It’s Never Too Late To Learn

Our quilting group had their spring retreat last month. There must be hundreds of years of quilting and sewing experience among all of us. We have seen and done it all by now. Or so I thought! I mean, how many ways are there to connect pieces of fabric? More than I could imagine, it seems.

JNQ85P-2We were given the opportunity to take a class in making a Judy Niemyer pattern called “Bali Wedding Star”. Judy makes the most amazing paper pieced quilts with very accurate precise points and uses a lot of Bali fabrics. I know how to use paper piecing. I know how to make stars. I know about Bali fabrics. I just don’t do any of those things a lot and I’ve never made a wedding ring pattern, so I thought this would be a good chance to do so.

What I didn’t realize is, I would learn techniques I had never seen before that would make the entire quilt so much easier to construct. I guess sometimes we all forget that new thoughts, new methods, new philosophies are still possible. We don’t have to keep doing things the same old way. Progress – what a concept!!!!

Learning a new thing, even as simple as a method of quilt construction, can be quite invigorating. It keeps a person young, flexible and open to more learning. The mind is a muscle like any other muscle – it atrophies without use.

So let me share with you the three wonderful little secrets that made my quilt a breeze to put together.

THE ARC TEMPLATE — No more cutting little pieces of fabric into wedge shapes to fit into the arc pattern! Judy has provided this paper template so all fabric pieces can simply be sewn on and the arc will be formed. Simple but truly ingenious!

Ring Quilt4

SEWING ARC PIECES FROM ONE STRIP OF FABRIC — This is so simple and yet so amazing! The arc templates are lined up on one strip of fabric and sewn first. Then cut apart. Just one long straight line of sewing with the accuracy of paper piecing. Saves a ton of time.

Ring Quilt22Here is the first template placed on the strip of fabric for sewing.

Ring Quilt20The second template is sewn on the fabric strip in line with the first.

Ring Quilt18One strip of fabric with a string of templates sewn on. Then just cut the templates apart and press the fabric. Amazing huh?! With so many colors involved in this pattern, this method was a true life saver.

GLUE INNER TO OUTER CURVE OF FABRIC — Everyone knows how hard it is to sew an inner curve to an outer curve. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? GLUE the pieces together first and then sew them. Easy, peasy. No more stretching, pleating or gapping.


These are the two curved edges that need to be sewn together.

Star1With the right sides of the fabrics together, you can see what a nightmare it is to sew these curves together.

Star8First, pin the two edges together at the middles and ends.

Star7Using Roxanne’s Glue-Baste-It, lay a very thin line of glue along edge (within the seam) of arc fabrics.

Star6Press the two edges together. The glue will hold, will not gum you needle and will wash out.

Star4Sew the seam and voila! No gaps, pleats or puckers! Ever time I do it, I am amazed!

Star3See how nicely it all presses out! I have one more little hint for you ——-

Basting GlueWhen using your glue, store it upside down in the container. That way it will not clog up.

All the hardest parts of the Wedding Ring have suddenly become so manageable. Now who wouldn’t want to make this quilt? Judy’s extra twist is the added star in the middle of the ring. It looks like you have made all these impossible points, seams and curves so precise and you have! But with so much less screaming, ripping and resewing!! How grand is that?

Enjoy, my Sweeties! Gotta go! I have a quilt to finish!

Log Cabin Doll Blanket

I have been working on this sweet little doll quilt since retreat. I started with an old piece of quilt top made of small strips. They were all different sizes, widths, weights and colors. It was very charming, but did not lay flat. Nor did any seam match any other seam. All of these quirky things made the top seem more primitive (which it was) and homemade (which it was). But in the end I did not like the way it was put together, so I decided (against all prevailing opinion!) to take the quilt apart, recut and start over.

At the time this seemed like a sensible (to me) idea. I had done a similar thing with a previous quilt and it worked out very well. Granted, the pieces then were larger and triangular and redesigning the quilt made a huge difference. But this was going to work too, even though the strips are very small and so varied that redesigning will make almost no difference.

