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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Latest Quilt Finished

This is the latest quilt I finished. I have actually made a total of three of these quilts. The pattern is from Book 5 of the Turning Twenty series of books by Tricia Cribbs. The quilt is quite large at 86" x 102".

The first one I made in 2010 and gave it to my cousin, Daniela, who lives south of Rome in Colleferro Italy. We made the trip to Italy and Sicily to meet second cousins we had not known existed just 6 months before!

My sister, Tina, is on the left then me (having a really bad hair day!) then Daniela. Next to Daniela is her husband, Fabrizio, her brother, Allessandro and the boy is Daniela's son, Frederico. Frederico is wearing a Houston Astros cap my sister gave him.

As you can see, this quilt was black, white and red and I bought the fabric from Painted Pony 'N Quilts in LaPorte Texas.  The second and third quilts I made from this pattern were black, white and lime green and these fabrics were also purchased at Painted Pony 'N Quilts.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The New Normal

Life does get back to normal after the death of someone close to us but it's a new normal and it's different from the old normal. My mother, Marie Vetrano, died on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 5:55 pm. and each day since then, things are slowly settling into my new normal.

I always prayed that she would have a peaceful death and she did. As she grew weaker and weaker in the two previous months we used the services of hospice and I highly recommend them if you or a family member are approaching the end of life due to a terminal illness.

My mother lived alone for 19 years after my father died. She didn't like living alone, she missed my Dad but she did really love her independence. With the "hand she was dealt", she lived her life as she wanted and she got everything she wanted as she grew older and weaker from the chemo and cancer.

Older people, especially those living alone, have many fears: the loneliness of living alone, outliving their money, going to a nursing home, being a burden on their children, dying alone and dying a painful death. Mom, my siblings and I often discussed these things. I asked her to come live with us, she said she didn't want to be a burden. Even when I assured her I would let her know if things weren't working out, her desire to not inconvenience me outweighed her fear of being alone.  I wish she had come to stay with me for even a few days or weeks but I am happy she did what she wanted. She never had to go to a nursing home, she had a peaceful, mostly pain-free death "surrounded by her loving family"... all 25 of us!

A Word or Two About Hospice

The first hospice we signed up with was recommended to us by Mom's cancer doctor. We ended up firing that hospice and signed up with another one. The first hospice had some of the most awful service I have ever seen. I believe their actions, or in-actions I should say,  bordered on neglect. The second hospice assessed the situation and immediately took action to provide Mom and us with more comfort and assurance. They gave mom the peaceful, pain-free death she wanted and they took burdens off our shoulders so we could have a good experience with her in her final days.

What was the difference in the two hospices? The first hospice was for-profit and the second one was not-for-profit. Plain and simple, it came down to money. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance each pay the same amount for a particular service. If the hospice is for-profit the only thing they can do is cut the service. Which would you rather trust for the care of your family member? Do a Google search for "non-profit hospice" and you'll see countless articles on for-profit vs. non-profit hospices.

For me personally, I wouldn't put my dog in the care of a for-profit hospice!

In Houston, the non-profit hospice that provided us with the wonderful experience was Houston Hospice. Houston Hospice is now my first choice for charitable giving.

Carol Thelen

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Prayers and Quilts

I haven't posted for a while because my Mother has been very ill.....actually she is dying from cancer. There, I did it. I actually typed out the words. She has been under hospice care for about a month and each day she gets worse and worse. She has been a breast cancer survivor for the past 15 years and for that time she has been blessed with a mostly healthy, active and happy life but the past two years have been extremely hard.

She was active in the Prayer Quilt Ministry at her church. She started making prayer quilts after she received one during one of her early chemo sessions. The quilt gave her comfort because she knew other people were praying for her. She made and prayed over literally hundreds of quilts. I made several trips to the fabric store with her where she carefully chose coordinating fabrics for each quilt. When one of my friends was going through a divorce, my friend gave me boxes and boxes of fabric which I gave to Mom for the prayer quilts. Mom gave my friend a prayer quilt. Two years ago when the cancer came back, Mom couldn't make any more prayer quilts.

