BEFORE YOU BUY! T SHIRT QUILT QUESTIONS TO ASK

Hello my friends, I know it’s been a while, but t’is truly the season. Meaning, this is THE season for quilters to be busy. June is second to the holiday season for reason of graduation gifts. But a far second, let me tell you.

I felt the need to take a moment to share a few thoughts, as I have recently found yet another “t shirt quilt maker” that offers a pretty sad result. This “company” brings customers in by way of a very low price. For those of you who want a t shirt (or memory, clothing, baby clothes, sports jersey, etc.) quilt made for you, here are some very important considerations I beg of you to ask prior to handing over your precious and irreplaceable items:

1. DO THEY USE A STABILIZER ON THE SHIRTS? Stabilizer is a light fabric that is ironed onto the backside of any jersey knit item to stop it from stretching. If you have shirts that are in good shape, or relatively new, this may seem like something that could be skipped. Not so, my friends.

When the shirts are sewn together, the stabilization prevents the shirts from stretching at the seam, so you don’t get your quilt back with all sorts of puckers at the seams. When the quilt is quilted, the stabilizer also adds an extra layer of strength and thickness to the top and ensures no puckers end up within the quilting.

2. WHAT KIND OF BATTING WILL BE USED? Batting is the center, and batting price and quality varies more than cotton fabric. If they tell you they use 100% polyester, your quilt will not be as warm, and may disintegrate after time and washing. 80/20 batting is a blend and works great for this application, and cotton will quilt nicely, and lay flat.

3. HOW MUCH QUILTING WILL BE DONE? The point of the quilting is to relieve tension on the seams and threads throughout the quilt. Less quilting = more stress on those seams, which means they will come apart sooner. Batting requires stitching or ties to hold it EVERY 4-6 square inches, (unless bamboo batting is used). So if your quilter says s/he will be quilting it every 12″, your batting will eventually tear and shift. Not good. Don’t pay someone to make your treasures into a quilt that will not last past a few washings.

4. WILL THERE BE ANY MATERIAL THE QUILTER PROVIDES? There are a few reasons to ask this question. One, if they are providing material for you, you will want to know the quality of the fabric (i.e. where did they buy it – a quilt shop or a cheaper craft store), the constitution (is it 100% cotton), and whether it has been prewashed. Secondly, you want to know that they are using good quality if that is what you are paying for. If the charge passed on to you per yard is <$10 you can bet it’s not fabric from a quilt shop, so you may have rougher texture, lower thread count, shredding seams or color bleed in the end.

5. HOW DO THEY FINISH THE QUILT EDGE? In my world, we call this the binding. There are several types, the above example is called double or French fold, applied binding. It is a good, sturdy, even and neat type of binding. Self-applied binding is when the back edge is folded over to the front, and if machine stitched, will provide a sturdy finish but softer edge. Envelope bind is when the edges are folded in and top stitched by machine. This is the toughest way to make a binding edge neat and even, so be sure to ask for photos of their work in advance.

I implore you to ask ask ASK for details from the maker PRIOR to relinquishing your shirts. It makes me very sad that there are great quilt makers out there potentially having their reputation tarnished by the few that are either ignorant or not focused on the quality and care of your special item.

These are truly one of a kind gifts and should be treated as such. I’ve made enough memory quilts to truly appreciate these irreplaceable gems and what they mean to the families that retain them.

In fact, your best bet is to ask to see photos of their previous work. That will give you a good visual as to what you should expect from them. Just FYI, all the pix posted here are from quilts I have made for my customers. 🙂 The three below were for siblings:

I can tell you that you will definitely get what you pay for. Experienced and knowledgeable quilt makers will charge you for the materials and labor, and that adds up to a lot more than a Walmart or Cracker Barrel quilt, so don’t expect to pay those prices. If you ask for a breakdown of costs, most quilters will provide one. Or ask why they charge more than another quilt maker, and they will be able to detail the various benefits you will get from the quality they can offer.

Buyer beware, and best of luck with your endeavor my friends!!

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Retreat!

The first time I went on retreat, I had no idea what to expect. The person that convinced me to go moved away a few years back and the retreat house I used to love has since closed. But there are a great number of retreat options in north Texas. I belong to three groups of retreaters, and the one I was with this weekend was probably my favorite.

