The Grumpy Quilter and the Changing Face of Quilt Shows

Last week I wrote about how the entire quilting dynamic is changing. The “average” quilter is now 63 years-old. Memberships in guilds and bees are declining. Now let’s take a look at how quilt shows are changing — because this area of the quilt world isn’t the same as it was even ten years ago.

I love going to quilt shows for several reasons.  The first reason is the quilts.  I love looking at them and being inspired by their workmanship and beauty.  Of course, I love all the vendors and the shopping.  The added bonus to the quilts and the shopping is that I usually see some of my quilting friends there and it’s a great time to catch up.  Quilt shows are wonderful and I go to every one that I can.

However, I also will be the first one to tell you that quilt shows are a lot of work.  I chaired my guild’s 2017 show and it truly was my second full-time job.  From vendor contracts, to the quilt judging, to set-up and take-down, it was a great deal of hard work, sweat, and sometime tears (some of joy, some of sheer frustration).  And it’s not just the show chair that has to work hard, it’s the guild members that work equally hard.  If the guild as a whole cannot, will not, or is unable to put in the labor that a successful quilt show needs, then the show will not be successful. 

Before I go any further with the change in quilt shows, let me throw in a personal example.  I belong to the High Point Quilt Guild.  It’s my local guild and I love this group.  Our members work hard with our charity quilt program and everything else we do, including our bi-annual shows.  In 2017, when I chaired our show “Reach for the Stars,” I can’t say enough good things about our membership.  Our members showed up for the judging, show set-up, the days of the show, and take down.  And our net proceeds tell the story of just how hard everyone worked. 

In short, we made bank.

Our show was a huge success in every way and I eagerly anticipated the 2019 show. 

Then our calendar rolled over to 2019 and our membership halved.  The numbers wrote a reality check that our guild had to cash.  Twenty-six to 30 members would make it difficult to put on a successful show.  Now if all of us were in great physical shape and ten to 15 years younger, I would have suggested we still do the show.  However, I would imagine (and I’m far too respectful to ask) that most of our members are around that average 63-year-old mark.  I’d even fathom to say that a good number are above average.  That means that there are more knee replacements, hip replacements, and aching backs among us.  In short, since we didn’t have the strength or the man power, we decided (wisely in my opinion) to cancel the show.  It would be far better not to have a show than to have a show that is poorly run. 

Now budget-wise, this may bite us in the hiney in a year or so, but we know that, and have plans to deal with it then.  But if we put on a show that was horribly organized, chances are that vendors would not return to sell at our show again.  We knew that, too. So, we returned vendor deposits and will soon decide if we will have a show in 2020 or 2021.  Or if we will have another show at all. 

And I imagine that guilds everywhere are facing similar predicaments.  Even larger guilds are dealing with the fact their members are older and are either unable or unwilling to put in the time a quilt show requires.  So, where does that leave us in the quilt show circuit? Fewer local guild shows and more large quilt shows put on by large quilt organizations (if you’re thinking AQS, MQG or MQX, you would be correct).  And there is nothing wrong with these organizations or their shows — as long as a quilter, you’re well aware of a few truths:

  1.  At least one of these organizations is a for-profit business.  They need to make a profit, and their shows and classes are more expensive. 
  2. These are large shows, which means while nationally known vendors will be there (Hobbs, Warm and Natural, Superior Threads, etc.,), the shows are too expensive for a lot of  “mom and pop” quilt vendors.  Those vendors depend on local quilt shows as part of their annual revenue. 
  3. As a whole, the quilting component of these shows is juried.  So, while getting the green light to enter your quilt is a great honor and winning any ribbon in one of these shows is a life-time achievement, your average quilter will never make these ranks.  Therefore, quilters like you and I may have a difficult time getting an evaluation from a quilt judge. 

In short, not only is the quilt world aging, but our guilds and groups are losing members and the face of the quilt show universe is changing. 

I’ve always challenged myself to embrace change in my life – I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t, that change can break you.  It can leave you breathless and heartbroken.  It’s far better to see the places that change can take you – better than the place you’re at now.  And in some circumstances, embracing change can be difficult, because change can sometimes mean a great loss.  I feel like that’s where the quilt world is now.  We’re losing LQS’s, but we’re gaining some really good internet shopping, as lots of smaller quilt stores are developing their own web sales.  However, I will admit I am dumbfounded on any positive experience that will come from smaller guild memberships and shrinking quilt bees and the death of local quilt shows. 