I have made or quilted many Quilt of Valor quilts and helped with lots of prayer quilts and each time it warms my heart to know that I might be giving comfort to a stranger who needs it. If you are a praying person, please put my family on your list. Also consider making and giving a Quilt of Valor or contributing your time to a prayer quilt ministry or to a community service project with your guild.

Carol Thelen

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Seven Ways to Quilt Blocks That Lay Flat

Use Good Rotary Cutting Techniques

Take a little extra time to straighten the fabric edge as you rotary cut. Make sure each piece of fabric you cut is the size it's supposed to be. I good, inexpensive reference book is Rotary Cutting with Alex Anderson. Start off with solid rotary cutting techniques and you're on the right track to perfect piecing.

Backstitch Every Seam
When I started piecing quilt tops I was taught that backstitching was not needed. For the past twenty years or so I have not backstitched my quilt tops. Last October I took a class from Jacqueline de Jonge. Her company is called Be Colourful and she paper pieces bright, colorful quilts. She told us she always back stitches so I tried it and I love the results.The backstitching keeps the pieces together and keeps the block nice and square, no flapping edges. Oh I see you making that face! Try it on your next quilt top and see if it works for you.

Sew a Scant 1/4" Seam
When I first saw the word "scant" I had to look it up. It means "just barely" or "just enough". I take that to mean err on the side of a smaller seam allowance. I use a Janome 1/4" foot that has a "bumper" on it. It's a little piece of metal that glides along the edge of the fabric. This works better for me than trying to line up the edge of the fabric along a line or the edge of the presser foot.

Press, Press, Press
Always press each seam before stitching the next piece. Generally we stitch towards the dark fabric but sometimes that isn't always possible. Some quilters prefer steam but I like using a dry iron. I press from the right side. I'm not a fan of pressing seams open. I think it weakens the seam. TIP: Even thought I like using a dry iron I sometimes need a little steam so I keep a spray bottle of distilled water near the iron for those times I need steam. This is faster than pouring water in the iron and waiting for it to heat up.

Cut Off The Nubs
Nubs are those pesky little points that peek out over the seam allowance. You generally get nubs when sewing triangle shapes or diagonal seams. There are little rulers or templates you can use to cut off the points but I find it easier to snip off nubs as I piece. Nubs just get in the way and can affect accuracy of subsequent seams.

If you prefer to use a template to cut off the nubs before they get in the way a good tool is the Corner Trimmer by Marti Michell.

Check the Size
Those grid lines printed on the cutting mat are life savers for me. After I press the seams, I spot check blocks by placing them along the grid lines on the cutting mat. If you've cut the pieces accurately and used a scant 1/4" seam allowance, your block should have straight edges and be the correct size. Here is your chance to use your seam ripper!!

Square It Up
If you have one, use a square up ruler to square up all the edges of the block. If you have points along the edge of the block, check that the point is exactly 1/4" from the edge of the block. This will give you nice points when the blocks are sewn together.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How I Ship My Quilts

Yesterday I sent off the first batch of quilts in what I call my "Niece and Nephew" year of quiltmaking. If you are a regular follower of this blog you know that this year my goal is to complete and send quilts to my out-of-state nieces and nephews who don't have quilts. Since the start of this project two nieces are now expecting so that added two quilts to the long list.

I decided to complete the quilts geographically. I am in Texas and my relatives are in Chicago (6 quilts), Connecticut (9 quilts, there were 8 but the New York nephew moved to CT this year), Florida (9 quilts) and Texas (6 quilts). These are all on my husband's side and we didn't see them much when they were growing up.Yesterday I shipped 5 of the 6 quilts to two nieces and their families in Chicago. The 6th person isn't born yet!
  • I wrapped each quilt in colorful wrapping paper.
  • I wrote a personal note in a card for each person and taped the envelope to the outside of the paper. Inside one envelope for each family I put quilt care instructions.
  • At the bottom of the shipping box I put a box of Shout Color Catcher for them to use the first few times the quilts are washed.
  • I put each wrapped quilt inside a plastic bag to protect the quilt during shipping and packed the bags into the box.
Use a sturdy box and fill the empty spaces with crumpled newspapers or other packing materials. Use shipping tape to cover every edge of the box. I have a UPS account so I measured and weighed each box and prepared a shipping label online. If your shipping label is paper you should cover the entire label with clear shipping tape. This keeps the address information from disappearing if the label gets wet.

