Over the past several months, I’ve had a few of my readers request “Show and Tell” from me. Periodically, I post pictures of what I’m working on, projects I’ve completed, and such. I think, if memory serves me correctly, the last time I posted any pictures of my quilts was right after Christmas. Several of the quilts I completed were designated Christmas presents, so I had to wait until they were delivered and opened before I could make them public.
I will state this: If the Pandemic did anything for me (other than give me a greater appreciation for the on-the-front lines medical community, people who didn’t have the option of sheltering in place, and the joy of take out and delivery), it gave me the opportunity to hunker down and work on what I wanted to without the temptation of joining another quilt along. As a result, I really did get a lot done – as well as making hundreds of masks. And I loved getting UFOs off my to-do list. This feeling of accomplishment has carried over into 2021 and I find myself still ticking off the projects I wanted to get completed off my list.
This sweet little sunflower quilt:
Is the result of a class I took with Barbara Eikmeier. In this Zoom class (another thing I have learned to appreciate and love), Barbara taught the basics of back basting applique. I have used this technique for years, but her class was a great way to refresh myself on the fundamentals, as well as remember just why I loved this method. Back basting was one of the first applique skills I was taught. It’s old school – no glue, special paper, or tools required – just thread, needles, a pencil, the pattern, and your fabric. Bonus – look at that scalloped border! Barbara taught an error-less way to make these. I had so much fun making this quilt. I love sunflowers, and I hope to use this pattern a make a lap quilt or wall hanging in the future. The quilting isn’t my best – I used an 80/20 batting and should have stuck to 100 percent cotton. It’s a little too poufy and I think that detracts from the sunflower.
Last fall, I began a class with Kathy Delaney, who designed the pattern Horn of Plenty for a New Generation. This quilt is based on the designs by Eveline Foland. Ms. Foland published her applique patterns between January 5, 1932, and February 24, 1932, in the Kansas City Star newspaper. The first thing which drew me to this pattern and class was the subject matter. In my applique world, which is overwhelmingly floral, this was fruit – something delectably different. The second factor which made me want to make this quilt was Kathy herself. If you Google Kathy Delaney, you will find a host of patterns and books, as well as a YouTube channel. Besides being an internationally known quilter and teacher, Kathy is just a wonderful person who loves her students. And despite the fact I’ve appliqued for nearly 35 years, I knew I would learn a lot in her class – which I am. I also have met quilters from all over the United States in her Zoom class.
Here are my blocks:
You may notice I have pre-quilted the background in these blocks with a 1-inch crosshatch. Personally, if I plan on crosshatch quilting my applique, I try to do as much of it as possible before I actually applique the pieces. Here’s how that works:
- I prep my applique pieces per normal. With this quilt I’m using the Apliquick method. There’s a lot of overlay with this pattern – pieces sitting on top of each other. The Apliquick paper prevents any shadowing, and I don’t have the fiddly issue of lining my applique pieces with a piece of white fabric. The heat-set paper takes care of this issue.
- I cut my background fabric between 1 ½-2-inches larger than the unfinished size the pattern calls for. Normally with applique, you only need an inch more than the unfinished size – the additional fabric allows for any shrinkage which occurs during the applique process (by either hand or machine). Since I’m actually quilting the background before I hand applique, and the quilting process also can make the background shrink, I add a little more in the area of fabric margin if I’m pre-quilting.
- After the background squares are cut, I mark them with the crosshatch design and the applique pattern. In this case I’m using a 1-inch cross hatch.
- I cut a batting square a little larger than the background fabric square and spray baste the two together. Once the quilt top is complete, there will be another piece of batting used to quilt the entire quilt. In order to keep bulk to a minimum, I use a 100 percent cotton batting for pre-quilting. Once the background and batting are spray basted, I stitch along the drawn crosshatched lines using my domestic sewing machine. I don’t want the quilting to compete with the applique, so I will use Superior Threads Micro Quilting Thread #7003. This is utterly mindless, enjoyable work.
- Once the pre-quilting is complete, I applique as usual. Yes, the addition of batting makes it a little awkward sometimes, as well as a bit bulky, but if I plan on crosshatching my applique backgrounds, it is so much easier to do it before I stitch my applique than to have to run the stop-and-go process on my long arm when the top is complete.
That drives me nuts, even with backtracking.Helpful hint – working on a flat surface makes appliqueing pre-quilted backgrounds so much easier.
- When my applique is all stitched down, I also outline the fruit with one strand of Aurifil 50/2. I used a stem stitch and made them a bit longer than you would a typical embroidery stitch – the longer stitches look smoother going around curvy fruit.
To ice this fruity, quilty cake, I found this fabric on Bear Creek Quilting’s website:
I could not ask for anything more perfect to use for sashing and borders.
I’ve also completed a quilt or two. I decided in 2020, I would make both my children a quilt, since I hadn’t given Meg or Matthew a quilt in several years. This is the quilt I made for Meg:
The pattern is Twinkling Twilight. Despite the fact it looks as if I’ve used more than a dozen different fabrics, there is only eleven 1/3-yard cuts. I used Ombre fabrics, so it appears as if there is way more material involved than it really is. This pattern is comprised of four-patches and triangles using the Tri-Rex ruler, with lots of reverse cutting. It was a challenging quilt, and I really like it. It’s bright and bold, and I can’t wait to see Meg’s face when I give it to her.
