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!

Long Arm Quilting – A Professional Perspective

I LOVE my job. Really REALLY love it. That makes it pretty easy for me to wake up every morning keen on what project I get to delve into. That doesn’t mean that every day is a walk in the park. Being a long arm quilter requires a LOT of decision-making considering a wide variety of factors:

1. What does the customer want to spend? Often I will ask the client if they want an all over design or something more custom. Some say they want to keep it inexpensive, which means all over.

all over quilted swirls

all over quilted swirls

Some say they want it for a quilt show, which generally means more $.

very special quilting

very special quilting

I was working on a quilt today that I gave an estimate for at $0.035 per square inch. I charge at least 4 cents when straight lines are involved, so that was not going to happen in this quilt. I had to figure out other designs to work in the spaces instead.

it's coming along

it’s coming along

2. What design does the customer want? Some quilt makers have a vision of what they want the outcome to look like, others want the quilter to ‘do what they do best’ (my FAVORITE thing to hear!) One super important consideration is whether the client prefers a more modern look,

modern quilting

modern quilting

or classic/traditional. Some customers like feathers,

curly border feather

curly border feather

others want more graphic quilting for a modern outcome.

straight lines and echo bounce

straight lines and echo bounce

3. What does the fabric say? That is where I often look for inspiration. If there are swirls, curls, flowers or circles on the fabric, those patterns induce me to quilt something similar.

flowers inspired by fabric

flowers inspired by fabric

4. What does the pattern say? This is really important, even with all over designs.

circles translated to Baptist fans

circles translated to Baptist fans

When I receive Quilts Of Valor, they often have star patterns on them. With that type of pattern I quilt in a curvy pattern, so as not to accentuate the sharp angles already present in the pattern.

swirls on stars

swirls on stars

With a custom design, such as today’s project, there are sometimes various blocks that will each be quilted differently. Two things can be exemplified at this point: depth and movement.

A. Depth – by quilting at different densities (more quilting in one area than another, such as in the photos below), one can create depth in the quilt surface. It gives the flat surface more personality aside from the change in quilting pattern.

pinwheels with depth

pinwheels with depth

depth by quilting

depth by quilting

B. Movement – pinwheels come to mind here, because this block is one that emulates a moving object. So to quilt it in a fashion that simulates movement also adds visual appeal to the quilt. The pinwheels above showcase this as well as those below.

pinwheel movement

pinwheel movement

from below

from below

5. Overall cohesion is INCREDIBLY important to the quilt, and with custom quilts this is where planning comes into play. Using the quilt I was working on today again as the example, I have red triangles inside the quilt as well as along the border. I haven’t quilted either yet because I want them to tie in to one another and haven’t made the final decision as to the design. Also, with the pinwheels (the ‘background’ spokes), I wanted to quilt them more densely than the curls on the forefront spokes, and actually tested out a small meander.

meander vs. wavy lines

meander vs. wavy lines

But it seemed out of place so I removed those stitches and tried the wavy lines, which I felt added the movement in the photo above. I may end up using wavy lines in the red spaces as well.

There can be other factors, such as timeframe (less time = less quilting), anticipated drape (highly quilted quilts are much stiffer), and quilt use intention (I often tell customers they may not want custom quilting on a gift for a 4 year old, it will get washed 100 times and they won’t know the difference).

Regardless of the time it takes to come up with the perfect quilting pattern, it is highly rewarding to reach that light-bulb moment and then find that your conception has become a beautiful reality. Happy quilting my friends!

I’ve been busy!

I have begun this year’s project – I’ve cut the pieces for 4 quilts. That’s all the further I’ve really been able to get. But I’ve been busy on other things….

I was going to speak at the Ft. Worth Quilt Guild in June, but was asked if instead I could come in February, to which of course, I responded a resounding YES. This, despite not having the presentation written yet, nor any of the quilts quilted. uh oh?

Nope, not for this girl. The actual presentation isn’t all that complicated. I just needed to get my notes from my brain onto paper in an order that people will understand what I am trying to convey. Then I’ll need to practice and time myself. But for now, I wanted to make sure the quilts were quilted. Mostly for their preservation and partly for my sanity (no one wants to see the backside of my quilt tops, believe me).

So I’ve been quilting them. AND… I’ve been using different battings every time. I have 2 more to go.

I had to special order a few of the batting types, as I don’t normally carry some of the brands and densities of cotton I wanted to use, but I’m almost there.

I thought I would share some photos of what I’ve completed!