For insurance you will pay extra for any value over $100. If you claim the quilt is worth $758.64 and you need to file a claim, you will need to show evidence of that value. You could show receipts for the fabric and other materials and for any quilting service you paid for. You probably will not be able to recoup your labor costs so you may not want to over insure the package. If you have an appraisal from a certified appraiser, that would work too.

I looked at the UPS shipping maps to see that a package shipped from Texas on Monday will arrive in Chicago on Thursday. Then I checked with each family for the correct shipping address and asked if a Thursday delivery worked for them. Later I emailed them their tracking numbers. They don't know they're getting quilts but they probably suspect it now. I wish I could see their faces when they open the packages!

Carol Thelen

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Review - The Power of Habit

A friend of mine suggested this book to me:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

by Charles Duhigg.

I have always heard that it takes 21 days to make a habit and I have found that to be true. If I stick with something for three weeks, it becomes so much of a habit that it is almost mindless.  This book talks about how habits, good and bad, become part of our lives. Think about what we do first thing in the morning. Get up, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, etc. The morning routine is a habit we perform without thinking about it. Duhigg talks about research studies on habits which say that a habit actually consists of a cue that triggers a routine we perform which leads to a reward we receive. For the morning habit our cue is waking up. The routine is getting dressed, brushing teeth, getting breakfast and the reward is that we are ready for our day.

If you want to start a good habit, such as logging what you eat or starting an exercise program, you can use information you learn in this book to help you develop that habit. If you have a habit you'd like to stop or change, such as  smoking or being unproductive, you can use information you learn in this book to help you change that habit into a habit that gives you better rewards.

I was able to schedule my sewing and writing time starting early in the morning and ending by 2 pm each day. Being an early riser, these are the times I am most productive. I found that by slightly changing my morning routine to include getting dressed in my workout clothes, that I now, almost automatically, stop working at 2 pm and head off to the gym. This has been such a simple change in my routine yet it has provided me with a great reward of exercising more.

The Power of Habit is a fairly quick read and includes numerous examples of how individuals and businesses have used the power of habit to improve themselves, their relationships, efficiency, productivity and the bottom line. You don't have to be self employed or a business person to benefit from the information in this book. It is also great for improving yourself physically and emotionally as well as your relationships with other people.

One thing that almost every example in this book showed is that when habits are changed for the better in one area of our lives (or in one aspect of a company) there is a domino effect that makes many other areas better. One example is a person who decides to start the habit of sticking to a budget or using cash instead of credit cards. This habit makes their financial situation better which leads to them forming habits that improve their health, social activities, religious activities or other areas of their lives.

Start with just one thing you'd like to change and watch how your good habits grow!  One thing you can do with your quilting is to keep a Notebook of everything in your quilting collection such as books, patterns, batting, fabric and more. Set up a Project Journal for each project you're working on. Join Groups, search for Events and much more.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Finished -- The Good "F" Word!

I haven't posted for a happens! I have had quilt visitors in town and we all went to a four day retreat. I got a lot done at the retreat and we had a great time. One thing we discussed is finishing our projects. One retreater brought a red and white top that just needed borders. The blocks have been pieced together for over a year, and the border fabric has been stored with the top for all this time but for some reason the borders have not been attached.

