Leaving Your Lasting Legacy

I want to talk about something this week that has been on my mind and in my heart for awhile now.  I’ve been blessed to have lived long enough on this quilting journey to have made some really good quilting sisters and brothers.  These people are dear to me because they are the family that I’ve chosen for myself.  We’ve shared joy and sorrow, peace and pain, laughter and tears.  We’ve cheered each other on and prayed for each other with a fervency that I haven’t found in a church in years.

However, I’ve also lived long enough to have lost some of these wonderfully dear people.  The other night as I was cleaning out some of the mess in my studio, I moved a rotary cutting mat and realized it had belonged to a quilting friend who passed away almost 10 years ago.  The ruler holder on my cutting table once was owned by a good friend that was an early member of the High Point Quilt Guild.  And I paused long enough to look around and think, “God please help my kids when I go to that Quilting Bee in the sky because they will certainly have a lot to contend with.”

Now before we all get too weepy and maudlin, let me tell you that there is a list of women’s names with their phone numbers in a box beside my bed.  The children (and Bill) know that if anything happens to me, they are to start at the top of the list and begin calling these quilting sisters.  These women are to take anything out of my studio they want (that my kids don’t want) and then help price everything else to sell because these ladies will know what my supplies are truly worth as opposed to what I may have told Bill I paid for them.

All of this really got me thinking, “What and how should quilters go about bequeathing their quilts after they’ve gone to that Great Guild Meeting in the Sky?”  I’ve read a lot about how quilters, while living, should give their quilts awayBut I was really curious to see if anything had been written about bequeathing your quilts after death.  So, I spent about a half an hour Googling the topic and found …literally nothing.  Other than a small article about donating “significant” quilts to the National Quilt Museum there wasn’t a thing.  And how many of us have “significant” quilts to donate?  In my mind, one of those would be a quilt that had won multiple ribbons and been displayed at the museum.  My quilts aren’t anything nearly that grand.

Since Google wasn’t rendering it’s normal interwebby magic answers, I did the next best thing.  I emailed a guy I graduated from college with that is now a lawyer and asked him.  Fortunately, Terry was a much better source than Google.  He did state that while he had never been asked “This specific question about quilts, I have been asked a lot of questions about similar personal items.”  He told me quilts should be treated as jewelry or a “prominent item of emotional significance” and listed as a codicil.  In other words, make a list of who those quilts should go to after your death and attach it to your will.


Well, that seemed simple enough.  Until I started thinking again. 

While quilts are like a lot of sentimental items, in that there are a lot of emotional attachment to them, they are different in a couple of areas.  First, they’re handmade.  I’m not using the term “handmade” in its strictest sense.  What I mean is they’re someone’s artwork that began as material off of a bolt of fabric that was cut, sewed together (by hand or machine), and quilted (by hand or machine).  So, they’re a little bit different than great-grandma’s wedding cameo.  The emotional and sentimental attachment may be the same, but the cameo probably wasn’t handmade. Second, it would be easy to find out how much the cameo is worth.  An eBay or web search or a trip to a trusted jewelry store could pretty much give you an accurate ballpark figure.

Quilts are different.  Setting aside all the emotional attachment and time we pour into our quilts, it’s harder to put a dollar value on a one.  If you asked one quilter how much another quilter’s quilts are worth, you’ll get varied answers.  However, there are certified quilt appraisers than can accurately state how much a quilt is truly worth.  These folks have studied quilts, fabric, and the time value put into making quilts.  By considering all of these factors, they can give you a true monetary value of your quilt or a family heirloom/antique quilt.  Appraisers are often consulted before a quilt is sold or insured. 

I had a valid reason why I was thinking these two thoughts.  I have several (okay, more than several) quilts in my possession I want to leave to my two wonderful children.  It’s my hope that those will be a continued expression of my love to them.  And while I know that both Meagan and Matt will appreciate those quilts and take excellent care of them, I can’t help but wonder if the following generations will do the same.  To be sure, a quilt is a consumable item – at some point it time they will be “used up.”  But depending on the care given to a quilt, this period of time could literally be 50+ years.  If there is a dollar value attached to the quilt, it may prompt the inheriting generations to take good care of it.

While an appraisal would certainly take care of the monetary side of a quilt, the emotional side needs to be equally represented.  It’s easy for the quilter to look at a quilt that he or she has made and remember everything from the thoughts and prayers made during the construction to the Netflix binges watched while binding.  The quilt recipient has no reference to any of that.  There are a couple of ideas a quilter can entertain to make the emotional and historical references are known to the quilt recipient. 