January:

January overview, quilted

January overview, quilted

I used a poly cotton blend in this one. LOVE how it turned out!

February contains Quilters Dream Supreme Cotton (their thickest density):

February quilted, overview

February quilted, overview

Here’s a close up of the all over curls:

February all over curls

February all over curls

March, containing Hobbs cotton batting:

march overview, quilted

march overview, quilted

and a close up, just a simple meander:

close up march

close up march

Aprils quilt had issues, meaning I didn’t differentiate enough with the color values, which is what caused this to look like crayon box vomit rather than a distinguished pattern. So I just quilted it in a pattern I seem to love doing now, and the back looks REALLY cool! This one contains Hobbs black poly batting:

april overview, quilted

april overview, quilted

Check out the back of it!!!

back of april, quilted

back of april, quilted

May is not yet quilted. I strung up the back today and it wasn’t large enough for the top, so I used that back for a charity quilt instead and need to put a new back together for May. It will contain Warm & Natural cotton batting.

June contains 100% poly, medium loft:

june overview quilted

june overview quilted

And up close:

June up close, quilted

June up close, quilted

July’s quilt is very similar to June, but because of the lack of alternating blocks I thought the arrows were not as visible. So I quilted it in a meander, much like June’s, but for July’s quilt, I avoided quilting over the arrows:

July quilted overview

July quilted overview

I used recycled polyester batting in July’s quilt. It’s extremely light (like poly) and flat (like cotton). Good for a summer quilt. Here’s the close up:

july quilted close up

july quilted close up

August’s quilt contains a high loft polyester, so I quilted this in a VERY loose meander.

august quilted overview

august quilted overview

Here’s the close up – this thing is soooo puffy:

august quilted close up

august quilted close up

September I used Quilters Dream black polyester. It really is the same feel as Hobbs black poly but much softer to the touch. Once inside the quilt, it feels exactly the same.

September quilted overview

September quilted overview

Here’s the close up:

September quilted close up

September quilted close up

I just loved October’s quilt. I wanted to keep it fun, like the focus fabric, so I quilted it in wavy lines horizontally and vertically, alternating in purple and orange thread! This quilt contains Quilters Dream Deluxe cotton batting, their second highest density cotton:

October quilted overview

October quilted overview

Here’s the back, where you can REALLY see the thread and quilting pattern used!

October quilted

October quilted

November is not yet complete. Tomorrow will be her day.

December about killed me today. I decided to use a wool cotton blend by Hobbs. It quilted beautifully, and feels thin like the cotton. I may use it in Novembers quilt as well, and not quilt it as densely to see how that turns out. Anyway, here is December:

December quilted overview

December quilted overview

December up close quilted

December up close quilted

I quilted the center pinwheels a bit differently to try to make them show up a bit better, which was the whole reason I laid this quilt out like I did in the first place.

This photo shows the sashing and border.

close up December quilted

close up December quilted

But check out the backside!!!!

December quilted backside

December quilted backside

You can see the flower block centers I outlined. This might be my favorite…

OR, January might be my favorite! This is quilt #13, BONUS :). For a presentation, these folks aren’t going to be able to see me hold up a photo in a magazine that helped inspire this project, so I made this quilt to help with my display. Here it is quilted:

January quilted overview

January quilted overview

This one has Hobbs Silk batting. It had a lot rougher feel than I anticipated, but drapes nicely. Here is the close up:

January quilted close up

January quilted close up

So, as you can see, I’ve been busy. Doing my most favorite thing on the planet!

Happy quilting my friends! Don’t forget to check out my website for more photos and inspiration! www.charmingprintsquilting.com. XO, maria

 

Some recent quilting photos

So at the moment I have this awful emphysema sounding cough. It makes my throat hurt and my chest sore and I sound like a troll. The good news is that otherwise I am fine. No fever, chills, headache, nausea, aches or anything. WHEW. If this is what I’m getting sick with for the season, I’ll take it!

It does make me feel tired quickly, but if I lay down, I very quickly feel rested and bored. I’ve been doing quite a bit of quilting still, and figured doing some writing would be a great way to ‘rest’ and still feel like I’m being productive.

I haven’t started this year’s project yet. The pattern is so beautiful but SOOOOOOO complicated! I have trouble enough with simple patterns! So I decided tonight that I would re-evaluate before cutting a thing and see if I can find another similar pattern that isn’t so convoluted.