I was fortunate enough last year to attend four or five with this group. I just left one with plans to go again in March, April, May, August at another site (five miles from my house, I can’t NOT go), September at the beach for 10 days, October and finally, with the coveted November group. I’m so fortunate.

Retreat means different things for different ladies. Some like to sleep, some want to relax, take walks and enjoy the sounds of nature surrounding the property. I like to get quilt tops finished. As many as possible, and I really set myself up well for it this time.

This retreat we had 6 retreat virgins with us and two more that had never been to this facility. That made for a bit of a quieter group, but it was great to meet new people and make some awesome new friends! One was making gorgeous bags, and learned how to make a quilt block AT retreat. She was hooked! It was fun to watch her evolve.

Because of family schedules I was able to get to the retreat Thursday before noon, instead of my usual Friday early morning. That gave me a whole extra day of sewing. Since I had that opportunity I also joined a carful of ladies on a trip to the local quilt shop in a nearby town.

I couldn’t resist these fabrics!

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So what did I get done? Well….. I began with these two little projects I had started at previous retreats, but had not brought the colors for the border with me. At this retreat I added the last row of turnstile blocks and attached the border.

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This one just needed the dark blue inner border and then the scrappy 1″ blocks put on. Most of the 1″ blocks were already pieced in long strips, but as you can see, I ran out. And due to my lifting restrictions I din’t bring my usual extra fabric with in case I had this issue. So this little quilt will have to be finished next time.

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Next I moved on to this quilt top.

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I was so excited to use these fabrics! I think this makes a good sized twin.

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Having the strips already cut to size made this guy go together very quickly! My intention was to use the focus fabric in the 6″x8″ blocks as the border as well but it looked too busy. I didn’t like the look of plain black either. I may shop a bit for a black grunge or something to see if anything will complement this center and allow me to increase the quilt size.

I succumbed to my friends’ request to go to bed early (for me anyway, it was just after midnight), so that was it for Thursday.

Friday I awoke tired and groggy. I should have downed more coffee before trying to begin my log cabin with cornerstones. Instead, I didn’t see my already cut 1.5″ squares for the 9 patch centers and took some other pieces and cut them up. That caused me to be short of the second round pieces for my quilt. Thus, after finishing the 9 patch centers, I stopped working on that one and started on a scrappy red and black/white/gray pattern called Roosevelt’s Neck Tie.

It turned out beautifully.

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What’s funny is that these are scraps from many different quilts at different times of accumulating fabric for me, customers and from friends that didn’t want scraps. This is one of the ironic blocks. We don’t actually have any dogs, just cats. 🙂 I think this print is in the Atomic Cats quilt also!

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If I had my bolt of black I may have used that to border it just to make it a little bit bigger. It measures 100″ square, so if it’s a bit wider it will totally cover my bed, which is what I want. We’ll see what hubby thinks. I need to convince him so I can take that stupid crown bag quilt off the bed.

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I completed that quilt top that night. Technically the next morning, because by then it was 330a Saturday. We straggled off to bed (there were still 3 other ladies up with me) and somehow arose again by 9a.

Hey I had stuff to do. So I got to work :). I finished Atomic Cats which is this cute little lap quilt. It’s a simple alternating block with 6″ focus squares and 16 patch scrappy black and white patchwork blocks.

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Tell me these cats aren’t cute! And look – there’s the dog bones again!

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Then on to this scrappy four patch alternating block in red and black

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with this generous 12″ border all around.

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And that’s it. Sadly these quilts have topped the pile in this large blue bucket of quilt tops awaiting their lucky chance to get quilted. By now there must be 30 in there, at least.

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I was happy to have three more projects to choose from at retreat that I didn’t get around to – that gave me options of what to work on. Interestingly I chose many projects in a similar color palette. I have some more ready to go that will come with me in March and April, and from there, I will have to prepare more. I 100% believe that cutting everything to size in advance made my sewing time more efficient and made me more productive. I loved what doing that prep work did for me at retreat. So I picked these magazines up from the scrap table for more quilt ideas.

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Now I just have to start prioritizing my quilting work in that bucket. Especiallly anything I want to end up on my bed!

If you haven’t been on a retreat, ask some of your friends where they go and get together for one. It can take a few tries to get with people that best fit your personality, but I highly doubt you will be disappointed in the end. Happy quilting my friends!

my 2017 projection

Well hello there! Yes, it has been a while… a LONG while. there’s a good reason though, and that reason is that 2016 was crazy busy. I had the busiest year by far out of my seven years of longarm quilting for the public! Like 140% of business compared to the prior year!

