Whenever I have visited my grandchildren over the years and when they visit me, I always have a sewing project in the works. So, of course, they wanted a sewing project too. I have always let them select fabrics from my stash and create whatever they want. They loved laying out squares of fabric for a quilt, making fun projects for their friends and had all sorts of different ideas.
When school started this year, Polly decided one morning before school that she needed a bag for her iPad and whipped one up….no need for a pattern…Emmett decided that their new puppy needed a bean bag chair and figured out all on his own what to do.
When she was only 8, Polly asked for a sewing machine for Christmas. Now at ages 13 and 10 they are both adept at the machine. They disappear for a while and return with a finished project.
So, it was with a lot of memories that I enjoyed this exchange with my son-in-law, Rob, when he was organizing the basement.
Rob: As I organized the fabric bin in the basement, I can’t help but be astounded by the resourceful and efficient use of material.
Jinny: It’s so much easier to cut a chunk out of the middle.
Rob: That’s right. And when Grandma is supplying the fabric, who cares!!!
Jinny: Never ending supply. Maybe I’ve been too generous.
Rob: They remember every piece of that fabric you’ve given them. It’s kind of amazing. I also found out that Emmett has been leading a double life and is actually Spiderman…so many secrets in the fabric bin.
The response to my blog about Ukrainian quilters has been amazing. Many of you have asked for me to keep you posted on any other information I receive. I’m also posting pictures of two more Ukrainian quilts. Here is some of the latest information from Lena.
March 5, 2022
I accept with great enthusiasm your offer to post information about us. Perhaps this will give some of my colleagues the strength to survive in this horror. Together we will stretch the thread between that wonderful life and this new tragic one. I’m already beginning to realize that such a bad life is also life and you need to look for meaning in it, no matter how difficult it is. And we must understand that everything will pass, and this too, that good times will come and all of us who are alive and well will return to our favorite activities.
In Kyiv, everything is relatively not bad so far compared to many other settlements in Ukraine, which have already been completely destroyed.
We still have heat, electricity, water, internet, food.
However, we are already beginning to get used to living in a new reality.
· Be able to find the safest place in the apartment and hide there during frequent air raids.
· Sit in complete darkness with windows curtained with black cloth (what a blessing that I had it in stock).
· Don’t forget to always turn off the gas,
· Never go outside, only when absolutely necessary, observing a curfew, which can last two days in a row.
· Start every morning with a roll call of all relatives and friends.
· To distinguish the sounds of artillery according to the principle “one’s own” or “alien.
· Save food and make stocks of crackers in case there is no gas, electricity, water.
With best regards
March 7, 2022
I say hello to all quilters who are concerned about the war in Ukraine. I enjoyed reading your comments on the blog. It was great to see how many quilters were willing to share their supplies. Many thanks to these lovely women.
I’m fine so far. Today, for the first time in the war, I went outside. The first thing that caught my eye was the soldiers who were stacking sandbags near my house. So here they will have a checkpoint. This means that in the case of street fighting, we will have a hard time. We are the last block before that part of the city, which is called government.
My husband and I visited the store and pharmacy. At the store, I bought pasta, ketchup, nuts, vegetable oil, sugar and bread. There was a lot of bread but at the moment there are no vegetables.
I also visited the pharmacy. There are few working pharmacies left and there are long lines in them, because they work only a few hours a day. I stood in line for an hour and a half, but the medicine I needed was not there.
The alarm went off again tonight. Later we learned that our air defense shot down 2 Russian planes and a ballistic missile over Kyiv. Perhaps the planes flew to drop bombs on us.
In the photo – a view of the microdistrict where I live. The photo was taken last summer. From this place it is very close to the Center of Ukrainian Culture and Art, where we met on your last visit.
Lena’s story is one of millions who are in similar situations. This photo she took of Kyiv is the Kyiv that will live in my mind.
As I watch the terrifying events taking place in Ukraine, I can’t help but be devastated by all that is happening in that beautiful country. I have gone to Kyiv several times through the years to teach and was always impressed with the talent of the quilters in my classes. I worry about their safety and think of the many friends I have made there through the years.