Last year’s project is wrapping up well. I’m getting everything quilted in anticipation of my first presentation in February!

So what to post about? Well, who doesn’t like seeing pictures of quilting? 🙂 I like seeing pictures of quilting, so I’m going to share some of my recent work:

paisley swirl feather

paisley swirl feather

The quilt above is a charity quilt, and the top was beautiful, so I wanted to quilt it in a beautifully elegant manner.

backside of a quilt

backside of a quilt

This is the backside of another quilt, which is made from the K. Fassett fabrics in the pieced blocks here on the back. I did mostly swirls, but mirrored some of the squares and it shows up really cool on the back! Here is the front:

K Fassett front

K Fassett front

This was a cute little project I put in my Etsy store. It’s all over swirls with pearls in the center. The black fabric is the backside:

swirls front and back

swirls front and back

Here’s a better shot of the whole front:

swirl w pearl top

swirl w pearl top

And this one is the last quilt from last years project. I used variegated thread and did these little flowers and tiny loops, keeping the quilting a bit loose. I love how it turned out:

loops and flowers

loops and flowers

I wish my lighting was better on that photo, but you get the idea.

I’ve got a few all over and a big custom job coming up, as well as a whole lot of charity quilts and project quilts to get through, so I am sure I’ll have more photos in the near future.

In the meantime, happy quilting my friends. 🙂

my scrap bin threw up

All over the floor. Unlike when that happens with the kids, or the cats, I have yet to clean it up.

my scrap bin threw up

my scrap bin threw up

It’s so bad you can’t even see where the bin IS! That purple one on the right is backings for charity quilts. The scrap bin is BEHIND all that stuff!

The majority of my fabric is behind my long arm machine, neatly arranged by color in these bins:

neat bins of fabric

neat bins of fabric

Looks like my batting scraps are procreating when I’m not looking too. I keep them for rag quilts, charity quilts and small projects, as well as cleaning my long arm bobbin area and wheels. It’s like having tribbles around (for my fellow Star Trek geeks)!

Anyway, when I ran out of room for fabric (ahem…) I got these additional bins, and use them for special fabrics, batiks, my Christmas bin and new stuff that I haven’t figured out exactly what to do with yet.

new bins

new bins

I guess I need to clean that up soon.

But the only way to REALLY clean it up is to USE it! And I do love to make scrap quilts! But I usually organize my scrap bin by sorting it by color, separating out the stuff that looks like it really needs to go together and the batiks and any large amounts of one fabric. Then I separate anything I see with potential into quart baggies for my next retreat. Before I go retreating I find a pattern to match it with and them I’m ready to go! This quilt was made at a retreat last year from scraps and I LOVE it!

rhubarb pie quilt

rhubarb pie quilt

Actually some of the scraps in my bin (or around it?) are leftover from ^this^ quilt. I didn’t want it to get too big so I ended up with more strips/squares cut than I needed for it (those leftovers are actually front and center in that first photo). You can also see bits from the last monthly block atop the heap…

But I really need my area to be a little better organized, so I guess I’ll have to dedicate a day sometime soon to get this mess cleaned up.

Just tell me I’m not the only one with this issue. I can’t possibly be.

December quilt is coming, and so is 2015 challenge!

OK fans! I had a plan when I made November’s quilt for what December’s quilt would become. HOWEVER….. I changed it.

the plan

the plan

FOR GOOD reason I SWEAR! I had a panel planned out! I bought it, measured it, planned the blocks around it, found (and even bought) coordinating colors for the parts, and was about to get to work on it.

coordinating fabrics

coordinating fabrics

Then I realized how difficult these measurements were becoming. Trying to make a panel that is three wide, each piece measuring 23″ tall by 14.5″ wide, work with a block that is 9.5″ unfinished is VERY tedious. I tried to figure it out with sashing, with separating the panels, changing the size of the block or skooching in the panels, none of it worked.

the panel

the panel

Needless to say, I realized this just wasn’t going to work. Sooooo, I wondered to myself what do I do now?

My wheels are already turning on next years project, so I wanted to go with something bold, but something that was still different from previous months. I know what the setting is going to be this time, I just had to pick my colors.

I decided to do a darkish red and gray, and found a perfect big red flower on a gray background that made a perfect center. But the flower is bigger than the normal block center size. So I changed the scale for this month. AND I changed something else (but you’ll have to wait and see!)

I’ve got my pieces cut, and still a few days to get them together. It will be AWESOME! Just wait a few more days and I’ll post it!

XO