This has all been a good thing, because things happened: I paid off a student loan, I put money in savings and CD’s for my girls, and I sort of learned to say no. Most importantly, I had an intervention with some quilty friends at retreat. They sat me down (more than once) and explained how important I am. That I have value, and that I need to make time for ME.

So that’s the plan. This year is all about balance, and about keeping myself as a top priority on my to-do list.

Last year I had quite a few friends that made resolutions to finish UFO’s, to not buy new fabric, to not start new projects but finish their old. My resolution (if you want to call it that) this year will be to start new projects! Ha!

I would like to say one per week, but I think one per month is more realistic.

There is another fuel propelling me towards this goal: I went a little crazy on buying fabric over my holiday time off. I mean like, $6-700 crazy. It’s been a long time since I really went on a spree to buy anything just for me. Usually it’s something to finish customer quilts, bolts of black, or stabilizer. Not necessarily the fun stuff.

When I got home and had the opportunity to fondle my purchases, I decided to see if I had some things in my stash to match or coordinate with my new things. I was appalled. Absolutely embarrassed by the amount of fabric I have hoarded, yet at the same time, I can’t stop. I cannot stop buying beautiful fabrics within which I see great potential for beauty when combined in the right group with other fabrics and a great pattern.

The interesting thing is that I noticed that my fabric tastes have changed. I purged a lot of fabrics over the past few years that were cottagey, boho chic, sort of floral in favor of marbles, solids and blenders, with colors being the opportune eye catcher of the quilt. Interesting to note, at least for me. I have also picked up quite a few black and white prints.

What to do? USE IT. I need to make things. Well, not just things, but QUILTS. So today I started.

Actually it was yesterday. I set out some focus fabrics on my table and some fabric groups. But today I cut fabric from three sets into ‘kits’ that will work with the patterns I chose for them. I’m having surgery next week, and I figure I may not be able to cut or quilt or do heavy lifting, but I could certainly sit at the machine and piece.

So I guess what I have to say about all of this is:

  • if you love fabric, buy it. eventually you will use it or give it to someone that will.
  • use it, and use it now. don’t save the stuff you love for another day. a friend of mine said she knew a lady that did just that, and suddenly went blind, so could no longer play with her favorite fabrics she has saved.
  • start new projects. if you have UFO’s you can’t get back to, give them to someone at your guild, or in a friendship group. It may just become a cherished, and finished project.

I’m a scrapper, so I use a lot of them in quilts and just love the way scrappy quilts look. If you aren’t a scrap saver, give them to someone who is. They will find a good use for the fabric! If you do applique or postcards, the smallest piece of fabric is often still usable.

So, like I said, for me this year is about balance. Balance, meaning I will find time for the gym, to cook some dinners, and most importantly, to make some quilts that I want to make. That does mean that my business goals are less aggressive, financial goals less skyward, but in exchange my happiness level should be stable, achievable, and daily. AND less stress to boot!

Essentially, this is a re-evaluation of my measure of success. This past year was about driving my income over and above the year before. OK, check that off, done. This year, that’s less important than finding peace with a balanced lifestyle, and a holiday season that isn’t overwhelmingly busy to the point of no time for family.

I’m quite excited for this new year. I hope you are too! Happy quilting my friends!

Custom Quilting Pix

It’s been a while… and I have certainly been busy (my excuse for not writing…). So if I’m going to keep you at bay for this long, I suppose I should share with you what I have been up to!

Here are some photos:

I worked on a large, very special Christmas quilt…

quilted grout

quilted grout

stocking

stocking

ornaments

ornaments

sampler

sampler

angel

angel

I also spent some time on this one:

custom baskets

custom baskets

A LOT of time, actually…

I did another custom quilt with feathers as well:

feather circles

feather circles

Made this for a friend:

sandy's quilt

sandy’s quilt

and this one for a retirement:

signature quilt

signature quilt

And quilted this hand dyed panel:

freehand sunflowers

freehand sunflowers

There were numerous other quilts in there, just none of which I took decent photographs.

My current project includes freehand braided rope and my next quilt will also have a bit of custom fun, so stay tuned!