I want to share part of a message from one of my Ukrainian friends, Lena, along with pictures Lena’s husband took of the amazing quilts she and her fellow quilters have made so that you can have a connection to those students as well. In Lena’s message, she speaks of thanks for the concern we have for her country and of her fellow quilters who I got to know on my visits there and then describes her life now.
It seems that of everyone you could know in Kyiv, I was left alone…some went to Lviv and some to other Western parts of the country. My family did not have such an opportunity and we were forced to stay in the very heart of Kyiv, me and my husband Maxim. My mother also remained in Kyiv, but to my great regret, we are separated from her by the Dnieper River, and the bridges are closed for the duration of the war.
So far, everything is fine with me, there are still a lot of food supplies, there will be enough medicines for several months. I’m at home, dressed to go out, waiting for the bombing. We don’t have a basement or a bomb shelter here. There is a nearby Fairmont hotel with underground parking. And there is a metro station within a five-minute walk, but it is not deep. In addition, the sirens warning of the bombing stopped working.
We very much feel the support of the whole world, including the Americans, and this warms our souls.
You won’t believe it, but when I think that a bomb might hit my house, I don’t think it will kill me, but what will happen to my supply of fabrics and my quilts. I am especially worried about the quilt that I dedicated to you.
To many, it would seem silly to worry about your quilts and fabric at time like this but many a quilter would understand how Lena feels about the possibility of leaving it all behind. Our hearts and souls have been stitched into those quilts which contain fabrics that we collected along the way…another part of the journey.
For the last few months, I have been sharing with you some of the quilts from my antique charm quilt collection. I have told you that one of the easiest ways to work with them is to create a unit and then use the same value placement in each block. But many quiltmakers experimented with other layouts of the pieces in ways to showcase each of the different fabrics. The quilt at the beginning of this newsletter is one example.
Quite a few of my charm quilts have radiating rings going from the center outwards. The right triangle in last month’s quilt can be used for these radiation ring designs as well. In this first one, it appears that the maker separated the pieces into lights and darks and then, depending on how many of the two groups there were, added the pieces one row at a time. The first ring is dark, then one ring of light, three of dark, one of light, two of dark and so on.
The maker of the second quilt has not only organized the pieces by light and dark but by color as well. Single rows of lights and darks have been alternated but the rings follow a color pattern as well. I like the way the red pieces in the center balance with the red ring further out. The same holds true with the dark blues.
An equilateral triangle has been used for the radiating rings in this next quilt. The rings are alternated lights and darks. The lightest fabrics are used in the center ring with the fabrics in each successive “light” ring being darker.
I love to look at the individual fabrics in a charm quilt and see what the maker had in mind. In this particular quilt, there are some very interesting fabrics that have been used. One of them is a “cheater” panel that was printed in the 1850’s. I don’t know if all of the cat and dog motifs in this quilt are from the same panel or more than one. But the maker felt because there were different motifs, it could be part of the “charm.” The other fabrics seem to indicate that this quilt was completed in the 1880s.
In this fourth quilt, the charm pieces are hexagon fabrics. Once again, the fabrics were sorted into lights and darks and then by color. The maker had very few green fabrics and I like the way they were arranged in the fourth ring from the center. Likewise, all the pink fabrics form one of the rings. Of particular interest to me is that there are a lot of striped fabrics in the quilt. A close examination shows that all of those fabrics have the stripes oriented in the same direction.
This series of posts on Charm Quilts has generated a lot of interest, comments and questions. We welcome those comments and love to hear what you are working on. For this post we will show more options for creating a charm quilt using squares.
For all my quilts, I like to create a “unit” that repeats over and over to make the entire quilt. Within that unit the shapes are arranged by value, then each unit follows the same “formula.” I make stacks of those units until there are enough for the quilt top.
So perhaps after gathering a lot of fabrics and cutting the shapes the next step is to organize the pieces by value. Your unit may have light and dark values or it might have light, medium and dark values.
