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April 15, 2016

A Simple Life: How a Diary Becomes a Quilt

The star of A Simple Life, author Shelly Pagliai‘s first book, is the block-of-the-month quilt Hazel’s Diary. Who is Hazel? Shelly Pagliai’s mother, a farm girl growing up in Kansas in the 1950s. And why the diary? Well, Shelly was inspired to design this quilt, a gorgeous mix of piecing and appliqué, when she discovered her mother’s little red diary–a five-year, line-a-day diary given to her at Christmas when she was fourteen. For the past six years, Shelly has been transcribing the diary entries, one a day, to the Hazel’s Diary blog. She’s also been dreaming up blocks and borders that represent different pieces of her mother’s life.

The first block is based on the traditional Missouri Star quilt block, chosen because Hazel was born and raised and lived her entire life in Missouri.

The wildflower appliqué sports five lovely petals, one for each member of Hazel’s family—Hazel; her mother, Mildred; her father, LaVern; and her two brothers, Donald and Larry, otherwise known as Buck and Puz.

This block is called Canasta. Hazel mentions playing canasta so many times throughout the diary. It was a card game the whole family enjoyed. Back in the early 1950s, families sure had different ways of entertaining themselves than they do now!

This block is called Fancy Farm Girl, a tribute to all those farm girls doing their chores in dresses and patent leather Mary Janes. Shelly has a great photo of Hazel’s cousin doing just that on her blog!

This block is called Fair Weather. Based on the traditional block called Weathervane, Shelly designed some windblown flowers to appliqué on top of it. It commemorates a period in Hazel’s life when everything was going well for her–her singing trio got to perform on television!

Be sure to pick up a copy of A Simple Life to learn the stories behind the rest of the blocks and enjoy the rest of the retro projects as well!

April 13, 2016

Simple Blessings in Cotton and Wool

It seems like lately everyone has discovered the wonders of wool, and Jill Shaulis and Vicki Olsen–sisters, dynamic quilting duo, and partners in Yellow Creek Quilt Designs–are no exception. Their latest book, Simple Blessings in Patchwork, features plenty of projects sure to appeal to wool lovers everywhere.

Their specialty is combining pieced cotton with wool appliqué, such as in the stunning quilt on the cover, or in this table runner:

Fresh Picked table runner, featuring wool posies in pieced basket blocks

But Jill and Vicki are also experts at piecing wool and cotton together, such as in these beautiful table toppers:

Starstruck table topper

Chocolate-Covered Blueberries table topper

If the idea of combining wool and cotton in piecing make you nervous, don’t worry–Jill and Vicki walk you through the process step-by-step, making it totally nonintimidating. With their guidance, you’ll be making charming quilts that combine the crisp beauty of cotton with the rustic warmth of wool in no time.

Filed under Books

April 11, 2016

Making the Best Cut with Bonnie Hunter

Hi, everyone!

I’m so excited at being asked to contribute a monthly post to C&T. What a great way to share with you some of the things I have learned along the way that have made my projects fall together so much better!

You can look forward to my posts showing up on the second Monday of the month right here and on the C&T blog.

I have been traveling and teaching internationally now for more than ten years, and I have done a lot of observing to find out where the perils and pitfalls of patchwork might show up, and it has been very revealing in many ways.

So many folks say that they have trouble with a 1/4″ seam, but when we get down to it, it isn’t the seam that is the culprit at all, it goes way back to the CUTTING of the fabric.

I hope what I share with you today will help you achieve better results, just as it has my students.

Shown here are the hands of my student Marilyn as she goes about sub-cutting some strip sets for four-patches during last week’s workshops in Naperville, Illinois. Little did she know she would become a hand model for this post!

Rotary Cutting 101:

Never use the lines on the mat to measure and cut by. It’s a sure fire way to wear out your mat too quickly, as this creates deep grooves in the mat that won’t heal. Cutting in the same place on the mat again and again is also a way to get inaccurate cuts as your fabric is pushed down into the grooves creating an inaccurate measurement, not to mention dulling your blade way before its time.

Use the lines on the ruler to measure your cuts, and move your work around the mat to avoid cutting in the same place all the time. Your mat and your blades will enjoy a much longer life.

The ONLY time I will use the lines on my mat for measuring are when I need to cut extra-large squares, 15″ or larger, and then slice them with an X on both diagonals to give me the setting triangles I need for on-point quilt settings. I use the lines on the mat when the shape I am cutting is larger than any ruler I have.

A common bad habit…

This is one thing I see quilters doing time and time again: when you cut, you slide the line on the ruler you are measuring by right up against the outside edge of the fabric, but the whole line is left OFF the fabric.

You’ve left the line behind…on the mat! It’s next to the fabric, but not on it.

You can short yourself several threads when doing this, and it might not seem like much, but over the number of seams within a block, you can easily end up a 1/4″ too small on your block, no matter how “perfect” your 1/4″ seam is.

Don’t blame the seam! It might be the cutting!