The first is make sure you have a label on the quilt.  In the past I’ve preached long and loud about labeling quilts.  I’ve explained how to do it and why it’s vital.  This is one of those reasons why it’s so important to have a label on a quilt you are passing down to the next generation, before or after your death.  Certain information should be on that label:  Your name, the city and state where the quilt was made, the date the quilt was finished because we all know the date we start a quilt and end a quilt can be years apart, and the occasion the quilt was made (if there is one).  That’s the minimum.  For the past several years I’ve opted to add any pattern that was used and one esoteric fact about the time frame.*  Sometimes this fact is the average price of an item, such as a gallon of gas.  If a major event occurred during the time frame, I add that.  This will help the recipient put the quilt in some perspective of what you spent your money on, as well as where this quilt is placed in history.  Those factors  can add some emotional attachment. 

If it’s a very important quilt or one that I’ve attached particularly strong emotional attachment to (such as the two heirloom quilts I’ve made my granddaughters), I actually journal the quilt.  I know this can sound overwhelming to folks who don’t like to write.  Let me explain a little about how I do this.  First, I don’t journal every time I sit down to sew.  And I don’t handwrite it.  I journal on my laptop.  About once a week I will write something in the journal about what a particular quilt block reminds me of, or if I’m experiencing some issues making a block.  If I’m creating this quilt at a difficult time in my life, I’ll write about that.  If there’s a joyful event occurring, that is included, too.  I also make sure to add a bit here and there about my daily activities.  I know what you may be thinking at this point –  journaling is tedious and what you write may be just downright boring.  Both reasons may sound valid enough to you.  But remember when those quilts are given out, you may not be around to interpret them, depending on the time frame.  The information you leave may be invaluable not only to establish an emotional attachment to the heirloom, but also let the recipient develop a bond with you. 

When the last stitch of binding is put in and the journal is complete, I print it out and put it in a three-ring binder – the kind that has pockets on the inside cover.  Inside the pockets I put the pattern.  As I construct the quilt, I make notes on the pattern.  I also put any receipts from where I purchased material or notions and the fabric swatches.  This gives a little more history about the quilt and me.  Since I plan on giving Evan and Elli their quilts at some point in the future, I’ve wrapped the quilts in acid-free tissue paper and put the quilt and its journal in a box.  The tissue will help keep the quilts from developing deep creases in the folds.  I also will refold the quilts a several times a year to help prevent permanent creases.

I can say with great emphasis that I am truly happy that I don’t have to do this to all the quilts I will leave behind.  It’s a lot of trouble.  But that’s only two quilts out of over a dozen I still have in my possession.  The weird thing about my household is that I don’t have a quilt on my bed. The reason for this is I have two sky lights in my master bedroom.  The quilts would fade all too quickly if I kept a quilt on my bed.  I do use my quilts in the winter but fold them up in the morning and put them away. 

So, what am I going to do with the rest of the quilts that are tucked in chests and hanging in closets when I do check out?  Here’s how I approached this situation:

First, I asked my family who wanted what quilts.  Both of my kids have specifically requested certain quilts and we won’t mention the near throw-down over a particular Christmas quilt…I simply made another one.  I put their names on the quilts and have them hung in a closet.  This does not mean I don’t pull them out and use them.  Nope.  They’re still my quilts until I draw my last breath. 

Second, the quilts that my children didn’t want, I designated to close quilting friends.  No one appreciates a quilt like another quilter.  I know they will be loved and cherished.

Third, if you’re not a quilter, and at sometime in the past you told me you really liked my quilts, chances are your name is on one of them.  I’m not making promises, but I’ve got some extended family and non-quilty friends that have lovingly touched my quilts and I remember that and those folks.

There is always the option of designating your quilts to a charity. There are loads of organizations that will take your quilts.  Project Linus, local hospitals, local police stations and social workers (who will use them for children they have to remove from a dangerous situation).  You can always leave your quilts to these charities. Or if your local history museum has a textile division, they may love to have your quilts in their collection.

And lastly,

Just give them away before anything happens to you.

I struggled with this one.  Not because I’m a particularly selfish person, because I really am not.  The struggle was I didn’t think anyone would really appreciate the quilt I made and take good care of it.  I had to come to the realization that when I give away a quilt, I’ve released it and all of the emotions that go with it.  The fact that I’m giving a person a quilt means that I love them, and I want them to have some tangible to show it.  The best gift I could give someone is something I spent time and energy making – from a platter of cookies to a queen-sized quilt.  This is easier said than done, too.  I’ve run across quilts I’ve given people that are now used as dog beds or worse.  I’ve had to learn to hold my tongue and not say a word.  Needless to say, that person probably will never receive another quilt from me. 

Some appreciation is warranted.

I know I can’t keep every quilt I make, nor do I want to.  I want to hold on to a few and send the rest out into the world as tokens of my affection.  However, after talking with my children over the quilts that are in my closet, one of my kids told me, “Mom, I’ll always love your quilts.  You don’t have to worry about them when you’re gone.”