Maybe time will prove me wrong.  I sure hope so.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


The Grumpy Quilter and the Changing Face of the Quilt World…Part One

I’ve explored how the quilt world has changed in several past blogs. 

Remember the year I ranted and raved about the decline of the LQS (Local Quilt Shops)?  Well, I’m still kind of upset about it.  And unfortunately, all my anger hasn’t gone a long way to stop the bleeding.  Since my first blogs lamenting the brick-and-mortar store fronts’ closings, the number of actual go-in-the-store-and-shop establishments continues to shrink.  The LQS’s that are surviving tend to have strong internet presences as well as wonderful physical establishments with great variety and a knowledgeable staff. 

With the continued increase of point-and-click points of sales, I don’t see that changing.  And that’s a shame because the LQS is a big part of the quilting culture.  Quilters gather there, share ideas, have classes, and encourage the next generation of quilters.  However, as someone who researched opening her own quilt shop, I can tell you in many ways unless a LQS has a substantial line of credit or other cash-ready resource, the retail quilt world is brutal.  Not only are the quilt shop owners up against internet sales, they’re also in competition with big box stores like Hobby Lobby, Joann’s, and Wal-Mart.  These establishments also sell fabric, although the quality of their products can sometimes be problematic as well as questionable.

That whole scenario is frustrating to me, because when we lose yet another brick-and-mortar quilt shop, we’ve lost a place to learn.  With the closure of that shop we usually lose a classroom.   And while I get that Craftsy (or BluPrint, as it’s called now) and YouTube have done a wonderful job filling those learning gaps, the loss of a room means more than just the loss of educational opportunities.  It means we no longer have an area to fellowship, share ideas, and encourage one another as quilters. 

However, the issue that is really irritating to me is: I not only don’t see the situation changing, I don’t see a solution to the problem, either.  In other words, I don’t see (at least in my area) readily available and affordable space for classes, guilds, and bees. While I understand that internet groups are on the rise (and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my Facebook quilting groups and quilting forums), those do not make up for the physical concept of fellowship and real social quilting connections.

The next big shift I’ve seen in the quilt world actually goes hand-in-hand with two problems now facing the quilt world:  The aging of quilt guilds and the changes in quilt shows.  Let’s deal with the fact that we’re all getting older first.

When I began quilting about 32 years ago, the “average” quilter was 54 years-old.  According to the latest statistics from APQS, today’s “average” quilter is 63.  These stats were made public in October 2018 and applauds the fact that the age had actually decreased by one year.  In 2017, the “average” quilter was 64.  However, no matter how you slice it, dice it, and serve it up, as a group, we quilters on average are 10 years older than we were in the early 1980’s.  You know what that means…we’re getting more … “mature.” But despite all the tummy-tucks, Cool Shaping, hair color, and Pilates, as a group, we’re aging.  Time is marching on.

Add to this fact that the average guild/bee membership is also shrinking.  According to the same set of statistics, the average guild/bee membership is down 15% from the previous year.  I know that to be true in my local guild – our membership literally halved for 2019.  We could try to dissect why membership is decreasing for this entire blog. Maybe the guilds are no longer meeting the members’ needs.  Perhaps the dues are too high.  However, I do think the lower numbers are a direct reflection of the fact that we’re aging.  Some members don’t like to drive at night after a certain point in their lives.  If most of our members are following the trend and are hitting that 63-year-old mark, that also means a fixed income maybe looming in their future and they’re cutting expenses.  If the guild isn’t giving them enough bang for their buck, they may decide not to rejoin.  Also, different family situations can be factored in with decreased membership.  Since, on average, since humans are living longer, by the time a quilter reaches 63, he or she may be caring for a parent or helping to raise their grandchildren. 

But no matter how you sum it up, when you look out over your guild’s or bee’s membership, you’re seeing a few more gray hairs, more aching knees and backs, and decreased mobility.  And while I am cheered by the fact that despite everything quilt groups are hanging tough and still sewing together, another part of me is frightened that we may be a dying breed. 