I, myself, brought a backing that needed finishing. I pieced a complete a t-shirt quilt top for my daughter over a year ago and sewed two pieces of fabric together for the backing. I had 12 t-shirts prepared to applique to the backing and that is where I stopped. I brought this backing and t-shirts to this retreat because I am tired of looking at it sitting on the table in my sewing room. I vowed to finish this backing at the retreat before I started on the project I brought. Wanna know what happened?? I finished it in just under 30 minutes. Why the heck did I wait for over a year to do this and how did I get it done so fast? I think the anticipation and dread of sewing on those appliques did not appeal to me so I put it off.

I was able to finally finish this little project because my reward for finishing was that I could begin a new, fun project with a clear conscience and no unfinished project hanging over my head. One of my goals this year was to complete each project before moving on to the next one. I have always admired quilters who work on one project at a time and complete it before starting on the next one.

This year I have been able to start and finish 10 quilts: 2 service projects and 8 niece & nephew quilts. I have been able to do this because of two things:
  1. I set a goal for this year to make a quilt for each nephew, niece and all their children who have not received quilts from me. These family members are on my husband's side of the family and live out of state (four different states). I didn't see them much when they were growing up but over the last few years we have been able to attend their weddings and meet them as adults. Giving them quilts is something I want to do. At the beginning of this year there were 28. When two nieces have their babies later this year, there will be 30. It is the end of April and I'm not halfway there yet!
  2. I decided to start and finish each quilt before starting another one.
I really love this working-on-one-project-at-a-time thing:
  • Using up scraps, kits and fabric I already have = saving money.
  • Organizing patterns and fabrics into kits = a cleaner, more organized sewing room.
  • Getting projects done = a really happy quiltmaker!
Here is what I've done so far:

I did two service projects but didn't take a picture of the second one. I had picked up these blocks at a guild meeting and pieced them together. this quilt is nice and bright. Love the yellow binding.
Service Project Quilt #1
Read my online journal for this quilt on QuiltNotes - Service Project #1.


I made two of these quilts from kits I purchased. The pattern is Swirly Girls Design Perfect Ten.
Perfect Ten Quilt for Amelia and Kristy

Read my online journal for these quils on QuiltNotes - Perfect Ten For Amelia.


This is my Jelly Roll Race quilt. It was so much fun to do. It is for my niece Claire.
Jelly Roll Race
Read my online journal for this quilt on QuiltNotes - Jelly Roll Race #1.


This is for a niece, Kim. It is made from scraps from Bali Pop projects. I only had to purchase fabric for borders.

Scrap Quilt from 3 Dudes
Read my online journal for this quilt on QuiltNotes - Scrap Quilt from 3 Dudes.


I made two of these quilts from kits. Both are this lime green. One is quilted and one is not so far. I made one like this two years ago that was red instead of lime green. That one went to my cousin in Colleferro Italy. We visited them in June 2010. I want to go back!!

Turning Twenty
Read my online journal for this quilt on QuiltNotes - Turning Twenty Green.


This is made from left over strips from several Bali Pop projects. The pattern is Gemini from Blue Underground. Very easy, quick pattern to stitch up.
Scrappy Batik
Read my online journal for this quilt on QuiltNotes - Gemini.


This Log Cabin was made from a kit I purchased many years ago. It is for my nephew, James.
Log Cabin

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Monday, April 9, 2012

Piecing Rows and Columns

Here is how I keep track of the rows and columns when piecing the quilt top. In October of 2011 I purchased Cheryl Ann's Design Wall for laying out quilt blocks. It has been one of the best purchases I've made in a while.

I cut pieces of paper and number them starting with 1.

Here is a diagram showing four rows A-D with seven columns.

Once I have laid out the blocks how they will be pieced into the top I start with block 1 in row A. I pick up 1 and place it on top of 2 then pick up 1&2 and place them on top of 3. Continue stacking the blocks in row A until you have one stack with 1 on top and 7 on bottom.

Next I label this stack with the number 1.I pin the paper near the upper left of the top block and out of the way of any seam allowance. The picture below shows the number 6.

Next I sew these blocks together in the order they are stacked. I prefer to sew one block at a time, using my thread cutter between blocks. Now I have row A stitched together and I put it to the side. I stitch each row in the same way, making sure to pin the number before piecing. I don't press anything until all the rows are pieced.

