one after another without a break or having to cut any threads between (or minimizing the cuts!) It's also called chain piecing and you'll be able to see why when you've tried it out. Start by laying your blocks out in the desired pattern or order.

 This is a basic, simple 9-patch block, but the technique works with much larger quilts as well. There is nothing directional in these squares, but if you are working with blocks for a large quilt top, you'll want to keep track of which end is up on your blocks. I do this with a scrap of paper pinned to the top of each row with an arrow pointed to the top of the block. Then I am careful to stack all the blocks in a column with the tops the same direction.

The next step is to take your 2 far left columns and flip column 2 over column 1 right sides together so your seam goes down the right hand side. Carefully pick up each pair, starting at the top and adding the others BEHIND your stack, so your top pair stays at the top and the bottom pair at the bottom of your stack. If you are trying this out with a small block like this 9-patch, just lay it out beside your machine and don't worry about stacking, just start sewing your patches from the top left down the column to the bottom. DO NOT SNIP THREADS between your sewn matched pairs. Just one snip AFTER you've sewn the last pair.
You'll end up with your pairs sewn together as shown and a small bit of thread between holding the blocks loosely together. You will not be snipping these threads, ever! Now take the next column of blocks and stack them from row 1 down, in the same manner. Top block is on top, others are stacked behind, with the last block in the column on the bottom as shown.
 Now, take your first set of sewn squares, keeping the top left to your top left (if you have them marked somehow, you won't mess this up! Promise!) Put your new stack of blocks to the right of your sewing machine with the top away from you as you are looking at it. Now, flip the top block from your new stack onto the right side of the top row of your sewn squares and sew down the right side. Flip the next block onto the next row and continue down to the bottom! These are non-directional fabrics, so an accidental rotation of a square is no big deal, but if yours are directional, just keep track of the tops!
Trust me! NO THREAD SNIPPING until the last block is sewn from the stacks! Leave the other threads intact that join your rows together!
Now, your whole quilt top will be tacked together - rows sewn together and held in their correct order by the small lengths of stitches that you didn't snip! Amazing! It's time to press - one row at a time - seams one way on one row, the opposite direction on the next row. I love doing this at a sewing day or a retreat as I can easily move my quilt top at this point without it getting mixed up and having to rethink the layout again.
 Now sew your rows together one at a time. I do this without pinning, but you could pin if you want.

And ta-da! Your block (or quilt top) is pieced! Add borders and quilt as desired! Don't be put off by the lengthy how-to, this is an easy thing to do and just takes some practice! Main things to remember are don't clip threads and keep your tops at the top!

Happy quilting!
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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Memory Quilts

When I think about the roots of quilting in North America, it is usually connected with making quilts from found cloth gathered from used clothing and gently worn fabric. Quilting today is farther from those roots than ever as many quilters buy fabric only for quilting and often in coordinating pre-packaged kits. So, it was a surprise to me that I said yes to a friend to make some quilts from the clothing from her husband.

And so I found myself with a pile of shirts and no plan of action to turn these into a quilt (or 3). I did a little online research and found a variety of memory quilts, some that I liked and some that I didn't. The first step was to cut the shirts apart so I could cut quilt pieces from them. I used Bonnie Hunter's method that she describes here. Don't you just love the quilts she's made from thrift store shirts? This was a great activity for in front of the TV and in a couple evenings I had the shirts cut up.

I did realize after I had the shirts cut up that a few of them were 100% polyester and they started fraying quite quickly, so I put those aside and didn't use them. Anything that was 100% cotton or a cotton/poly blend was used. There was one really nice red plaid shirt that I made a few pieced heart blocks that I wanted to use in the quilts somewhere.
Pieced Heart Block - instructions here
A few weeks later, I took the cut up shirts to a quilting retreat, still without a real clear plan what I was going to do with them. My sister was at that retreat as well and she was completing a quilt that I really liked and realized right away that this was a perfect pattern for a memory quilt. You can see her quilt here

So, I cut and sewed and slowly, 3 quilt tops emerged from a pile of shirts that hold so many memories for my friend. One was the quilt inspired by my sister's quilt.

Heart border memory quilt
And the other 2 memory quilts are made from 6.5" squares that include the pieced hearts and the fussy cut pockets.
Memory quilt
Memory quilt
Although it took me a while to get started on these memory quilts, I really enjoyed making them! It took me back to the roots of quilting, using fabric that was on hand, and the recycling part of it appeals to me. There will be a few more of these quilts coming out of my sewing room, some with a particular person or memory, and others, just because I love putting together random scraps of fabric!