However, there is one particular age group of quilters that is actually growing, and that’s the 45 years-old and under group.  This part of our quilting dynamic is actually adding numbers to its rank.  This group of quilters are well-educated and typically have made fewer than 10 quilts.  Due to where they are in life, they aren’t as dedicated to the art as some of us old-fogies, but on average they spend 10 hours a week working on a quilt or quilt-related projects – which isn’t shabby at all.  According to the same 2017 quilting statistics, these quilters now make up a good chunk of the 7 to 10 million quilters in the United States.  This group has an average household income of $98,000, attend quilt shows, purchase machines and fabric, but unlike the 63+ age-range, they depend more on websites, on-line tutorials, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest than actual quilt groups and classes.

So, yea!  We do have a group of quilters that are adding members to their rank, but boo! They don’t see the need for actual quilty, social contact.  Are they exhibiting complete disregard to our quilting history with its lineage of guilds and bees? 

Probably not.  First consider where they are in life.  What were you doing when you were 45?  I know where I was.  I was working full-time and running chauffer service for my two kids.  It seemed that every night of the week held some type of practice or PTA meeting or something to cut into my quilting time.  I was lucky if I had a few hours on Sunday afternoons to sew a few blocks together.  And with everything going on in my life then (the kids’ schooling and clubs, my grad school work, my job, etc.), quilting wasn’t the priority it is now.  It couldn’t be.  Other people and things were more important. 

I imagine that’s exactly where those 45-year-old and under quilters are at in their life.  Kids.  Jobs.  Responsibilities.  For them, on-line quilting groups and streaming classes fit their lifestyle the best.  They can watch a tutorial while packing the kids’ lunches or waiting for their kids at dance class.  They can Facebook a group on their lunch hour.  In addition to those facts, this next generation of quilters is very comfortable doing just that.  They’re the generation that pretty much grew up with computers in their home and had ready access to the internet, even though in the beginning it was dial-up.  They’re the age group that welcomed the iPhone with open arms and then developed the apps for it.

May I add at this point, they’re also the generation we’re going to leave our guilds’ and bees’ futures to.  And if todays stats hold steady for tomorrow’s quilt groups, it appears as if that our membership numbers may continue to shrink.  So, if our guilds and bees are to have as much of a future as they have had a wonderful past, we not only have to welcome this new group of quilters into our guilds and bees, but also make it convenient for them to join us.  In some ways this will be no different than what we are doing for our current membership:  Good workshops, practical meetings, ready access to other quilters and their knowledge.  But in other ways we need to shift a bit.  Most of these younger quilters have generated towards the Modern Quilting.  Perhaps our guild meetings should have a few more speakers that tend to lean towards that quilting genre.  Perhaps we should show our younger quilters how more traditional techniques work well in the Modern Quilt movement.

Then I also think we may need to change some very practical areas in our meetings.  The reason a lot of these quilters use Facebook groups, on-line forums, YouTube, and other on-line resources is convenience.  They don’t have to coordinate child care with their significant other or find a baby sitter in order to talk to quilters or learn a new technique.  Due to insurance reasons, I’m not enthusiastic about guilds or bees providing child care for members, but maybe we need to re-think when we meet.  Would it kill us to plan some meetings on Saturdays or Sunday afternoons?  I realize that most guilds meet once a month and that meeting is usually held on a week night.  And it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that if those monthly meetings are set out in an annual calendar, that most folks can plan their schedule accordingly.  But having some meetings on the weekend may encourage younger quilters to join us.

Another practical area we need to make sure is up-to-date and running smoothly is our internet presence. Guilds need to have a good web page and establish a Facebook presence.  It’s not enough just to have a web page.  That web page should be engaging and kept up-to-date. It should become the “go to” spot for information.  In other words, it shouldn’t be static, but updated regularly.  The same goes for a Facebook page, whether it is a closed or open group.  As a whole, quilters are a fairly savvy computer bunch.  We’re used to web searches and web pages.  This next generation of quilters is even more computer literate than we are.  They text more than they email.  They perform more web searches on their phones than on a lap top or tablet.  If we, as a quilt bee or guild, want to attract this younger group of quilters, I think we need to make our web environment as user-friendly as possible to them. 

