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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