The next picture shows several rows pieces together waiting to be pressed. I placed them like this for illustration purposes.

Here is a picture of the last few rows still on the design wall.

Once all the rows are pieced it is time to press. To alternate the direction of pressing the seams I press the odd numbered rows to the left and the even numbered rows to the right. To keep track of this, I write on my notepad "ODD - LEFT" because I always forget.

Finally, I sew the rows together. I don't always start with 1 but I make sure I keep the rows in order. Keep the numbers pinned to the blocks until all rows are finished. Remove the numbers and save them for next time.

Quilt top finished and ready to quilt.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gift Quilts, Who Cares What Their Colors Are!

I am a prolific quiltmaker. I have been known to start a quilt three days before a wedding and give the quilt as a wedding gift at the wedding. With tons of quilt kits, patterns and scraps at the ready and with my longarm quilting machine, I can crank out a quilt from cutting to binding and label in three days, no sweat. I'm not bragging here because most of the quilts I make are from either scraps or kits and most of the patterns I choose are of the "quick and easy" variety. Applique quilts are beautiful and amazing. I admire people who applique but unless it's hand pieced, if it takes more that a week to piece, I'm not interested. With all that in mind, I will tell you how I approach giving quilts as gifts.

A few times I have actually asked someone which quilt design they wanted and what colors they like. I have even gone so far as to let them pick out the fabric they wanted. FORGET THAT!
I did not enjoy making any of those quilts and was not happy with the finished product. For a long time now, if I am giving a quilt as a surprise or if a family member asks me to make them a quilt, they get what I want to make. I don't care what color paint is on their bedroom walls. This quilt will outlast numerous paint jobs and even a move or two or three so what difference does it make what color the room is at the moment. I choose colors I like and colors I think represent the personality of the person receiving the quilt. Most of the quilts I make are scrappy anyway so the colors are all tumbled together.

Here is a quilt called Stepping Stones by Judy Niemeyer I made for my grown niece. I know this quilt will go in any room in any home she lives in. I had fun making this quilt and the fabrics, Bali Pops were amazing to work with.

Now let's talk about  the pattern or type of quilting technique. I have had lots of clients over the years bring in quilts they pieced because their granddaughter, son, niece, whatever wanted this pattern or that t-shirt quilt. You would be amazed at the number of first time quilters choosing Double Wedding Ring to give as a gift. Often these quilts turn out to be a disaster and in the end, the makers are frustrated and unhappy with the results.

If I don't like doing applique or some other quiltmaking technique, I will not make a quilt using that technique. I don't care if my favorite family member LOVES that quilt they saw in the magazine. If they like it that much, they can learn to make it themselves. I will make my scrap quilts because the times I have made quilts using techniques I am not fond of, the entire experience is drudgery and life is too short for that.

The last thing I want to mention is the quilt size. I don't assume that all my quilts will be used on beds. Children grow from the crib to a twin or double bed and the quilt will out last those changes. The Stepping Stones quilt pictured above is 60" x 68", just a little smaller than I like but the perfect size for my short niece to snuggle under in the evening. A quilt that is easy to drape over a couch, throw in the car or carry in a suitcase will be used often. This is what I want. I love to hear "Aunt Carol, I need another quilt. The one you gave me 10 years ago has holes in it."  Those words just warm my heart!!

 So many of my clients bring in these huge king size quilts intended for young family members. They admit the person does not have a king size bed. What is a 15 year old who sleeps in a twin size bed going to do with a huge king size quilt? He's going to fold it and stuff it into the top shelf of the closet and forget about it. My target quilt size is 75" x 95" because it's portable. It can go from bed to couch to basement to friend's house to dorm room and be used for years to come.

Even babies not born yet get quilts in the 75" x 95" range or slightly smaller. Before they learn to walk they can be placed on top of the quilt to play or nap. As they get older they can sleep under it or cuddle on the couch with it. It's perfect for road trips and camping and visiting relatives.