Next week I want to talk about how quilt shows are changing…and not for the better…at least over all.

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Obligatory What I Did on My Summer Vacation Post

About 99.9% of all my blogs are about quilting.  This blog is not.  It’s about where I went on my early summer vacation.

For most of our years together, Bill and I have rented a house at the beach for a week and took the family down to the coast for seven days of ocean, sand, and great North Carolina seafood.  Every three to five years, we’d toss the suitcases in the back of our largest SUV and head down to Orlando for seven days of Mouse Immersion at Disney.  This year, we did neither.

My son, Matthew, and his wife, Anna, booked us a trip to St. Thomas.  Now that was a change-up.  Matt and Anna had been several times and as soon as they came home, they were talking about going back.  I figured it had to be a great place to visit.  The only down side?  No quilt shops on the island.  Not one.

But not that I would have had time to shop if there was one.  For a girl that has spent most of her years in the state of North Carolina, I was captivated by the blue of the water…

Wouldn’t those blues work well in a quilt?

The sunrises….

The sunsets…

The people…

The fishing…

And I managed to mark another item off my bucket list.  Matt arranged for a swim with some sea lions.  These were not the small California sea lions, but the Southern Sea Lion – the really big ones.  The one I got to spend some quality time with weighed over 400 pounds.  And he wasn’t the biggest sea lion in the bunch.  The largest guy weighed over 800 pounds.  That’s a lot of sea lion! 

However, the guy that swam with me was a sweetheart. 

I write quite a bit about getting out of your comfort zone with quilting.  I discuss at length the benefits of this for you as a quilter. It was so nice to get out of my comfort zone on this vacation.  I saw things I had never seen before but had wanted to for a long time.  Due to the distance, my 9-to-5 job really had to be left at the office.  It was a great break from reality for seven wonderful days. 

And I can’t wait to go back.

So, while we are parked here on my vacation blog, let me tell you about the folks that pushed and prodded us to make this vacation leap.

This is my son, Jonathan Matthew – Matt for short – and his wife Anna.  They’re the ones that arranged the trip and pretty much planned the itinerary.   I know while my regular readers are very familiar with my daughter, Meagan, I haven’t talked a great deal about Matt. 

Matt is my youngest, who will be tipping the big 3-0 in September.  It’s hard for me to believe my “baby” will be thirty.  An avid Star Wars fan, we spend a bit of time watching those movies and looking at collectible memorabilia.  He’s the one always pushing Bill and me to try new things and visit new places.

And he’s a creator.  While  I work with needles, thread, and fabric, Matt works with metal, grinders, and a welder.  He’s an artist at heart and is so detail-oriented. 

After this past year, my Virgin Island adventure was exactly what I needed.  I am very thankful to have had it.  The only down side to the whole thing is that I enjoyed my time off so much, now I’m not worth anything!

Until next week, Quilt with Passion (and vacation with passion, too)!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam (who did not go to the Virgin Islands, but had a wonderful pet sitter named Mary)


More Fabric Possibilities

We’re finishing our discussion of fabric “dissection” this week. I want to share with you some ideas of getting all your money’s worth out of all of your stash. The material you quilt with is an investment and there are no reasons why nearly every inch shouldn’t be considered valuable.

A few of my green batiks. There are lots of possibilities for leaves and stems with these.

There are a couple of ways a quilter can stretch his or her fabric dollar as well as keep the stash to a minimum, while still getting a variety of shades of green or different colors for flower petals.  The first way is to shop the batik section of your LQS or website.  I love batiks.  I love their rich, jeweled tones that stand out so beautifully on a white background.  These fabrics are very firmly woven, which makes them wonderful choices for machine or hand applique.  And what’s even better is the colors undulate throughout the material, giving the appearance of multiple shades throughout one cut of fabric.  You can get the appearance of having used lots of material from just one piece of fabric.  The bonus is that most of the time there is some kind of design in the batiks that can be fussy cut to give the appearance of veins for the leaves or a design in a flower center. 

This is my May 2018 Mini Quilt. All of the flower petals were cut from batiks, and I used only four different batiks — one for each flower.

