Learn something new – take a quilt class

August 2022

Covering Quilts

Learn something new – take a quilt class

by Sandra Starley

 

This year, I have been focusing my column on the benefits of learning new quilting skills whether to stretch your brain or finish old projects. One great way to learn a new technique or method is by taking a quilting class. There are many choices available for taking quilt classes and truly something for everyone.

Whether you have never sewn a stitch or are an expert sewist, there is a class for you. They range from traditional, in-person classes available at quilt shops, guilds, and shows (local, regional, or national venues) to the now-many online computer selections (live or recorded/on demand).

It should come as no surprise that online classes have become an even more popular option with the Zoom-ifaction of life. As we have become more used to and confident using Zoom and other online opportunities, the demand for online classes, which exploded due to necessity during the pandemic, continues to grow.

While in-person classes are coming back as people enjoy meeting together, the ease of learning from home and sewing in your comfy pajamas is hard to beat. Online classes are perfect if you are trying to fit sewing into a busy schedule as you can find recorded classes to watch when you want.

Beginning Quilters

If you are a beginner, it is good to start with a basic class to get acquainted with Quilting 101. You will learn about tools like rotary cutter and rulers, cuts of fabric, different techniques, and the super-important quarter-inch seam allowance, a necessary part of making pieces fit together. Starting off with a good foundation will help lessen the learning curve.
Quilting does have its own language, and getting an inside scoop helps make it less mysterious and more fun! A class at a local shop or guild will help you meet new quilty friends, too.

UFO quilt

Sandra Starley’s Cheddar Stars Quilt Class,

Sandra Starley’s Cheddar Stars Quilt Class, Pieces and Patches Quilt Guild, Jackson, MI, 2017. (Image courtesy of the author)

Intermediate to Advanced

You know the basics; now take your quilting to a new level. A class can help you begin that quilt you have always wanted to make but been scared to start, like a New York Beauty or hand applique project.
Challenge yourself to learn a technique you have never tried before or a new style. If you have always done hand quilting or applique, try machine quilting or vice versa.

General Guidelines

In-person or online – make sure you have all the necessary class supplies. Get the supply list and ask questions about what you will need for the class time. The class list may include what you will need for the whole quilt project like batting and backing, but you won’t need those in the basic piecing class. But they are essential for a machine quilting class.

Check on whether a machine is needed or provided. You want to be ready to sew and learn. This applies to all classes both with hand or machine work. It is especially important to make sure your sewing machine is in good working order and that you know how to use it. If you are a newbie, do some practice sewing before class so you are not frustrated in class.

Quilting is supposed to be enjoyable, and being prepared helps that happen. Come ready to learn and try different ways to create, even if you have been sewing for years. Keep an open mind and you will be pleasantly surprised with what you can see from a new perspective.

Do not forget the chocolate or your favorite treat. You need to keep up your energy for all your sewing fun!

Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com. Send your comments and quilt questions to SandraStarley@outlook.com

UFO, PHDS, and WIPS, oh my! Finding and finishing your unfinished projects

July 2022

Covering Quilts

UFO, PHDS, and WIPS, oh my! Finding and finishing your unfinished projects

by Sandra Starley

 

What is in your work room?

If you are like most quilters, you have lots of partial projects, leftovers or orphan blocks lurking in your sewing room. Does it seem like you have started a college with all the PHDs you have stashed away? You may not know all the quilting lingo, but you likely have many of these items. First, let us define some terms: UFOs = unfinished objects, PIGs = projects in grocery sacks, WIPS = works in progress, PHDs = projects half done. You have probably noticed a connection with all these terms: projects started and then discarded. Why not start a search-and-rescue mission to find and finish those orphaned items or give them a new home?

Time to round-up the orphans and finish those projects!

First step – do an inventory of all those bags, baskets, and bins and see what treasures are hiding away. You will most likely be surprised at how many projects are almost done. Decide what needs to be completed on each; for example, make two more blocks, sew finished blocks together, quilt, sew on binding, etc. It is exciting to have projects you can now easily finish by doing a task or two.

UFO quilt

Home of the Brave

“Home of the Brave,” created with UFO blocks from several different classes. 42” x 42.” Sandra Starley, 2002 (Pattern available).
Image courtesy of the author

Second step – figure out which projects you WANT to complete and how you want to finish them. You may have started a quilt in a workshop and made a few blocks, but they no longer appeal to you. Perhaps you learned a skill or technique from that class, and you can now pass the blocks on to someone who will use them to make a fabulous quilt. Or maybe you don’t want to make the full quilt, but those four blocks would be perfect for creating an awesome project bag for another quilt.

Third step – find new homes for the projects that don’t spark joy. Unfinished projects have a tendency to weigh you down and make you feel guilty. Keep the items that make you smile and find new purposes or lives for the others. Guilds often have fundraising yard sales or collect orphan blocks for charity quilts and would love your blocks or tops.

Start playing!

Remember quilting is supposed to be joyful. You can gather up those partial blocks and have fun creating a scrappy back for a top that is also waiting to be finished.

 

Challenge yourself to learn some new skills that have you stuck on a particular UFO. Why leave a quilt half done because you are missing the perfect fabric? Find a creative solution even if it is outside your comfort zone. Or trade tasks with a quilting friend. If binding is a dreaded chore for you, while your buddy loves it, work on her piecing while she binds your quilt. You’ll both get those PIGS done and out of the grocery sacks. Look at old projects with new eyes. Envision those orphan blocks as mini quilts, mug rugs, pillows. Now they can be quick gifts instead of projects half done. Applique a block to patch your jeans or adorn a jacket and you now have a fashion statement instead of UFO!

Strength in numbers

Challenge your guild or quilting group to work on creative finishes to those neglected projects. Work together to motivate progress and keep one another sewing. You can organize a UFO challenge and have prizes for those who complete their projects. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish working with friends. SEW ON!

 

Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com. Send your comments and quilt questions to SandraStarley@outlook.com

Quilting makes the quilt: Quilting by hand, machine or check?

June 2022

Covering Quilts

Quilting makes the quilt: Quilting by hand, machine, or check?

by Sandra Starley

 

Once you have your quilt top completed, there are many ways to finish it. You can hand quilt or machine quilt or some combination of the two. I like to outline quilt or “stitch in the ditch” by machine to stabilize and secure my quilt top. Then I hand quilt in open spaces where it will show and shine. This saves time and lessens the wear on your hands. Or you can quilt by check. Yes, the third option is paying someone else to quilt for you.

While this seems like a new concept, quilting for hire is nothing new. It goes back centuries, though at that time, commercial quilters quilted by hand, not machine. Now, most quilters-for-hire use machines, specifically longarm quilting machines. But there are still hand-quilters who will quilt for others. The most well-known groups are Amish, and there are brokers who arrange this service.
There are also individuals who offer their hand-quilting services. You may find hand-quilters at your local church or senior center. Note, younger quilters are also getting into hand-quilting.

Your quilt top is done, now what?

There are stitchers who just like to piece or applique and have stacks of tops waiting to be quilted and finished. Some feel these individuals are not true quilters and maybe we should call them toppers. Are you a quilter if you do not quilt? Yes, we even consider people who are collecting fabric and patterns to be quilters. Terminology point – quilting refers both to the general hobby, business, lifestyle, and obsession of sewing fabrics together as well as stitching two layers of fabric and batting together.

 

Hidden Lillies, hand and machine quilted

Hidden Lillies hand and machine quilted

Hidden Lillies, Sandra Starley 2018 (left), hand and machine quilted. At right, Antique Amish Carolina Lily, Starley Collection, hand-quilted. (Image courtesy of the author)

Experiment

Quilting by hand can be very Zen and can be done in many styles from tiny little stitches to “big stitch.” Big stitch is faster and more forgiving and a wonderful way to dip your toe in hand-quilting. Grab a needle and thread and give it a try.

Machine quilting can be done in myriad ways on all machines from antique treadles to fancy computerized machines that cost as much as a car. A good way to learn about machine-quilting is to attend a quilting show where you can test drive several machines. And many quilting shops offer training. After the class, you can rent the machine and quilt your quilt. You can also machine quilt on your home or domestic sewing machine.

 

Sew many decisions

One must choose a fiber and weight of batting (middle layer) and fabric for backing (third layer) to create a quilt sandwich. Batting could be a separate discussion and so could thread. There are various fibers: cotton, silk, polyester, blends, or invisible monofilament. Thickness or weight of thread is another decision. Thin thread blends in while heavier thread makes more of an impact. And you need to pick a color or several or find one that is variegated (number of colors in one thread).

And then you need to pick a quilting pattern or design. Outlining the piecing or applique or an overall design aka edge to edge? Or a custom design for each block or square? You can mark every stitch or try free motion (ad lib/improvisation style).

Quilting design decisions fill books. After looking at all these options, it is not surprising that a lot of tops are never finished or that many people send quilts to the machine quilter to figure things out.

Happy quilting or at least topping!

Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com. Send your comments and quilt questions to SandraStarley@outlook.com

Row, row, row your quilt… gently sew the seams – row quilts

May 2022

Covering Quilts

Row, row, row your quilt… gently sew the seams – row quilts

by Sandra Starley

 

I was recently challenged to create a row quilt and thought I would share a bit about my process and about row quilts in general.
Let’s start with defining a row quilt. A row quilt is a quilt sewn in horizontal or sometime vertical or diagonal rows with each row composed of a different block. The blocks can be made using one technique (i.e., piecing or applique) or several different techniques. Because each row features a separate block design, row quilts are a wonderful way to experiment and try out new patterns. You only need to make a few of each block, much less intimidating than thinking of the stack of blocks you would need for a whole quilt out of a pattern you would like to try. Row quilts are also a perfect way to use leftover, orphan, or ufo blocks (quilt speak for unfinished objects). You can even use a couple of patterns in a single row. Remember, your row quilt, your rules.

Sew Many Choices

Speaking of rules, there really are not any in row quilts. That is a big part of the fun! Instead, there are a lot of choices you can make when deciding how to create your own personalized row quilt. You can make all the blocks the same size or not, you can add plain spacer strips between rows or not, you can add simple filler blocks, you can use a single-color scheme or go scrappy and sew much more. You can develop a full plan for your new quilt or just start sewing and figure out the details as you sew. One hint: If you are designing as you go, I would recommend using a design wall and doing more pinning rather than sewing. As you sew and experiment, your design may totally change. It is much easier to move blocks around the board or wall instead of picking out or reverse sewing.

Row By Row Challenge

I just made my first row quilt for a fabric company challenge. Row quilts are especially well suited to holiday themes. Since it was February, I decided to go with a Valentine’s Day theme. Of course, there had to be hearts. And since I love text or wordplay quilts, I added an ‘I’ and ‘You’ to spell out “I Love You.” My assigned fabric was a black and white collection, and I had some pinks, too, so I was ready to rock. This is my favorite modern quilt color scheme. I had a lot of fun trying out different patterns and playing with triangle pieces in several sizes. I made my blocks in mostly 6-inch squares, but my word row was 6 x 8 inches. That is one of the magic things about row quilts: each row can be its own kingdom. I added a spool block that I had made the month before and then made another so it would have a friend. I used a heart block on the top row to start the Valentine’s Day theme. A Card Trick block finished the last row. It really is a tricky block, and one was enough for me; again, that is fine for a row quilt. I framed the quilt with Flying Geese blocks on the top and bottom rows. This quilt was a design and piecing challenge but a lot of fun. I hope you will give row quilts a try, too. There are many row quilt books, tutorials, Pinterest pages, and hashtags like #rowquilt to inspire you. 

A row quilt, “I Love You,”

A row quilt, “I Love You”

A row quilt, “I Love You,” 2022, by Sandra Starley, 30” x 32”. Fabric provided by Island Batik. (Image courtesy of the author)

Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com. Send your comments and quilt questions to SandraStarley@outlook.com

Pressing matters: Part 2

April 2022

Covering Quilts

Pressing matters: Part 2

by Sandra Starley

Last month I wrote about the importance of properly pressing quilt blocks rather than ironing. I am back to share more hot topics. Quilters do take pressing issues quite seriously. #pressingmatters was even one of the daily prompts in the popular March Instagram posting event: #igquiltfest. Quilters follow a month of posting prompts or guidelines and share relevant pictures and tips. Read below and then also search under these tags to see more product information and many wonderful quilts.

Wool Pressing Mats

In addition to favorite irons and pressing sprays, the two most mentioned items for precise piecing were wool pressing mats and wooden tailor’s clappers. Wool pressing mats are available in a variety of sizes. Small ones are handy in a pressing station next to your sewing machine. This is a terrific way to make sure you press each seam before sewing the next one. But most people recommend you set them up away from your machine so you get up and move regularly.

Larger mats can be placed on a standard ironing board. So why are they so wonderful? The wool conducts heat very well resulting in crisply pressed seams. It heats both sides of your fabric at the same time. Another excellent choice is to make your own big pressing station by covering a large board with a wool blanket and then covering the unit with a heavy fabric. This makes your whole surface a wool mat.

Tailor’s Clappers

Wooden tailor’s clappers are another old tool that has become trendy. They are simply heavy pieces of wood that are placed on top of seams after pressing to further flatten and set the seams. Quilters are raving about the magic they create in terms of precisely pressed seams. They are available in assorted sizes and with simple or elaborate woodworking details. You can get clappers with other decorative designs like flowers or bees. For a totally unique tool, you can have a custom clapper made with your company name, logo, or the name of your “sewing studio.”

Other Clever Iron Alternatives

In addition to irons that come in many price points and a variety of sizes and colors, there are myriad gadgets to help you press on. From wooden rollers to pressing sticks, woodworkers are busy creating many useful tools besides the tailor’s clappers. Often, these small tools are used at the sewing machine to do an initial press after sewing a seam. The tools are an alternative to using a fingernail to press open a seam; known as “finger pressing.”

 

 

Quilt Pressing tools

Pressing tools, old and new

Pressing tools, old and new, on a wool mat. (Image courtesy of the author)

 

Quilters Moonshine?

More about flattening sprays or starch; I previously mentioned that some quilters love to heavily starch and literally soak/drench their fabric before pressing while others do not use it at all. Some quilters buy commercial quilting pressing concoctions (starch alternatives) like Best Press or Flatter. Others make their own moonshine spray – the main ingredient is cheap vodka (hence the name) along with distilled water.

Recipes also may include liquid starch, which makes a thicker, stronger spray. You mix the ingredients and add essential oil of your choice if you like scented spray. Use in a spray bottle to zap pesky wrinkles and control seams. And since quilting is such a creative business, you will not be surprised to find that you can buy fillable decorative spray bottles designed with quilters in mind.

One example features quilted stars and the direction to “Keep Calm and Quilt On!” Great advice for us all.

Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com. Send your comments and quilt questions to SandraStarley@outlook.com