In other words, if your strips are too narrow to begin with, it’s not going to be what you want it to be. Add into the equation that we have all those places where we have pressed the seams one direction or another, and we now have the thickness of the seam to add into the mix. To compensate for that this is what I do:

I hope you can see in this picture how I cut this 2″ strip as a right-handed quilter.

Pardon the worn name tag on my ruler, I use my tools hard and they show it!

I’ve got the 2″ line—the WHOLE LINE—ON THE FABRIC with the left-side edge of the line at the outside edge of the fabric. There is no fabric showing beyond the line, but the whole line is ON the fabric. This helps me make sure that I have not shorted myself on the strip width, and it may give me a couple extra threads that help me with the fabric I lose when pressing seams over the thread to one side after sewing.

The height of the seam can shrink a unit because it does take up space.

To show you what happens if you cut with the line on the ruler NEXT to the fabric, instead of including it ON the fabric, I took this picture:

Can you see the difference? The line is now right next to the fabric, and touching the fabric, but look at the excess that is at the right edge of the ruler. If I had trimmed here, I would have shorted myself THAT MUCH. And over time within my blocks, that shortage will add up, giving me units and blocks that are too small. I even got one extra shot so I could show the sliver of difference between line on, and line off. THIS is how much you can short yourself if you don’t put the line you are measuring by ON the fabric.

As I’m thinking about how to word this and explain why I do what I do, I realize that basically instead of having to excessively “scant down” my 1/4″ seam allowance, I’m “scanting up” my strip widths to compensate for the thicknesses of pressed-to-the-side seams and bulky intersections, and I get the best results with my patchwork if I follow this simple rule I made for myself.

LINE ON! Not LINE OFF!

So that’s your basic cutting lesson today. Find the right tools that work for you. Look for rulers with easy-to-read numbers, thin lines for accuracy, and while you’re at it, treat yourself to a new blade—you and your mat and your fabric deserve it!

Is there a topic you would like me to discuss or a question you would like answered in a future blog post? Leave me a comment below and we may feature you in a future post.

Bonnie K. Hunter is the author of several C&T titles, including Scraps & ShirttailsScraps & Shirttails IIString FlingAdventures with Leaders & Enders, and More Adventures with Leaders & Enders.

Be watching for a new book release from Bonnie and C&T in the fall of 2016!

Bonnie is also the Addicted to Scraps columnist for Quiltmaker magazine, giving hints, help, and tips in every issue to help put your own Scrap User’s System to good use, making more quilts in less time.

Follow Bonnie’s Daily blog at http://quiltville.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/quiltvillefriends

Facebook Group: Quiltville’s Open Studio

Instagram: @quiltville_bonnie

Filed under Books

April 8, 2016

C&T Supports Ryan’s Case for Smiles

Several of us that work on the fun quilt and craft books published here at C&T really are quilters and crafters ourselves. We have an in-house sewing group called The Buzz, and each month one member chooses a quilt pattern to work on. Then everyone makes a few blocks for that member’s quilt. Sometimes we switch it up and work on donation projects. When our Production Coordinator Freesia’s turn came around, she suggested that we make pillowcases for Ryan’s Case for Smiles.

Ryan’s Case for Smiles is a great organization that is dedicated to helping hospitalized kids feel better in order to heal better. And they do it with bright and cheery pillowcases. Check out their website for more information and donation locations.

We had lots of fun creating eighteen colorful pillowcases, which we will be dropping off at Wooden Gate Quilts in Danville.

If you’d like to make a pillowcase, here’s a link to printable instructions:

thecottagemama.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/PILLOW-CASE-INSTRUCTIONS1.pdf

Or, here is a photo tutorial:

smashedpeasandcarrots.com/french-seam-pillowcase-set-in-under-30-minutes-tutorial/

If you’d like to share the joy of creating fun pillowcases and bringing smiles to hospitalized children with a kid in your life, read to them from A Case for Adventures! It’s a fantastic picture book about a young boy named George and the magical adventures his pillowcases take him on–plus, it includes pillowcase-making instructions.

Filed under Books

April 7, 2016

Bonnie K. Hunter Talks Scraps!

Hello, quilters!

My name is Bonnie K. Hunter, and I am thrilled to be here today talking about my favorite topic ever, scraps!

My love of scrap quilts goes back as far as I can remember, and this is evident in my new pattern release, the  Wonky Wishes Star-Quilt Pattern.

I’ve rarely met a scrap quilt I didn’t like. Did you ever stop to think that the vintage scrap quilt you hold in your hands is literally a timeline of the maker’s life in fabric? There is so much to be discovered in the fabric choices, the variety, the colors, and the eras that the fabrics come from.

The same goes with scrap quilts that we make today. There are stories behind each and every scrap that is left over from a previous project.

A true scrap quilt is as individual as a fingerprint or a signature. No one can exactly duplicate a scrap quilt. Each one is unique, even when using the same pattern or design. It’s the fabric choices that tell a story about the things that the maker loved when she put these scraps together into her quilt.

