Custom Quilts · Long Arm Quilting

Handkerchef Quilt

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This one is actually a keepsake for myself 🙂 These are handkerchiefs that belonged my mother – she collected many of them during her travels as a young Lieutenant in the Air Force as a nurse, some her brothers found for her while they were in the Navy, and some were given to her by friends. She gave them to me in a sweet little tin box with tulips on the lid, and I’ve just kept them for years, getting them out to admire and refold periodically.

Enter a book I found while on vacation (I never visit a town without first googling where the quilt shops are!) called Wise Craft Handmade by Blair Stocker – the book is full of ideas on using your vintage linens, blue jeans and even your wedding dress! But the best part of the book was Ms. Stocker’s pep talk on giving yourself permission to cut into these  special fabrics – so that’s exactly what I did. And really, why not? These hankies were just moldering in their tin, getting permanent creases and brown spots and rarely being seen, let alone used. This way they are part of a quilt, and being used on a bed, or at the moment hanging on display in my studio. And by the way, I did talk to my mom about this project first – just because I gave myself permission to cut her hankies didn’t necessarily mean she gave me permission!

I first interfaced the hankies so they would have some body, then sewed them to the center of 20″ squares, using clear poly thread. I used several different white tone-on-tone fabrics to keep it simple. I cut each hanky/square into quarters, and resewed them back together. I did all this because not a single one of the hankies was truly square, and they were all different sizes and colors – so I decided to play that up rather than try, and fail, to make the “blocks” look alike. By cutting the handkerchiefs along the years-old fold lines when I quartered them, this gave an added benefit of removing the permanent yellowish folds, that frankly were not too pretty.

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I decided to stitch a different type of feather design around each hanky square – the negative space of the white fabric and mostly white hankies just called out for some fancy quilting, so I worked hard to make each square unique. I hung the finished quilt in my studio, right next to my long arm machine and I use it like a sketch book to remind me of all the various kinds of feathers I can stitch when I’m working on another quilt and have “quilter’s block” and find myself stuck on what to quilt next.

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Below are a few close ups of the flanged binding I used – I liked the little pop of pink in an otherwise monochromatic white quilt.

 

Finally, here are few shots of the back – I used this sateen fabric on another quilt for a friend, and loved it so much I got more to use for this project. The sun was behind the quilt when I was taking the photos, and I loved the way the colors of the back shone through – almost looks like a pastel tie dye!

I have many other vintage linens and threadbare quilts I’ve stored up, and now that I’ve given myself permission to cut them up I can’t wait to get started!

Happy Quilting!

Custom Quilts · Long Arm Quilting

Scrap Happy!

 

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One of my favorite types of quilts to make are scrap quilts. I love using up the little bits left over from other projects – and it’s a glimpse back to the days of our quilty grandmothers who made scrap quilts because they had to. I have several quilts my maternal grandmother made, and when my mother and one of my cousins looks at those quilts they say, “I remember that fabric, it was a pair of my pajamas!” or “That one was a little dress I wore to school!” I love those memories sewn into a quilt – so much warmth and love all in one place. And even though they were using whatever left over fabric they had, and were making a utilitarian blanket – at the same time those quilters made something beautiful.

I took these photos on a bright fall morning in Georgia (notice I didn’t say cool fall morning) – the sunlight was coming in at an angle and was quite intense so the contrast in the sunshine was very dramatic – the quilting shows up well. I love the golden rod in bloom behind the fence too! Once I moved out of the direct sunlight, in the second photo, you can see the colors better.

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The quilting really pops in the photo below – this is an unedited shot too. All intense light and high contrast was just from the low angle of the sun – perfect to show off all those swirls in the light areas and the continuous curves in the color areas.

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Below is one shot of the full quilt – again the sun was so intense that the quilt almost glows. This is in front of my husband’s blacksmith shop – that little card trick quilt block to the right is something I painted in a class on barn quilts.

I keep my scraps in bins, sorted by color. I recently went through them, took all the smaller pieces and the irregularly shapes one and cut them into 2 1/2″ strips and 2 1/2″ squares. This gave a little bit of order to the chaos that was threatening to overwhelm me – and was keeping me from using the scraps. So now I can quickly and easily get to the fun part – actually making a quilt! I bought an AccuQuilt die cutter at my local quilt shop, The Stitchery, to help with this de-chaos-ing process – and wow, it makes short work of cutting the strips and squares!

This particular quilt needed good contrast between the light and dark fabrics, so I also got a lot of help from this little ruler (below) called the Ruby Ruler from a quilter named Blair Stocker – she has a website called Wise Craft Handmade – good stuff on there! By looking through the red, it takes away the hue and you can focus on the value of the color – making it easier to see if you’ve got good contrast between two fabrics.

