I’m a Queer Quilter

In case you’re not aware, June is Pride Month, a reflection on and celebration of LGBTQ+ history, culture, and lives. I have had an incredibly fortunate life as far as being a gay man born and raised in the United States. While I never felt comfortable with my sexuality until I was in college, once I finally got over my denial and came out of the closet, my family and friends continued to love and support me unconditionally. Many LGBTQ+ folks are not nearly so lucky, and that’s why this is such an important month for our community. I could write pages about my opinion on gender and sexual identity politics in this country, but since this is a quilting blog I just want to stick to the word I typed at the end of the previous sentence: Community.

My journey into the world of quilting began as a solo mission. I took online courses and sat in my sewing nook, cutting, piecing, and quilting all by myself. It didn’t take long, however, to realize what an amazing quilting community is out there throughout the world. Thanks to social media, I soon connected with quilters from near and far, quilters who identify as male, female, nonbinary, trans, queer, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual. Quilters of all ages. Quilters of so many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Quilters who speak a completely different language from mine. Quilters who use fiber arts as a way to express their strong political and moral values. Quilters who use fiber arts as a productive way to pass the time. Single quilters. Married quilters. Quilters with children. Quilters with furry children. Quilters who keep all children at arm’s length. Quilters who have made one quilt. Quilters who have made thousands of quilts. The list goes on and on.

This community is just as colorful and varied as the most amazingly enormous rainbow quilt you can imagine, and just as that quilt is bound together by variegated rainbow metallic thread (because why not imagine such a thing exists?!), we are all bound together by our love of this timeless art form.

Pride Month is important for many reasons, but what I hope everyone truly takes to heart is that this is a time of acceptance. Please understand how important it is to allow those around you to bring their whole selves to whatever group you are part of. When we can bring 100% of ourselves to work, to our families and friends, to our creative projects it’s truly amazing how much stronger we all grow as a community. Happy Pride!

Quilter’s Glossary

All Over Meander — A generic free-motion quilting pattern to describe a large looping pattern used over large areas of the quilt.

Appliqué — Sewing a piece of fabric on top of another piece of fabric. No seams are created.

Backing — The back of the quilt. The backing is generally not seen if the quilt is hanging on a wall or on a bed.

Basting — Attaching layers of fabric together to prepare them for sewing or quilting.

Batik — A method of creating printed fabrics using wax.

Batting — The middle layer of a quilt. Batting can be made from different materials such as cotton, polyester, silk, wool, etc. It acts as insulation.

Bias — The 45-degree angle of a woven fabric. Fabric cut on the bias has more give.

Binding — A long piece of folded fabric that wraps around the raw edge of a quilt. It acts as a frame around the entire quilt. It is generally the final step in the quilt making process.

Block — The basic unit of a quilt. Blocks are sewn together to create different patterns for the overall quilt top.

Borders — Long pieces of fabric surrounding the overall pattern of the quilt top.

Chain Piecing — Piecing multiple groups of fabric in a row without breaking thread on your sewing machine.

Charm Packs –A precut of 5” squares.

Civil War Fabric — A generic term used to describe prints designed to look like fabric from the 1800s.

Clamshells — Overlapping curved pieces used in English paper piecing.

Cornerstones — Fabric squares that are sewn at the junction of the sashing or borders of a quilt top.

Curved Piecing — Sewing two pieces of fabric that have been cut along a curved line.

Curved Safety Pins — Specialty safety pins with a slight curve used for pin basting.

Disappearing Nine Patch — A traditional Nine Patch block that is then cut and resewn to create a new pattern.

Double Wedding Ring — A traditional block using curved piecing to create the look of interlocking rings.

Drunkard’s Path — A traditional quilt block. It features a pattern of quarter circles sewn together.

English Paper Piecing — A method of piecing that involves hand sewing fabric around paper templates.

Facing — A method of finishing the raw edges of a quilt which gives the quilt an unframed look.

Fat Quarters — A precut that is generally a large rectangle with the measurement of 18” x 21”.

Feathers — A traditional free-motion quilting pattern designed to look like feathers.

Fiber Art — Any creative and intentional use of fabric and fibers. Quilts are a form of fiber art.

Flying Geese — A traditional quilt piece made up of three triangles that form a rectangle.

Foundation Paper Piecing — A method of piecing that involves sewing fabric along lines drawn on paper.

Four Patch — Four squares sewn together.

Free-motion Quilting (FMQ) — A method of quilting various designs in a similar fashion as drawing.

