A Double Wedding Ring Quilt – “Never Say Never”

I never thought I’d make a double wedding ring quilt. I admired them, but didn’t have any interest in making one. It wasn’t the piecing that turned me off. I am an old-time garment sewer. Pinning and sewing curved seams doesn’t scare me. But in recent years I have enjoyed working improvisationally, making odd shapes of fabric work together and moving quickly without any pinning or worrying that things had to fit a certain way.  Double wedding quilts were just too fussy for me.

And I never thought I’d make a quilt with those “tacky” novelty and commercial licensed fabrics I saw in the stores. I did not like them at all. Maybe they were OK for a child’s quilt, but fabric snob that I was, I had no interest in adding them to any of my projects.

Well, never say never!

When my nephew and his partner announced their upcoming wedding, I wanted to make them a special gift. Usually when one of our nieces or nephews marry, I take vintage trims from my husband’s grandmother’s stash and sew a sweet little pillow to commemorate the special occasion. See one of my pillows in this post. But that just didn’t seem right for these two guys. I needed something more modern, but still with a nod to the traditional.

Inspired by Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s fabulous book, Double Wedding Rings Quilts – Traditions Made Modern, I started thinking about making a large scale double wedding quilt. I wanted it to reflect the guys’ eclectic interests, so I found myself looking at those novelty fabrics in a whole new light. I found several Dr. Who fabrics (They are big fans.), as well as dragons, beer bottles, old books (my nephew is a librarian), and mustaches. I even located a print fabric of Corgi dogs from England (My nephew loved his Corgi growing up.). It was a wild mix of colors and patterns, to say the least. IMG_3761Of course despite knowing about the wedding months before the actual date, I still waited until the week before the big day to start this project. I had to move quickly, which meant I just followed my instincts and listened to the Tim Gunn in my head – “Make it Work!”. Victoria’s Retro Poly Mod pattern was the perfect design to use for this quilt. The pieces were large and would show off all the crazy prints and I only needed to make four blocks to make a 60″ square quilt. Here is the first block. To speed things along, I decided that all four blocks could be pieced in the same way. I selected the solid gray fabric to calm down all those crazy prints and colors.QuiltBlockThe top sewed together easily, and somehow the quilting angels helped me get it machined quilted quickly (Don’t look too close if you are a member of the quilt police.). And since we had a long car ride to get to the wedding, there was time to finish the hand sewing of the binding in the car.

Quit on CoachC&RThe boys were very happy with their unique wedding gift. I hope it makes them smile whenever they use it. Cheers to two guys starting out married life in a modern way.

Congratulations, Chess & Robert! Wishing you many years of happiness snuggled under that quilt.

Baby Quilt for William

Ever since I first read about jelly roll race quilts, I knew I would have to stitch one…someday. And I’ve always been interested in trying improv patchwork alphabet letters…someday. So when my niece had a baby boy, I decided that someday was now. I would combine a quick jelly roll race quilt with personalized patched letters to make William a baby quilt.


I pulled together a bunch of precut strips, as well as solids and prints from my stash, in a happy orange, yellow, turquoise, and green color scheme. I cut the stash pieces into 2 1/2″ strips to match the width of the precut strips. Since I was making a baby quilt and wanted the fabric colors and prints to change fairly frequently, I cut my strips 18″ – 21″ long. (Traditionally jelly roll race quilts are made with strips cut across the entire width of the fabric yardage – about 40 – 42″.) I stitched them together on the diagonal into one long strip and then proceeded to sew them together in the standard way a jelly roll quilt is made. I ended up with a fairly square patched quilt top, and then cut it straight crosswise, about one quarter of the way down from the top.

Quilt top cut crosswise and ready for the name strip.

Quilt top cut crosswise and ready for the name strip.

Next I stitched the improv letters. So much fun. I chose to make them all in bright orange fabrics that would “pop” against the turquoise background fabric. I wanted tummy time to be interesting for William. Who knows, maybe one day his quilt will help him spell his name!


I stitched the William strip between the two patched sections, and I was ready to layer the quilt and finish the quilting and binding.

William celebrating his three month birthday on his quilt.

William celebrating his three month birthday on his quilt.

Looks like William is happy with his quilt. It sure was a fun, quick project for his great-Aunt.

March Madness Duke Basketball Quilt

Back in the summer, when our daughter and son-in-law announced they were expecting their first child in late February, we teased them about the timing of the big event. They are both Duke grads and huge college basketball fans. What’s a better time to be home on maternity leave than during March Madness?!

Here's Ollie, born 2/28/15, just in time for March Madness! One week old and sporting his Duke Blue Devils hat.

Here’s Ollie, born 2/28/15, just in time for March Madness!

In anticipation of Ollie’s arrival, I designed a March Madness basketball quilt. My inspiration was the layout of Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and the project became a lot easier to envision when I discovered that Robert Kaufman makes a basketball court fabric panel. Perfect for the center of the quilt.

I studied the stadium layout and used the seating arrangement for the patchwork pattern around center court. (Originally I thought I could follow the entire layout, but quickly realized I would end up with a king size quilt…a bit too large for a baby quilt.)

As for the color palette of the quilt, of course I would be using lots of Duke blue and white, including a Duke Blue Devils logo print. But I needed to add something else. The discovery of a basketball print led me to include several orange fabrics. Orange dimple dot minky (which looks a little like the textured surface of a basketball) was a natural choice for a soft, cuddly backing fabric.

Here is our little Cameron Crazy grandson on his quilt. He’s just one week old in this picture so I’d say he is definitely one of Duke’s youngest fans.

Ollie's first game day...trying out his Duke basketball quilt for the first time.

Ollie’s first game day…trying out his Duke basketball quilt.

After that picture was taken, I decided the finishing touch on the quilt needed to be an embroidered “Baby K Court” on two sides. (Their last name is Kelley.) I positioned the stitching strategically to mimic the “Coach K Court” wording on the court at Cameron.

20150320 206Let the Madness begin, Little Ollie. Go Blue Devils!

Let’s Go! Baby Projects to Sew

Our first grandchild is almost six months old and another grandchild is on the way any day now. So needless to say, I’ve been inspired to design baby quilts and baby projects to sew.

CanopyOpen&QuiltHere’s a peak at a car seat tent and tagged quilt that I just designed for the winter issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine.

CanopyWindowOpenThe tent (or some folks call it a canopy) features a peak-a-boo window that can be closed for warmth and protection or can be opened to check on baby and provide ventilation. To keep it from getting too heavy, no batting is used. The tent is simply backed with flannel and lightly quilted.

Betsy&QuiltThe coordinating tagged quilt ties onto the car seat handles to keep it in place for the ride. Ribbon loops along all the edges are a fun and entertaining touch for a busy baby. And once you get to your destination the quilt can be used as a play mat. (MQU Editor Carol Zentgraf’s granddaughter, Betsy, gave both projects her approval!)

I fell in love with these fabrics from the “On Our Way” collection by Riley Blake. They are colorful, fun, gender-neutral and perfect for these projects. I was so excited to discover they had both flannels and quilting cottons in the group.

Winter15CoverCheck out the Winter 2015 issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited, pages 38-45 for all the details and complete instructions.

T-Shirt “Quilt” Tutorial

A few years ago I made a quick and easy T-shirt quilt for my daughter Emily, and I recently made a coordinating one for her hubbie, David. It’s was a great way to use T-shirts that were full of memories and just too special to toss. (It also got rid of that box of old T-shirts sitting in a crowded corner of their apartment.)

David's T-Shirt "Quilt"

David’s T-Shirt “Quilt”

By definition, a quilt is made up of 3 layers – top, batting, and backing. I hesitate to call this a quilt since it does not have a batting middle layer. The top is the patchwork of T-shirts and the backing is polar fleece. I didn’t feel the need to add any batting. So if you are a member of the quilt police, you an call it a throw or a blanket or a “quilt” (with quotes).

I began by separating the T-shirts into four groups, based upon the width of the printed images I wanted to use. Then I cut off the sleeves and a sliver off the sides and the neck openings to rough cut each shirt into a square or rectangle. I divided the pieces into four groups that would become the four vertical columns of my finished quilt. I determined that the finished columns would be 16″, 11″, 14″, and 12″ wide so as to use as much of the printed T-shirts as possible. I calculated how long each finished rectangle would have to be to end up with four columns about the same length. I moved a few pieces around until the measurements worked. To the width and length measurements of each square or rectangle I added about 2″ extra for trimming and seam allowances.

Organizing T-shirts and rough cutting them into rectangles.

Organizing T-shirts and rough cutting them into rectangles.

T-shirts are made from knit fabrics, and knits can stretch and be tricky to sew. Fusible knit interfacing (Pellon Easy Knit) is a great stabilizer that makes knits easy to control. It comes in white and black. (Use white on white and light colors. Use black on black and dark colors.) Cut squares or rectangles for each rough cut T-shirt piece. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fuse the interfacing to the back of each piece. Be careful that the hot iron does not touch the printing. Sometimes the inks will smear. Trim the squares and rectangles to the desired finished size, allowing for 1/2″ seam allowances on all sides. Line up all the pieces in each of the four columns and double check your calculations to make sure the columns will be the same length (Gotta love my old school calculator and paper and pencil…so high tech!). Then sew the pieces together in each column to make four long pieces. Press the horizontal seam allowances open. Sew the four columns together and press the horizontal seam allowances open.

Iron on fusible knit interfacing. Trim each rectangle to the exact size needed. Double check to make sure the 4 columns will end up the same length. Sew the rectangles in each column together and press seams open.

Iron on fusible knit interfacing. Trim each rectangle to the exact size needed. Double check to make sure the 4 columns will end up the same length. Sew the rectangles in each column together and press the horizontal seam allowances open. Sew the four columns together and press the vertical seam allowances open.

Use polar fleece yardage for the “quilt” backing. It should be 3″ or more wider and longer than the finished dimensions of the patched T-shirts. Lay the fleece right side down on the floor or a large table. Center the wrong side of the patchwork front against the fleece. Smooth and pin to hold. With thread that matches the color of the fleece, machine stitch down the vertical row seams (stitch-in-the-ditch). Stop and start the stitching at the edge of the front, back stitching a few stitches to hold at each end. Start with one of the seams at the center of the “quilt” and work out to each side Stitch the outer edges of the front 1/4″ from the cut edges. In the same way, sew across the horizontal seams of the quilt, starting in the center of the “quilt” and backtracking and over-stitching as necessary where the squares and rectangles do not align straight across. Stitch the outer horizontal edges to the backing 1/4″ from the cut edges.

Lay out fleece backing. Center patched T-shirts on top of fleece and pin. Stitch-in-the-ditch to quilt along the vertical and horizontal seams.

Lay out fleece backing. Center patched T-shirts on top of fleece and pin. Stitch-in-the-ditch to quilt along the vertical and horizontal patchwork seams.

The “quilt” is now ready to be bound and rather than apply a separate binding fabric, I brought the extra fleece to the front to cover the raw edges of the T-shirts. Use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim the excess fleece 1 1/4″ beyond the edge of the T-shirt edges. To finish the edges, fold the excess fleece to the front of the the “quilt”. Begin by folding one corner down and securing with a drop of glue 1/4′ from the cut edge. (Elmer’s School Glue works great and it washes out when the quilt is laundered.) Fold down the excess fleece along one edge and glue, taking care to keep the glue about 1/4″ from the edge. Use a few pins to hold the fleece in place until the glue dries. Fold down the excess fleece along the adjoining edge and glue. Continue to glue the remaining corners and edges.

Trimming fleece and folding the edge to the front of the "quilt" to create the "binding".

Trimming excess fleece and folding the edge to the front of the “quilt” to create the “binding”.

A neat miter will be formed at each corner. Use a few pins to keep the folds in place. Sew the fleece binding to the “quilt” by machine stitching 1/2″ from the folded edge. With small sharp scissors, trim the excess fleece close to the stitching line. Zig-zag stitch over the trimmed edge to neatly cover the straight stitching and finish the cut edge of the fleece.

Pin mitered edges at corners. Machine stitch 1/2" from the folded edge of the fleece. Trim excess fleece close to stitching. Zig-zag stitch over the raw edge of the fleece to neatly finish the binding.

Pin mitered edges at corners. Machine stitch 1/2″ from the folded edge of the fleece. Trim excess fleece close to stitching. Zig-zag stitch over the raw edge of the fleece to neatly finish the binding.