Recently I have started including washing instructions and a box of Shout Color Catcher with each quilt. I used to prewash all my fabrics but over the years I have gotten lazy about this. I had some fabric bleed and ruin a quilt so now I use this stuff if I prewash fabric and I use it for the first two times I wash the quilt.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Choosing Quilt Backing Fabric

Often when we are choosing fabrics for the quilt top, the last thing on our minds is what to use for the backing. And possibly farthest in our minds is how the quilt will be quilted. As a professional quilter I have asked hundreds of quiltmakers how they want a top quilted and many times the answer is "I have no idea!" I completely understand this. Many quilters, myself included, love the idea of choosing fabric, cutting it into small pieces then stitching them back together again. It is the process of making the quilt top that is the most fun. Quilting and completing a quilt is often not the final goal of many quiltmakers. Some of these quiltmakers call themselves "toppers". I completely understand.

But if you plan to have the top quilted and to actually finish the quilt then I ask you to consider the quilting designs, thread color and backing fabric as carefully as you choose fabrics for the top. Let me give you an extreme example of what I'm talking about. A new quiltmaker brought me a top that consisted of two solid fabrics: pure white and navy blue nine patch blocks. The finished blocks were 6" and the nine patch blocks alternated with solid white blocks. The quilt was a large king size. The backing was solid white.

The quilt top was very well pieced and was cherished by this quiltmaker.

One important thing to consider when choosing fabric and the quilting design is the quilting thread color. For longarm quilting and often for home machine quilting it is best to match the top and bobbin threads. Thread tension does not always stay perfect especially with free motion quilting so if you use white on the top and navy in the bobbin, you will have pokies, top threads poking to the back or bobbin threads poking to the top. This gives an unpleasant look.

The choices for quilting were allover design or custom quilting. Let's look at the allover design first. Choosing the design is no problem. I would suggest a curvy, swirly or flower design that interlocks and  is not symmetrical since there is so much symmetry in the piecing design. For thread color, I would suggest white since most of the quilt top and all of the backing are white. There will be a contrast of the white thread on the navy patches but overall the contrast is toned down with the large amount of white fabric.

For a custom design the client wanted a daisy type flower quilted in each plain white block and stitch in the ditch (SID) of the nine patch blocks. No problem with the daisy design because I used white thread which looked great on the white fabric for the top and backing but the stitch in the ditch was a different story!

The client only wanted stitch in the ditch so there was no compromise there. The problem comes when deciding which thread color to use. There are several problems:
  1. SID means just what it says, you stitch in the ditch formed when the fabrics are pressed to one side. In many cases the seam is pressed toward the dark but it isn't always the case. That means the ditch moves from the white fabric to the dark fabric and back at different times.
  2. If white thread is used to SID it will blend well when the ditch is on the white fabric but it will stick out like a sore thumb on the navy fabric.
  3. Why not just stay on one fabric whether the ditch is there or not? Because then you are alternating SID with top stitching which would really be distracting.
  4. Changing thread colors is time consuming and probably not a solution unless you have lots of time to get the quilting done.
  5. If SID is not a requirement, one solution would be to quilt a large "X" in the nine patch blocks using navy thread. That would look nice on the top but  would you like the contrast of the navy "X" on the white backing?
  6. Machine quilting, especially custom quilting, has lots of stops and starts. When using thread that contrasts with the fabric, these starts and stops are highly visible and can be distracting.

Lots of things to consider!

Here are pictures of the front and back of a scrap quilt I recently completed. I used variegated thread in the top and a coordinating thread in the bobbin.

For the backing, I pieced together 5 different fabrics. In the picture below you can clearly see the quilting in the light color fabric but it blends in with the busy print fabric.

Keep some of these things in mind when choosing fabrics for the top and backing. Have a general idea of what quilting design and thread color you might use to complete the quilting.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jelly Roll Race Quilt - Finished!