Happy quilting my friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEFORE YOU BUY! T SHIRT QUILT QUESTIONS TO ASK

Hello my friends, I know it’s been a while, but t’is truly the season. Meaning, this is THE season for quilters to be busy. June is second to the holiday season for reason of graduation gifts. But a far second, let me tell you.

I felt the need to take a moment to share a few thoughts, as I have recently found yet another “t shirt quilt maker” that offers a pretty sad result. This “company” brings customers in by way of a very low price. For those of you who want a t shirt (or memory, clothing, baby clothes, sports jersey, etc.) quilt made for you, here are some very important considerations I beg of you to ask prior to handing over your precious and irreplaceable items:

1. DO THEY USE A STABILIZER ON THE SHIRTS? Stabilizer is a light fabric that is ironed onto the backside of any jersey knit item to stop it from stretching. If you have shirts that are in good shape, or relatively new, this may seem like something that could be skipped. Not so, my friends.

When the shirts are sewn together, the stabilization prevents the shirts from stretching at the seam, so you don’t get your quilt back with all sorts of puckers at the seams. When the quilt is quilted, the stabilizer also adds an extra layer of strength and thickness to the top.

2. WHAT KIND OF BATTING WILL BE USED? Batting is the center, and batting price and quality varies more than cotton fabric. If they tell you they use 100% polyester, your quilt will not be as warm, but with all the t shirts you may be warm enough without a good quality batting. 80/20 batting is a blend, and cotton will quilt nicely, and lay flatter. Polyester batting also will not give the traditional look a quilt gets after washing, which happens with cotton batt as it shrinks in a little. If there is no batting, the end product is not actually a quilt and will not have a finished result (sort of like taking two pieces of paper and stapling the edges together and that’s it – the whole inside is left disconnected).

3. HOW MUCH QUILTING WILL BE DONE? Batting requires stitching or ties to hold it EVERY 4-6 square inches. So if your quilter says s/he will be quilting it every 12″, your batting will eventually tear and shift. Not good. Don’t pay someone to make your treasures into a quilt that will not last past a few washings.

4. WILL THERE BE ANY MATERIAL THE QUILTER PROVIDES? There are a few reasons to ask this question. One, if they are providing material for you, you will want to know the quality of the fabric (i.e. where did they buy it – a quilt shop or a craft store), the construction (is it 100% cotton), and whether it has been prewashed. Prewashing prevents additional shrinkage and especially with lower quality fabrics, the colors can bleed, which can essentially ruin your quilt. Secondly, you want to know that they are using good quality if that is what you are paying for. If the charge passed on to you per yard is <$10 you can bet it’s not fabric from a quilt shop, so you may have rougher texture, lower thread count, shredding seams or color bleed in the end.

5. HOW ARE THEY FINISHING YOUR QUILT? Finishing, meaning the binding (see photo below). This is a great example of an applied, double fold binding attached by machine to front and back, with mitered corners. If they are folding the back over to the front the finish may not be as clean, and same for knife edge finish.

I implore you to ask ask ASK for details from the maker PRIOR to relinquishing your shirts. It makes me very sad that there are great quilt makers out there potentially having their reputation tarnished by the few that are either ignorant or not focused on the quality and care of your special item.

These are truly one of a kind gifts and should be treated as such. I’ve made enough memory quilts to truly appreciate these irreplaceable gems and what they mean to the families that retain them.

In fact, your best bet is to ask to see photos of their previous work. That will give you a good visual as to what you should expect from them. Just FYI, all the pix posted here are from quilts I have made for my customers. 🙂 The three below were for siblings:

Buyer beware, and best of luck with your endeavor my friends!!

Latest quilting work

It has been an incredibly busy spring, business-wise and personally. Kids finishing up school, dentist, oral surgeon, orthodontist, emergency surgery… and that’s just kids. Then there was the two emergency speaker engagements and the one planned that I performed, a quick last minute trip with hubby, my own minor surgery and a weekend jaunt to see the folks.

I think I can take a breath now.

Somehow I actually accomplished a LOT of quilting work, despite everything else going on. Or maybe because of it – I find quilting so cathartic that it relieves loads of stress for me.

It was quite a variety of work, too. I quilted, bound and appraised a group of antique quilts for a client, made a few t shirt quilts, and quilted whole-cloth hand dyed panels, as well as a few all-over quilts, a custom wedding gift and a few wool applique pieces.

