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!!

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!

This girl has been BUSY!

I truly love my job. Some of it is stressful, but I still love what I do every day. That being said, I had completely forgotten the great joy I feel from ‘kitting’ up these quilts! Finding a pattern, instinctively knowing what fabric was meant to be used for it, finding coordinating fabrics and the excitement of anticipation to put it all together – I can’t believe I forgot how fun that is!

I have been cutting ‘kits’ for days, literally. I cut one today, two yesterday and one the day prior. By cutting, I mean cutting out the pieces to be sewn. I do keep some intact for strip piecing, but many squares are cut to chain piece and other squares marked on the diagonal to become two sets of half square triangles sewn together.

I’ve also decided that I need to work on larger quilts, like some queen and king bed sized. For quite some time I was creating a lot of lap quilts. I still think this is a good gift practice – I don’t want someone feeling compelled to put their quilted gift on a bed. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I don’t even have designated quilts that stay on all the beds in my house.

That will soon be remedied. Well, relatively soon. Once completed, these tops will get stacked on the pile of other tops I’ve completed, awaiting their turn to get quilted. And maybe years later, bound. That’s my least favorite part…

Here’s where I decided to play with my non-scrap batiks:

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I got a few groupings of these put together with patterns.

Here are a few examples:

I bought this magazine for the cover photo alone. I happened to get this one all cut out yesterday.

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I have an admission to make here. I am terrible at following patterns. That’s why I’m not allowed to bake in my house. Cook? Absolutely, I’m good when I can wing it. Just not with specific and exact directions. So if I use a pattern, I have to write out what I need in a way that works for me. When I get to putting it together, it again will be by my own method.

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I took out the red fabric bin to choose my fabrics. I got some of those and some black and white and grays from the scrap boxes for a really good mix.

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In these cases, I had only a photo in a magazine to go by, so I used my trusty graph paper to formulate a pattern and calculate my required yardage.

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The one above I even colored in the strips to ensure I remembered to alternate fabrics within the two different blocks in the pattern. I’m so frustrated – I knew I should have kept this magazine out with the page tabbed. I shared this with a friend and she was having trouble grasping it so I told her I’d look for the original photo in my stack of magazines. I have looked for two days now, to no avail. Still can’t find the darn thing.

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This one needed no pattern. I have a variety of these adorable holiday prints, and will simply make them into 4-patch blocks with sashing (likely in white) with scrappy cornerstones. Haven’t cut this one up at all yet. I’ll maybe wait until July when I’m wishing for cold weather to come back around.

I am so excited for retreat! I have two small wall hanging sized quilts that only need borders. Then I’ve got probably 8-10 already cut projects just ready for me to sew! It will take me a while to finish them because not one of them includes large block pieces, but I look forward to it nonetheless.

Maybe at the March retreat I just signed up for I can include some big block quilt patterns for a few quick finishes. But between now and then I need to get back to my longarm as well, so I can get back on track with my workload. And I am excited for that too!

 

 

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!!

My stash is consuming me

Honestly, I don’t know what else to call this post. I mean seriously, I have SO MUCH fabric, and yet I seem to have to buy more for projects, backings, borders, customers, various other excuses… uh I mean REASONS. Legit reasons!

So anyway, here’s the problem (I think): I see the amazing and vast potential of every fabric I find, and I see what it could ultimately become. But I don’t have the time to actually execute the idea I have about the fabric.

I make it a point to go on as many retreats as possible. I made it to only one last year (very busy year), and have made it to three this year, so far, and have two more planned. Wait, make that four already – forgot about the one I was invited to last minute in AZ.

Anyway, I have been to some retreats that were not well, um…. well appointed. I.e. one ironing station for 12 people, two cutting stations for 20. See what I mean? So I prep before going to a retreat so WHEN I GO TO THE RETREAT, I sit and sew and sew and sew. I don’t have to stop production waiting for the iron or cutting table. I precut most of what I can to be prepared to just GO.

Which means I complete A LOT. I usually finish 4-8 tops (mostly not bordered tho) at a weekend retreat.