I better not.  If in the Great Hereafter I find my quilt on eBay, I’ll come back to haunt you.

Until Next Week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

*The credit for this idea goes to the great and wonderful Tula Pink.  She was interviewed a few years ago and talked about how she made her quilt labels.  I thought this was genius and have been doing the same ever since I read her interview.


The Holy Trifecta of Quilting

As of the date I am actually writing this blog, there are fourteen more weeks left in 2019.  It’s been a good year and we’ve covered a lot of ground with this year’s theme, “Quilt with Passion.”  For this blog (and maybe for the next one, depending on the length), I want to discuss what’s been called The Holy Trifecta of Quilting – accurate cutting, pressing, and sewing. 

It’s no secret that for me the least favorite thing about quilting is cutting the fabric.  Even before my knees started giving me issues about standing for long periods of time, I really wasn’t too fond of cutting all that material.  I would much rather be at my sewing machine or hand stitching the applique.  I learned pretty quickly that if I had the right tools and had the fabric ready to rock and roll, the cutting went along smoothly and easily.   Some of these concepts I’ve written about ad nauseum, and I’m not going to go into detail again.  I will point out two fellow quilters that have wonderful videos up about cutting accurately – Leah Day and Bonnie Hunter.  If you need better visuals, I really recommend you jump over to their sites (after reading my blog, of course) and spend a few minutes looking at those.

Let’s talk about the tools first.  The first item to consider is a rotary cutter.  I would like to encourage you to do some research before purchasing one and realize that you may need more than one cutter.  That rotary cutter will essentially become an extension of your hand and arm.  Make sure it’s a comfortable fit.  Determine what kind of fabric cutter you are –do you want to cut multiple fabrics at one time or not? If you’re the type of quilter that likes to cut multiple layers of fabric with one fell swoop, a large (60 mm or bigger) cutter is exactly what you need. 

Martelli 60 mm Rotary Cutter. I love the handles on the Martelli Cutters.

Typically, I encourage my students to own at least two cutters – a small one and a medium-sized one (45 mm).  Why two? It all has to do with accuracy.

Personally, I do not like to cut more than four layers of fabric at a time.  The more layers you stack on top of each other, the more they wiggle and shift out of place.  Even if you pin the layers together, the pressure that must be exerted in order to get the rotary blade to penetrate all that fabric will cause some shifting.  This means that the patches you cut will be off a bit.  Some may be crooked or not the correct size.  Since accurate cutting is the first step of the Holy Trifecta of Quilting, you’re already diminishing your accuracy.  I would rather spend more time cutting – even if I don’t like to – in order to keep everything the correct size.  So, if I’m only cutting four layers of material at the maximum, a medium-sized rotary cutter is just what I need.

My 45 mm (medium) Martelli Cutter

The small rotary cutter will be needed for trimming and paper piecing.  This is smaller cutting work, and with that I find that a smaller rotary cutter allows for more control.  You can see around it and it handles better in those tiny, tight places. 

My smallest rotary cutters

Regardless of the cutter you decide on, make sure to change the blade regularly.  Just as you change your needle after eight hours of sewing (or at least you should, unless you’re using titanium needles), be sure to change your rotary cutter’s blade regularly.  When it begins to skip as you cut, it’s time.  Don’t think bearing down harder will really help in the long run.  All that will do is make your hand and arm sore as well as make deep grooves in your mat.  And I’m not a big fan of the rotary blade sharpeners.  Maybe I’m using it wrong or maybe I’m too picky, but I just don’t think they really get the blades sharp enough.  I would rather just replace my blade and keep on cutting.

There are a few “rules” to keep in mind as you begin to cut.  First, always cut away from your body.  Hold the ruler correctly – I went over this in a previous blog.

Close the blade when you’re through cutting.  It’s easy to forget that last rule, especially if you’re the only person that goes into your quilting space.  You just kind of automatically think that no one will get hurt.  However, that’s not true.  Sometimes that someone could be you!  I can attest to this from personal experience.  One day I was cutting out borders and didn’t close my blade as I moved away from my cutting table.  It was a hot summer day and I had on shorts.  I bumped the cutter as I moved the fabric and the rotary cutter skipped down my bare leg.  I didn’t think I would ever get the bleeding stopped.  Thank goodness the blood didn’t get on my border fabric, though!

Fold your fabric and make sure the grain is aligned. 

You want a perfect 90-degree angle.  If you prewash your fabric, be sure to press and starch it before you begin cutting.  Starched fabric cuts easier.  If you don’t prewash, and the fabric is wrinkled, press it.  Smooth fabric cuts more accurately, and that’s what we’re after – accuracy.  As you’re cutting your strips, after every couple of cuts, open the strips up.  You want your strips to look like the strip at the top

Not not the strip on the bottom

If you get that funny bump in where the fabric is folded, your material has gotten off grain.  Square up the edge, refold the fabric, and continue.  This tends to happen more frequently with multiple layers of fabric – which is why I recommend not cutting any more than four layers at a time. 