I finished my first Jelly Roll Race quilt that I first told you about Jelly Roll Race - Tips From A Winner

This was a great quilt and I know I'll do more in the future.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Download Free Quilt Pattern - Rail Fence

This is a great quilt pattern for beginners and experienced quilters will find this a quick way to use up scrap strips of fabric.

Rail Fence Scrap Quilt With Borders

Strips are cut 2-1/2" from the width of fabric then sewn into sets of three. For variety you can cut strips in different sizes or sew your strips into sets of 4, 5, 6 or more!

Have yardage of two or three fabrics, use just those fabrics for a not-so-scrappy look.

The pattern shows two different block settings.

For beginners, some very basic tools include a rotary cutter, a cutting mat and ruler. The perfect set I found for beginners is the Fiskars 3 Piece Quilting Set. This set includes a 45mm rotary cutter, a large 18" x 24" cutting mat and a 6" x 24" cutting ruler.
Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oh, I Don't Know, It's About Twin Size!

This is the answer I often got when I asked my quilting clients "How big is the top?" They wanted an estimate of my quilting charge which is determined by the size of the quilt top. Since they didn't know the measurements, I used 75" x 95" as an estimate which is my idea of a twin size. When the client showed up with the top, the actual measurements were more in the neighborhood of 88" x 102". One quilter's twin size quilt is another quilter's queen size quilt.

So just how big is a twin, full, queen, etc size quilt anyway? There is no "standard" quilt size. If you're planning a quilt to fit a particular bed, then measure that mattress and determine how much over hang you want on the sides, top and bottom.

The mattress dimensions shown below are probably good for our purposes. In order to get exact measurements measure the mattress yourself and use those measurements to make the quilt the required size.

  1. Start with your mattress dimensions. In our example we will use a full size. Add the mattress thickness for each side and for the foot of the bed. Mattress thickness can range from 4 – 22 inches so you will need to measure this yourself as well. In our example we will use a 16” thickness.
  2. Determine how much extra you want the quilt in addition to the mattress thickness. These include if you want the quilt to cover a box spring, cover side boards or reach to the floor. Add these measurements to the sides and foot of the quilt.
  3. If you want to be able to cover the pillows with the quilt or if you want to fold back the quilt at the head of the bed, add extra for that to the length measurement.
  4. Finally you’ll want to add a few inches for shrinkage due to quilting and washing. The more heavily quilted it is, the smaller the finished quilt. The batting can shrink once it is washed. In this example I used 2” for each side but this is probably a bit much and can realistically be cut in half.
 In this example I was very generous when adding to the length and width, especially for the shrinkage amounts. The final quilt size of 98" x 117" seems quite large. Be sure to give your final quilt measurement the sanity check. Drape a large tape measure across the bed to see where the actual measurements fall and adjust as needed.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Easy Editing of Your Quilt Photos

I'm not a photographer so when I take pictures of my quilts I usually take 4 to 5 and hope one of them is usable. With the cameras and even smartphones we have today, the pictures are of very good quality and very large. I usually need to resize them for the computer so they don't take forever to download. I have been using Paint.NET, a free photo editing software for a few years and it is powerful yet simple and fits my needs very well. Download Paint.NET. The features I use most are crop, resize and canvas size.

