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.
We continue to make kits non-stop here for our 2017 Mystery Quilt BOM, Moroccan Mystery. We’ve made so many that we have run out of the border. See video clip here that explains where we are with the BOM kits.
One day we sent out so many packages that our packages alone filled the entire postal truck.
In the middle of all this, we had a planning meeting for Quilters’ Quest at Traditions at the White Swan in Hagerstown, Maryland. Dick and Wendy, the owners, have a great shop and a new addition…three adorable miniature donkeys. How many quilt shops can boast that?
We are planning lots of new and exciting things for the Quilters’ Quest shop hop this year. We have decided to have a theme-based event and have selected “movies”. Each shop will choose a movie and will have fun things in the shop relating to the theme.
This week I also finalized my next batik collection, worked on the new replacement fabrics for the Palette collection and received strike-offs for a new collection that will be shown at spring market, Miyako. I also began doing colorings for another collection that is in the pipeline.
On top of all this, we changed our business email account from one company to another. This led to a lot of angst, but all is well now.
Not that I didn’t already have a lot to fill my head, there is always the antics of our dog, Luke. My husband made split pea soup for dinner the other night. I came home around 5:30, walked through the house, took one look at Luke and knew something was wrong…ears were down, eyes were practically shut and he was just sitting there looking miserable.
I asked if Luke had gotten into anything, and my husband said he ate some split peas. The two packages of dried split peas had been soaking for a while and John was getting ready to pour them into the broth when the pan slipped and half the contents went on the floor. As always, Luke was in the kitchen hoping something would fall to the floor. Sure enough, he was right there and cleaned up the entire mess. John didn’t realize that those peas would expand in his stomach.
Those of you who own dogs will probably know that when you need to make a dog throw up something he or she shouldn’t have eaten, hydrogen peroxide can be a life safer…literally. But did you know that hydrogen peroxide has an expiration date? I certainly didn’t.
We still had a bottle that we kept on hand when we had our Greater Swiss Mountain dog, Gretchen who ate everything. But a turkey baster of the peroxide down Luke’s throat didn’t do the trick, so we realized it might have gone bad and ran to the pharmacy to get more and tried again. Two minutes later, it worked and I had a big mess to clean up. I asked the vet about the peroxide and she said it has a certain shelf life and once the bottle is open it does not last long at all. Our bottle expired in 2010…oops.
This little tidbit of information might help someone else who has an animal that likes to eat things that they shouldn’t. Hopefully, the week ahead will be a little bit less exciting.
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!
I was sewing the border on the quilt for this year’s Quilters’ Quest the other night while watching the Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles baseball game on television and I found myself paying more attention to the brick wall behind the batter than the player himself.
It took me back to the last Jinny Beyer Club meeting at the shop. One of the women stood up and was showing a quilt that she had hand pieced. It was beautifully done, but she was a bit apologetic, saying that she knew everything was not perfectly straight. I then had to give her my abbreviated speech on symmetry.
Pick up a leaf and look at it. At first glance, the right and left halves appear to be symmetrical but on closer observation you can see little discrepancies. It is those differences that make the leaf more interesting to look at than if was perfectly symmetrical.
Even though the human face looks the same on both sides, once again there are differences that make the face more interesting than if it was perfectly symmetrical. Look at this photo of Abraham Lincoln and the difference in how the face looks when you make the two halves exactly mirror each other. The face has now lost its character.
To me it is the same thing in quilting. Quilts that are made with strips cut and pieced together and then cut up again into blocks or triangles and made into a quilt can be lovely but there is a certain charm in a quilt made with scraps or multiple fabrics where all the blocks are not exactly the same.
The same can be true of the quilting process. Computer-guided longarms have made it much easier to finish a quilt with perfectly completed quilting designs and opened the door to many who do not have the time in their lives to finish certain projects. But if you don’t try the quilting yourself because you feel you can’t be perfect, you may be missing the joy and pride of making the quilt entirely yours.
As I studied that brick wall behind the batter, I loved the fact that bricks were not evenly spaced and perfectly symmetrical. It gave the wall character and charm, making it much more interesting that a pre-fab brick wall. The same should be true of your quilting projects. Celebrate the little idiosyncrasies, and know that is what makes your quilt unique.
From the time I first began quilting I experimented with ways to “fussy cut” fabrics to give interest to the blocks I was making. Unbeknownst to me during that same time, an Englishwoman named Lucy Boston (1892-1990) was doing her own experimenting with fabrics and she created many spectacular quilts, probably the most famous being her Patchwork of the Crosses.
With the renewed interest in hand piecing and working with mirror-imaged fabrics, Lucy’s Patchwork of the Crosses block has become very popular. The block is made with with a single shape–the honeycomb (elongated hexagon). The blocks are then joined with squares.
Some people stitch the blocks in the traditional manner and some use the English paper piecing technique. No matter which technique you use, the most fun part is seeing how many different ways you can cut the fabric to create different effects.
I experimented with the Patchwork of the Crosses block using just two border print fabrics. Typically a mirror-imaged motif is centered in the middle of the template, such as you see here.
But what happens if you deliberately “skew” the template so that the mirror-imaged motif is not centered?
Mark a portion of the design onto the template and then flip it and find the mirror-imaged counterpart.
That technique was used in the corners of the two blocks shown above.
As we began playing around with Lucy Boston blocks and hexagons, or “hexies,” last year, we began to carry acrylic and paper templates for these projects making the process faster and easier. We also have some tips on our website for fussy cutting border prints for these projects. We’ve been having so much fun with these. Why don’t you give it a try?
Our web special this week is a bundle of coordinating fabrics. It’s easy to look at a bundle like this and admire the pretty colors. It takes a little more imagining, though, to figure out what to do with it. To help you out, we selected three different free pattern downloads as possible choices for using those fabrics. Two of the blocks are shown here.
Normally we just think of putting blocks together side by side, and all facing in the same direction. Blocks that have coloring that are non-symmetrical, or are symmetrical in just one direction can also be arranged in a variety of other ways.
For instance, we are used to seeing the Irish Chain block put together with the blocks side by side, and all oriented in the same direction.
But what happens if you pinwheel the blocks? You get a completely different look.
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.
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.
With the Lucy Boston and Millefiori craze, I have been pleased that so many people are finding the joys of hand piecing, and are exploring more complex designs.
Many designs can be cut using rotary cutting techniques but others such as my 2016 BOM, Cosmos, are template based. We usually make our templates by placing semi-transparent template plastic over a pattern and tracing using a permanent marker. It’s a quick process if you are making only a couple of templates. I demonstrate the process at the beginning of my video Magical Effects with Border Prints. This is a free video to watch.
Sampler quilts are another story — they might incorporate dozens of templates. Furthermore, some template plastics are very hard to write on. They are usually smooth, so they slip on the fabric and it is hard to get a good mark with pen or pencil. It is also easy to lose a little accuracy as you trace the templates onto the plastic. I wanted to find a faster, easier, more accurate way to make the templates.
After much searching we found the perfect product and have packaged it as Jinny Beyer Template Film.This all-purpose template material is matte on both sides, making it very easy to write on and adheres to the fabric without slipping. Best of all it is heat resistant and can be run through your home laser printer or copier. If you don’t have a laser printer, most office supply stores have copying facilities and can run it through their machines.
Please note that it will not work on an inkjet printer or copier. The ink will not be dry and will smudge and give uneven lines.
For printing on a laser printer or copier follow these steps:
Print a sample template page on paper and make sure that the size is 100%. If it is not the correct size, adjust your printer until you get it to print at 100%.
Feed the template film into the printer one page at a time. Since both sides have a matte finish it does not matter which side you print on.
Many of my patterns have pieces that are enhanced by “fussy cutting” border prints or other fabrics with mirror image motifs. For instance, a border print square is made by cutting four identical triangles. In order to insure that the triangles are cut exactly the same, I recommend marking some portion of the design onto the template. These registration marks will serve as a guide for cutting the additional pieces. It is amazing to see how many different squares you can get from the same border print.
If you are trying to make all of your squares just a little different, very soon it will be easy to get confused by all the different marks on the template. The nice thing about the Jinny Beyer Template Film is that the marks can be erased. Remove pencil or pen with a standard eraser. Remove permanent pen with rubbing alcohol.
**Tip: Put the registration marks on the side of the template that has not been printed. That way you will not inadvertently erase some of the template information.
Many of my patterns are template based and, in the future, we will be offering pre-printed templates that can be purchased separately from the pattern. We already have these available for the six pages of templates required for the 2016 Block of the Month.
Our annual shop hop “Quilters’ Quest” is coming soon and I have been diligently working on our quilt. Everyone who comes to our shop during the Quest will get a free pattern for this quilt.
If you have been taking part in my Block of the Month classes on Craftsy, you know that I have been enjoying doing a lot of applique lately. I am now working on the applique portion of the Quest quilt and wanted to share with you a few tips.
First and foremost, I love the Apliquick tools for getting the edges turned under neatly and efficiently.
Second, my favorite thread for applique is silk. When silk thread is used the stitches are virtually invisible. There are few things to keep in mind, however.
Since silk thread is so fine, it comes un-threaded very easily. There are a couple of solutions. One is to be sure to hold the tail of the thread as you pull the needle up through the fabric. The second is to actually tie the thread to the eye of the needle. The photos here show the knot that can be used. (We’ve used a very large needle and thick thread to make it easier for you to see.) Don’t worry about the knot having trouble going through the fabric. Silk is so fine that you won’t even notice it.
Another problem that you can have with silk thread is that it seems to fray more easily and eventually breaks. I discovered that the thimble makes all the difference. One of my favorite thimbles is an antique Dorcas that is silver with a steel core. It is quite strong and durable, but this ended up being a problem, because the fraying of the thread occurred right where my thimble touched the eye of the needle causing the thread to actually be “cut”. When I switched to my Tommie Jane Lane all sterling thimble there was much less fraying. Some people also use a leather thimble which also is more gentle on the silk thread.
The other thing that I do is bring the tail of the thread almost all the way down to the fabric. Then each time I pull the needle through, I let the tail slip through the eye just a little. When the tail is short, then I bring it back down to my work and continue the process. In this way, one portion of the thread is not always between my thimble and the eye of the needle.
The color of thread does not have to exactly match the fabric. I like to select a thread that is slightly darker or that blends with one of the darker colors in the print. These are the six colors I am using for the seven fabrics in the applique motif. I’m using black on the dark purple, since the purple fabric has black lines in it. I selected a bronze for the orange fabric, a burgundy to use for both the fuchsia and the darker red, a gold for the gold fabric, red for the bright red and dark tealish green for the green print.
If you have never used silk thread for applique, give it a try. I’m sure you will love it as much as I do.