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Monday, 18 November 2013

10 Bucket List Quilts

There are so many quilts I want to make, but not enough time to make every single one, so here's my bucket list of quilts that I would like to make.
  1. Double Wedding Ring Quilt - I already have one of these that I made by hand when I first started quilting (I may have to take a photo or two and share how it turned out with you!), but I'd like to try this again with a little more knowledge and skill and see how it turns out.
    Double Wedding Ring - photo from McCall's Quilting
  2. Hawaiian Quilt - I love the bright colors of these quilts and the soft curves of the applique. This seems to me to be such a soothing project to be done completely by hand if possible.
    Stack of Hawaiian Quilts - photo from Flickr
  3. Landscape Quilt - Art quilts are something I've admired for a very long time, but haven't quite got up the courage to try. I love Gloria Loughman's landscapes and it will probably be something inspired by her that I try when I have the courage.
    Windmills by Gloria Loughman
  4. Flower Art Quilt - One of my other loves is gardening and I've been collecting photos of flowers along the way as inspiration for a someday flower art quilt. This one will likely be a sunflower or a tiger lily and will likely be one of the first quilts I cross off this list!
    Sunflowers in the setting sun by Barbara Harms - photo from
  5. Scrappy Trip Around the World Quilt - There are some awesome photos of this quilt floating around cyberspace and with my love for scrappy quilts, I see this one happening sometime in my future - I think it can be a quilt that progresses slowly over time.
    Scrappy Trip Around the World from
  6. Christmas Quilts for every bed in the house - this seemed an ambitious project way back in the day when we had kids at home and a bed in almost every room. It might just be more doable now that we only have our bed, the guest bed and the bunk beds! (Hey, that's only 4 beds and one Christmas quilt is already made!!!)
    Cowboy Christmas from my personal collection
  7. Any of Judy Niemeyer's quilts - I especially like this one!
    Feathered Star Queen - photo from
  8. Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt - I've started a few hexies, but am not likely to get enough to make a quilt of any large size. And I think that I might start putting them together in the traditional rounds, but will probably get bored with that layout and start changing things so they're not quite so predictable!
    Grandmothers Flower Garden - image from Pinterest
  9. New York Beauty Quilt or a Mariner's Compass Quilt - The challenge for any quilter's piecing skills is consistent and sharp points. This will be an accomplishment to finish.
    Mariner's Compass - photo from
  10. Log Cabin Quilt - This is another quilt that I've done before when I was just starting to quilt. I'd like to do a larger quilt with smaller piecing like the one here.
    Log Cabin Quilt - from All People Quilt via Pinterest
So, there you have it! I won't be done quilting for quite some time, even if I didn't have other projects on the go already! What about you? Do you have a quilting/crafting bucket list?


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Monday, 11 November 2013

Guild Tinners Exchange Update

Tins have been passed around furiously in our guild and I think some are way ahead of schedule and some are behind. I have 3 on my sewing table to work on before the guild meeting on Thursday, but I think I forgot to show you the 2 that I completed last month.
 This tin had a beautiful, rich, earthy toned orange and brown batik fabric and a pattern. Because oranges and browns are not very well represented in my fabric stash, I used it as an excuse to go visit my favourite quilting stores to go shopping.
The next tin featured some great Asian fabric and some varied, unique blocks.
 I didn't think I had much for Asian fabrics in my scraps, but I found a few that were left from another project and used the featured fabric as the main square in a modified log cabin block.
I hope you're enjoying the peeks at our guild's tinner exchange and I'll try to remember to share the next ones a little sooner!

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Quilt Retreat

I spent the past weekend in the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains with my sister and a lovely bunch of women. I can't show you what I was working on, but this is the quilt my sister finished. 
And this is the quilt top she was madly sewing on until the last minute. It's completely out of scraps - isn't it lovely?
This weekend was also the first snowfall of the season and I stood quietly under the trees and listened to the snow falling and the smell of the forest. And it took me back to a memory of our family spending time at my father-in-law's trapping cabin for New Years. The smell of smoke from a wood stove, the silence of being so far from civilization that you could hear the snow fall - and being able to fully be with the people I was with - no electronics to distract. 

What's your fav place to retreat to?

Monday, 4 November 2013

6 inch Heart Block

This heart block is perfect for putting into a scrap quilt or to use as a label on the back of your quilt. You will need the following:
One 4" square heart fabric
Two 3.5" squares heart fabric
One 4" square background fabric
Four 1.5" squares background fabric
Take your 4" squares and layer them together right sides together. Draw a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner. Sew 1/4" seam on both sides of the line you drew. Cut apart on the drawn line. 
Press one of these pieces towards the heart fabric and the other towards the background. This makes the final assembly of the block easier as the seams will butt up against each other nice and easy and less bulk at the seams. 
Trim to 3.5" as shown. 
Take your four 1.5" squares and draw a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner on each. Line them up at the top of your 3.5" squares as shown. 
Sew right on the drawn line this time. You can trim the pieces or leave them on. I chose to just trim the excess from the 1.5" squares, leaving the 3.5" squares in one piece. This minimizes any stretching that might happen while piecing. Press towards the corner. 
Now lay out your four pieced pieces in the heart shape. 
Sew together and press seams open. 
Sew that final seam, press open and your 6" heart block is done and ready to put in your quilt!
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