Now take a gander at these:
These are the pieces I’ve just started working on for my son’s quilt. And no matter what you may think, the fabric isn’t batik, but it could pass for it. I’m using the pattern All Roads for Matt’s quilt. Now, in case you’re wondering if I’m playing favorites because Meg’s quilt is finished and Matthew’s isn’t, let me assure you I cut both of them out at the same time and took both of them with me to the Fall-Quilt-Retreat-that-Didn’t-Happen. My plan was to get both quilt tops completed, bring them back home, spend my Thanksgiving vacation getting them both quilted, and then have both bound and labeled by Christmas. Well, as some of you may remember, we were at quilt retreat less than 12 hours when a storm rolled through, and the park lost power. They sent us home, refunded our money and I continued work on Meg’s since I actually did get started on hers at retreat when an unwelcome guest set up shop in my family.
My regular readers know my brother and only sibling, Eric, had smoldering Myeloma for about three years. In January 2021 the shoe dropped, and the disease went from smoldering to active. The doctors at Duke University had been tracking him during those years, following up with blood work, bone scans, and bone marrow biopsies. As a result, the disease has been caught early and his outlook is very, very good. Early cancer detection is a wonderful thing and I truly believe it’s 90 percent of the battle. However, for Eric, the other 10 percent is chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. As I’m writing this, he is almost through with the chemo – which thankfully has had very few side effects. He’s deciding on the particulars about the transplant, which should take place in the fall.
Now that you have this background, let’s talk about the quilt which really took front and center in my quilting universe this year and pushed my son’s quilt to the side for a while. Also allow me to divulge a bit about my relationship with my brother. Eric is six years younger than I am and despite the age gap, we are fairly competitive (all in good fun, though). We’ve mellowed some as we’ve both gotten older and we are definitely closer now than we were growing up. There’s rarely more than a few days between calls and texts. He’s my brother and one of my best friends. Well before his Multiple Myeloma diagnosis, I decided I wanted to make him a quilt. As a matter of fact, about four or five years ago I decided I wanted to make him a t-shirt quilt. Now for another tidbit about us. We both grew up in North Carolina – a state where college basketball is as sacred as the Holy Season. We live in the heart of ACC country, where UNC, Duke, State, and Wake Forest meet at the center of nearly every basketball playoff. Eric is a die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool Carolina fan…
I am not.
GO DUKE BLUE DEVILS!!
And if you know anything about North Carolina basketball, you are keenly aware Carolina and Duke are the most rivalest of the rival teams. Forget NBA playoffs with some over-paid basketball players. Here we all know the best basketball games are the ones between Duke and Carolina.
But I digress…
Several years ago, my original plan was to have my sweet sister-in-law covertly remove some of Eric’s many Carolina t-shirt and hand them over to me so I could construct the quilt. About a week after we discussed what t-shirts and how many I needed, Deanne called me.
“I can’t get them,” she told me.
“Why?” I asked. “I mean he has hundreds. How’s he gonna miss six or nine of them?”
“I don’t know. It’s like he has a running inventory in his head. I move one and he asks me where it’s at. I don’t think this is going to work.”
So, I decided to buy my own Carolina t-shirts. As a Duke fan, this was a difficult thing to do. I felt I was betraying my boys. But slowly and steadily, after each Sweet Sixteen and National playoff, I would purchase a t-shirt here and a t-shirt there. In a couple of ways this worked better than waiting on Eric to give up a t-shirt. I could order all the same size (extra-large) and make sure I had a good blend of blues. When the Multiple Myeloma diagnosis came, I decided I needed to go ahead and make the quilt. I had ten t-shirts and thought I needed 12 (key word to remember here: thought), so I quickly purchased two more. Once they arrived, I de-boned the t-shirts and pulled out my pattern…
Only to discover I needed fifteen t-shirts.
In ordinary times, this would not have presented a problem. I would simply jump on the Johnny T-shirt website and order three more shirts. But let me refresh your memory of the time frame. At this point, it’s January 2020. We’re in the middle of a Pandemic. Know what didn’t happen in 2020?
Therefore, no new t-shirts for me to choose from. After some creative swearing and web searching, I found an Ebay vendor who had three Carolina t-shirts I didn’t have. The last one was technically a football t-shirt, but the goal lines ran down the far-right side of the shirt, a good portion of which would be cut off in the de-boning process. I hit the Paypal site, did the monetary transaction and waited for my shirts. A week later, they arrived, and I began the construction of a monster of a quilt. I used Angela Walter’s t-shirt quilt pattern as inspiration and eventually it grew to around 110 inches square. Things were zipping right along until I received a news bulletin on my phone: Roy Williams retired as the UNC basketball coach.
You have to understand why this was so important. For years, the incomparable Dean Smith coached the Carolina men’s basketball team. Even if you dislike Carolina and barely tolerate Carolina fans, you respected Dean Smith. He was a man of great integrity. Dean coached at UNC for 36 years, retiring in 1997. Roy Williams took over and had been the coach since then. I had a t-shirt in the quilt commemorating Dean Smith.
Now, in order to make the quilt complete, I had to find one for Roy. Despite the fact I was on the last row, I knew I had to find the shirt and make it work. A couple of internet searches and $22 later, I had my shirt. It arrived in two days, and I added it to the last row.
Top complete, I quilted it (for the record, Leighanne the Long Arm does not like t-shirt quilts) and sewed on the label.
I still have a quilt or two planned out for the rest of the year. I need to get busy on my Guild’s 2021 BOM. It more or less got pushed to the side once I started Eric’s t-shirt quilt. I have an alphabet quilt in the works, too. It involves machine applique. I also am nearly finished with the center of my Grandmother’s Flower Garden. And I still have 11 more applique blocks to make for my fruit quilt. This year will be a busy one.
Until next week, Quilt On!
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam