We often receive questions and comments from quilters about a wide range of topics and often those questions will pertain to a wider audience and seem a good topic for a blog.
We received the following comment from Rosemary:
“Please consider creating online hand quilting classes or DVD-based classes for those of us who live far away and can’t get to your studio.”
While I do have two classes coming up at the Studio next week, including Hand Quilting, I certainly understand that our website reaches quilters around the world and most of you will never be able to visit the Studio. This was one of the reasons that I began my mystery quilt series and include video lessons with them.
We do currently have classes based on our mystery quilts both last year and this year. Our mystery quilt lessons are free to subscribers of our newsletters during the length of the class. Each newsletter has the link both to the written pattern and to the video lessons. The classes cover a wide variety of techniques that I teach, including hand and machine piecing with topics such as sewing curves, joining odd angles, applique, foundation piecing, etc. We also discuss color, quilting, using borders prints and more. Once the year is up and we go on to the next project, the previous year’s quilt pattern and videos are available for sale.
Currently, last year’s project, which covers a wide variety of techniques, is available for sale as a pattern and DVD. That project is Moroccan Mystery.
The current year’s project is Kyoto Mystery. Those patterns and video lessons are free if you are a subscriber to our newsletter. Even if you start now, in each newsletter, there are links to the previous months’ lessons and videos.
Kits are available for both of these quilt projects, but even if you do not want to make the quilt, the video lessons are valuable on their own as they cover many of the techniques that I cover in my classes.
Our web site also has many free videos and quilt tips on a wide variety of subjects. Click here to visit our “Tips and Lessons “page.
Often I hear comments from some of you that you wish you lived closer and could take advantage of some the classes that I teach. Many of you watch our class calendar and plan your trips to the Washington, DC area so that you can attend my classes. One of the most popular ones I teach is Quiltmaking by Hand. In that class, I cover all of the techniques you would need to know to tackle any hand piecing project. Those techniques include:
Supplies to have on hand
The basic running stitch
Joining 4 points
Joining 3 points
Joining 8 points
Setting in seams
Working with border prints
It occurred to me as I was proofing the DVD containing all of the video lessons for the 2017 Mystery Quilt, Moroccan Mystery, that everything I teach in my Quiltmaking by Hand class can be found in that DVD. The lessons in the DVD include all the techniques described above. You do not need to make the Moroccan Mystery quilt to learn the techniques. The DVD works as a stand-alone product for learning all the basics of hand piecing.
Speaking of a “mystery quilt,” our 2018 Mystery Quilt, Kyoto Mystery, will be launching April 7th. Subscribers to our newsletter will receive the first clue and video lesson on that day. The quilt is rectangular, 59” x 63”, and we are preparing kits in the four colorways shown here. Those kits will be available for purchase starting March 3rd. Keep an eye out for our March newsletter.
Watch this video teaser for more information on our new BOM mystery quilt.
It is hard to believe that fall is past! Winter Solstice is upon us. This fall was such a whirlwind of activity beginning with visit to Oregon to see our grandchildren (and of course their parents), the Studio’s anniversary sale, then all of the preparations for our annual shop hop with Quilt Market sandwiched in. We also flew to California to spend Thanksgiving with one of our sons and his wife and are preparing to fly to Oregon for the Christmas holidays. It should be lots of fun.
A few weeks ago my 9 year old granddaughter informed me that she wants a sewing machine for Christmas along with lots of fabric…so how could I resist? She and her younger brother, Emmett, did such a great job a year ago when they came to visit and I introduced them to the sewing machine. She took to it so quickly that I think she is ready. I got her a good beginner machine, the EverSewn Sparrow 20. I’ll keep you informed on how it goes.
Amidst all of this I have been busy preparing for our 2018 Mystery Quilt. We had such a great response to this year’s quilt that we decided on the “mystery” concept again. I have designed the quilt in four colorways and there are a variety of techniques covered. As I did last year, we will film video lessons to go along with each clue. We have listened to your feedback and will once again have a smaller quilt. This time it will be a little larger, rectangular in shape and will be suitable for a throw, lap quilt or wall hanging. We are still finalizing the lessons and patterns and plan to have the first clue in either March or April.
On another note, I have a great gift or decorating idea. As the new year approaches, many of you will be in full-on mode planning weddings and either baby or bridal showers. During the 29 years of my annual Hilton Head Seminar, one of the decisions that always had to be made was what to do about the centerpieces at the banquet tables. Depending on how large the event, centerpieces can be quite costly.
This year at Quilt Market we found the Vase and Vessels Pattern by Amy Barickman for Indygo Junction. I came home from market with the pattern in hand and made a couple of vases using border print fabrics. The technique is similar to English Paper Piecing except the fabric is fused over the Fabriflair stabilizer instead of basted over papers. As I was working, the idea suddenly hit me that this would be a perfect project for a centerpiece for an event. Use the event colors and select fabrics to match those colors. Depending on the size of your vase, put a pint or quart Mason jar inside the vase and then select flowers in similar colors, as I did in the picture above. At the end of the event, one lucky person at the table could be the recipient of the centerpiece!
I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy holiday season! If you are going to be in the Washington D.C. area over the holidays, we would love to see you. We will be closed both Christmas and New Year’s Day.
This summer seems to have flown by and as usual I have been busy with garden, family and quilting. Sadness for all of the extended family was the passing of my sister, Linda. She had fought a long battle with cancer and finally lost. But her amazing spirit through it all was an inspiration to everyone who knew her. I feel so fortunate that I was able to fly to the west coast in June and spend a quality week with her. I returned in July for another week for the celebration of her life.
As usual in the summertime we start gearing up full tilt for the Shop Hop in November. This is our annual “Quilter’s Quest” which takes place for 10 days in November from the 9th to the 18th.
Each year we plan a color scheme and each shop selects a group of fabrics that fall within the range of those colors. As participants go to each shop they can purchase the swatches for $4.00 or if they spend $30 they can get them for free! This is our 2017 color palette.
This year the “Quest Cuts” are eight six inch squares. We all get together and trade our sets with each other so every shop ends up with a complete set of 80 swatches. Then comes the fun part. Each shop designs a quilt based on the Quest Cuts. As you go to the shops you will receive a free pattern for that shop’s quilt. Many of the shops offer “finishing kits” so that you can make a quilt from the pattern you like the best!
We have decided to have a “movie” theme this year and each shop has selected a movie and will enhance their shop according to the movie they select. We chose the movie Around the World in 80 Days.
It is a great event and all 10 shops have put together a fun video that tells you all about it.
In the past I have shared with you the progress of the quilt as I work on it over the summer. I wanted the design of our quilt to reflect on the movie theme. The 1956 film is about a Victorian Englishman who bets he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. Here is a little sneak peak of the progress.
You all know how much I love shading fabrics together, so that was my first task. I needed four groups with 12 values of colors in each one, going from light to dark.
While the pattern for the quilt will be foundation piecing, I worked with templates, because I needed to move pieces around as I created the design. The hardest part was drafting the pattern, from there the rest was easy. Here is just a small portion of some of the pieces arranged on a design wall. It took me more than a week to get the pieces the way I wanted them and then only about a week to hand piece.
The quilt is now in my quilting frame and I work on it as I watch the Washington Nationals’ baseball games. Here is a small portion of the quilting in progress. I will share the complete design when the quilt is finished.
I will be teaching hand quilting at the Studio this weekend. I love teaching this class because I only hand quilt my quilts and I love passing this skill along to others. In preparing for the class, I was reminded of the questions I am frequently asked about the topic. In an earlier blog, I talked about my favorite products but there were a few other areas I didn’t address. What color quilting thread should I use? Do I change the thread color when quilting over different fabrics or do I just use one? And then there is the most frequently asked question at the Studio concerning quilting: how should I quilt my quilt?
Let’s start with the last question first. My absolute favorite way to quilt and what I use most often is outline quilting which is to quilt a little bit more than a quarter of an inch around every patch. Why “a little more” than a quarter of an inch? That’s because if I try to do exactly a quarter of an inch I would probably be hitting the bulk from the seam allowances which would make my job much more difficult. By quilting a little bit more than a quarter of an inch from the seam line, I will miss those extra layers of fabric. I eyeball the quarter-inch but, if you prefer, you can use a quarter-inch masking tape made for quilters as a guide.
When I get to the borders or in areas with large-scale prints, the design decision is easy. I let the printed design on the fabric dictate my quilting design.
Now, concerning thread color and whether or not to change thread, I would have to give the very unpopular answer of “it depends.” First of all, I don’t like to use bright colors. I like the look of more muted thread colors. Here are the colors I use most: a grey-blue or teal being my favorite plus ecru, black and rust.
I try to use the same thread throughout but I do sometimes change. An easy decision is using black on black, tan on tan, etc. When choosing a thread color, I tend to go a little darker than the fabric I will be stitching on. I pick up the darker lines in the fabric.
For more information, you can refer to my book, Quiltmaking by Hand. But above all, remember that this is your quilt. There are so many possibilities. Experiment, try new colors and products and find what works best for you.
Periodically we get questions from some of you about various aspects of quilting and we try to answer those questions when we can.
The following came in some time back and I thought it would be a good issue to discuss:
Learning to do hand quilting – any suggestions on how to practice my stitches?
First and foremost, the tools and materials you use really make a difference.
Use high quality apparel weight 100% cotton fabric. If the fabric is heavy, you will get larger stitches.
I like to use 100% cotton batting. One of my favorites is Quilters’ Dream Cotton. This batting comes in several weights. I like the lightest weight, Request. The thicker the batting, the larger the stitches and the thinner the batting, the easier it is to quilt and get small stitches.
I use a between, size 11, for all my hand piecing and quilting. It is a sturdy needle and because it is so short it does not bend as readily. There are a number of needle companies and I have experimented with many of them. Unfortunately, as with everything else, many of the manufacturers are now having their needles made in China. Frankly, in my experience, the ones made in China are not the same high quality as those made in England and Japan. I would advise you to check the packaging. If it says “packed in England” and not “made in England,” the needles are probably made in China. My favorite needle of choice at the moment is the Colonial Needle Company, Super Glide, between, size 11. This needle is made in England and has a special coating that allows it to glide more smoothly through the fabric.
I like a pre-waxed thread made specifically for quilting. There are many brands and they now come in a wide range of colors. The one I use most is YLI quilting thread. It is a little more wiry than standard thread and produces a nice quilting stitch.
I can’t quilt without a spoon. You may wonder what that is. When quilting, you need a hand underneath the quilt frame to receive the tip of the needle and push it back up again. After a while your finger gets really sore. There are various devices to use under the frame that will guide the needle back up. Some thimbles have sharp ridges around the top for just this purpose. Aunt Becky’s Finger Saver is another device.
Once, I encountered a group of older women around a quilting frame. One of them was quilting up a storm and I asked what she used underneath. She proudly held up her thumb where she had a quarter taped. She was using that to guide the needle back up.
When quilting, sometimes if you have stacked four or five stitches on the needle it is difficult to grab the needle and pull it out. I use a small pair of pliers for this purpose. I just keep them on my quilting frame and grab them when needed.
I have saved the most important for last. To get good even stitches you must use some type of frame or hoop. It is the same as doing embroidery. Without a hoop, the work is either too loose or too tight. I can’t stress enough the importance of this.
My book, Quiltmaking by Hand, has a whole chapter on quilting, designs for quilting, how to put a quilt in a frame or hoop, and so much more. If you have an interest in hand quilting, this book would be useful for you.
Now to answer the question above, if you have the right fabric, batting, tools and some sort of frame, the best way to practice your quilting is to put a quilt in a hoop or frame and start quilting. The first stitches will probably not be to your satisfaction, but you will find that you will improve as you keep stitching.
I was very disappointed when I started quilting my first quilt. Here is a close up of how those first stitches looked and another several months later when I was achieving smaller and more even stitches.
I am happy to see the renewed interest in hand quilting and hope you will give it a try!
We are in the middle of the Row by Row summer long shop hop. It has been such fun to meet the people from places far and wide who are participating. We had been anxiously anticipating a winner of the finished quilt made up of this years’ rows and were surprised that it was taking so long. But on Saturday we finally had a winner. Sheila Cooke of Burke, Virginia came in with her quilt that will hold lots of memories for her. She collected rows while she and her son drove to Colorado to visit her daughter and her quilt includes rows from Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and Colorado.
Speaking of shop hops, all of the shops involved in the Maryland/Virginia Quilters’ Quest shop hop have been busily preparing for our event in November. At our last meeting we traded fabric squares that participants will collect from each shop and now we are all designing and sewing our individual quilts that contain those fabrics. Everyone who comes to the Quest during our 10-day marathon will receive a free pattern for that shop’s quilt.
I have planned the design for our quilt and cut it out and have started sewing. On Sunday, I planned my day out. First I would go for a walk, read the paper and cut more pieces for our Quest quilt. Then while I watched the afternoon Washington Nationals baseball game I was going to sew some of the pieces together. After that, my plan was to make bread and butter pickles.
Well, the baseball game went into 18 innings. I kept sewing and sewing and sewing until almost all the pieces I cut were sewn. By the time the game was over it was time for dinner and there was no time to make pickles.
Early Monday morning I went to the garden to pick the cucumbers and was overwhelmed! The cucumbers liked the weekend rain we had and had virtually increased tenfold from what I had seen on Friday. Fortunately, my onions were ready to harvest so I could use those for the pickles as well.
I spent Monday making not just one batch of pickles but several, and I gave out cucumbers to friends and neighbors. By the way, the recipe I use is one that came from my mother-in-law and is an old Farm Journal recipe from the 1930’s. See below if you want to try. They are delicious!
Bread and Butter Pickles
4 quarts thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (if I don’t have enough I use the long English style)
2 quarts thinly sliced onions
1/2 cup canning salt (I use kosher when I can’t find the canning)
1 quart 5% acid strength vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 tbsp. mustard seeds
1 tbsp. celery seeds
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. white pepper
Layer cucumber slices and salt in large pottery crock or bowl. Cover with ice cubes and let stand in refrigerator for three hours. Drain well.
Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, ginger, turmeric and pepper in large kettle and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Add cucumbers and onions and bring back to a full boil.
Pack into 8 sterilized pint jars, filling to within 1/4″ of the top. Wipe rims and add lids.
It has been great to see how many people are turning to hand piecing and enjoying the process.
I received a photo from David S, who recently took my hand piecing class. David has only been quilting for a little more than a year, but he has completely embraced hand piecing and has finished many quilts already.
He sent me a photo of the pieced border of a quilt, Columbia, that he is currently working on. A pattern for it is in my book Quiltmaking by Hand.
What struck me was how David was piecing the border. I realized that that was how I would have done it when I began quilting too. But that method requires all of the second set of triangles to have a set-in seam. Many people flinch when they hear that term. Obviously, it doesn’t phase David because he executes them brilliantly. When sewing by hand, set-in seams are very easy. Watch this video here.
But when sewing by hand, I like to have straight seams, if possible, and a continuous line of stitching without breaking the thread. While David was able to use a continuous thread, his method did require a lot of set-in seams. I turned to my book to see how I recommended sewing that border (see diagram 1) and realized I would do it differently today. The method in the book has all straight line sewing , but it involves starting and stopping after each seam.
Today, if I were doing that pieced border, I would sew units of one square and two triangles as shown in Diagram 2. Following the arrows, I would sew a triangle and square together up one side of the square, and in a continuous line without breaking the thread, pick up the next triangle and sew down the adjacent side of the square.
Then, with a continuous thread, I would sew the triangles together as shown in Diagram 3.
Here is a photo of David’s complete top. Note on Columbia:
I originally designed Columbia for a beginners’ hand piecing “Mystery Quilt” class. Students were not shown a photo of the finished project. The class ran for several weeks and each week they were given a task. For instance, the first week they just sewed squares and triangles together and they had to complete “x” amount of them before the next class. Each lesson was another learning skill and they just kept making sections of the quilt. In the end we put all the sections together and they were amazed. Almost everyone in the class said if they had seen the photo of the finished project, they would have never taken the class because it looked too hard. They were all excited at how much they had learned just taking it one step at a time.
I taught several classes at my shop last week and we were doing hand piecing as part of the lesson. There was a discussion about hand piecing and hand quilting and how pleasant and relaxing the handwork is. I was surprised at how many of those in the class said they loved to hand quilt.