The other two cutting tools needed are rulers and a cutting mat.  I have two cutting mats – a small-ish one I can take to classes and retreats and a large one that I keep on my cutting table.  A self-healing mat is the best kind to have. 

Eventually all mats will develop grooves from cutting and will need replacing, but a self-healing one does have a longer life span.  Rulers are a personal choice, but one that spans the entire width of a cutting mat is needed. 

With this length you can make sure the bottom and top of the ruler are lined up with the correct measurement and you’re cutting straight.  I also really like this ruler to have a lip on one end so you can lock it against the edge of your cutting mat.  Between this and holding the ruler correctly, you’re seriously reduced the chances of the ruler sliding out of place. 

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that it’s important to use the same mat and ruler throughout the cutting process.  The picture below shows why:

Three different measuring tools from three different manufacturers.  See how much they’re off from each other?  I know some quilting instructors promote turning your cutting mat over and using only the ruler as your measuring tool.  I’ve always found this a little awkward myself.  I do measure my ruler against my mat and if the inch marks line up, I’m good to go. 

The next step in the Holy Trifecta of Quilting is accurate sewing.  In 2018 I wrote several blogs about the ¼-inch seam, and how it isn’t the holy grail of quilting.  What matters is that the block comes out the size needed.  Sometimes this may mean taking more than the standard ¼-inch seam and sometimes it means taking less (as in the scant ¼-inch seam).  This is why it’s important to always make a test block before you begin piecing the actual quilt.  If the test block comes out the size needed per the pattern’s directions, you’re good to go.  If it doesn’t you will need to play with your seam allowances a bit.  That said, the ¼-inch seam is the one most commonly used for quilts.  There are now ¼-inch quilters feet, scant ¼-inch feet, and seam guides that can help you keep a consistent seam allowance.  Most modern sewing machines have the ability to move the needle to the left or right to adjust for the correct seam allowance. 

To see if you need any adjustment to get a perfect ¼-inch seam allowance, run this little test:  Cut three 1-1/2” x 4” strips of fabric. Sew the strips together lengthwise with a 1/4” seam allowance. Press the seam allowances towards the center strip. The center strip should now measure exactly 1-inch.

If it does not you will need to adjust your seam guide or needle and retest again. Be patient; it will pay off in the end!  And the longer you quilt, the easier keeping that consistent ¼-inch will become.  Like most other things in life, practicing the ¼-inch seam makes it perfect.

The last step in the Trifecta is pressing.  I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go into a great deal of detail with this.  The primary thing to remember is the difference between pressing and ironing.  Ironing is the back and forth motion used to get the wrinkles out of clothing.  Pressing is an up and down motion used by quilters.  Instead of sliding the iron back and forth over the fabric, it should be lifted up and down.  This keeps you from stretching the bias of the material or the block.  If you’re like me and you pre-wash and dry your fabric before you make your first cut, you will probably want to put some starch back in your fabric (this makes the cutting more accurate).  Spray the starch on the wrong side of the fabric and press it in.  Unless I’m using specialty fabrics in my quilt that require a cooler temperature, I always use a cotton setting on my iron. 

At this point, let me add that there are a few personal quirks about pressing.  Some quilters swear by the starch alternative Best Press.  For myself, I don’t find it works as well as regular spray starch.  I do have it and I have used it, but I always find myself returning to my can of starch.  And as much as I love shopping at the Dollar Tree, I have found that starch purchased in that establishment (and other similar ones), have a higher water content than the can purchased at a grocery or drug store.  Recently my friend, Hope, told me about this product:

It’s used where there are lots of points coming together (like in a pinwheel block), It does help the fabric lay down and “behave” pretty well. 

The use of steam also varies from quilter to quilter.  Some use it, some don’t.  As long as you’re pressing and not ironing, I personally don’t think it matters a great deal.  However, if you use steam and you iron your fabric, it’s easier to stretch the bias.  I don’t use water in my iron for one reason and one reason only:  It cuts down on the life of the iron.  I’m hard enough on my irons in normal use without adding insult to injury.  I keep a spray bottle of water near my iron and if I feel a block needs some steam to remove the wrinkles, I just spritz it with that and let the hot iron produce the steam. 

Be sure to press each seam in a unit before joining it to another unit.  It’s easy to want to skip this step and just keep sewing, but this careful pressing will allow the units to be easily sewn together and the seams to line up.  To cut down on running back and forth to your ironing board, set up a small pressing station near your sewing machine.  I picked this overlarge dinner tray up at a yard sale. 