The next way a quilter can stretch their dollar and limit their stash is to purchase ombre fabric.

Ombre Fabric

This fabric works sort of like a batik.  The shades undulate throughout the material, but there are usually more shades in an ombre, and in lots of cases, even different colors.  They have a softer hand than batiks, too.  My current favorite ombre choices are the Dream Big panels by Hoffman Fabrics. 

All of the Hoffman Dream Big Panels

These ombre fabrics have a wide spectrum of shades and colors and give lots of bang for the quilting buck.  They’re relatively inexpensive and can be thoroughly used until all you have left is a handful of scraps. 

Finally, I want you to take a hard look at two types of fabrics.  The first type we’re looking at is what you have on hand – your stash.  I divide my stash into three categories:  Neutrals (used as either the “light” fabric in a quilt or background fabric for applique), fabric bought for a specific quilt (which is immediately cut as directed per the quilt pattern and put in a project box), and material I have purchased because I simply liked it.  It’s this fabric we’re need to take a hard look at.  Take a minute or two and look at these fabric samples:

These are great pieces of material.  I’m sure you can pretty much guess why I bought them – good color choices that could be used in several different quilts, quality fabric, etc.  But now let’s really dissect what other possibilities these fabrics hold.  Let’s look at this little jewel up close:

It’s kind of like bubbles on a gold background, isn’t it?  You know what this would work well as?  Applique fabric for fish.  The bubbles look like fish scales. 

Now let’s look at this fabric:

It’s a batik, so the possibilities are endless, but when I see this, I think either frogs or mermaid tails. 

And now these:

I see flower centers, berries, or Christmas tree ornaments.

What about holiday fabric?  Don’t limit that to just Easter or Christmas.  Look at this wonderful scrap I have left over.  Those jelly beans would make wonderful flower petals.

And these Christmas ornaments? 

I see leaves with veins.

You would have to fussy cut around the snowflake, and the size of the leaf would have to be small enough to fit in the space, but the dark greens swirls would be an awesome effect on the leaves.

The point I really want to make is don’t limit your fabric. It’s great to have a good stash to shop from, but as you plan ahead to purchase fabric, take a closer look at the prints and designs to see all the possibilities that piece of material has.

This piece of purple batik has nearly endless possibilities.

This fabric is designed by Tula Pink, one of my very favorite fabric designers. She always puts some kind of creature in her designs — can you see the elephant heads? The artwork in this piece of fabric would look fabulous in flowers!

Finally, let’s take a look at what I term The Homely Cousin Fabrics.  You know the type – the fabric that sits in the bargain shelf of a LQS or bounces on a fabric website forever.  It’s marked down to $5.00 a yard, then $3.00, and finally it’s buy a yard, get the rest of the bolt free.  That fabric won’t sell because everyone thinks it’s just too ugly to do anything with. 

Don’t let these little gems pass you by.  Instead of just giving them a passing glance, take a closer look at them and let your imagination come into play.  For instance, take a look at this material:

For me, the knee-jerk turn-off was the background color — bright, harsh yellow.  Now while I do like my yellows in flower centers and Sunbonnet Sues and the like, those yellows tend to lean more to the buttery shades or the yellow-orange end of things.  This background just screams at me.  However, I set the background aside in my mind and concentrated on the print.  There are all sorts of possibilities here.  Flowers.  Leaves.  Bugs.  That print could be used for a myriad of things and the yellow background would never be a major player.

And then there’s this fabric:

Border Stripe Fabric

I love fabric with these types of stripes.  This type of fabric is commonly called a border-stripe fabric because quilt borders could be made with one of these stripes.  And those borders would look as if you had spent hours intricately piecing them when they would really be comprised of just one strip of fabric. 

However, just using this type of fabric for borders is really limiting its potential.  Think what part of this print would do for sashing.

One sashing option….

Another sashing option…

And the print could be used for everything from flowers to berries to butterflies. 