I made 9 patches first, then sewed four of them together to make the bigger blocks. For this quilt, I pressed all the seams open so I could rotate all the blocks in any direction when sewing them together, and not have worry about a pressing diagram or if the seams would nest. I am normally in the “press to the dark” side of the great “Which Way Is Best To Press” debate in the quilting world, but not so firmly that I can’t see the benefit of doing it the other way sometimes. I also threw the rules out the window and used some fabrics with the wrong side showing – when dividing my stash into lights and darks, I discovered I had a lot less light fabric, so many of my little squares had to do double duty and be a medium value in one place and a light value in another. You can see in the photo below that the back side of the fabric is lighter than the front. I made myself use only fabric from my stash, so this was a good exercise in making do.

 

And here’s look at some of the quilting again while still on my long arm. I used Quilter’s Dream 100% cotton batting and Glide thread by Fil-Tec, which is a poly thread and my new favorite – pretty much lint free so no dust bunnies in my bobbin case and it lives up to its name and glides right through the fabric. Beautiful!

I did take some time to fussy cut some of the 2 1/2 inch squares – so cute! And well worth the few extra minutes it took. It’s fun to find them unexpectedly within the quilt.

 

I put this on our guest bed and I’m using my grandmother’s pillow cases with the drawn thread embroidery work as shams. I don’t normally take pictures inside – I don’t have lights or even a decent camera, so they rarely turn out good enough to post. I’m breaking my own rule this time though, because I want to show the detailed work on the pillow cases.

 

Thanks for reading! Happy Quilting – and always keep this in mind:

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Custom Quilts · Long Arm Quilting

Exploding Star String Quilt

 

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For a new apartment and a new chapter in life – this string quilt is for my son and his girlfriend. I love the jewel tones and graphic exploding star block. As with most string quilts, I sewed various width strips together to form strip sets. Then cut the strip sets into triangles, and sewed two triangles together to make the half square triangle blocks. I had to handle the triangles gingerly – all those bias edges! I sprayed the blocks with heavy starch to help minimize the stretch – and since I washed the quilt after it was finished, there’s no need to worry the starch will attract unwanted critters to eat holes in all my hard work!

I also made some Montana-appropriate throw pillows – lots of deer and bear out there! And the bobcat is the mascot of their alma mater, Montana State University – so of course I had to make that one! The patterns for the deer and bear are by Elizabeth Hartman and the bobcat is by Sew Fresh Quilts. Both are great designers – straight forward construction and no paper piecing, I highly recommend their patterns.

For the quilting, I did all over feathered spirals in the white areas, and some leaf spirals in the colored areas. My son is an environmentalist, so I used “Dream Green” batting from Quilter’s Dream, which is batting made using 100% recycled plastic bottles – this queen size batting kept 20 plastic bottles from the land fill. I often use this batting – it quilts beautifully and washes quite well with very little shrinkage.

Here’s a few pictures of the back – I generally try to use the same color and type of thread in the top and the bobbin, which you can see here. This makes any minor tension issues much less noticeable on the front of the quilt.

Thanks to one of our furry friends for all the help piecing strip sets – what’s a quilt without a little cat or dog hair??

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Thanks for reading my blog, and Happy Quilting!

Ann

Custom Quilts · Long Arm Quilting

A Graduation Quilt

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I took these photos on a beautiful spring day in Georgia – and nothing is prettier than a Southern Spring. It’s the deep breath before the onslaught of summer, and down here that means 90+ degree days with 800% humidity… This blooming cherry tree was the perfect backdrop for this sweet quilt, so I snapped a few pictures before I sent the quilt off to the graduate.

I like modern twists traditional blocks, so I love the secondary pattern that forms in this pattern by Corey Yoder. The shoo fly blocks have one little addition on their corners, and when you alternate them with the star blocks those white squares form – easy piecing for a big effect.

I accented the white squares by quilting straight lines – I wanted to highlight the effect of the squares made by the piecing and block arrangement. Inside, on the shoo fly block itself I quilted a stylized rose.

And then inside the star blocks, there is also a white square, instead of a solid. Here I quilted a spiral feather design, and some continuous curved lines around the triangles. All the fabric, batting and thread is 100% cotton – I love the way all that cotton feels, and I do love the way it gives the typical quilt puckered look.

 

The center photo above is a view of the back – this 108″ wide backing fabric is cotton sateen and is the softest fabric ever. This would make a great backing for any throw quilt – very comfy and soft to snuggle under. But I did make it big enough to go on a bed, so my graduate friend will be able to use it either way – and grown up enough for a post college apartment as well.

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For the binding, I used the striped fabric from one of the blocks on the front – I like the effect stripes make when cut into binding.

And lastly, a Blue Beagle Quilts label – I have started sewing them into the corners so I can avoid any hand sewing. I hand stitch about as well as a four year old – and don’t enjoy it, so this is my fix for that. I have my dear friend, the mother of this graduate, to thank for my logo – she’s a wiz with graphics and came up with the silhouette of a beagle standing on grass. I had the logo she made digitized, and now I can use my embroidery machine to make the labels! What fun to give her daughter a quilt with her mom’s design on it!