Freezer Paper — Paper with a slightly glossy side used in appliqué.

Fusible — A material that can be glued to fabric by applying the heat of an iron. It is used to give stability to fabrics that are otherwise difficult to sew. It is often used in the process of appliqué.

Fussy Cutting — A method of cutting out a very specific piece of a print which will be featured in a quilt block.

Glue Basting — A method of basting a quilt sandwich that involves the use of spray glue.

Half-square Triangle — A pieced quilt block made up of two triangles sewn together along their longest sides, creating a square.

Hand Binding — Usually referring to the process of attaching the first side of the binding by machine but finishing the second side of the binding by hand.

Hand Quilting — Sewing the layers of a quilt sandwich together with a hand needle and thread rather than a sewing machine.

Hexies — Hexagon quilt blocks. This term is often used in English paper piecing.

High-volume Print — A print with very little negative space in the overall design.

Improv Piecing — A method of piecing that involves sewing fabric together with no specific plan.

Interfacing — The general term for a material used to stabilize fabric. See fusible.

Jelly Rolls — A precut of strips measuring 2.5” x WoF.

Layer Cakes — A precut of 10” squares.

Log Cabin — A traditional quilt block. The traditional log cabin block has a red square in the center. Alternating strips of dark and light fabrics are sewn around the center square.

Longarm Quilting Machine — A machine designed to be used only for quilting. It consists of a frame on which the quilt sandwich is placed. The quilter then guides the quilting machine over the quilt to free-motion quilt the pattern.

Low-volume Print — A print with a lot of negative space in the overall design.

Machine Binding — Attaching the binding completely by machine.

Mitered Corners — The result of folding the binding in a way to produce a 45-degree fold at the corner.

Modern Quilt — A subjective term used to describe quilts that do not use traditional blocks.

Nine Patch — Nine squares sewn together.

Ohio Star — A traditional quilt block. The Ohio Star consists of a square in the middle with a quarter-square triangle on each side of the square.

On Point — Quilt blocks that are sewn together in a diamond pattern instead of a square pattern.

Partial Seams — Sewing two pieces of fabric but not completing the seam until more fabric has been added at a later point.

Pebbles — A traditional free-motion quilting pattern designed to look like pebbles.

Piecing — Sewing two pieces of fabric together and creating a seam.

Pin Basting — A method of basting a quilt that uses curved safety pins placed approximately every 4” over the entire quilt sandwich.

Pineapple Block — A traditional quilt block.

Precuts — Fabric that has been cut into specific shapes and sizes to expedite the piecing process.

Press to the Dark Side — Pressing the seam to the darker fabric.

Pressing — Using an iron to gently flatten seams. Depending on the desired results, the seam can be pressed open or to one side.

Prints — Any fabric with a design printed on it.

Quarter-inch Seam — The standard seam allowance when piecing quilts. The measurement from the thread line to the edge of the seam is 0.25 inches.

Quarter-square Triangle — A pieced quilt block made up of four triangles sewn together to create a square.

Quilt — Generally, a quilt is any piece of fiber art made up of a top layer, a bottom layer, and batting in the middle which have all been stitched together.

Quilt Guild — A group of quilters who gather on a regular basis.

Quilt Panel — A piece of fabric with a large picture printed on it.

Quilt Police — An imaginary force of quilters who believe there are strict rules that must always be followed for all steps of the quilting process.

Quilt Sandwich — The three layers of a quilt — quilt top, batting, and backing. This term is generally used when the three layers have been basted together and before they’ve been quilted.

Quilt Shop — A fabric and notions store specifically geared towards quilters.

Quilt Show — A large presentation of quilts usually open to the public. There are often vendor booths as well. Many quilt shows judge the quilts that have been entered.

Quilt Top — The front, or top, of a quilt. The quilt top is generally the side of the quilt that is most seen.

Quilting — The pattern of stitching which joins all three layers of a quilt.

Quilting Cotton — A medium weight cotton fabric that is most often used to make quilts.

Quilting Rulers — Rulers that are specifically designed to be used with rotary cutters. Many quilting rulers are also designed to help create specific kinds of quilt blocks.

Right Side — The side of a printed fabric with the actual pattern.

Right Sides Together — Placing a printed fabric with the right side facing up and then placing another printed fabric on top of it with the right side facing down. Once sewn together and pressed open, the right sides of both pieces of fabric will be on the same side.

Rotary Cutter — A circular blade that allows the user to cut long straight lines into fabric when used with quilting rulers.