In wrapping up this two-part blog about fabric, just remember this – there’s more to fabric than its 100% cotton fibers.  If you’re indulging in applique, it’s great to use any fabric that will give the illusion you’re going for.  You may have to prep the fabric a little differently or stabilize it a bit, but it’s perfectly fine to get outside that 100% cotton quilting box.  And really look closely at the material.  Sometimes the most wonderful things you can make with a particular cut are not surface-obvious.  Use your eyes and your imagination to look deeper and consider all the possibilities.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Material Possibilities

When I was a kid, one of my favorite activities was coloring.  I had a kazillon coloring books, sheets and sheets of blank paper, and probably a half-a-dozen of those 84-count boxes of crayons.  I was a sickly kid – I had asthma and severe allergies.  As a result, I spent a lot of time indoors.  Coloring, reading, Barbies – all of those toys were right up my alley.  I imagine if I had been old enough to hold a needle, I would have started my quilting career then.

I’m not off topic, I promise.  You’ll see in a minute.

When I started quilting, I loved to piece.  And then Ellen introduced me to applique and my true love affair began.  I love to applique – machine applique, hand applique, raw-edge, prepped edge – I love it all.  It’s like coloring with fabric (see I told you I would tie it back in with my childhood). 

I’ve talked about different methods of applique in other blogs, so I’m not going to re-visit techniques here.  If you want to read more about that, Google my blogs on applique and there should be several there to satisfy your curiosity.  If you’re new to applique, message me and I will give you several helpful hints as well as a brief run-down of books and YouTube videos you may want in your life. 

In this blog, I want to discuss applique fabric.  Some of the same standards apply for applique fabric that apply for piecing fabric – make sure it’s good quality, decide if you should pre-wash it, etc.  However, that’s where the similarities stop.  Allow me to blow another quilting gasket in your mind – applique fabric does NOT have to be 100 percent cotton in all circumstances.  Now if you’re working with prepped edge, machine applique, I do advise that you use 100 percent cotton fabric.  The reason for this is that the cotton material will hold the crease and stay turned under as well as handle the abuse of the machine needle.  But for all types of hand applique and raw-edge machine applique, work with the fabric that gives the illusion desired. 

Allow me to illustrate.  Remember this sweet, little Sunbonnet Sue block? 

I made this as part of my April mini-quilt challenge in 2018.  I needed to give the illusion of sky and mud puddles.

And this one – My 2018 Christmas quilt.  I needed to convey the feeling of a night sky. 

One of the wonderful things about fabric manufacturers is that they do seem to pretty much think of everything.  There are landscape fabrics available that mimic bricks, trees, skies, water – nearly everything any artist could think of that they need for a landscape quilt. 

Landscape Quilting Fabric

These fabrics are available in yardage and in fat quarters.  Nancy’s Notions is usually my go-to resource for these, as that company has a large selection of landscape fabric.  Word of warning here – if you Google landscape fabrics, you’re going to get tons of resources for tarps such used in actual landscape businesses.

But now let’s think outside the quilting box.  We are so geared as quilters to immediately use 100 percent cotton as our go-to fabric that we tend to forget that there are other types of fabric out there that, while those fabrics are not suited for piecing, can be used in applique.  Sometimes it’s these fabrics that will give us the desired effect much better than standard quilting fabric.

Take a look at this fabric: 

Blue, sparkly, see-through fabric

It’s shiny and slippery and see-through.  This is definitely not a fabric you could piece with – it would be more at home as a garment fabric.  But you know what I would use it for on a quilt?  Icicles.  Wouldn’t that make great icicles?  It definitely gives the illusion of frozen water, and it’s see-through, just like ice. 

And then there are these:

Wooly Fabric
Furry Fabric

If you’re appliqueing furry, fuzzy animals, you may want to lean to the actual tactile fabrics.  Wooly fabric for sheep.  Furry material for cows or dogs.  It would definitely add a little something extra to your applique.

When you chose to use these non-quilting fabrics in applique, there are a couple of considerations you have to bear in mind.  First, who is the quilt for?  If it’s for a small child (and especially if it’s destined to be a play quilt), you may want to opt for the all-cotton fabric.  The quilt will be washed, and specialty fabrics may not hold up well in the washing machine.  If the quilt is for a baby, chances are the baby will end up putting some part of the quilt in his or her mouth.  You don’t want Mom and Dad worrying about the little one getting a mouth full of fuzzy stuff or stray strings from shedding fabric.  Stick with the 100% cotton fabrics or flannel for a baby.