At any rate, I love sharing the photos and as much as I enjoy looking at other quilters’ work, I figure someone out there will enjoy these too!

a beautiful piece of history

a beautiful piece of history

I kept the antique quilts simple; they were going to be auctioned to family at an upcoming reunion. This is one of my favorite old blocks. It’s called Strawberry and it’s not all that common. In this case it was beautifully pieced and scrappy but within a specific color framework.

the classic grandmothers flower garden

the classic grandmothers flower garden

This one (above) has a high visual appeal as well. Quite striking.

field of flowers

field of flowers

I did this one for a friend. It’s hard to see the overall quilting in ANY of the photos, and a photo of the whole is too far away to get a good idea of the quilting in detail.

hand dyed floral

hand dyed floral

Debra Linker did a beautiful job hand dyeing this panel, and I had fun quilting it.

I also quilted a few for a client for her husbands office décor…

waves

waves

and this one…

squares

squares

and this one…

a shell

a shell

Creating this was almost as artistic for me:

tshirt quilt

tshirt quilt

and this one…

BIG tshirt quilt

BIG tshirt quilt

And then a little less custom quilting work…

wool applique quilt

wool applique quilt

And a little more. I hope the bride is happy with this gift from her friend – she should well be – it is so beautiful!

wedding quilt

wedding quilt

Speaking of diagonal lines, here is what I’m currently working on:

diagonal lines

diagonal lines

I can’t even begin to explain how tedious these are, and how pickled I am that they look so straight and evenly spaced! Mind you this is freehand, with my only tools being a tape measure, chalk and my ruler!

my simple tools

my simple tools

 

There were a few others in there. I didn’t snap any pix of the 4 Quilt Of Valor quilts I finished, but after this custom is finished I think I’ll need to do some all over charity quilts to clear my system.

I hope my photos have inspired you, or urged you to create something on your own. Happy quilting my friends. Stay busy!

blooming 9 patch

blooming 9 patch

 

Thread Art

Long arm quilting can come with it’s challenges. One of the greatest can be taking a plain piece of fabric and transforming it into this:

TX flag whole cloth mini

TX flag whole cloth mini

That was actually inspired by this:

my inspiration

my inspiration

The whole cloth was a mini quilt I gave to someone leaving the state.

I do love to take pieces of silk and turn them into small art quilts. I have only had the opportunity to make four so far, but for some reason I failed to photograph one of them…

red silk mini whole cloth quilt

red silk mini whole cloth quilt

custom quilting by maria hall

blue silk whole cloth mini quilt

quilting by maria the quilter

feather whole cloth mini quilt

These are great projects to give as gifts or submit for charity auctions.

Lately I have also been playing with mini whole cloth quilts made from patterned traditional cotton.

In this case, I quilted three different pieces in different manners, but each inspired by the fabric itself.

maria the quilter custom quilting

mini art quilt by maria hall

The one above reminds me of pebbles on a beach and the waves rolling around. On a different piece I went completely linear, versus the curves and softness of the one above.

maria the quilter

custom quilting by maria hall

This one just tickles me, but perhaps it’s my odd sense of humor.

quilting by maria hall

the Baptist fan blew my 9 patch away

Here is the back view:

maria the quilter

backside of custom quilt

This piece began with me deciding to thread paint a 9 patch alternating block but as I went along, my blocks were not exactly staying the same size. So I started letting them fade off, meaning, not completing the 9 parts of the block – in some spots there are 5 or 6 or 3 of the 9 expected pieces. So the 9 patch blocks sort of trail off.

Then, using different thread (admittedly not different enough), I quilted this in an all over Baptist fan pattern. Get it? the Baptist fan blew my 9 patch away?!?!? Well, you don’t have to like it, cuz I do. 🙂

In the case below I used thread that was too divergent, with black thread as the background stipple stitch on the black fabric. The result is not bad in person but in photos it looks like amoebas floating amongst squares in a sea of black. See below:

thread art by maria the quilter

thread art by maria hall

Sometimes you just have to play. It doesn’t always turn out magnificent, but I figure if I learn along the way, then I have accomplished something, and as a quilter I have made progress towards being better at my craft.

So quilt on my friends, just don’t forget to have fun. If you aren’t enjoying it, what’s the point? 🙂