It’s big enough to hold my round Martelli cutting mat (my very favorite cutting surface), and a wool pressing mat (which if you don’t have one, they are sincerely worth every penny).  I keep it to the side of Big Red so all I have to do is turn around and press. 

If you don’t have room in your sewing area to have this, remember there are alternative pressing tools:

These work great for small seams and with paper piecing.  And if you have fake nails like I do, those also work well.  Just run your nail down the seam and it will lay down nicely. 

Paying careful attention to small details like the Holy Trifecta of Quilting is what makes a great quilt.  It’s easy for me to get all caught up in the pretty fabric and pretty pattern and want to rush ahead.  However, slowing down to make sure I’ve done the basic steps correctly will ensure that the final product will be as lovely as I want it to be. 

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Which Direction Does it Go?

I would like to talk about one of my very favorite topics this week – fabric.  It’s no secret that all quilters like pretty fabric. And fortunately, we live in a day and age where material producers can manufacture fabric that appeals to all quilters.  However, there is one type of fabric that can give quilters a fit – directional fabric.

Directional fabric is any fabric that has a distinct “up and down” or flows in an obvious direction.  For instance, this fabric is not directional fabric.  I can turn it this way…

Or this way….

And it doesn’t make any difference.  There is no distinct up and down. 

However, this fabric does.  If I turn it this way it looks correct.

If I turn it around the other way, it doesn’t.  The ballerinas would be dancing upside down. 

Striped fabric falls into the directional fabric category.  While it can be used either vertically or horizontally, a quilter must work to keep it all going the same way in his or her quilt.  Border prints often must be treated the same way, depending on if it’s used for small patches or the actual quilt border.  While striped and border prints usually run vertically when coming off the fabric bolt, care must be given when cutting them out so that they work correctly with a quilt. 

In other words, if you want to use directional fabric in your quilt, there is some additional planning that must be done.  At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Is it really worth it?  Is using directional fabric that important in a quilt that I have to add extra time and effort in the planning stages?”  To be sure, not all quilts have or need directional fabric.  However, directional fabric adds movement to a quilt and, if used correctly, can help the eye move across the top.  It can give it added interest and just a little more “zing” than normal.  My very favorite type of directional fabric is stripes.  I love to cut striped material for binding.  I cut it on the bias so that it slants sideways around the quilt.  This is particularly effective with red and white striped fabric on Christmas quilts – it looks like peppermint candy canes. 

There are generally three types of directional fabric:  Border prints, stripes, and those fabrics that have a definite up and down.  We will look at each and discuss how to use them effectively.  Since we’ve already mention stripes, we will begin with them. 

Ideally, you want all the stripes used in your piecing to run either vertically or horizontally.  There are some exceptions to this (as in Spider Web Quilts),

Spider Web Quilt

but usually you will want the strips to run either all left to right or up and down.  Therefore, striped fabric is generally not a good choice for any quilt you plan to strip piece.  As you strip piece, the patches will be turned and twisted, so you run into the situation where some of the strips in the block will be vertical and others horizontal.  If you’re making a scrap quilt, it doesn’t matter as much.  Ditto if you’re copying an antique quilt.  Our quilting fore mothers didn’t care if their stripes ran different directions.  The scale of the stripes is also something that should be considered.  If the stripes are wide and the pieces in the block are small, the fabric may not work. 

Border Print

Border prints in themselves are just a lot of fun to use in quilts.  Obviously, they can be used for the quilt borders, but they are useful for a few other things.  I use them as a starting point to help me pick my other fabric for a quilt.  The colors may not necessarily match what I end up using, and I may opt not to use the border print, but it’s a great place to start designing your quilt.  If the border print has wide repeats, there is a chance that I can use part of that repeat in my sashing – which really helps pull the quilt together.  And if you’re into kaleidoscope quilts, border prints work perfectly for that technique. 

Kaleidoscope Quilt

Fabric that has a definite up and down or flow is the trickiest of all to work with.  You don’t necessarily want to use the fabric in a quilt block and have it upside down – again unless it’s a scrappy quilt.  In my opinion, this fabric takes more planning that striped material. 

So how do you make directional fabric work in your quilt?  There are options out there, and I’d like to tell you how I manage all of these wonderful, directional fabrics. 

  1.  I see if I can miter the striped fabrics and/or the border prints in my quilt borders.
This quilter used a border print and mitered the borders.

The wonderful thing about border prints used as borders is that it looks like you’ve performed excruciating piecing or applique when you haven’t.  So not only can a border print work to pull all the colors of your quilt together, it can also fool the viewer into thinking you spent hours on your borders when you didn’t (but keep that to yourself and let everybody else wonder at your piecing or appliqueing skills).  However, since a border print is inherently just a fabric with really large stripes, if you simply cut the strips to fit the sides of the quilt and sewed them on as normal, it wouldn’t really look right. However, you can get around mitering (if that’s really not your thing), by adding cornerstones.