The second consideration is fabric treatment.  Will the fabric need to be stabilized?  Will the edges need to be treated with Fray-Check?  The fabric that I used for icicles had to be stabilized.  Since I used the material in a raw-edge applique quilt, the bonding agent worked as the stabilizer and still allowed for it to remain transparent.  It performed wonderfully under the wear and tear of a machine needle, too. 

So, the next time you’re planning an applique quilt, look that pattern over and see if there is any place you could use an unusual fabric to add a little spice to the quilt.  It really does make a difference.

Now let’s go back and consider traditional, 100 percent cotton quilting fabric.  I want to explore a couple of ideas in this area.  First, how to treat your scraps and second, how to dissect a piece of fabric. 

If you’re an avid applique quilter, large-ish scraps are rarely thrown away.  Large or small applique projects can use those up on a regular basis.  I do have a personal rule that I do not keep scraps smaller than 10 x 10 inches.  There was a point in my quilting life where I kept every scrap and it wasn’t long before I was overrun with them.  I had so many scraps I didn’t know what I had.  So, I sorted through them and gave anything smaller than a 10” x 10” piece to an organization that used small pieces of fabric to make pet beds for the local Humane Society (the scraps were used to stuff the dog and cat bed forms).  I grouped the remaining scraps into color groups and each group was put into its own bin (thank you Dollar Tree). 

A few of my scrap bins. I have a dozen of these under one of my work tables. The bins stack on top of each other and are easily pulled out and searched when I’m working on an applique piece. If a bin is too full to stack, I sort through it and recycle some of the scraps with my friends that make the pet beds. By keeping the bins relatively small, I am never overwhelmed with my scrap stash.

I realize not everyone has room for this in their sewing area.  If you don’t, you may opt to keep only the really “interesting” pieces of fabric.  However, if you can organize your scrap stash, it becomes a really good resource for applique.  There will always be lots of choices for flower petals and centers, plenty of greens for stems and leaves, etc.  When my bins become too full, I resort again, and make another donation to the group that makes pet beds.  The important idea here is not to have so many scraps that you’re overrun with them. 

Now let’s talk about fabric dissection.  Fabric dissection can fall into two categories:  Fabrics that are destined to be fussy cut and those fabrics that need a second (or third) look.

A fussy cut quilt. The large flowers were selectively cut for the center of the blocks. This is really effective and ties the colors of this quilt together very nicely.

We’ll look at fussy cutting first.  Fussy cutting is defined as piece of fabric that’s been cut to target a specific area of a print rather than cutting the yardage into random pieces.  Usually when we think about fussy cutting, we’re talking about piecing rather than applique.  If you’re constructing a quilt block and there’s a large piece in the block, such as a square, this is a wonderful place to showcase part of your fabric.  And if your focus fabric has a large print, you can specifically cut a part of this fabric and center it in that block in your square, such as shown above.

Fussy cutting can really help tie your color scheme together, as well as show off that focus fabric.  It takes a little planning and a little extra yardage, but it’s well worth it.

This technique can also be used in applique.  Remember Spring Bertie? 

Spring Bertie

Now let’s take a closer look at the bottom block, far right.

I fussy cut the polka-dot fabric so that the black dots would look like flower centers and appliqued those on.  This is a little thing, but it really adds some charm and depth to a quilt.  As you’re constructing an applique block, take a close look and see if there is anything you can fussy cut to add a little more pizzazz to that block.  For instance, if you’re making leaves, is there a green fabric that would give the appearance of veins in the leaves?  Do you a fabric with different shades of green in it you could use?  Little things like this adds depth to your applique and makes it more realistic.  Each plant has lots of greens in its stems and leaves.  Don’t stick to just one shade of green.  Your work will look flat if you do.  The same thing goes for flowers.

Some of the shades of green from my scrap bin. If you’re making stems and leaves, you need a variety of greens to make them more realistic. You’ll notice that not all stems and leaves in nature are the same color, and they shouldn’t be all one color in an applique piece, either. A variety of greens will prevent your work from looking “flat.”

Next week we’re will continue to dissect some fabric. Just remember, there’s more to a cut of material than meets the eye. You need to use your imagination.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam