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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

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