Photo-taking Tips From An Amateur
  • My camera and my phone both take more picture than what shows up in the frame so I fill the entire frame with my subject. Later, I crop out what I don't want.
  • Try to keep the camera level. Then taking pictures of quilts or blocks, line up the bottom of your frame with the bottom of the quilt or block. Always look at the picture to check for straightness. If it is way off, take another one.
  • Sometimes my pictures are out of focus and the lighting is off. I think this has to do with the automatic settings I have. I just take another picture and eventually I get a good one.
  • Lighting is one of the most important things to think about. If you don't have good sunlight, turn on all the lamps in the room.
  • I like to take several shots of the entire quilt, then several close up shots of the fabrics, blocks, quilting, label, whatever you want to remember.
  • When you are editing a picture, always keep the original by using File > Save As... You might want to use that picture in a different way later.
  • Beware of the vanishing quilt. If your quilt is hanging at an angle where the top of the quilt is against the wall and the bottom is away from the wall, the picture will show the quilt narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. Same thing happens if you put the quilt on the floor and you take the picture while standing on the floor facing the quilt. Try to keep the camera parallel to the quilt.
Cropping takes out the extra stuff you don't want in the picture such as Fred the dog or your child making faces at you. Here is how you crop in Paint.NET and in most photo editing software.
  1. Display the tool bar by clicking Window > Tools. The first three tools in the left column are for selecting areas on the image: rectangle, lasso and ellipse. I use the rectangle which you can set to normal, fixed ratio or fixed size. Normal gives you more freedom to select but I like the fixed ratio or size because I often need a square image such as when adding items to the QuiltNotes database, a square image looks better on the computer screen. I have been adding LOTS of items to the QuiltNotes database.
  2. Once I'm happy with the area I selected I want to take out everything outside that area. Choose Image > Crop to Selection. If I like the results I choose File > Save As... to save this version of the photo. The original version remains unchanged.
When resizing an image you want to keep the length and width proportion. If you don't, the resulting image will be stretched or squeezed in one direction or the other.

Choose Image > Resize to open the Resize screen. The option checked here is By absolute size and Maintain aspect ratio is checked. This means that if you change the width or height, the proportions will remain the same and your image will not be distorted.

The option checked here is By percentage. This option will also keep the proportions the same.

Make the changes you want then click OK.

Canvas Size
When I have an image of a rectangular quilt but I need a square image I change the canvas size.

This is Pat Sloan's free quilt pattern download  It's Five O'clock Somewhere.

When I added this pattern to the QuiltNotes database, I wanted a square image, otherwise this image will be distorted.

Changing the canvas size adds white space where needed to change the image how I need it.

Click Image > Canvas Size. Check By absolute size: only. Here we do not want to maintain the aspect ratio.

Look at the Width and Height numbers. Here the width is 250 and the height is 313. We want to make this image square so we take the largest number, 313 and change the smallest number to equal that. So change 250 to 313 then click OK.

This adds white space to the sides, making the rectangle into a square.

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

Friday, March 16, 2012

Easy Quilt Block To Make From Strips

Somehow I stumbled upon two really great internet sources for techniques and free patterns. First I found a YouTube video from Missouri Star Quilt Company showing how to use jelly roll strips (or any strips) to make a quick and easy quilt block. Jenny Doan, one of the owners of Missouri Star Quilt Company in Hamilton Missouri, is the star of this and, I believe, all of the 123 videos on the channel.

The video is called Amazing Jelly Roll Quilt Pattern by 3 Dudes! There is a link below. In the video Jenny talks about the technique she uses for making pinwheels and how a similar technique is used by 3 Dudes Quilting in Phoenix Arizona.

Sew strips together in sets. The strips don't have to be the same width but it is more efficient if you use strips cut from the width of fabric.

I used three in a set but you can use as many as you like. The more strips you use, the larger your finished block will be.
Cut each strip set into squares. My strip set finished up at 6-1/2" so my squares were cut at 6-1/2". Mix up the squares. Take two squares and place one with the seams going horizontal and another on top, right sides together, with the seams going vertical.

Stitch a 1/4" seam allowance along each outside edge of the blocks. Shown here in black.

Using your rotary cutter, ruler and mat, cut the block in half twice diagonally. You will have 4 smaller blocks from each sewn set.

Here are 3 blocks after cutting. These are not from the same block set. The block set started out at 6-1/2" and when it was cut, these squares were 4-1/4".

Here are the blocks sewn together.

You have to be careful when stitching these blocks together because all the edges are bias but it does help to match up the seams.

This is the almost finished quilt. I will be adding borders today.

3 Dudes Quilting has a free quilt pattern download using this technique. The pattern was designed by Ray Steeves, one of the 3 Dudes

Happy Quilting!
Carol Thelen

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