I used 30 T-shirts (backs & fronts) to make this “quilt”. You may need more or less, depending upon the size of the T-shirts and the dimensions of the printed areas.

I think you will find the finished “quilt” nice and heavy and warm and won’t be missing that extra layer of batting that would make it an official quilt.

My Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt

Modern Quilts Unlimited  Spring 2014 issue

Modern Quilts Unlimited
Spring 2014 issue

The spring 2014 issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine just arrived in my mailbox. And look what’s on page 20…..my Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt!

Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt

Improv De-Railed Fence Quilt

I had so much fun designing this quilt.  I was inspired to make it after I attended a Nancy Crow strip piecing retreat last year. I hadn’t played with strip piecing that much before the workshop. and I was totally inspired with the creative potential of this technique. I chose to make a jumbo block to showcase the strip piecing. And when it came time to organizing the blocks, I liked how they looked when arranged in alternating rows and orientations, similar to a traditional rail fence pattern, but a little “de-railed” as a modern quilt approach.

A big thank you to Carol Zentgraf, editor of MQU, and Vicki Anderson, founder/publisher, for their support and encouragement as I worked on this piece.  Thanks also to Michael Miller Fabrics for providing me with an amazing selection of their beautiful solid Cotton Couture fabrics.  And also a big thank you to Quilters Dream for rush shipping me their Quilters Dream Fusion batting. I had never tried their fusible batting before and it worked out great.

This is the largest quilt I have made so far and between the Quilters Dream batting and my HQ Sweet Sixteen long arm, it was easy to quilt. So exciting to see it published in MQU magazine!

A Design Wall – At Long Last!

My New Design Wall

My New Design Wall

I have a new design wall! Here it is with some sample pieces I started in a Sue Benner composition workshop back in January.

I have wanted a design wall for the longest time. I just had one problem….I don’t have an empty wall anywhere around my studio. I have crammed in as many shelves, storage units, and furniture pieces in there that ever inch of available wall space has been used. (There is the back of the closet door, but that isn’t wide enough.)

I decided that the best solution would be a portable design wall that could move as needed. I did some online research and saw many clever approaches from pull-down design walls to free-standing units that pop-up and can then be folded back into a storage bag. I decided a simple, very light weight, flannel-covered board would work well for me.

IMG_2795I have one large area in my studio with long shelves full of boxes of supplies. I don’t need to get into those boxes every day so I figured I could place a design wall over them and then move it aside should I need to find something in one of the boxes. Here’s what I did:

– With the help of a contractor friend, I started with a standard 4′ x 8′ size piece of 1 1/2″ thick insulation foam. (It helps to have a friend with a truck at this point unless your car is much bigger than mine.) Since the ceiling in my studio is not very high, I had to trim the board a bit so it would be just the right height to rest against the shelves and fit under the ceiling beams. It’s made of foam and is easy to cut with a straight edge and utility knife.

IMG_2787– I decided a white flannel twin size flat sheet would make a good cover for the board.  Since it was a new sheet, I washed and dried it to remove the folding wrinkles and to soften up the nap of the flannel. I laid it on a flat surface (Luckily I have my big table, but the floor would do if your knees and hips are more flexible than mine.)

– I wiped off the surface of the insulation board with a spray all-purpose cleaner and paper towels. (I discovered this was necessary the hard way. I didn’t realize how dirty the board was until I fist placed it on the sheet. Home Depot is a dusty place.)

IMG_2789– The board was centered onto the sheet. There is bold writing on the back of the board so make sure to put the plain side down so the lettering doesn’t show through the fabric on the front.

IMG_2803– I folded the top and back edges of the flannel over the board, using a little temporary adhesive to help me stretch and hold the fabric taut. Then I angled T-pins into the foam to hold the edges securely.

IMG_2792– Working from the center of each side, I folded and pinned the excess fabric at the sides to the back of the board. I tried to neatly miter the fabric at the corners but I wasn’t fussy. No one is going to be looking at the back.

– I leaned the covered board against the shelves and it’s perfect…light weight yet sturdy, and I can easily move it off to the side to get anything I need on the shelves behind it. And should it get dirty or full of threads, I can quickly unpin the flannel, wash it and put it back on the board.

I love my new design wall. It was so easy to make. Now to the fun part….designing!