Sashing — Long pieces of fabric framing individual blocks on a quilt top.

Scant Quarter-inch Seam — The measurement from the thread line to the edge of the seam is one or two thread widths short of 0.25 inch.

Scrappy quilt — A quilt made up of a variety of prints.

Seam Allowance — The measurement of the seam.

Seam Ripper — A tool used to rip out threads from a seam or to rip out threads used for quilting.

Self-healing Cutting Mat — A surface on which to cut fabric using a rotary cutter. Once the mats have been wiped down, the cuts seal themselves.

Selvage — The very densely woven edge of fabric that prevents it from unraveling. It often has identifying information printed on it.

Small Piecing — Piecing quilt blocks measuring less than 2” square. See tiny piecing.

Solids — Fabric that is a single color and nothing printed on it.

Squaring Up a Block/Quilt — Trimming the edges of a block or quilt so that it is even.

Stash — A quilter’s collection of fabric.

Stippling — A traditional free-motion quilting pattern consisting of a jigsaw-like design.

Tiny Piecing — Piecing quilt blocks measuring less than 2” square. See small piecing.

Traditional Quilt — A subjective term used to describe quilts that use traditional blacks.

UFOs — An acronym for unfinished objects, or any incomplete quilting projects. Most UFOs are finished quilt tops that still need to be made into a quilt sandwich and quilted.

Walking Foot — A special presser foot that grips the top of the fabric the same way the feed dogs of a sewing machine grip the bottom of the fabric.

Whole Cloth Quilt — A quilt made with one solid piece of fabric and quilted with an intricate design.

Wide Backing Fabric — Fabric that is specially created for quilt backing. It is much wider than traditional fabric so that one continuous piece can be used for the entire back of a quilt.

Width of Fabric (WoF) — The measurement of a piece of fabric from selvage to selvage.

Wrong Side — The side of a printed fabric that does not have the pattern on it.

Y-seams — The result of three seams coming together at a center point.

Yardage — This term is usually used to refer to cutting large pieces of fabric from the bolt.

Quilting 101: Resources

When I started my quilting journey back in March of 2017, I did what I always do whenever I have no idea where to start.  I Googled. I quickly found Craftsy.com (now mybluprint.com), and saw what a rich resource of all things crafting it was. Because I’m still somewhat new to the quilting world, I still use the Internet all the time to find out more about techniques and patterns, to shop, and just to get inspiration.  In this post, I’ve listed a bunch of resources that I use on a regular basis. I’m sure this list will continue to grow over the years, and I welcome any input you would like to see added. I’m always eager to learn as much as I can about all things quilting!

Quilting/sewing resources

YouTube — Go to youtube.com and search for the names listed below.  If you like the videos, be sure to click on the thumbs up icon and also Subscribe so you don’t miss out on any upcoming videos.  

Missouri Star Quilt Co. — Jenny Doan is an inspiration both as a quilter and a businesswoman.  She and her family have built a true quilting empire in Hamilton, Missouri, and I love how she is able to come up with easier ways to create traditional quilt blocks.  If you like working with precuts, this is definitely the channel for you!

Midnight Quilt Show — Angela Walters is the free-motion quilting queen!  She also has a great sense of humor, and I love her quilting philosophy of how finished is better than perfect.  I particularly like these videos because they’re short and very well produced.

Man Sewing — Rob Appell has A LOT of energy and enthusiasm for all things sewing, including quilts.  He gives great advice and offers a large range of different sewing techniques and projects.

Mr. Domestic — Mathew Boudreaux has an infectious joy that comes through in all of his video tutorials.  He also has incredible technique. If you’re looking to hone your skills and get ready to show your stuff for juried shows, you should definitely check out his videos.  

Fat Quarter Shop — Kimberly Jolly has created an amazing business with Fat Quarter Shop.  Not only is she a great retailer, but she produces so many informative videos on a regular basis that run the gamut of all things sewing.  She also has block-of-the-month clubs and other sew-alongs that help you feel like you’re part of a big quilting family.

MADE Everyday — Dana Willard’s YouTube channel has tons of very highly produced sewing tutorials.  Only a handful are quilting related, but this is the first channel I go to whenever I need to learn a technique such as sewing piping around a pillow or inserting zippers or making a vinyl bag, etc., etc., etc.  

Social Media — Before I started quilting, I was not that much into social media.  I originally joined Instagram as a way to chart my quilting progress, but I quickly discovered the enormous amounts of inspiration that can be gained from following all the amazing quilters through social media.  It’s a great way to become part of a worldwide community without leaving your sewing room.