This unit is made up of 25 squares. It is a Nancy Cabot design called Building Blocks and I found it in the Jan, 15, 1938 issue of the Chicago Tribune.
In the December 2021 newsletter we featured a Charm quilt made by Kay Sorensen. The 25 square unit is shown here. Four of those are pinwheeled and made into a larger unit and then those repeat for the quilt.
The Irish Chain design has many different variations. This one, called Double Irish Chain is a Laura Wheeler design that I found in the Aug. 6, 1933 issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
This is made up of units of 36 squares each. Then those, as in the quilt above are also pinwheeled to get the design.
One of my favorite scrap quilts is this one made entirely of small one inch squares. A portion of this quilt is shown at the beginning of this blog. While this is not a charm quilt with all the squares different, it does have a lot of different fabrics and it would be fun to accept the challenge of making all the squares all different for a true charm quilt. The quilt contains 49 of the units explained below and with 81 squares per unit, that makes 3,969 squares in the quilt. The full unit is shown here, but if I were making this, I would break it down into three separate 9-patch units.
Unit 1: Nine squares with three lights diagonally across the middle, four required for the larger unit.
Unit 2: Center 9-patch square with five lights and four mediums, one required for each unit.
Unit 3: Nine square with all medium and dark fabrics sewn together randomly
Then these units could be arranged for the larger square.
There are hundreds of ways squares can be organized to create an interesting design. Why not try your own?
See this months’ newsletter and the two previous blog posts for even more ideas for working with squares to create a charm quilt.
We have had a lot of interest in the last blog post about Charm Quilts. In general a charm quilt, made with one shape, is where each piece is cut from a different fabric. However in my research I have seen ones where all the different patches are alternated with a common fabric. I still call that a charm quilt.
Here was an interesting question from one of our readers, Nancy B.
“Jinny, must every square be different for it to be called “charm”? I ask because I have been making 5 “ squares of 5 rows of 5 one inch squares for several years and think of it as a “journal quilt”. I had read about the idea of using small scraps from each quilt as I made it and then assembling them into a larger quilt as a kind of way to keep a “journal” of the quilts I as I made them. But although I have 100s, some of the small squares repeat twice within a block to create a kind of symmetry around the center square or the opposite corners. I am sure to have over a 1000 fabrics used in total but some squares are duplicates. Shall I call it a Journal Quilt or is it a kind of Charm Quilt? Thanks for your opinion!”
Your quilt sounds like it is quite a journey. I love the idea and I love your name of “Journal Quilt”. But if a lot of pieces are duplicated I probably wouldn’t call it a charm quilt. That said, sometimes I have found that there is one piece in the quilt that has been duplicated, perhaps by design. I often wondered about that until I heard the following story. Someone who inherited a Charm Quilt that her grandmother made, told about having that quilt on her bed during a long childhood illness. She said, “I finally found the two patches alike, a game we used to play as children.”
I have an antique charm quilt made with triangles (shown above). There are 16 block units that make up the quilt. When I first saw this I figured that it was not a charm quilt because I quickly realized that the triangles in the center of each unit were yellow and red, and most of them were cut from the same fabrics. Also the corner triangles of each of each block also had repeats. Two opposite corners were always green and the other two corners were either yellow or red. On closer examination, I discovered that those center and corner triangles were the only fabrics that were used multiple times. All the other pieces in the quilt (except for the border fabrics) were cut from different fabrics. There was a lot of planning that went into this quilt. I still call it a charm quilt because it was obviously the intention of the maker to create a quilt where the red and yellow centers of the blocks and the corner pieces were the “unifiers” of all of the different fabrics.
In each of the 16 blocks in the quilt, there are 32 triangles for a total of 512 triangles. However, 384 triangles are cut from different fabrics. I call this a charm quilt because it appears it was the intension of the maker to showcase all of those different fabrics. One of the block units is shown in the image below.