But I was not to be deterred! I was on a mission! So I spent 3 days . . . . you heard me, 3 ┬ádays taking a quilt top the size of maybe two placemats apart AND recutting the strips. To make the strips the same size, I had to go down to 3/4″ wide. That is tiny! Here is a pic of my strips, dark and light. The piles are so small, I can’t believe how long it took to make them!

Then I started to reconstruct the quilt. But I had to reduce my seam allowance or the strips would just disappear. My new seam allowance was between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. That is technically 1.5/8 inch! I used a Log Cabin design because the doll bed is primitive looking.

I pressed all the seams to one side. Then squared up each cabin square. I wanted those seams to match this time! By arranging the squares, I got this striped effect of the light and dark colors. I really like it, especially on such a small quilt.

I used thin batting and backed the quilt with a black and cream ticking. The quilting is mostly “stitch in the ditch” or stitch in the well of the seam.I used the wrong side of the ticking for the mattress cover and pillow (pictures and tutorials next week). The binding is a cream muslin that goes with the front and back.

Here again is the finished quilt in the doll cradle. In the future, I will show you the mattress, pillow, and sheet set I am making also. All of my dolls are begging to be the first to test the newly linened bed! I don’t know, some of the stuffed animals have been especially good lately, too. What’s a Granny to do? Maybe have a pajama party and let them ALL stay in the cradle?! WooHoo! Sounds like fun!

A Quilting I Will Go

My Sweeties, I am off to a 4-day quilting retreat! We, meaning my quilting ladies and I, do this twice a year, Spring and Fall. It is held at a retreat center built especially for such gatherings, so everything we need is there. Which is good because it is not near any large town. For 4 days we will be pretty much alone with ourselves (and cell phones and lap tops, of course!), our sewing machines and all the fabric we can get our hands on. The center can house approximately 30 people but there are only 15 of us this time. Lots of room to spread out! That can become an issue for those who bring their entire sewing room. And you know who you are!

This group I belong to is the most amazing circle of women. I discovered the group about 3 years ago when looking for someplace to enjoy my love of sewing. After one day at my first retreat, I knew this was the place for me. Not only was everyone knowledgeable and skilled in so many areas but they were all the most extraordinary people. I was so struck by their kindness and willingness to share every bit of knowledge they had. During 4 days with 25 women I never heard any foul language, any unkind words or any gossip. At the time I thought this was impossible!

Quilting, I have come to realize, tends to bring out the best in people. It is often a shared activity, which helps foster the group as a whole. It certainly keeps one’s hands busy but conversation and sharing can continue while the fingers and needles fly.

To Gramps, quilting is a mystery. All he sees is women cutting fabric apart and then sewing it back together, only differently. Somehow it all looks great in the end but he is not sure how it all happens.

And the language is a bit confusing. There is the general term “quilting” which means working on any part of what will become a quilt someday. Then there is the specific term “quilting” which is the decorative stitching done to hold the front, back and inside of a quilt together. It is a special skill all its own and can take years to perfect. Quilting (stitching) can be done by hand or by machine – both ways can be magnificent, although machine quilting is definitely faster.

The art of quilting and this particular group of quilting friends has brought so much joy and love into my life. What a thrill to be surrounded by challenges, inspirations, new ideas, memories of the past and absolutely mind-boggling concepts while in the company of people who help you improve, cheer you on, give you pointers, share knowledge and respect your accomplishments. A pretty heady environment! Something like that can change a person – it sure has me!

I have grown so much and learned even more from associating with these dear quilting friends. Not only have my sewing skills improved but my love of color and textiles has expanded as has my knowledge of quilts and their history. I have certainly been encouraged to share all I have and include all lovers of fabric arts but have also been challenged to go beyond my skill and comfort levels. It seems to be the MOST perfect combination of comfort and challenge. That doesn’t come along very often, for sure!

So off I go to my quilting retreat, to come back better, improved, certainly different, well-fed, not necessarily rested but happy, productive and loved. Isn’t that the definition of a retreat?