But in my opinion, if the corners can be mitered, it looks so much better – kind of like a picture frame around the quilt.  Mitering isn’t difficult and I covered this topic in my 2018 blogs on borders. 

  •  Templates can save your quilting neck when you use directional fabrics.

I admit that using templates is probably one of my least favorite quilting techniques.  I imagine this deep feeling of resentment comes from my early quilting days when everyone was taught to piece by using templates.  When I began quilting in 1986, rotary cutters were not used by the majority of quilters.  I had to make templates out of card stock or thin cardboard, trace those onto my fabric and then cut out my patches.  I thought that this was too laborious and the least fun thing ever.  When the rotary cutter and cutting mats began showing up in quilt classes and shops, I was delighted. 

There is one handy-dandy thing about templates:  If they’re cut out of see-through paper, you can easily preview your fabrics in the shape they’ll be after they’re cut out.  This means you can turn the templates the way the fabric patches will be oriented in the quilt, so you can clearly see if the directional fabric will work as well as how you need to cut it out.  And usually, I will trace around the templates on the directional fabric and cut out my patches with scissors.  Then I use a piece of painter’s tape or a sticker to label the patch and where it goes in the block.  This process takes a little extra time, but it assures me that my directional fabric will be oriented the way I need it to be. 

  •  If you love the directional fabric, but don’t want to go through mitering or templates, use it as a focus fabric in a block that has a large-ish center.

Take for example, this block:

It has a nice, large center square.  It would be a great idea just to fussy cut your border fabric or other directional fabric and use it for the center in this block.

This would mean little waste in fabric, plus it would be really easy to make sure your directional fabric is turned the right way.  It adds interest and helps pull the quilt colors together. 

So, don’t let directional fabric daunt you.  It’s a great thing to use in the quilting process.  It adds movement to your top and it’s just plain fun.  It does take a little extra planning and perhaps a little extra fabric, but it’s so worth it!

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Class We Go

This isn’t exactly a rant…not really.  These are just a few thoughts that I have about quilt classes – both taking them and teaching them.  I have done both (both taught and taken), so I think I’m speaking from all sides of the sewing machine on this one.

I love to take classes.  Even after quilting over 30 years, I still have a lot to learn.  With every class I sit in, I come away with something new.  It may a little thing – like a new organizational idea – or a big thing – like how to make Y-seams easier.  Equally, I enjoy teaching classes.  I don’t teach as much as I used to, but I do enjoy meeting new quilters (new to me or new to quilting).  I love the teaching process and I love sharing what I know.  And I always learn something from my students.  Always.  Their feedback makes me a better teacher.

After teaching a recent one-day workshop where I encountered a few hiccups among my students, I wondered if they had thought through exactly what they needed to do before class in order to be ready for class.  As a former high school science teacher, this concept is not foreign to me.  The first several days of a new science class were always  spent telling those kids how to prep for a lab and what I expected from them in class.  However, with a quilt class or a workshop, there usually isn’t much more than a supply sheet or an email to get folks ready for a day of quilty instruction.  With this blog, I want to give you the nuts and bolts about how to get ready for class.  And unlike high school where you could see the teacher the next day to clear up any confusion, you won’t see your quilting instructor until the next week, the next month, or if it’s a one-day workshop, maybe not ever again. 

First, let’s look at what the class is.  That sounds pretty silly, but let’s define it.  A quilting class or workshop is a time to learn, fellowship, and share.  You’re hopefully going to learn something new, have a chance to talk with other quilters, and share ideas with each other.  Now let’s look at what the class is notIt is not a gossip session.  It is not a gab session.  And for heaven’s sake, it’s not a guild meeting or a bee.  I’ve run into situations where I’ve taught or been in a class where there were several members of the same guild in attendance.  I’ve heard more about their guild’s business than I had a right to know.  Please remember everyone has paid their class fee and that money is spent to learn

Okay, that rant over, let’s move on.  With any class, there is a supply list involved.  Don’t wait and read it the day prior to class – as a matter of fact, read it at least a week before the class.  Read it thoroughly.  Then read it again.  Highlight, underline, or circle anything you need to particularly remember or special supplies you need to purchase.  Then read it again – just to be on the safe side.  This list is important because it’s not only going to tell you what you need to have as far as fabric and notions go, but it will also let you know if there is any special equipment you need to bring, if you need to bring your own pressing station or if one will be provided, or if there is a cutting station and there is no need for your own mat.  The instructor should have his or her contact information on that sheet.  If you have any questions, ask the teacher for clarification.  They honestly won’t mind this one bit. Clearing up any questions before class means there is more time for actual instruction and fun!

