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!

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

Quilting 101: What Is a Quilt?

This is the first of a series of posts I’m calling Quilting 101, where I’m going to walk you through the basics of quilting as well as introduce you to some vocabulary.  

Today’s post will start to answer:  What exactly is a quilt? At the most basic level, a quilt is made up of three layers, also known as the quilt sandwich. The front of the quilt is often called the quilt top.  Then you have the backing.  And in between you have the batting.  Those three layers are sewn together, and that is called the quilting.  

That said, I am by no means a quilting purist — I do not belong to the Quilt Police — and I truly believe the answer to “What is a quilt?” can be far more varied and nuanced.  In fact, I want to emphasize this one very important point. There are no hard and fast rules to any of this. Some of the most exciting pieces of fiber art I’ve seen were created by people who broke all of the so-called quilting rules and just went crazy with fabric and thread.  First and foremost, quilting is and should always be fun!

As I go through this introduction, keep in mind that everything in the quilting process that involves needle and thread can be done by hand, on a sewing machine, or a combination of both. Because I prefer using a sewing machine over hand sewing, most of my posts will be dealing with machine piecing and quilting.  But people have been creating beautiful quilts completely by hand for centuries, so if that’s what you prefer, go for it — see the last sentence of the previous paragraph, please.

The beginning of the quilting process usually starts with creating a design for the quilt top or choosing a premade design.  Once you’ve made that decision, it’s time to find the fabric — oh, the pretty, pretty fabrics!!

If you haven’t already done so, please find your local quilt shops and bask in the glory of their gorgeous merchandise.  I certainly buy plenty of fabrics online, but nothing beats seeing the colors and prints in person and actually feeling them before deciding what you want for your project. And even when I do buy fabrics online, I try to buy from quilt shops through Etsy versus big retailers like Joanne or Fabric.com.  That said, sometimes you want something very specific and you just have to buy it where you find it.

You can technically quilt with any kind of fabric — cotton, silk, denim, jersey knit, even leather! I mean, the list goes on and on, but most quilters use quilting cotton or a medium weight cotton because it’s the easiest to work with, so that’s what I would recommend to anyone just starting out.  

Quilting cottons come in a huge variety of prints and solids.  Printed fabrics will have a right side and a wrong side.  The right side is the side with the printed design on it.  The wrong side will look like a faded version of that design or not have the design on it at all.  Solids usually don’t have a right or wrong side — both sides are the same.

There are many ways to create the quilt top.  Most quilts use piecing methods or appliqué or a combination of both.  Piecing is when you put two pieces of fabric right sides together and sew a seam along the edge.  

Appliqué is when you sew a piece of fabric on top of another piece of fabric.  In other words, you apply a piece of fabric on top of another.  

Another way to create a quilt top is to use a panel.  Panels are large pieces of fabric with an image printed on them.  Depending on how the panel is printed, you can use it as a single piece for the top or you can cut it up and sew it back together to form a new design or you can add borders around it so that it becomes the centerpiece of your pieced top.  

You could also create a whole cloth quilt, which is simply a large piece of fabric, usually a solid, with no piecing or appliqué.  The purpose of a whole cloth quilt is to show off the quilting.

Most pieced and appliqué quilts will require you to cut up fabric and sew it together. There are a variety of tools to expedite the cutting process including self-healing cutting mats, rotary cutters, quilting rulers specifically designed for rotary cutters, and of course scissors.

If you are piecing a quilt top, you usually create a series of blocks and then sew the blocks together into bigger blocks and on and on. Most blocks are pieced using a quarter inch seam. You might also hear the term “scant quarter inch,” which means a seam that is just one or two thread widths shy of a true quarter inch.

Once you’ve pieced two pieces of fabric together, you need to press the seam with an iron.

The middle layer is the batting.  There are many kinds of batting made of many different fibers.   For the purposes of this post, just know that the batting is the fluffy stuff in the middle of the quilt, which is what makes the quilt all warm and cozy.  

The bottom layer is called the backing.  Just like the top, there are many ways to create the backing of a quilt, though most quilters use either a single piece of fabric or very large pieces of fabric sewn together rather than any sort of complicated piecing techniques.  Of course, some quilters are over achievers and love to make the back of their quilts just as visually interesting as the front of their quilts. Again, see my statement above about doing whatever the heck you want as long as you’re having fun.  

Once you’ve prepared the three layers of your quilt, you need to baste them together before you quilt them.  Basting is simply a no-nonsense way of putting layers together so they don’t move when you are ready to do more controlled sewing. At this point in my quilting journey, I pin baste all of my quilts using curved safety pins.  However, there are several methods for basting a quilt, and the method you choose is simply a matter of personal preference.  

Once your quilt is basted, it’s ready to be quilted.  A lot of quilters do not find any pleasure from the actual quilting process, so they pay someone else to quilt their tops for them.  However, it is totally possible to quilt any sized quilt on your domestic machine, so if the only reason you’ve avoided this step in the past is because you’re afraid to try, stop being afraid and just go for it! You might be surprised at how fulfilling you find this part of the process.  I certainly was!

There are a few different ways to quilt on your home machine.  A very popular and relatively fast way is to attach a walking foot and quilt straight lines from edge to edge.   

There’s also free-motion quilting, which is basically “doodling” with thread on your quilt.  

Of course you can always hand quilt the layers together.  

And finally, you could do any combination of these techniques or even come up with a new and creative way of securing the three layers of your quilt together!

Once the quilt has been quilted, it’s time to square it up, which eliminates all of the extra fabric on the edges of your quilt and gives you a clean, raw edge.  

After you’ve squared it up, it’s time to add the binding or facing, which are two different techniques to cover up the raw edges.  

And that’s it!  You just made a quilt!  (Or at least you imagined making one.)  Have you started your quilting journey yet?  If so, what is your favorite part of the process?  What’s your least favorite? Post your comments below and let’s share our joys and tribulations with the quilting community.  Happy quilting!

My Origin Story

My name is Andrew Ve Hansen, and welcome to my blog.  I live in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, with my husband.  I’m originally from Ohio, and I moved to Brooklyn when I was 22 years old to pursue a career in musical theater.  While I no longer perform professionally, I still have a desire — a need — to express myself creatively which is where quilting comes in.  

I made my first quilt in March of 2017. I can’t really pinpoint a singular moment or person that drew me to quilting.  Family members, including my Great-grandma Bessie and my mom, are pretty crafty, so I definitely grew up with an appreciation of handmade gifts.  In the lobby of the fine arts building of Otterbein University, where I went to college, there was a monthly rotating art exhibit. I clearly remember an exhibit by a fiber artist who had created many art quilts that I found stunning and powerful.  I didn’t know the definition of a quilt could be so flexible. It is the only art exhibit during my time at Otterbein that I can actually remember, so it clearly made an impact on me. And anytime I’ve seen a handmade quilt in person, I’ve been captivated by it. So I guess this idea of making a quilt has just always been simmering in the back of my head.   

A few years ago I thought it would be really cool to make a quilt for our bed, but I refused to try it while we still had a cat.  I know, I know, there are tons of amazing quilters out there who have pets, and I love seeing all of those Instagram pics of how “helpful” those pets are during your making process.  I, however, am not so patient. In March of 2017, our cat passed away. At the same time, my husband was in the process of opening a bar with some colleagues, which meant he was never home.  All of that motivated me to find something to do with my time other than sit and watch Netflix or play video games every night.

By the way, in addition to being a quilter and a former musical theater performer, I’m also kind of a big geek.  Hence the title of this particular blog post. I’m happy to discuss at length the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic books, PS4 games — particularly Diablo III — board games, and the Pathfinder RPG.  So feel free to reach out if you need a break from the quilting conversation.

Back to my quilting journey.  I looked around online for some quilting resources and discovered Craftsy.com, which is now Bluprint.  Because I already knew how to use my sewing machine, I didn’t need a super beginner course. I decided to take Amy Gibson’s Learn to Quilt: Cozy Throw Quilt class.  It was a great way to learn the basics of quilting, and Amy Gibson was an incredible teacher.  When it came time to actually sew all of the layers of the quilt together, I decided to use my walking foot for some straight-line quilting on my domestic machine, a Janome DC2012.  But because I chose to do a lot of pivoting instead of unbroken straight lines from edge to edge, it involved so much physical effort turning the quilt around over and over again. I actually thought several times, “How do those retired grandmas do this all the time??  This is really exhausting!!” This was before I learned about free-motion quilting or sending a quilt out to a longarm professional.

I finally finished quilting my quilt, and while I was very pleased with the result I honestly thought, “Well, that was too much work, so no more quilts for me.”  But I couldn’t get quilting out of my brain. It was only a couple weeks later when I started thinking about making a new quilt. I decided to take another Craftsy class by Amy Gibson, which was her 2012 Block of the Month class.  It was a sampler quilt, which meant I would learn tons of basic techniques all in one quilt. I also decided I would take advantage of this “learning” session to take Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting a Sampler Craftsy class, which used Amy Gibson’s sampler quilt to learn how to free-motion quilt (FMQ).  And since the blocks were all about 12 inches square, I decided it would be easier to learn how to FMQ block by block rather than on the whole quilt.  So I decided to learn the quilt-as-you-go technique as well. AND, what the heck, I decided to use mitered borders for each block. Here’s what I learned from this second quilt.  

  1. I LOVE making quilts!
  2. I REALLY, REALLY LOVE FMQ!!
  3. I HATE mitered borders!!!

So that was how I got hooked.  I continue making discoveries as I move along on this quilting journey.  I definitely enjoy making a quilt completely my own from beginning to end more than using someone else’s pattern.  I really enjoy improv piecing and I want to keep experimenting with that. Surprisingly, I actually enjoy every portion of the quilt-making process, even some of the more tedious aspects such as pressing all of the fabric before cutting or squaring up a bunch of half-square triangles or even pin basting.  Most of all, I really love learning new techniques and trying to become a better craftsperson.

What’s your quilting origin story?  What discoveries have you made along the way in your own quilting journey?  Share your comments below and let’s continue this conversation together. Happy Quilting!!!