Happy Quilting!

 

Long Arm Quilting

Graffiti Quilting and an Applique Feather

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I saw this pattern by Madisen Hastings, called Aviary, in the shop window of Main Street Quilting Company while visiting our son in Bozeman, MT – it stopped me in my tracks! I love this! The rainbow arrangement of the colors, and the long, narrow aspect of the design make this quilt eye-catching.

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I knew when I saw the pattern that we had the perfect spot – way, WAY up high in our cabin out in the country. We had to have help hanging this – it required a scaffold and nerves of steel! But now that it’s up, I couldn’t be happier.

 

I had some serious fun doing the graffiti quiltng around the feather itself – of course at the height it’s hanging, you can’t really appreciate the quilting, only the texture. But if you go upstairs you can see it well, so I’m happy with that. I used two layers of batting – one wool and one a cotton/poly blend to give the quilting as much loft as possible.

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My husband made the hanging rod and hooks for me in his blacksmith shop – such a nice job on the arrow heads!

Such a fun project – from the beautiful pattern to the time spent on my long arm quilting away – truly one of the most enjoyable quilts I’ve ever made 🙂

Custom Quilts · Long Arm Quilting

Red, White and Blue is not just for the 4th of July!

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I love this quilt! I want to make one for myself now too – this one was a custom commissioned work for a friend of mine, and I am so happy with how it turned out. Most custom quilts I do are baby quilts, so it was a treat to get to do a large one. She showed me a photo of a quilt she liked, and together, we were able to come up with a design to fit what she had in mind. The red, white and blue fabrics play well together, and will go with the decorations of the bedroom my friend has planned – she has a subway map of the London Underground and some vintage postcards from Paris – and of course those countries also have red, white and blue flags, so the color scheme will tie everything together.

I was lucky to get that picture of the full quilt – the day I was taking pictures was a sunny, but incredibly windy day – it was a struggle to get many shots of the quilt hanging vertically, so I gave up and took this video instead. You can see what I was up against as the quilt gets nearly horizontal…

I purposefully made it 100″ x 100″ – the biggest size my quilting machine frame can accommodate – that way even after washing and drying it will still easily cover a queen size bed. I also used a poly/cotton blend to help keep shrinkage to a minimum. I used an all over quilting design that added some nice texture, but won’t compete with the busy prints or block layout.

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Swirly Feather Designs
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Swirls with Feathers

 

I also made some pillow shams with some left over fabric – this photo is actually of the quilt on the guest bed at my house, just temporarily for a photo op. The cat is ours as well – I told my friend her quilt had passed inspection and was deemed worthy of a “cat nap” – luckily she has dogs, so understands! No doubt the dogs are happily snoozing on it at her house by now 🙂

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Long Arm Quilting

Lakota Sioux Star Quilt

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While growing up, my dad was a career Air Force Officer – so we lived all over the country and moved fairly often. My favorite place he was stationed was Ellsworth AFB, near Rapid City, South Dakota. I loved it there – I’ve even been back a few times and the wide open spaces of the plains and the beautiful Black Hills are just like I remembered – and it still makes me smile just to think about it. We lived in Rapid City back in the early 1980s, while I was in high school. During these four years, my mother, who is a nurse, worked at a Sioux hospital called Sioux San. My mother’s mother was a quilter, so she has always loved quilts. While working at Sioux San she had a co-worker who made and sold star quilt tops that my mom often admired – so before we moved away, my mom was able to get this one from her friend.

From what I’ve read, star quilts are important in the Sioux culture – they are often given as gifts to mark occasions such as memorial feasts, celebrations, naming ceremonies and marriages, or given to special friends. In 2016, there was a stunning statue erected in Chamberlain, South Dakota, to honor this Sioux tradition of quilts. The statue is called Dignity and overlooks the Missouri River. My last trip back to the area was before this statue was placed, so I have not personally seen it – but now this gives me another reason to go back to South Dakota! To read about this statue click this link, it will open a new window.

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My mom gave me the star quilt top many years ago, but after all this time it had many condition issues – the edges were on the bias and had stretched out, several areas had thread and seams that had either fallen apart, disintegrated or come undone… I finally braved doing the repair work myself, which included resewing several seams and recutting and resizing some of the white background fabric between the star points to make the edges roughly square again.

I needed to use a quilting design that would both stabilize the edges and accent the star itself – so I did some simple continuous line quiltng in the diamonds of the star and then a dense all over design in the white areas that, in my mind, roughly feels like wind. After quiltng, the finished size is about 70″ square. I used cotton batting and thread – and at this point have not washed it.

My husband, who is a blacksmith in his spare time, forged a hanging rod for me – and added a single deer antler prong on each end. He also made the hooks the rod is hanging from, which you can see in the second picture below.

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I feel honored to have a Sioux quilt in my home, and hope that my quilting would make the Sioux woman who made the top proud.