What do your scrap quilts say about you?

I’ve been making quilts for 35 years. My scrap quilts tell the story of my life in fabric– each piece is left over from this quilt or that quilt over a long span of quiltmaking history. There are fabrics in my Wonky Wishes quilt from even my earliest quilting years. Fabrics from the 1980s through the early 2000s and up toward the time when the quilt was finished. 30+ years of loving fabric and sewing quilts.

Older VIP calicoes, batiks, Civil War and 1930s reproductions, hand dyes, novelties, moderns, abstracts, geometrics, even recycled plaids and stripes from 100% cotton clothing. It’s all in here. The proverbial kitchen sink!

Oh yes, my preferences and styles and the things I like and am drawn to have changed over the years, but those scraps are there to remind me of my projects made during the time that my sons were growing up, the dolls I used to make “back in the 90s,” and so many other projects I’ve made over the years. These pieces take me back and make me smile!

Scrap USING is at the forefront of my quilting philosophy, and I am in the habit of tackling the ever-present scraps by cutting them into the most usable sizes when done with any project, so that they are ready to be sewn into future scrap quilts down the road. Variety is KEY in my studio and in my quilts, and having scraps the size I need them to be beforehand means that I get the most out of my fabric and have the most fun while doing it!

When I sat down to make the blocks for Wonky Wishes, I turned to my Scrap User’s System, pulled out my bin of saved precut squares and crumbs and small pieces, and started stitching away.

I can safely say that the only real “yardage” that was used in this quilt was in the binding and parts of the backing! Everything else was small scraps, plain and simple and oh so varied.

One quote that I use often while teaching the delights of scrap quilting to others is. “If it’s still ugly, you just didn’t cut it small enough!” And don’t forget that you can use the back side of any fabric–you paid for that too!

Those scraps are $12 and up per yard! Don’t throw them away!

The blocks in Wonky Wishes use an easy stitch-and-flip method without templates or paper piecing, making each and every block unique and a bit different from its neighbor, but still similar and so very fun.

These blocks are like potato chips–you can’t make just one!

You might find it interesting to know that while I am quite modern in my machine quilting, using the latest up-to-date computerized technology, my piecing goes back in time. I have a passion for vintage sewing machines and did all of the piecing for Wonky Wishes on a variety of machines from my “fleet.” From treadle machines to mid-century modern electric models, these machines hold my heart and inspire my piecing.

If some folks can collect handbags or shoes, I can collect vintage machines that work and have a great time using them. There is nothing like piecing a quilt on a treadle machine that I have brought out to the front porch of my cabin and enjoying the beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in front of me as I stitch.

One of my favorite things about Wonky Wishes, besides making the blocks themselves and the fact that no two are ever alike?

The string sashings!

I am over-the-moon in love with string quilts. I even wrote a book called  String Fling under the Kansas City Star Quilts imprint by C&T. There are definitely more string quilts in my future.

With Wonky Wishes, you get to explore just really what a neutral IS when it comes to your fabric stash and how to put them to good use in your quilts. Why use one fabric as sashing when 100 fabrics can do the job, be way more fun, and add much more interest to the whole?

For more information on just what I consider a neutral to be, you can read the article on my blog called ” Focus on Neutrals.”

Another thing I’d like to share is the BACK of Wonky Wishes, a view behind the scenes that did not get shared in the pattern itself.

I just love to compose quilt backings from leftover random pieces of fabric and orphan blocks that need a place to land. Sometimes these orphan blocks are leftovers from other projects. Sometimes they are test runs that just didn’t work out right, either because they were the wrong size, the fabric choices didn’t work, or what have you. Sometimes these blocks are gifted by quilt friends because they know if they “send it to Bonnie, she’ll use ANYTHING!”

Yes, it’s true. Sometimes boxes will arrive on my doorstep. Shipped UPS. With no return address on them. I’m sure the senders are laughing behind the scenes, but their gift is my gain!

Are you ready to start your own Wonky Wishes?

I hope that this pattern causes you to look at your scraps a bit differently. I hope you will remember and revisit quilts from your past and all of the other associated happy memories from the timeline of your own life when you look at those small bits of fabric, creating your own unique blocks that are like no one else’s. Your fabric choices. Your memories.

What will the fabrics in YOUR  Wonky Wishes quilt say about you and the story of your life as a quilter?

Bonnie K. Hunter is the author of several C&T Titles including  Scraps & ShirttailsScraps & Shirttails IIString FlingAdventures with Leaders & Enders, and More Adventures with Leaders & Enders.

Be watching for a new book release from Bonnie and C&T in the fall of 2016.

Bonnie is also the Addicted to Scraps columnist for Quiltmaker magazine, giving hints, help, and tips in every issue to help put your own Scrap User’s System to good use, making more quilts in less time.

Follow Bonnie’s Daily blog at http://quiltville.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/quiltvillefriends

Facebook Group: Quiltville’s Open Studio

Instagram: @quiltville_bonnie

Filed under Books