Pinterest — This is the place to go when you just want to scroll through pretty pictures of whatever you’re interested in.  You can create your own folders and save the pictures as a reference whenever you need inspiration.

Instagram — I’m totally an Instagram convert!! I love following the many awe-inspiring quilters all over the world and seeing what they are producing every day.  It gives me motivation to keep producing my own work so I can show off what I have to offer, too.

Facebook — Facebook is a little trickier when it comes to following quilters because you have to request to be their friend unless their account is set up so that you can follow them.  However, pages can be set up on Facebook which you can join and share photos, thoughts, and compliments about whatever your group is focused on. When I was working on a mystery quilt challenge through National Quilters Circle, I joined their Facebook page, and it was such a great way to chart my own progress along with everyone else’s.  

MeetUp — This is a great app when you’re looking to actually meet people in real life.  Gasp! Yes, people actually still want to hang out in real life together these days.  I haven’t actually used MeetUp for anything quilting related … YET … but I have used it for other purposes and it’s been great.  If you’re having trouble finding a local quilters guild or a group of like-minded craft enthusiasts, I highly suggest you start your own MeetUp group and see who wants to join you.  

Local quilt shop/sewing/craft store — I’ve traveled all over the country, and it seems like there’s a quilt shop just about everywhere I’ve gone.  Not only do the people who run these shops have great knowledge to share with you as a customer, they also offer classes and bring in professional quilters for trunk shows and lectures.  I have yet to go to a quilt shop where the staff hasn’t been incredibly friendly and generous with their time.

Local/national quilters guild — When I realized I was actually a quilter I decided I needed to meet other quilters.  At some point I heard the term “quilters guild” and did an online search to see if there were any in my area.  Sure enough, there were several. I went to a Brooklyn Quilters Guild meeting and immediately joined. I’ve been a member since the fall of 2017, and it’s been so wonderful being part of a quilting community.  Not only do you get to share your love of quilts with like-minded people, but most guilds do a lot of charity work and that is good for the soul.

Websites/blogs — Sometimes I don’t necessarily want to sit through a YouTube video to learn a simple technique, so I just do a quick Google search for blogs.  A lot of these blogs are also retail sites, so you can do some shopping while you’re browsing online. If there’s a blog that speaks to you in particular, you should subscribe to their newsletter so you stay up to date with their regular posts.  

Local colleges — A lot of the local colleges offer classes for non-enrolled students.  I took a basic sewing class at the Fashion Institute of Technology several years ago that helped me get over my fear of my sewing machine.  Learning from an actual live person and having a structured curriculum worked really well for me.

Books/magazines — Honestly, I don’t really buy many craft books or magazines these days.  I pretty much find everything I need online. But there are still lots of amazing books and magazines being published today, so if you’re someone who loves filling their shelves with crafting books to show off to your visiting friends and families, go out and get some.  What I like most about crafting books is that the authors usually mix technique with their own personal stories. There are also great coffee table books out there if you just want to look at high-quality photos of pretty, pretty quilts.

Non-sewing resources

If you’re looking to step up your quilting/crafting game and go beyond following someone else’s pattern, I suggest you start thinking like an artist.  I’ve had the fortune to sit in on a lot of art classes over the last several years, and I’ve seen how much students grow and evolve over their college years because of technique and theory classes as well as structured critique from their professors and peers.  I’ve listed a few things to consider if you want to think outside the box. It can be so helpful to let ideas and techniques from other artforms influence your own work.

Color theory — As a crafter, you probably have a natural sense of color theory, but learning the science behind color can really boost your crafting game.  One of my favorite aspects of color theory is the idea of transparency. There are some really great guidelines out there if you want to create the optical illusion of overlapping colors in your quilts.  

Worqx.com — This website has TONS of color theory information at your fingertips.  I highly recommend taking a glance through it.

Interaction of Color by Josef Albers is the go-to color theory book most art students have to read in college.  These color theory principles serve as the foundation for your work with color.

Art history — Looking at what artists have been doing over the millennia is so inspiring.  As a quilter, I’m not looking to mimic any artist or their work, but I love seeing what they do in their own medium and thinking about how I could maybe apply one or two elements into my own work.  

Other creative arts — There is inspiration to be found everywhere!  This is just a tiny list of areas that might spark an idea in your own process.  

  • Photography
  • Painting
  • Drawing/illustration
  • Commercial design
  • Architecture
  • Textiles and patterns