I must say, that in the charm quilt I made, I have a piece that was duplicated. It was not my intention to have those two pieces from the same fabric, but with so many different pieces it is hard to not repeat one. I only made the discovery after the quilt was finished. My niece and nephew who were five and seven at the time were staying with me for a few days and it was raining and they were bored. I spread out my charm quilt and told them to see if there were any pieces that were duplicated. It did not take them longer than a half an hour to find two pieces the same. I still call it a charm quilt even though inadvertently I used one fabric twice.
In my next blog post, which will come out in early December, I will show you some other ways simple squares can be put together to create interesting quilts. I will also give you some other shapes to download in case you want to create a quilt with a shape other than a square.
A charm quilt is a quilt that is usually made with a single shape and where each piece is cut from a different fabric. Squares, rectangles, hexagons, triangles and diamonds are probably the most common shapes used but others can be used as well. This is a fun project to work on in a quilting group, where you can trade fabrics with each other.
In this blog we start off with probably the easiest shape to work with, a square. The squares can be arranged in a variety of different configurations. But the best way to proceed is to have some type of unit. Then just sew units together and in the end the units can be arranged to balance out color.
The quilts shown here have basically the same layout. At first glance the first one, made with 3 ¾” finished size squares, appears to have those squares randomly sewn together. But a closer look shows four patch units with two squares in one block lighter than the other two. Then those squares are sewn together.
You can very clearly see the four patch units in Square Charm Quilt 2. Made with 2 ½” finished size squares, this quilt was very clearly made in four patch units with the lights quite a bit lighter than the darks.
Square Charm Quilt 3 is probably one of my favorite Charm Quilts. It was also constructed with four patch units. This time the printed fabrics were combined with a solid colored light fabric. The 1” finished size pieces are then sewn together. In the very center of the quilt is a patch with the following words, “This quilt contains 1,844 calico pieces, no two alike.” Several notes have been attached with basting stitches to some of the calico pieces. The notes contain the name of a person. My guess is that those particular fabrics came from the person whose name is on the notes.
Now you may be wondering why it is still considered a charm quilt even though all of those background fabrics are the same. You will often find a common background fabric in these quilts acting as a unifying factor. However, all of the other squares are different so it is still considered to be a charm quilt.
By now most of us have large stashes of fabric. Pull out those fabrics and stay tuned for more coming later this month on ways to make charm quilts with a variety of different settings. In the meantime, start collecting your squares or whatever shape you want to use.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I want to share with you once again, the quilt I made to commemorate that tragic day. I wanted to honor all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. My goal was to have at least one piece for each of the victims. There are 4,777 pieces in the quilt. The one in the center is for my friend, Barbara Olson, who was in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
I began the quilt that week of September 11 and hoped to finish it just one year later by September 11, 2002. (I was one month late and finished it on October 11.) It is entirely hand pieced and I used more than 100 different templates and about 150 different fabrics all from collections I have designed over the years. I wanted to capture the spinning and chaos that surrounded those first days and to capture the colors I was seeing in the gray smoke and dust with the occasional, proud American flag standing tall. In the center is the Statue of Liberty which stands in New York Harbor and is repeated surrounding the center along with American flags.
In choosing the colors, I referred to an image I had been using in my color class where I took an image of the American flag, pixelated it and took out the colors using them in my quilt.
I am often asked how did I get the border print to curve? In the free tips section of my web site is a tutorial on how I achieved those curved effects. Here is a link.
And where did the name come from? I knew from the start that I wanted to call it “Windows.” Everyone was looking at windows that day – windows from planes, windows of televisions, people looking out windows from the top of the World Trade Center where sat the famous Windows on the World restaurant.
Probably, though, the most common question I am asked is if there is a pattern for the quilt and a kit available. Obviously with so many templates and fabrics used that would be impossible. Furthermore, it is a very personal quilt to me with lots of memories stitched into it.
