Saturday, December 7, 2013



In this post I will share a few of the several tshirt quilts I've done in my brief career as a quilter.  I've come to love doing them because they seem to bring such joy to the recipients.  Each person is so pleased to have special memories of happy times captured in a warm, comfy quilt.

Keith's Quilt is one of the first commissions I took.  Keith and his wife Donna were colleagues of mine in the local school district for many years.  His shirts chronicle his undergrad years, his coaching years, and special events during his years as a school administrator. 

A few of the shirts had only a screen print on the chest pocket area, so I incorporated a column for them in the center of the quilt.  Sashing for Keith's quilt was done in black Panther Paw print, while the backing was a deep royal blue geometric print.  I did the quilting on my Viking Topaz 30 with royal blue meanders.  I am pretty sure he was happy with it because his wife has commissioned me to do one for their son now!

Here is my daughter Cathleen's quilt.  It chronicles her high school and college years.  This on was a bit of a challenge because I failed to tell her NOT to cut the shirts apart before bringing them to me.  As a result, I began with a hodgepodge of sizes and shapes!  Cathleen did the layout through her artistic eyes and I must say, it does make for a very visually interesting quilt...  but piecing it was a real bugger!  Cathleen did a good bit of the piecing herself.

Sashing was done with a mustard polka dot; the border is black chevron.  We backed it with gray chevron and quilted it on my Topaz with a gray meander.  This was definitely not one of my favorite tshirt quilts because I desire symmetry and order, but it was right up my daughter's eclectic alley!

This is my most recent finish, a commission done in trade for a photo session for our soon-to-arrive first grandchild, Baby Jack.  The tshirts are Ansleigh's; her husband David is a very talented photographer. 

Ansleigh's memory tshirts included several supporting precious little Creed, who lost his battle with cancer, along with some from her high school years, her undergrad years, her bachelorette party weekend and some post-high school softball playing days.

Ansleigh selected a black and white color scheme for sashing and backing.  The sashing is polka dots while the back is a gorgeous black and white damask.  Quilting was done with black Aurifil on my new Viking Platinum 16 midarm.

One word of caution if you plan to try a tshirt quilt:  be sure to stabilize the shirts prior to cutting them into squares.  My lesson learned on Cathleen's quilt was related....  because I failed to ask her to bring the shirts to me intact, she "gave me a head start" by cutting out designs from her shirts. We were thus left with very little surrounding fabric. Getting those pieces stabilized without having an adhesive-covered ironing board was a real challenge.  But hey, this blog is about lessons learned, so there ya go!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Baby Jack's Farm Mural Quilt

Before Baby Jack was a twinkle in his mother's eye, we knew if she ever had a boy, his nursery would have a farm theme.  So when we found out in July that he was indeed a boy, I went right to work on his nursery bedding. 

My daughter in law selected a pretty color scheme of baby blue and mint green.  With some farm scene paintings as inspiration, I went to work designing a mural-style quilt.  I am no artist and have lots of trouble with perspective (kinda like my troubles with perception) so one really has to use his imagination with this quilt!

The quilt police would have a heyday with this one, I am sure!  There were many times I wasn't really sure how to proceed, so I just dove in.  I used a piece of muslin as a base for the sky and land, and satin stitched the fields, sun and blue sky to the muslin.  Then I added the road, satin stitching it as well. 

All of the animals, the barn, tractor and plants were applique'd using my Topaz 30 and purchased applique designs. 

Here is the quilt top before the quilting was done.  Deciding how to stitch the crop rows was a real challenge because of my lack of artistic ability.  Again, I just dove in!  I quilted inside the rays of the sun in straight lines.  For the road, I did my first pebbling; that was fun!  Around the animals, the tractor and the barn, I simply did some outline quilting to hold everything together and add a little texture.  In the "grass,"  I used variegated green thread to free-hand some sprigs of grass, again, to add texture and hold everything together.  I think the quilting really added to the finished product!

The quilt is backed with a print also used to make crib sheets and is bound with a cowhide print.

So what did I learn in the making of this quilt???  First, it's the thought that counts and not the quilter's artistic ability.  My DIL and son LOVE this quilt!  Second, using two layers of Warm and Natural batting on a baby quilt is probably not such a good idea.  I was seeking extra texture, but the quilt is so heavy that it now hangs on a wall in the nursery; an infant would be crushed under its weight!  Third, I LOVE pebbling!  I can't wait to do more!

In case some of you are interested, I made the rest of Baby Jack's bedding to go with the quilt.  Here is a photo.  My DIL made the darling mobile!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Baby Jack's Lulu Quilt

If you read my entry about the first Lulu Quilt, you already know the background of the "Lulu Quilts."  If not, please refer to a previous entry called The First Lulu Quilt.

The photo above features my precious daughter-in-law, Stephanie, with the quilt I recently made for our first grandchild, Jack.  Baby Jack will make his appearance in early January 2014, and we can hardly wait!!!

Since my son is a "manly man," he made it abundantly clear that HIS son would not use a "girly" quilt like the premier Lulu quilt.  (Sorry, Rachel and Russ, if Nolan's was too feminine...)  So I broke out my stash of browns and blues to come up with this chevron-style quilt.  The palest blue "stripes" are the pieces of Lulu's gown.  I think this palette meets my son's approval. 

I followed a tutorial from Amanda of Material Girl Quilts, which I found on Pinterest.  The pattern was posted on the Moda Bake Shop website.  Honestly, most of my quilt inspiration comes from Pinterest...  although I RARELY follow the directions!  (In this case, I followed most of them, but did not start out with charm squares.)  I added a 3" border because I didn't follow the directions and made too few squares, resulting in a too-small quilt.  I should note that the reason I made too few squares was that the fabric from Lulu's sating gown was so squirrelly; I tired quickly of fighting it.   

This was a really good tutorial with very clear directions.  Too bad I suffer from terrible perceptual difficulties; I had an AWFUL time piecing that sucker on point!  I had a crick in my neck for DAYS from cocking my head to try making sense of the pictures!  (Again, my fault; not the fault of the pattern creator!)

Because of my perceptual shortcomings, it was not until I had the ENTIRE thing pieced, including the border, that I realized ONE block, dead-center in the quilt top, was turned the wrong way!  My husband and dogs heard some ugly words emanating from my sewing room that late night!  That's when I remembered my other handicap:  I do not work well after 8:00 p.m.  You'd find me sewing lots at 4:00 a.m., but NOT in the evening!  My husband saw no reason for me to rip it out and fix it; he said no one else would ever notice it...  but I would know!  (and I think it would have been noticeable.)

Baby Jack's Lulu Quilt was the first one I quilted on my NEW Platinum 16 by Husqvarna Viking.  I am LOVING this machine!  (and the sweet hubby who bought it for me.)  I did some pebbling on the Lulu stripes.   Then I switched over to my Topaz 30 and a walking foot for straight-line stitching, following the chevrons, for the rest of the quilt.

So, what did learn from this quilt???  First, to think twice before considering another quilt done on point.  I think I'd have done better to do chevrons with half-square triangles so I wouldn't have to cock my head!  Secondly, I learned that it really wasn't so awful to rip out and replace that wrong block...  I didn't say it was fun, just not awful.  I also learned that for future Lulu quilts, I will be stabilizing that satin before cutting it!  When I made the first Lulu quilt, the circles were stabilized with Wonder Under for the appliques.  Little did I know then, how much of a difference that would make!

So Baby Jack, when you get here, please note that TONS of love went into your Lulu quilt!  I'm not sure I'd have done it for anyone else!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The First Lulu Quilt

When my mom passed away eleven years ago, I saved two of her favorite nightgowns.  They were satin-y on the outside and flannel-ish on the inside...  so warm and pretty!  At the time, I didn't know what I'd do with them; I just loved them and wanted to hold onto them.
When we found out that my brother's oldest daughter would soon have the first great-grandchild in the family, I knew what to do with those gowns...  I'd make quilts so the great-grandchildren would have a piece of their Lulu.  Mom's name was Coy Lou; her "grandma name" was Lulu.
Pictured above is my lovely niece, Rachel, with the first Lulu quilt, made for her son Nolan.  The satin-y circles are from one of mom's gowns.  The other circles are white minky and an aqua gingham.  The background fabric is Kona snow.  I bound it with the gingham. For the life of me, I can't remember what I used for the back!  I'll have to ask Rachel...
I had a "ball" making this quilt!  (Sorry; couldn't resist!)  I appliqued the circles by machine using a blanket stitch.  The quilting was done in concentric circles around the appliques, and then echoed to fill the rest of the negative space.  The photo was taken at a funny angle so the quilt looks very narrow.  It is actually about 36" by 45."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fast-forward to Now

So you've seen my first quilt; here are my latest...  called Daddy's Ties.

Yes, those are sweet hubby's feet again...  I really must learn to edit photos soon!

These quilts are my latest, commissioned by a friend for her daughters.  Jane brought her late husband's neckties to me and asked that I make quilts for her girls to remember their Daddy by.  (Yes, I'm a teacher and I know better than to end a sentence with a preposition...  but that's how we use that phrase down here!)

Randy was a teacher and wore a tie to work every day.  He had quite a collection of unusual ties.  His girls treasured those ties after he passed away.

Those ties languished in my sewing room for months!  Each time I'd pull them out with intentions of getting started, I'd panic and put them away.  I couldn't bear the thought of ruining them.  But finally, when my deadline was only two weeks away, I had to figure it out!

When Jane first brought the ties to me, I had in mind laying them out in a circle and simply appliqueing them down to a base fabric.  NOT!!!  This didn't work for a couple reasons.  First, I did not take into account the fact that the ties were all different widths and as such wouldn't make a perfect circle.  (Geometry was not my best subject.)  Secondly, the ties were too thick if left unaltered.  After lots of searching online for tutorials and quite a few tears, I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to take every one of those ties apart and cut them to the same size.

There were 58 of those suckers!!!  52 were regular neckties and the others were bowties.  For my ten-degree Dresden plate template to work, I'd need 36 blades for each quilt.  So I improvised...  I used all the wide ends of the neckties and then pieced the narrow ends to get additional blades.  I also cut the bowties in half and appliqued them to solid fabric blades.

Once I had all the ties deconstructed, I was on a roll.  Piecing the blades was not terribly difficult.  What was hard, was trying to be sure each daughter would end up with part of each of her Daddy's ties.  I don't think I was entirely successful, but I got pretty close.

Each completed circle was machine appliqued onto white-on-white base fabric.  I used a straight stitch along most edges with blanket stitching around the center circles.  (I am certain the quilting police would disapprove, but it was the best I could do under my time constraints...)  Each top was backed with the same white-on-white fabric because I was afraid darker backings might show through to the front.

I quilted these two myself with my new Viking Platinum 16 midarm machine, using white Aurifil.  Until very recently, though, I was quilting on my regular Viking Topaz 30 sewing machine. 

Since the focus of these quilts was the neckties, I quilted them with a very loose meandering design.  (The fact that by this time I had less than 24 hours to quilt and bind both had absolutely NOTHING to do with that choice!)  Binding was done by machine as well, for durability, don'tcha know...  Actually, I've gotten pretty good at doing it that way, so it looked fine.  I wasn't entirely happy with the fact that the necktie circle didn't lay perfectly flat for quilting, but with all those bias-cut silks, it was the best I could do.

What did I learn from these quilts???  First, one should not procrastinate until two weeks before a deadline to begin work on a pair of quilts.  Second, it takes HOURS to deconstruct, press, and recut 58 neckties!  (Refer back to #1.) Third, dead lizard skeletons sometimes live in old neckties.  (Did you hear me screaming in Alaska???)  Lastly, a Dresden Plate quilt isn't nearly as scary as it looks. I look forward to trying another one, this time a tree skirt, with quilting fabric.

The girls were THRILLED with their quilts, so I'm counting these as successes.

OMG! I have a blog!

Hello out there! 

My name is Valerie (aka Punkin' to our first grandchild, to be born in a few weeks) and I am a quiltaholic.  I have been quilting for about a year and I am addicted. 

I've sewn since I was ten or so, but only began quilting after my retirement.  It all began when my husband, a retired state trooper, hinted that he'd love to have a quilt made from his uniforms.  Since I knew those uniforms were going to take up space in a closet (he is a packrat!), I determined to put them to good use.

I'm going to show you a picture of this first quilt, but you must promise to be kind... 

Yes, those are his sweet feet...  I have LOTS to learn about photographing quilts (or anything else, for that matter...)

The whole reason I decided to begin a blog was to be able to tell the stories of my quilts.  Most of them so far have had a story behind them...

This quilt, called "Pat's Quilt," (sorry; not especially original...) is made entirely of his uniforms and other "official" garments.  Disclaimer:  NO USEABLE UNIFORMS WERE DEFACED IN THE MAKING OF THIS QUILT.  Every garment was worn or torn beyond repair or re-wear.  Over a thirty-two year career, one accumulates quite a number of worn-out uniforms!

Anyhow....  The badge number applique fabric came from his first uniforms as a cadet.  The badge numbers chronicle his progression from a lowly radio operator through his final rank as Troop Commander.  That royal blue square is from a sweatshirt he wore during PT in Trooper School.  All of the lighter blue squares are from uniform shirts, and the squares with stripes down the center are his pants.  The border is also made from pants legs.  It's hard to see, but there are copies of his service ribbons (scanned then printed on quilting cotton) on one square.  I also scanned and printed a copy of his final badge for a special tag on the back of the quilt. (Note to self:  find a better method for this; those prints have faded over several washings.)

I took a class on making t-shirt quilts before beginning Pat's Quilt.  The terrific instructor, Linda at Sew Much Fun in Columbus, was great at helping me apply her techniques and approaches in a different way.  Linda was exceedingly patient with this "won't follow the rules" quilter.  She gave my creativity credence.

Once I pieced the top, I turned it over to Laine, the owner and longarmer at Sew Much Fun.  She quilted it for me in a loopy pattern that wouldn't detract from the quilt theme.  The backing went great with the theme; it looks like black road asphalt!  A swirly blue and gray binding completed the quilt and was also used in cornerstones on the borders.

So...  what did I learn from this experience???  First of all, that I LOVE QUILTING!!!  I was hooked!  I had to continue!  I also learned that I had lots to learn about quilting.  I learned that while I knew every imperfection in that quilt, my husband only saw the love and time and effort I put into it.  And I learned that if I wanted to continue making quilts, I'd have to learn to do the quilting myself; I couldn't afford to keep paying Laine to do it.  (Her prices are quite reasonable, but I'd rather spend my money on FABRIC!)  Besides, I want to be able to say I did the ENTIRE quilt from start to finish.

Stay tuned for more quilt stories!