Home Sweet Home

A close-up of the center applique panel. I love how it looks with the scrappy blocks.

Between hockey tournaments, track meets, Speech and Debate tournaments, my sister trip, and various family commitments, I have been home for a grand total of three weekends since the beginning of February. My life has been ridiculously busy and while it has been fun, I haven’t had a whole lot of quilting or writing time.

Normally, we’d do something fun and go camping on Memorial Day weekend, but this year, it was prom weekend and with two kids in high school, we got to stay home!! I was soo happy!!

It was all about the hair, the clothes, and the dates . . . until they left. Then, it was all about actually finishing a quilt top and parking my butt in a chair with my lap top and writing. I actually got to say hi to my husband too. It made for a great holiday weekend.

I finished the center of this quilt applique on a road trip a few weeks ago, and I had finished all of the blocks last fall. I finally got all the sashing in and the whole center put together a week or so ago.  At that point, I discovered that I not only didn’t have enough fabric, but that I had cut the selvage off of the fabric I did have and I had no idea how to get more. Thankfully, a brilliant woman in a Reno quilt shop (I was on another trip to another sporting event) identified it correctly, so I could order some. The only place I could find any was from a quilt shop somewhere in Minnesota – thank God for the internet!

No borders yet!

I could have left it without borders, but I wanted it a little bit bigger. I also wanted the blocks to “float” a little more in the quilt’s center. Happily, the fabric arrived on Friday, just in time for my three whole days at home. I got the borders on this morning, and I like how it looks.

Now, it just needs some quilting, and it can go on the bed. One UFO down, nine to go!

Seven Questions You Should Never Ask a Quilter

If you have a friend or loved one who quilts, and you would one day like to be the recipient of a lovely cherished heirloom, don’t ever ask them any of the following questions.  You may never get a quilt.

1.  “Why would you want to cut up perfectly good fabric just so you can sew it all back together again in another big piece?  What was wrong with it to begin with?”

 My dear husband asked me this when I first started quilting.  At the time, I didn’t really have a good answer for him because in some sense, his logical engineering brain came up with a good point.  If I recall correctly, I just stared him down.  He hasn’t asked that again.  Apparently he likes all the quilts around the house.

 2.   “You know that quilt you gave me? The cats love it.  I can’t get them off of it!  It’s their favorite place to sleep.”

The person who says this gets permanently removed from your quilting gift list.

 3.  “Is that supposed to look like that?”

This is a question that has different responses depending on who asks it.  If it’s a really good quilting buddy who asks it, you can safely assume whatever “it” is, looks like crap and needs fixing.  If it’s a non-quilter, you can safely assume they are lame and have no idea what they are looking at/talking about anyway.  You’re quilt is fine. Nod your head, smile, say “yes, it is supposed to look like that, thanks.”  Move ahead and consider scratching them from your quilting gift list as well.

 4.  “I needed to wrap a package and couldn’t find any scissors so I just grabbed those ones out of your sewing room to cut all the wrapping paper. Don’t my presents look great?”

This generally comes from a loved one who must be temporarily (or possibly permanently) banned from the sewing area.  See my post “Scissor Slut” for more on the sacred status of scissors.

 5.  “Did you ever finish that one quilt you started a long time ago that you were telling me about?”

I work on quilts based on whatever I feel like working on; hence, my giant pile of unfinished projects.  As a result, this is another one with two potential responses.  If it’s done, you say, “Yes, I did.  I gave it to _____________.  If I’d have known you loved it so much, I would have given it to you!  Bummer.”  Or, if it’s not done, you say, “Nope.  I got sick of it.  Hope you weren’t planning on snuggling up in it anytime soon.”

 6.  “Why do you need more fabric? Don’t you have enough?”

Only husbands (or at least the person you share a checking account with) asks this question.  It is not worthy of an answer, merely another stare down.  If my husband asks twice, I just have to ask if he really needs another gun. He’s an avid hunter, and I think one or two guns would kill whatever he’s hunting just fine, but what do I know? Since this question generally silences him on the amount of fabric I need, I would say that I clearly don’t know much about guns or hunting.  In fact, I know guns like he knows fabric.  ‘Nuff said.  

 7.  “How long are you going to take at the quilt shop?”

Another question from the love of my life.  My answer?  It could be hours buddy.  You better just drop me off and leave. . . . Love you!

Ugly Quilt Border Fabric = Cool Quilt Backing

I despise putting on quilt borders. Note the quilt in this blog’s banner – no border! It seems like the border should be the easiest part of creating a quilt and technically speaking, it is. They are easy to measure, cut, and sew. I despise them for no other reason than they are BORING! There is not one creative element to putting on a border other than picking it out. That part can be fun. But there is even an art to that and it has taken me years to learn it: one must wait until the entire quilt top is pieced before purchasing the border fabric because the quilt will tell you what to put on the border. I know this sounds crazy but it’s true. Trust me.

It is actually one of the first lessons my quilting mentor taught me – always get the entire quilt top made before you pick out the border fabric. She was my instructor for the second quilt class I ever took. She had even printed this bit of advice on the course supply list. I, of course, ignored it and purchased several yards of a green flowery print for the border of my quilt that I was going to make in her class. This was in the fall of 1998.

The quilt is on my bed and has been for years, and I still have that green yardage. It’s not on my bed. It’s on the shelf, waiting for some sort of quilt call its name. Or when I die, my daughter, who hates to sew, can figure out what the hell to do with all my fabric, including the lovely green print.

Despite my teacher’s verbal and written instructions, which I chose to ignore, and the knowledge of the green yardage still sitting on my shelf, I have continued to purchase border fabrics too soon. It is a lesson I have had difficulty learning. I also have stacks of already cut border strips. This happens when I not only purchase but also cut the borders out before I’ve even sewn a stitch on the quilt top. When the top is done, the border doesn’t work, and I’m left with eight or nine 7” strips. Lovely.

More often than not the border fabrics I have purchased thinking they were perfect end up being awful, as in “what the hell was I thinking” kind of awful. I fold up the fabric or the strips and set them on the shelf next to the other giant chunks of border fabric. They look at me, mock me, and ask me, “when will you learn?”

In my defense, the ladies at the quilt shops always agree that the fabric I am considering for the border is just right and would be perfect for the finished quilt top. And these are generally really nice ladies. I am sure of it. Really.

For many people, buying giant pieces of yardage might not be a problem, NOT for me. I make almost all scrap quilts. My motto is the more fabric in a quilt, the better. I usually use fifty or more fabrics in any given quilt. I never need two or three yards. Fat quarters are this girl’s best friend.

I think I’ve ignored the lesson of a quilt telling me what it needs for its border after the top is complete because I hate putting borders on. I don’t want to give them any more thought than necessary. Why would I drive all the way to town just to audition fabrics for a border when I can get it all in one shot when I’m purchasing the fabric for the quilt top? This seems like a complete and utter waste of time. However, I still get frustrated that my sixteen year old son hasn’t learned to eat his entire dinner with his fork, and we’ve been working on that for over fourteen years. Slow learning is apparently genetic, and I unfortunately passed it on to him. Maybe I should just give myself a break.

Ugly Quilt Borders = Cool Quilt Backing

I finally came up with a use for these giant pieces of fabric and decided to piece them together for quilt backs. I actually like it. It turns any quilt into a two-sided quilt and generally the colors hide the dirt much better than plain muslin backings which, despite valiant efforts, tend to turn beige after the kids and dogs snuggle under them, toss them off the couch onto the floor, and then walk on them. I’ve tried to teach them to “fold the quilt when you’re done with it, don’t walk on it,” but we’re still working on that one too.

Here’s a picture of my most recent quilt back. I like it.