My first quilt was a grandmother’s flower garden made with Indian hand block printed fabrics. It was done with all dark colors. When it came time to quilt it, I went looking for thread. There were no quilting stores in my area in 1972, only quilting areas in other types of handicraft stores. I went into a predominantly needlework shop and asked for navy blue thread for quilting. I was told in no uncertain terms that you never quilt with colored thread. Quilting is done in only cream or white and if you ever used a different color thread and entered a competition, the quilt would be disqualified. I said I had no intention of entering this quilt into a competition and wanted a dark colored thread that would blend with the fabrics I used in the quilt. I knew quilting thread was slightly thicker than standard sewing thread and went to a decorator shop where they recommend using heavier thread for the heavier fabrics. I found a company which made a 40 weight thread that was perfect. It came in a wide variety of colors and I used it for years until it was purchased by another company and the manufacturing of the thread was outsourced to a foreign country. It was no longer the quality it had been.
I have learned a lot of my quilting lessons the hard way. When I was quilting one of my early quilts in 1976, I had chosen a poly-cotton quilting thread in white. It was a patriotic themed quilt designed for the bicentennial celebration. After about two weeks of quilting, I decided to take it out of the frame and check my stitches on the back. Much to my horror, where the quilting was done in straight lines along the grain of the backing fabric, there were small cuts that were made by the thread. The places where the quilting was done on the diagonal were ok. Polyester has a sharpness to it and it is also slightly elastic so if the thread is pulled too tightly it stretches and is even more apt to cut the fabric. I learned it is best to quilt with a thread fiber content that is compatible with the fabric used in the rest of the quilt.
I ended up taking out all the quilting I had done, replaced the backing and started over. Needless to say, that is the last time I used poly-cotton thread for either hand piecing or quilting and use only 100% cotton thread.
What color thread to use. For my early quilts, I used the same color thread throughout but as the years went by, I discovered that I liked using different colors depending on the color of the fabric I was quilting. It is not unusual for me to use three or four different colored threads in one quilt. I find I have certain “neutral” colored threads that blend with the fabrics that I often use such as light tan, grey/blue, dusty rosy red, grey/green, etc.
To wax or not to wax the thread. A lot of people ask this question. Waxing is where the thread is pulled over a piece of beeswax before sewing. I think it is a personal choice but I do not wax it. If a quilting thread is used it is already pre-waxed and my problem with waxing a non-quilting thread is I find that the waxing causes pieces of batting to be pulled out along with the thread, causing a “bearding” effect.
So much of the quilting process from beginning to end comes down to personal choices that we discover, as I have, along the way.
One day I was walking along the Potomac River near my home and met a man who was studying one of the plants with great interest. I asked him what was so fascinating about the plant. He told me that the name of the plant is Horse Tail and that he was very curious about the sections of the stem and how they seem to follow some sort of pattern. I took one look at the stem and immediately knew what it was. Then I also realized that I had the same plant growing in the fish pond in my yard. I was anxious to get home and see if my theory was correct.
Several times in the past I have written about the Golden Ratio (also called the Golden Proportion, Golden Mean, Devine Proportion or Phi) . Its appearance in nature, design and the entire universe is uncanny. It is the division of a line segment where the ratio is 1 to 1.618. One is the shorter length and 1.618 the longer one. BUT it is also the ratio of .618 to 1 where .618 is the shorter segment and 1 the larger. This is what makes this ratio so magical.
Now I know that the mention of proportions, ratios or anything mathematical can make the eyes of most people roll back in their heads (unless you are a math geek). So, a few years ago, I designed a set of calipers for quilters that open up into these pleasing proportions of the Golden Ratio. I got them out when I returned home from my walk and took one of the Horse Hair stems from my pond and tried them out. Sure enough, when I place the calipers along one of the longer sections, the shorter piece next to it fits the proportions of the Golden Ratio and vice versa. One note, the sections at the base of the stem don’t quite fit into the ratio, but they fit more perfectly as I reached the tip of the tip of the stem. It is fascinating for me to see how this proportion shows up in so many aspects of our world.
Go to the blog section of my website and do a search for Golden Ratio or Calipers and read what I have previously written about this proportion and how we can easily apply it to quilt design.
Do an internet search on the Golden Ratio and you will be amazed at what comes up about this magical phenomenon.