Next gather up all your supplies.  From a teacher’s point of view here, it’s really great if you have exactly what’s on the supply list.  If your instructor requests fat quarters and you decide to bring enough scraps that equals the number of fat quarters required, be prepared for a longer prep time.  When I’m teaching, I know that I don’t ask for anything superfluously.  I have a good reason behind everything I require for class.  Most quilting teachers do.  And if the instructor asks you to do some prep work before class, make sure you have that in hand. 

As you gather all your supplies, organize them.  Plastic boxes with snap on lids are great, as are Ziploc bags.  Caddies that hold your general sewing supplies are awesome, as are thread catchers to keep your area neat.  It’s also a great idea to put your name on everything.  I can’t imagine anyone stealing in a quilt class, but one yellow Olfa rotary cutter looks pretty much like another yellow Ofla rotary cutter.   And if you accidently leave something behind, the teacher will know who to contact in order to get that back to you. 

Also note what supplies may be for sale at class and their costs.  Sometimes teachers prefer one brand of thread or a certain notion or will have the pattern available for purchase at class.  Bring cash to purchase them.  I know we all use debit cards out the wazoo now, but not all teachers are equipped to take them.  Correct change is a terrific thing to have to make your instructor’s life easier.  If the class is held at a LQS, the shop may have the supplies and then debit/credit cards can be used.

While we are talking about supplies, let’s also hit equipment at this point.  As a teacher, this is one of the areas that gives me the most grief, so let me park it here and discuss a few things about any equipment required – primarily your sewing machine. 

 Make sure you know your machine

This is a biggie.   If it’s the machine you regularly use and you haven’t used it in a few days, plug it up and run few stitch lines to make sure it’s working okay.  If it’s a machine that you only use occasionally, do the same thing.  And if you’ve been blessed with a brand-new machine (lucky you!), definitely spend some quality time with it before class.    Know how to change the needle.  Know you to thread it.  Know how to change the feet.  Know how to wind a bobbin and change the needle position.  Go into class at least knowing the basics.  This is important because the class instructor may not have ever sewn on your brand of machine.  This means he or she may not be able to help you if you have issues.  Couple that with the fact that if you need help with your machine, you’re cutting into class time and selling the other people in the class short. 

  •  Make sure your machine is up to par.

If it’s been about eighteen months since you’ve had your machine serviced, make an appointment with a tech and have it serviced.  This extends the life of your machine and makes it sew so much better.  If you’ve had it serviced, make sure you’ve got a new needle in and you’ve cleaned and oiled it (if you’re machine can be oiled). 

  •  Make sure you have all the supplies for your machine.

Be sure to pack your machine’s power cord and foot pedal (if needed).  You’d be surprised how frequently those two things are forgotten.  Extra bobbins (preferably wound before class) and sewing machine needles are very handy, as well as any extra feet you think you may need. 

While you’re gathering up your machine and supplies, also pack a positive attitude.  Come to class excited to learn something new.  Support your fellow classmates.  Be encouraging to each other.  I love it when this attitude pervades a class – any I’m taking and certainly any class I teach.  It makes life so much better and I think you actually learn more when this is present.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Some teachers may request that you hold all inquiries until the end of class or until he/she is finished explaining a point.  If that’s the situation, you may want to make note of that question and ask it at the appropriate time.  No question is ever stupid.  And as a former teacher, I can certify that if you have a question, there is the distinct possibility someone else in that class has the same question, too.  Ask it. 

Finally, mind your manners.

Be on time.  If you’re taking a class that requires you to bring your sewing machine, come a few minutes early so you can have the machine set up and ready to rock and roll when class is supposed to start.  If you’re running late or must miss part of the class, most teachers would appreciate an email, text, or phone call to let them know ahead of time.  If you have to come in late, set up as quietly as possible so not to interrupt class.  If you must leave early, do it quietly and inform the instructor beforehand. 

If you have to share a sewing space, be sure to respect boundaries.  Allow the other students in class to have enough room to use their machine and tools.  Be courteous to your teacher – not just with words, either.  If the instructor is speaking to the entire class, stop sewing or winding bobbins (which should have been wound before class) or talking to a friend.  Give the teacher your full attention and enable the other students to do the same.  Keep walkways and aisles free of clutter for safety’s sake.

Lastly, when class is over pack everything up and prepare to leave so your teacher can also leave.  Most teachers, including myself, don’t mind staying few minutes over to answer any questions.  However, don’t hold the instructor hostage.  If you have a question that requires a detailed answer, ask if you can call or email him/her later to get clarification.  Most teachers don’t mind this at all.