Which brings me to this (quilts needing borders):

need borders

need borders

Then there is the stack of quilts that HAVE borders attached.

have borders

have borders

And these are probably getting these borders…

maybe borders

maybe borders

Then the quilts that are ready, WITH backing prepared for them.

quilt tops with backing

quilt tops with backing

And then the quilts that I somehow actually got quilted, that now just need to be bound.

need binding

need binding

Never mind the two rag quilts awaiting their turn…

So when I went through all this I brought home about 15 yards of solids from the quilt shop and found all my other large pieces and measured and tagged them. These are potential backs:

backings

backings

First count I had about 8 needing borders, 5 needing backs, 15 needing quilting and 4 needing binding. I got 2 quilted, 5 bound and 3 with borders attached. Which leaves me with 5 needing borders, still 5 needing backs (because I matched a few more up), 17? needing quilting and one still needing to be bound.

Honestly the problem is that I am a long arm quilter by trade, so everyone else’s quilt gets top priority over mine (including any charity for the guild or QOV). So I just rarely quilt my own projects!

And to think, I’m heading to retreat Friday morning to create more tops! OI VEY!

Monthly Block – August Version COMING SOON

I was sort of smacked from the side at the arrival of August, and up until last Friday, I hadn’t even thought about what I would DO for this month! Fortunately I made my decision quickly, found some fabric to work with and started cutting.

So I thought I would give you a sneak peak at what’s to come. I will also divulge that September will look familiar, but as with every month so far, it will also be different.

Last year, a local quilter make a model for the store that had sort of an ombre look to it. The pattern was leaves with a light background, all batiks, and it was quite striking. So that was my inspiration for this month. Once I found the colored pencils in my daughters room, I sketched it out and then found some fabrics to work with.

august sketch

august sketch

specific placement of colors

specific placement of colors

This is my makeshift design wall. I was so excited about this I got up at 530a and started on it. So this piece of batting was great until the sun came up. Then I had to move it over so the light didn’t shine through the window and mess with my eyes.

pieces on design wall

pieces on design wall

OK, that’s it. That’s your teaser. After a little time on the beach I will get this girl finished up and post the results. Until then, happy quilting!

 

Borders = doing them right

TO BORDER OR NOT TO BORDER

There is probably a scientific principle stating how wide the border SHOULD be based on the size of the quilt blocks. But really, borders are a matter of personal preference. If you want to make a quilt larger than the pattern, you add a wider border. If your quilt needs a frame, add a border. In the case of a round robin quilt, almost the entire quilt is composed of borders!

The trend for the past year or so has been to exclude borders, not only with ‘modern’ quilts, but traditional patterns as well. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference, and your needs. I have always believed that a border makes a nice frame – a great stopping point for the eye.

Regardless of the size of border you choose, or the number of borders, or whether they are mitered or applied straight, there are some important tips you need to know to ensure your quilt doesn’t end up a mess.

Let me give you some honest background here: I have made this mistake over and over and over again, and have learned these tricks through a few combined methods. As a quilter, I have seen the product of women who’ve finished their umpteenth Judy Niemeyer class with extensive points and paper piecing to women who brought me their first patchwork quilt, that they learned to make as I did (from a friend, who learned from her mom, no training or classes, and very little actual measuring or precision).

Fortunately that was a long time ago, and I have come a long way. Regardless of your background or the extent of your quilting expertise, EVERYONE is subject to messing up the borders. I’m just fortunate enough to quilt my own messes :), but I promise I won’t share anyone elses! The photos below are from a family project.

THE PROBLEM

Have you ever put your quilt together and had the border look ruffly? Or maybe it came back from the quilter (or if you tied it and bound it) only to find that there is a tuck or two along the outer edge?

These are all symptoms of the same underlying problem: the border is larger than the quilt.

Some ladies at the quilt shop say to measure your quilt in three places (center and along both ends) and to CUT the border to the average length before applying them. I tried that and ended up with a short border. oops.

Some say to pin your border. While I agree that this will help, I believe there is an additional step you can add in to ASSURE your borders do not end up longer than your quilt side.

