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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

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