For a long, long time, people have shied away from hand quilting and moved to machine quilting, either doing the machine work themselves or sending it to a long arm quilter. There are many beautiful machine quilted quilts out there. But I have always loved the relaxation of hand quilting and it seems that there is a trend back to it. More and more people simply like the process.
It also seems that more and more people like the “feel” of hand quilting. A machine quilted piece with a lot of detail gets very heavy and stiff from all the excess thread and is often better for display than for cozying up under on a cold winter’s night.
I have not done much hand quilting in the last few years, as I have been too busy designing fabric and quilts for those collections, but recently, in anticipation of baseball season, I put my Calliope quilt top in the frame. I forgot how much I look forward to sitting down and just taking a few stitches when I have a free moment.
Looking at the colors in my Calliope quilt, my choice of thread colors was an easy decision. I’m using grey, black and red YLI hand quilting thread. Besides thread, on the underneath side of the quilt, I use the TJ’s Quick Quilter Spoon to protect my fingers from getting pricked.
Being the avid baseball fan that I am, I look forward not only to the game each day but also to sitting at the frame while my beloved Washington Nationals play and getting in a couple of hours of stitching, enjoying two of my favorite pastimes…baseball and hand quilting.
It has been exciting to see the recurrence of interest in hand piecing. At the turn of the century with everything geared to machine piecing I was determined to try and keep hand sewing alive into the new millennium. My Quiltmaking by Hand book was the result and I am happy to say it has even more popularity today than when it was published.
However, there are often questions people have and one appeared on Facebook recently that I thought would be a good subject to address in a blog post. Here is the question:
“Cosmos is my first ever hand piecing project, and I’m so enjoying it. I am looking for an answer I haven’t been able to find, either in your tips, videos or last year’s Craftsy BOM. I understand sewing dot to dot, but some template points don’t include dots and I’m wondering if in these cases I should sew to the fabric edge? E.g. Block 5 step a and b, or where the final edge of the block is.”
This is a very good question. First of all I’d like to address dots on the templates. Some fabric pieces are cut with templates, some are cut with measurements for rotary cutting. Some templates have dots, some do not. “Dots” are often placed at the intersection of seam allowances on templates. These are guides for sewing pieces together. The pieces should be pinned so that the dots meet when the pieces are sewn together.
Let’s take template “N” in the Cosmos block 5. The dotted line is the sewing line and you can see that a dot is placed where those lines meet. These dots should be transferred to the wrong side of the cut pieces to act as a guide for getting the pieces matched up for sewing.Dots can be marked on the fabric in a few different ways:
Use a 16th inch hole punch and punch out holes in the template at the dots. Then place the template on the cut piece and mark the dots with a mechanical chalk or lead pencil.
The Perfect Piecer is a tool I developed to aid in marking onto the pieces. It has all the common angles used in piecing along with holes where the seam allowances intersect. Use it to transfer the dots to the cut piece.
Using the Perfect Piecer or a ruler with ¼ inch marked on it, draw the quarter inch sewing line on the back side of the pieces.
The next question is, do you stop at the dots or sew through the dots to the edge of the fabric? What if there are no dots? The answer depends on the pieces you are sewing. If the pieces you are sewing result in an inward angle that will require a set-in seam, then you must start and stop at the the dots or, if there are no dots, at the place where the seam allowances intersect. My preference is to sew to the edge. Using block 5 from Cosmos is a good illustration and we can take it step by step.In Step a, there is no inward angle created when sewing the pieces together, so you can sew to the edge. In Steps b, c and d, once again there are no inward angles created, only outward angles, so you can sew to the edges.
However Step e is different. When the N/Nr pieces are sewn you must stop at the dots to leave the “y” seam for adding the Fabric 9 square. The same is true for Step f. You must stop at the dots in order to add the P patches in Step g.
Thank you to Coleen who sent us that question and, hopefully, like Coleen, many of you are giving hand piecing a try. If you are unfamiliar with Cosmos, it is our free block of the month. A new block pattern is available in our newsletter each month. You can sign up at www.jinnybeyer.com.