THE FIX

  1. Measure your quilt length on the ends and center, average them. Mark this length on the fabric wrong side of your borders (use chalk or pencil, NOT pen), but leave yourself a bit of extra length JUST IN CASE, before cutting.
  2. Pin your borders onto your quilt top, ensuring the quilt top is on the bottom (very important) and the pins are on the border side on the top. That way you can also double check that your quilt top matches up with the markings from measuring the quilt top that you put on your border.
  3. Sew the border onto the quilt WITH THE BORDER ON TOP. Why is this step so critical? The feed dogs (the little ridgy things under the walking foot) pull the bottom fabric to the back as the needle goes up and down. There is no offsetting part on top of the fabric that pulls it back, so based on the way a sewing machine is constructed, the bottom fabric will inevitably be moved along at a greater rate than the top fabric.

This same last concept applies when constructing t-shirt quilts – if you are sewing sashing between the t-shirt panels, put the t-shirt side DOWN so that it is pulled through. That way, if it stretches (as it can, even with stabilizer), it won’t be as devastating to your efforts to make a squared quilt.

MITERING CORNERS

A note on mitering your corners… If the outer corner is sewed in too tightly, you get this:

mitered corner, sewn in at improper angle

mitered corner, sewn in at improper angle

The quilt above had the selvage edge left on the outside of the border, which made it tighter than the fabric sewn into the quilt side of the border, creating A LOT of puff in the border.

What this meant was that I had A LOT of extra fabric to try to tuck into this quilt. But back to mitering… if you ARE going to do it, ensure you SEW it properly, because ironing it so that it LOOKS correct is not the same thing:

mitered corner that was ironed to look correct rather than being sewn correctly

mitered corner that was ironed to look correct rather than being sewn correctly

See how far my finger fits into this seam? There’s that much extra fabric I now need to tack down.

mitered corner excess fabric

mitered corner excess fabric

How do you prevent this? Again, I learned to sew with very little guidance, and don’t learn well from reading how-to books, so my method is, well, self-taught and not really technical. But it works for me: I sew the two border pieces on up to the 1/4″ seam allowance of the corner. I lay the quilt out top side up and then I fold one border corner under at a 90 degree angle and iron it. I carefully turn it over and pin it so the piece without the crease doesn’t shift from where it lines up with the ironed side. Then I take it back to my machine and sew along the crease. Then I lay it out and see if I got it right. If so, I trim the excess fabric inside the seam, if not I rip it out and fix it in the direction I was off.

Yes, my method is pretty… homegrown, I guess. There are zillions of resources out there if you want to find something more technical or specific on the process. My point in being this honest about my ways is that you don’t have to have a pHd in art, hundreds of dollars of classes and books or years of teaching experience to figure out a way to make it work. Just find a method that works for you.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

When your border is larger than the quilt top center, there is then excess fabric to get worked into the quilting so that the top still squares up without wrinkles or tucks. The photo below shows the large amount of fabric that needs to be incorporated into the border. This can cause the quilter to have less options on how to quilt the border, or if following the request of the quilt maker, it can cause wrinkles (no bueno).

too much fabric!

too much fabric!

In this case it would have cost extra because I had to stitch in the ditch to hold the border down and keep it straight. Then I chose to do a close in meander because that helps to work in extra border without it being so obvious (feathers don’t work it in so well, in my experience).

ROUND ROBINS

Round Robin quilts can result in some amazingly beautiful quilts. But becase they are almost ALL borders, they can also be a quilters’ nightmare. I honestly hate saying that because I do love to quilt them. But it would appear that some people in the groups I’ve quilted the results of are not aware of this issue.

I have literally had to take out 4″ of fabric from one border that STILL ended up too long for the quilt top, but I was able to work the rest in.

The really tricky part of these quilts is that there can be loose ‘borders’ contained by smaller ones, which results in puffy areas within the top. How does that happen? Well, if you sew the border on without pinning and allow too much of the quilt top to pull through on the bottom while sewing the border to it, you CAN end up with a tight border.

My advice to you would be that if you like to be part of a round robin group, talk up front with your group about how they measure and sew their pieces on. That might help avoid uncomfortable or hurt feelings later.

I sure hope you found this helpful. 🙂 Happy quilting!