In closing, I would like to encourage you to take as many classes as you’re able to.  I always learn something in every one I take.  And if you’re a seasoned quilter, think about teaching someone else.  It doesn’t have to be in a classroom setting.  One-on-one works perfectly fine.  Pass the art of quilting along to someone else!

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


Simple Vs. Complex

 Which type of quilt do you like to make the most – a simple quilt or a complex quilt?  Or does the choice depend on the timing, the fabric, and your mood?  What I’d like to discuss with this blog is both types of quilts and why it’s important as a quilter that to embrace both types. 

While I like both types of quilts, I do tend to favor complex quilts more than simple ones.  I embrace the challenge of harder quilt patterns.  It stretches me as a quilt artist, and I like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I put that last stitch in the binding and can stand back and look at what I did.  However, a steady output of complex quilts is just as bad as ongoing production of simple quilts once you’re past the beginner quilting stage.  With this blog, I want us to examine why it’s important to have both types of quilts in your quilting pattern stash, as well as why it’s vital to have a pattern stash as well as a fabric stash.

Simple quilt patterns are wonderful things for every quilter to have tucked back in their files.  If a quilt is needed for a charity cause or a quick gift, those patterns are invaluable.  You can pull them out, cut your fabric, sew them up, and quilt them in a couple of weeks or less.  Clearly these quilts are made for use and not for show (not that they shouldn’t be attractive – they’re just not show-bound), so the color way will carry the quilt.  I have three quilt patterns I consistently use for baby quilts and five I use for charity quilts.  I’ve used these patterns so often I don’t have to think too hard when I’m cutting them out or sewing the tops.  I’ve just about memorized how much fabric I need for each, so I can quickly shop my stash and then get down to business.  These are great patterns.

However, complex patterns have taught me a few things these simple quilt patterns have not.  Complex quilts have taught me you can make assemble a quilt easier by breaking it into units or steps.  Simple quilt patterns obviously do this, too, but a difficult quilt pattern really teaches you the value of the process.  If a pattern calls for cutting out 180 squares that are 2 ½-inches, you quickly learn it’s easier not only to figure you how many 2 ½-inch x 44-inch strips to cut from the fabric, it’s also best to cut them all out at once.  If the directions call for 80 flying geese units, find a Netflix show to binge watch and sew those all suckers up.  And if it calls for 20 quilt blocks that must true-up to 10 ½-inches unfinished, you learn to do that as you go along and not wait until the end.  All of these practices – and more – I’ve learned from the harder quilt patterns, not the easier ones. 

Complex quilts have taught me the importance of organization.  Harder quilt patterns have a lot going on all at once.  I’ve learned to bag and tag units and blocks clearly and keep them together so they’re within easy reach when needed.  I have also learned one other tiny detail that’s sometimes really helpful with a quilt with lots of different units – often the stitching process can be made easier if I can use fabrics that have a definite right and wrong side.  This will ensure that parallelograms are turned the right way and I won’t have to rip them out. 

Judy Neimeyer Pattern

This next concept that I’ve learned sounds contrary to the way most folks understand things, but I’ll own the fact that I learn differently.  As my regular readers know, I’ve written several blogs about paper piecing, when I use it, and how much I appreciate its accuracy.  I began quilting in 1986.  I was introduced to paper piecing then and hated it.  It wasn’t until 2010 that I learned how to properly paper piece and my love affair with it began.  And it was through a Judy Niemeyer quilt pattern – a pattern designer who is not necessarily known for her easy quilts.  However, the way that Judy explains paper piecing, how to cut the fabrics, label and bag, and then actually do the process was one of those “light bulb” moments in my quilting life.  So sometimes the harder quilt patterns can clarify techniques you are struggling with.

But I also don’t want to sound as if I’m slamming simple quilts, either. There is great beauty in simplicity when technique is executed well. If you’re struggling with a particular technique and can find an easy quilt pattern that highlights it, oftentimes you can get a good grip on the skill by making the simple quilt. However, aside from that, there is one other very important thing I love about an easy quilt pattern:

It’s wonderful therapy.

I quilt for a lot of reasons, but one of those reasons happens to be it’s a big stress reliever for me.  During the difficult times in my life, having something simple to sew and quilt calms my soul and spirit.  While I’m dealing with whatever problem has crossed my path, I don’t want or need anything else complex.  I need something that allows my hands to be busy and my mind to be free to think over the situation.  It’s often through these simple quilts that I find my greatest peace of mind (because they’re so easy and I’ve made them so often I can pray through the construction process), and I feel productive – because when I’m through I have a quilt to give away.

In closing, I think it’s important to have both simple and complex quilt patterns in your files.  You never know when life will throw you a curve and you’ll need a quick quilt, and you’ll never know just how far you can stretch yourself as a quilter unless you try out some hard quilts.  Have some of both tucked away.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam