Quilt Shop Road Trip – August 2019

I grew up in Maumee, OH, a suburb of Toledo. My parents and brother and his family still live there, so I try to visit at least twice a year. My foray into quilting has given me a fun new way of re-exploring my hometown and the area by finding local quilt shops. My latest trip was the best one yet!

I discovered The Quilt Foundry fairly soon after I started quilting two and a half years ago. It’s located in downtown Maumee in the historic Buttergilt Building. The shop consists of two large rooms filled with bolts of fabrics as well as an additional spacious classroom and workshop area. I try to get to this shop every time I’m visiting the family, and I’m never disappointed. My only regret about this shop is that I wasn’t quilting when I actually lived in Maumee, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of all of its myriad offerings. Although maybe it’s for the best because I don’t know if my bank account could have survived a quilting addiction at such a young age!

My mom helped me with researching more quilt shops in the area and found the Quilters Travel Companion, a website with maps and links to various quilt shops and quilt shows all across the United States and Canada. That’s how we discovered The Door Mouse just outside of Bettsville, OH. This is an area of Ohio I’ve never really explored, so it was fun driving through the country. We even spotted a couple of barn quilts, though I sadly did not take any pictures of them. (Must be better about these things!) The Door Mouse is a huge store in a renovated barn out in the middle of nowhere. They have pretty much any style of quilting cotton you could want as well as a huge selection of flannels.

My niece is a little bit obsessed with Ann Arbor, MI, which is just about an hour’s drive north of Toledo. So we decided to take a day trip over the state border, and of course I had to visit at least one of the local quilt shops while we were there. Now, I’m going to admit that looking at the photos of the exterior of the Ann Arbor Sewing Center, I thought it was going to be kind of a lackluster shop without a lot of personality. Boy, was I happily wrong!! This shop has a HUGE selection of fabrics in all styles. They also sell a large variety of Bernina, Husqvarna Viking, and Pfaff sewing machines. I had a truly lovely conversation with one of the staff and Doni Houghtaling, one of the owners of the store. I truly felt welcomed, and if I lived in Ann Arbor I would definitely be taking advantage of their full range of classes and clubs they offer every day of the week.

We visited the final quilt shop of my trip on our way down to see family in Cincinnati. We took a quick detour to Loveland, OH, and stopped by The Quilter’s Studio of Loveland. This is yet another enormous quilt shop, boasting nearly 5,000 bolts of fabric. And, man, if you love batiks, this shop is an absolute MUST. In addition to the hundreds of batiks, they have a great selection of contemporary quilting cottons. They also have four longarm machines that were being rented out by four customers when we visited the shop, all of whom were more than happy to show off their gorgeous quilts to my parents and me.

My quilt shop road trip did not disappoint in the least. I am always amazed at just how friendly and helpful every single person I’ve ever met in a quilt shop is. I mean, seriously! It must not be possible to work in a quilt shop without being the friendliest person on the planet! The quilting community is a true community in the best sense of the word, and I feel so fortunate every day to be part of it.

I’d love to hear about your favorite quilt shops — where are they located? What do you love about them? Any fun stories you want to share? Please leave a comment and show some quilt shop love!!

Social Media – for Better and for Worse

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with social media. How many of you have decided to take a social media break at some point in the last five years? I’ve personally never taken a complete break, but I’ve certainly seen my participation ebb and flow over the years. Using social media to keep up with friends and family, to participate in communities around the world, and to even have a successful career can be amazing. But – and I know I’m not spouting off anything new here – it’s not all wine and roses, folks. I’m really interested to hear your opinions about social media and how you use it (or don’t use it). I’m also interested in hearing your tips about how to use it successfully and how you keep yourself from going crazy with it. So please add your comments and let’s get a conversation going through this blog. (Which is yet one more example of social media!)

I’ve been a somewhat reluctant adopter of social media. It took me a while to create a Facebook account. I only joined Instagram about two and a half years ago. I just created a Twitter account a couple months ago. I’ve always had a bit of an inner struggle between wanting to put myself out there and share my thoughts and achievements with everyone versus relishing my privacy and not wanting everyone up in my business all the time.

I certainly acknowledge the benefits that social media can provide. I started my Instagram account when I decided to try out quilting because I thought it would be a fun way to both archive my progress and add a little accountability to my process – it put a bit of pressure on me to keep creating. To my surprise, what I have ended up loving most about Instagram is the amazing community of quilters from all over the world with whom I’ve connected. I think that’s where social media really shines. I post a pic of my latest quilt and I receive such beautiful encouragement. Whenever I have a question about a technique, I receive so much helpful advice.

And of course my whole quilting journey began with social media by taking a class on Craftsy (now mybluprint.com). I actually loved that I could sit in the privacy of my home and try out a brand new craft without any of the pressure I would normally feel in a classroom situation with a live instructor and students. And Craftsy was great about taking advantage of social media to give that classroom feeling by allowing all of the students who had taken the class to post comments and questions, to which the instructor would always respond. I took the class many years after it had originally been posted on the site, and the instructor still answered my questions rather speedily. I honestly may never have tried quilting if it weren’t for the magic of social media.

But as we all know by now, social media has its pitfalls. I’m sure we all have our individual issues with social media, and feel free to commiserate. I mentioned above how I joined Instagram so that there was a little bit of pressure to keep creating. Well, be careful what you wish for, right? I think my main personal issue with social media is the pressure I feel to keep posting and then when I’m not creating anything new, I feel like such a failure. I can logically tell myself that it’s healthy to take time away from your craft so that you can recharge your creative energy, but then I scroll through my Instagram feed and see people churning out amazing work over and over again and I feel so inadequate.

On the other hand, I know some people end up spending more time scrolling through all of their various social media apps than actually doing anything. I’m generally a pretty good manager of my time, so this isn’t a real problem for me. But I can see how much of a time suck this can become. Thankfully there are lots of apps that help with limiting your time online. If you’re having time management issues, I highly suggest you look at the settings on your phone, computer, and tablets and adjust them to help you with that.

And while social media provides so many resources to try new things, it can sometimes be overwhelming. You see so much amazing work online, and then you think, “Man, I will never be able to do that so I just won’t even try.” If that’s something you’re having issues with, I really, really, really hope you’re able to overcome those thoughts and just start making. We all have something unique to offer, so please don’t let us suffer by not being able to see what are sure to be your beautiful creations!

And of course one of the worst aspects of social media is the bullying. It just sucks. If you have control over the content you’re publishing online, you can police the comments so Internet trolls don’t get to post their nasty BS on your site. Unfortunately, you still have to read the comments before you decide to approve or block them. It just sucks. If your content is being published on a larger site that allows all comments to be published, I just advise not to read the comments. Self-care, people. Don’t let the trolls get you down. Man, they really suck.

All that said, I do believe that social media is pretty frickin’ amazing. While I do suggest you practice self-awareness when it comes to spending time and energy online and with all your apps, it’s really such a wonderful way to learn and grow and connect with pretty cool people from around the world. So, hey, how about you connect with me and let me know your thoughts about all of this!

Quilting 101: Color Theory

I imagine most of you crafty, quilty people out there have a natural sense of color — what you like and don’t like, what colors work together, etc. — so you may dismiss any sort of deep dive into color theory, preferring to stick with your intuitive sense of color rather than thinking too much about it. I totally get that! And I don’t necessarily disagree. Trusting your own color sense is very important as an artist. But I also believe that knowledge is power, and having even a little bit of knowledge can elevate your color game.

Before I go any further, I have a big ol’ disclaimer. I am by no means a color theory expert. I have sat in on a couple different color theory classes, though never as an actual student. This post is just brushing the surface, so if you are fascinated by the topic or you want to really up your color game I strongly urge you to check out some of the resources I’ll list at the end of the post.

Something to keep in mind is that color is science. Every color is a specific frequency of light that we can see because of the rods and cones in our eyes. And while most of us do not need to spend years studying the science of light and color theory in order to create visually stunning pieces of art, having a basic understanding of how colors actual work together can help you in those moments when something is just not coming together and you can’t intuitively figure it out.

Most of us learned about the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors in grade school. You start with pure red, yellow, and blue. Those are your primaries.

When you mix red and yellow, you get orange. Yellow and blue give you green. Blue and red = violet. Those are your secondaries.

Then your tertiary colors are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. All of these colors can be beautifully organized in a color wheel to show their relationship to each other.

As a heads up, many color theory classes these days work with a different set of primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries based on printer colors. I am not going to go into any detail, but I just wanted to mention it in case you encounter it elsewhere. So if someone tells you that the primary colors are magenta, cyan, and yellow, they are not selling you a line of BS. They’re just working with a different color wheel.

When I’m thinking about color and a quilt design, I generally think about figure, background, and contrast. What do I want to stand out in my quilt? What do I want to blend in? Do I want any transparency effects? These questions are often better answered when you have a grasp on color theory versus just relying on your intuition.

In order to understand how color can help define a figure from a background, let’s start with some basic color vocabulary. To get a grasp on these definitions, I’m going to use one color. Let’s go with green. Hue is the name of a color. Green is a hue.

Saturation is the intensity, or purity, of a hue. Adding gray to a hue will lessen the saturation, making it look duller.

Value is how light or dark a hue is. Adding white to a hue gives it a lighter tint. Adding black to a hue gives it a darker shade.

Looking at a color wheel can quickly help you see the relationships colors have to each other. The colors that are opposite each other on the wheel are complementary. Red and green, blue and orange, violet and yellow. Complementary colors provide striking visual contrast. And depending on the saturation you use, it can even make your eyes do some funky things and create visual effects.

Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel. They blend together very easily which is often soothing to the eye.

When I’m thinking about a quilt design, I think about what I want to stand out, which I call the figure. The “figure” could be an actual object, but it could also be just the main design motif that I want to emphasize in the overall quilt. Most everything else is the background.

Here’s something you have possibly never really thought about. If you want to create depth in your design and you’re using a dark background color, warm colors — red, orange, yellow — will appear closer, and cool colors — violet, blue, green — will appear farther. However, if you’re working with lighter backgrounds, the opposite is true. Isn’t that fascinating? This is one of those examples where knowing the science can be helpful because you wouldn’t necessarily know this intuitively.

Sometimes I see people struggle with losing their overall quilt design because they smashed together all of their favorite colors rather than selecting colors that provide enough contrast to create figure and background. When you’re looking at your quilt design, decide what part of the design you want to stand out. Use your favorite colors for that part. Then use a neutral for the rest, and that will be the background of the design. Your “neutral” can even be a color, but make sure it is very different in saturation and/or a significantly different tint or shade from the main colors of your design.

If you’re still struggling with your figure disappearing into your background, take a photo of your quilt design with your chosen colors with your phone. Then use one of your photo editing apps to turn into a black-and-white picture. Now you can really see the saturation level of each color by seeing them in the grayscale.

If all of your colors are close to or have the same level of gray in your picture, you might want to pick some different tints or shades of certain colors so that the main part of your design will stand out.

And stepping away from color just a bit, what I just said above can apply to print patterns as well. I love me some scrappy quilts, but make sure you’re creating contrast with high-volume prints and low-volume prints so that your overall design doesn’t disappear due to lack of contrast among all of the different prints you’ve chosen.

I think I’m going to stop now because, honestly, my knowledge only goes so far. However, I want to give you some great resources if you decide you want to really dive into the details of color theory. My first suggestion is find a local color theory class offered by a college or university or local artisan. Not only will you get firsthand knowledge from experts in their field, but you’ll also work on projects that will really cement the lessons. If that’s not possible for you, there are plenty of tutorials online. One of those tutorials is “Color Theory for Quilters” with Katie Pasquini Masopust for iQuilt.com. It is not free, but it is specifically geared for quilters so it’s worth a look. I also really like the website worqx.com. It goes through many aspects of color theory in a relatively simple manner. There are also some fun games you can download to your phone like I Love Hue and Blendoku. Either game is a fun way to get a better feel about how colors work together.

I would LOVE to hear from YOU about your own color theory journeys and ideas. We all see and think about color differently, and no one is ever wrong as long as they love what they’ve created. Please share your stories in the comment section below. Happy Quilting!!

Designing My First Original Quilt: A Step-by-step Guide

The quilt featured on my home page is the very first original quilt I ever designed, pieced, and quilted all on my own. In making this quilt I had the epiphany that I feel so much more joy when I create a quilt from scratch rather than following someone else’s instructions. This is not a judgment for anyone else’s process or creative expression. We are all on our own journeys, and I respect and honor that. But for me, I find more fulfillment realizing my own creative ideas versus someone else’s. In this post, I want to take you through the process of creating this quilt from start to finish. If you haven’t tried designing your own quilt, I hope this inspires you to rise to the challenge. You might be surprised how it could change your outlook on your creative process!

This particular quilt started with a prompt. The Brooklyn Quilters Guild was gearing up for its 2018 quilt show, and the co-presidents put out a mini quilt challenge to celebrate the guild’s 25th anniversary. We were given the following parameters.

R E Q U I R E M E N T S :

Shades of gray (white OK)

A drop of red, not more the 3 x 3 inches or less than 1 x 1 inch.

40 x 40-inch quilt

Quilt pattern of your choice

Quilt must have sleeve, label, and name attached.

Keep in mind that we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our guild, our new location at Industry City, and a little modern twist. Be creative, have fun, and make some beautiful fiber art.

I didn’t really know this about myself at this point since this was my first original quilt, but I have since realized that I love prompts and parameters. Creating something out of thin air does not come easy for me, so I need a starting off point, even something rather open like the above prompt. I began thinking about being a Brooklyn quilter and a New Yorker. I had been seeing a lot of New York Beauty quilts online recently (see photo below), and I thought it might be fun to do an industrial twist on that idea.

I opened up Electric Quilt 8 (EQ8) on my computer and drafted a block that resembled a quarter of a cogwheel.

One of the many benefits of working in EQ8 is that I was then able to print out paper templates for the block.

I grabbed some fabric scraps and created a very rough draft of the block just to make sure everything fit together and the dimensions were correct.

Then I went back into EQ8 to begin playing with the overall quilt layout. The images below are just a couple of layouts I tried out. Using the computer program allowed me to make quick adjustments without having to actually sew all of the blocks together like you would with a design wall.

Now it was time to figure out the real fabric I wanted to use. I found a great fabric shop on Etsy called AA Cotton Creations, and they had just what I was looking for. I chose a light gray background fabric with just a touch of metallic glitter to honor the silver anniversary of the guild. Then I decided to go with Kona Cotton in Metal because, you know, the cogwheels are made out of metal. Nothing too mind blowing there! Once the fabrics arrived, I began cutting them up and piecing them together into my 16 blocks.

After piecing all 16 blocks, I realized I might not like how the center spokes come together once the blocks are sewn to each other. I decided to piece four of the blocks together to make one complete cogwheel to see how it would look.

AAAHHH!!! That is NOT what I wanted the center of my cogwheels to look like! I went online to look at actual cogwheels and realized I was missing the essential central hub. So I picked these blocks apart and added another quarter circle to each block.

Wow! What a difference that made! I talked about process in my previous post, and this is yet another example of how the creative process is usually not a barrier-free journey from beginning to end. Don’t let these challenges discourage you. Get that problem-solving brain working and overcome these obstacles because the end result will be so much more worthwhile!

Now that the top was pieced together, it was time to quilt. I really liked how modern this quilt looked, so I wanted the quilting to reflect that same feeling. I decided to quilt straight lines going from top to bottom in the background. But because I wanted a feeling of movement to come from the cogwheels, I quilted straight lines moving in the direction of each of the teeth of the cogs. I filled the hubs with thread to give them a fun texture.

I had my friend Ryan come over as a second pair of eyes to look at what I had done so far, and he wanted to see some red thread used in the quilt. That’s when I thought of having the red piece start to emit its own light in opposition to the rest of the lines. Then I quilted gem-like lines in between the center spokes so that I could have the red “gem” start to crack and break. I thought a silver metallic thread would be a fun way to add just a bit more glitz to the quilt to emphasize how this red piece was breaking out from the machine.

And that’s pretty much it! I love how this quilt came together. There were many frustrating moments, but I couldn’t have been happier once it all finally coalesced into my first original quilt. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think about creating an original quilt versus following someone else’s pattern. What brings you more joy? Tell me what you think. Happy Quilting!!!

Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza, September 2018

The Craft of Quilting: Process

Many moons ago, I earned a degree in Musical Theater. Tra-la-la!! As I was learning how to sing to the balcony without ripping out my vocal cords and how to form the perfect pair of Fosse jazz hands, I also learned about the difference between art and craft. The art of acting — or painting or playing the violin or dance, etc. — is not easily defined and can be associated with vaguely defined terms like “talent” or “the it factor.” The ability to tap into that mysterious inner fire of creation is essential to any artist. But equally essential is the development of one’s craft in conjunction with their art. Yes, to be a successful actor, you need to have that inherent ability to capture the attention of a 1,500-seat theater full of people and bring them with you on your character’s journey. But being able to successfully do that eight performances a week, 50 weeks a year requires craft.

Now, I have to admit that when I first started quilting, I didn’t think too much about any of this. I mean, sure, I was learning techniques and trying to improve each time I pieced a block together, which is part of honing one’s craft. But as long as I was following someone else’s instructions to achieve their design, the idea of process never really crossed my mind. In fact, it wasn’t until my third original quilt that I realized I couldn’t wing my way through designs that were percolating in my head and just expect them to appear fully formed under my sewing machine.

You see, I had decided to create a quilt as a housewarming gift for a very dear friend. Because she is a fellow crafter, I knew she would have no problem with me experimenting a bit with my scrap bin to make something fun. I decided I would make a bunch of Log Cabin blocks using a somewhat random selection of scraps and just kind of figure out the rest as I went along. After I made about 11 or 12 blocks, I decided to slap them up on my design wall to see what order I wanted to put them in, and I was horrified by the result. They looked horrible together!! It didn’t matter what order I put them in. They all completely clashed with each other, and I had a fit because I had spent so much time making all of them.

After I managed to calm down, I stood and stared at the blocks for a very long time. I mean, like, a really long time. (One of the things I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I am not a quick thinker.) I gave myself permission to just stand and stare and let my creative juices do some behind-the-scenes work in my brain.

I eventually came up with a couple solutions. One, I would use sashing to put some much needed space between each of the blocks. Two, I would frame each block with the same navy blue I had used for the center square of each Log Cabin. Once I tried that on a few of the blocks and put them back up on the design wall, I realized it was actually going to look amazing!

This was a big epiphany for me. I thought, Oh, yeah! This whole designing-a-quilt-thing is actually a process! Sometimes ideas work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t work until you try something two or three or four more times. And that’s great because it means you’re thinking like an artist! No one creates perfect pieces of art out of thin air no matter how brilliant they are. You have to ponder, sketch, workshop, rehearse, change your direction, think outside the box, and all of that good stuff before you actually achieve your vision.

Now I want to offer a few suggestions specific to quilters who want to start working on their process.

  • Sketch out your ideas or use a program to help you sketch out your ideas
  • Get a design wall
  • Make test blocks using fabric you don’t care about
  • Don’t get frustrated when your test blocks don’t automatically come out how you wanted them to; use it as an opportunity to discover the changes you want to make
  • While it’s always great to stretch yourself and try new skills, don’t feel guilty if you decide you just don’t like certain techniques; embrace your strengths
  • Take an art class that has nothing to do with quilting and learn about composition, form, line, color theory, and all that good stuff that can elevate your quilt designs to a new level
  • Take photos throughout the process of your quilt so you have an archive of how you overcame past challenges
  • Don’t be afraid to ask others to look at what you’re making if you find yourself stuck, though be aware that some people do not know how to give a helpful critique (I should probably write a post about how to participate in a critique)

I’m sure if I sat here for another few hours, I could come up with many more suggestions, but I’ll stop here for now. Instead, I would now love to hear all about your process! Please leave a comment and share how your process works, so we can all help each other continue progressing through our exciting quilting journeys!

Quilting 101: Fabric selection

Time to talk about fabric — all the pretty, pretty fabric!!  I think addiction to fabric is one of the traits most of us quilters have in common.  I don’t know about you, but I can actually feel my pulse speed up as soon as I step into a quilt shop or a fabric store and see the bolts and bolts of color and texture all on display.  It’s magical! However, some people can get a little overwhelmed by all of this variety, so I’d like to break down fabric selection a little bit and hopefully help those quilters out who are looking for a little bit of guidance.  

Probably the easiest way to avoid fabric confusion is to buy a quilt kit.  Many quilt designers will sell a complete kit that includes the pattern of the quilt top as well as all of the fabric needed to piece it together.  You simply follow the instructions and your quilt will look just like the one pictured on the front of the kit. Along similar lines, if you just have the pattern but not the kit, you can do your best to find the fabric that most closely resembles the fabrics in the picture of the pattern.  If that is something you find difficult, you can always ask for help from the fabric store employee.  

If you want to take matters into your own hands and buy the fabric yourself — which I HIGHLY encourage — you’ll need to go to a store or order it online.  There are a few things you should know when buying fabric. At most quilt shops or fabric stores, you will have the choice to buy yardage from the bolt, or you can buy precuts.  

First, let’s talk about buying yardage.  Quilting cotton is usually about 43 or 44 inches from selvage to selvage.  This is known as the width of fabric (WoF).  The selvage is a very densely woven strip of threads where the fabric was attached to the industrial weaving machines that created the fabric.  The name of the designer, manufacturer, the title of the design, and the colors used in the design are all printed on the selvage, which can be very helpful information.  Because the selvage is a very different texture from the rest of the fabric, most quilters will cut it off and not use it in their quilts. That said, there are some quilters out there doing really creative, fun things with their selvage scraps.  If you decide to play around with your selvage, just be aware that it behaves differently than the regular fabric of your yardage, so you’ll need to experiment with it before using it in one of your actual projects.  

Before the fabric is wrapped around the bolt, it is folded in half.  So when you buy, for example, 2 yards of fabric, you’re buying a length of 2 yards at the width of fabric.  When you buy yardage, you will be sub-cutting it yourself into whatever shapes and sizes are required for your quilt pattern.  As I said, most bolts of fabric will have a 43- or 44-inch width of fabric, but there are also wide back fabrics that have a 104- or 108-inch width of fabric.  This is specifically designed to be used for the backing of your quilt so that you don’t have to piece the back of your quilt.  

You can also buy packages of fabric that have already been cut into varying sizes and coordinated with each other.  These are known as pre-cuts.  There are packs of 5-inch squares, 10-inch squares, 2.5-inch wide strips that are the length of the width of fabric, and fat quarters, which are generally 18-inch by 22-inch rectangles — my favorite kind of pre-cut!  You’ll hear different terms thrown around to describe these precuts such as charm packs, layer cakes, or jelly rolls. Those are actually trademarked terms from Moda, a very popular fabric company, but many people use these terms the same way we say, “I could use a Kleenex,” rather than tissue.  

One of the great things about precuts when it comes to fabric selection is that they’re already coordinated for you.  When a fabric company releases a collection of fabric, it will consist of several different prints that have all been designed to coordinate with and complement each other.  The precut bundles will have all of the different designs packaged together, and you can rest easy knowing that they’re going to work great together in your quilt.  The picture below is a charm pack of the 1930s Revival collection by Boundless.

Another thing to think about when making fabric selection is prints versus solids.  A print is any fabric that has some sort of design on it.  Solids, obviously, will not have any designs printed on them.  That said, some solids might have a little texture depending on how they’re dyed, or they might have an ombré effect, which is where the color starts out very saturated at one end of the fabric and gradually lightens towards the other end of the fabric.  

When looking at prints, you’ll want to keep in mind which prints are high volume versus low volume.  These terms describe the density of the printed design on the fabric.  Using different volumes of prints will create different visual effects to the overall quilt design, so you want to keep that in mind when you’re thinking about what parts of your quilt design you want to stand out and what parts you want in the background.  A very common quilt design will use a variety of prints for the part of the quilt block that the designer wants to stand out. Then they will use neutral solids or very low-volume prints as background fabrics.    

Everything at this point has been centered around the kind of cotton fabric you generally find at a quilt shop.  Once you’re ready to start getting really creative, feel free to start experimenting with other kinds of fabric such as silk, jersey knit, fleece, denim, or whatever you want to play with.  Just keep in mind that you will most likely have to make adjustments to the tools you use such as changing the type of needle for your sewing machine and/or specially preparing the fabric in order to make it work for a quilt.  

As an example, a really popular type of quilt is the T-shirt quilt.  People cut up old T-shirts that have sentimental meaning and stitch them together into quilt blocks.  It makes a really great gift, and because it’s jersey knit, it’s super, super comfy. However, if you’re using your normal sewing machine, jersey knit needs to be prepped with fusible interfacing before you start piecing it together.  There are TONS of tutorials online about how to make T-shirt quilts, so you should check them out if that interests you.  

That concludes my very basic introduction to fabric selection.  If you’re someone who has difficulty with colors, please stay tuned for my VERY BASIC color theory blog post which will hopefully give you the confidence to start picking out fabrics that will always look amazing together.  Please let me know some of your favorite tips when it comes to fabric selection in the comment section below. And feel free to let us all know what your favorite prints and who your favorite designers are! Happy quilting!!

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!!!