Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Start Making a Memory Quilt

When a family member passed away suddenly last year, I had the reaction so many quilters do. I wanted to give the widow something handmade. I thought a quilt made from her late husband's shirts would be a tangible way to remember him and to offer comfort. This is my first time making such a special quilt, so I thought I'd offer my thoughts on the process for those considering making one too.

The first step in making a memory quilt is simply to offer to do so. Understand that the bereaved may have very different reactions to your offer, however kindly meant. They may not want to keep the old clothing around or to even have the daily reminder presented by such a quilt, at least for a while. They may not be able to let go of the clothing for some time. Simply offer and let them get back to you when they are ready.
The next step is to obtain the old clothing from the bereaved, which can be difficult for those grieving. Some people may want to go through each item and share its significance, while some may not be able to bear looking at it. You may find going through the clothing emotional too. Take your time. Once you have the clothing, you will need to be selective about which items or types of material to use. For example, some quilters are happy to work with knits, while I prefer to stick to woven cotton clothing. I suggest you avoid mixing different types of fabrics in a single quilt because they will wear differently. A larger selection of clothing items is best, as it will allow you to choose those that will work best together in your quilt design. You can always offer to return any unused items, although the bereaved may prefer any leftovers be donated. Be sure to ask.

How many items of clothing will you need? It will depend on the size of the quilt and the pattern you choose. I suggest you make these choices based on what clothing times you receive, instead of the the way around. Let the bereaved give you what they want, rather than dictating what you need. See what you can make with what they offer. Maybe it's only enough for a pillow or a set of pillows for a sibling group. That's fine. Maybe it will be enough for a throw or a twin quilt. Since it is primarily for comfort, I chose to make a throw quilt.

When you have chosen the clothing items you will use, you will need to deconstruct each item. This can be a sad process, but I promise it gets easier as you start thinking about the snuggley quilt to come. After contemplating using a seam ripper to take apart a large stack of dress shirts, I quickly realized I would be better off cutting the seams out. It's much quicker, and the fabric in the seams is often less faded that the rest of the shirt or hopelessly marred by thread holes. I cut off collars and cuffs and discarded them, but you may wish to preserve pockets if you want to feature them in your design. Once the clothing has been cut into usable pieces of fabric, press it well. Using starch makes cutting and piecing even more precise later.
As you think about the design of the quilt, it may be a good idea to ask the bereaved about their preferences. You may show them a few examples of quilts you have enjoyed making in the past or easy patterns they can see online. I was fortunate to have been given free rein to make whatever design I thought best, but I suggest you select a simple pattern that will both allow the fabrics to be the focus and can be completed fairly quickly. You want to give the quilt as a comfort as soon as you can, after all.
I welcome your experience and advice on making memory quilts, and I'll share more as I move on to piecing the top.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Morse Code Quilt

I get a little thrill every time I come across a quilt or project made from one of my patterns. I suspect every designer does. I found this Morse Code Quilt on Instagram because its maker, Andrea, included the hashtag #improvisingtradition which is a great way to add your work to a group of other quilts from the same book,designer, or pattern, FYI.
I appreciate how the dramatic background sets off the cool colors. Check out Andrea's other sewing projects and great photos on her Instagram page. Thanks for sharing Andrea!
photo by Joe Hancock
To my surprise, when I tried to find my original post about this quilt to add the link, I discovered there was none. I never posted about this quilt. Really? Well, better four years late that never, right? The Morse Code Quilt is in the sewing with strips section of Improvising Tradition, and it is a super simple throw sized quilt, great for quilters new to improv. The varying sizes of the strips reminds me of the dots and dashes of morse code. As you can see, I chose warm colors in contrast to Andrea's cool palette. Both work beautifully with grey.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Re-purposing Prototypes

These placemats started out as prototypes for the By the Fireside Pillow from Improvising Tradition. I don't know about you, but I'm just about at capacity for throw pillows around here (not that I'm promising to abstain from making more, mind you). Consequently, I was happy to re-purpose the tops into placemats. A simple trim down to 14 x 18, and they fit the bill beautifully.
I've quilted each placemat differently. Look how effective a simple all over square meander can be, even on a geometric design.
On the other I played up the geometric design by quilting the sections differently to make each stand out.
This pair of placemats brings my total number of placemats for Meals on Wheels to 10 which  is halfway to my goal of 20 by December. If you want to join me, add #placemats4mow to your social media posts to share.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Handmade Travel Tags, Free Tutorial

I made a set of travel tags for family, and some friends requested a tutorial. It's been a while since I wrote and offered a free tutorial on the blog, so here it is as a big thank you for stopping by and leaving such kind comments over the years. These beautiful travel tags not only serve to mark your luggage should it become lost, they also make your bag easier to spot. Set your ubiquitous black rolling bag apart from the rest in the luggage return this summer. I'd love to see what you make, as always. Drop me an email or hashtag your work online with #handmadetraveltags

You may notice the June Tailor Quilter's Cut'n Press in the background of many of the photos. It is a cutting mat on one side and a pressing surface on the other other. It's the perfect tool for a small project like this when you don't want to get up and down to use an ironing board because it fits right next to your machine.

Handmade Travel Tag

Tutorial by Alexandra Ledgerwood 


Scrap of white fabric 3 x 9 1/2 or larger
Fat quarter or scraps of outside fabric
Interfacing scraps
Thread matching the outside fabric
Permanent pen

Cutting instructions

From the outside fabric, cut
(1) 3 x 9 1/2 rectangle
(1) 2 x 3 rectangle
(1) 2 1/4 x 14 strip
 From the white fabric, cut
(1) 3 x 8 rectangle
 From the interfacing, cut
(2) 3 x 9 1/2 rectangles

Sewing instructions

1. Using a permanent pen, write the address on the white fabric, on the right half of the rectangle, leaving at least 1/2 inch from the right edge.

Tip: I type the address in a word processing program and trace the address onto the fabric directly from my computer screen.

2. Sew the 2 x 3 rectangle of outside fabric to the white fabric, near the address along the 3 inch edge, using a quarter inch seam allowance. Press seam open.
3. Following package instructions, apply the interfacing to the wrong side of the outside fabric rectangle and the white fabric unit.

4. Trim one end of both rectangles to create the pointed end of the luggage tag. Following the inch markings on your cutting mat, place your ruler diagonally from one inch mark to another as shown in the photo, and trim off the triangle. Repeat with the other corner.

5. Fold the 2 1/4 x 14 rectangle in half lengthways and press. Open up the rectangle, and bring the outer edges to meet in the center. Press. Fold in half again, lengthways, to create a narrow strip, with the raw edges encased in the center.
6. Edge stitch along both long sides of the strip.

7. Bring the two raw edges of the strip together and temporarily pin in the center of the straight end of the 3 inch edge of the rectangle of outside fabric. Right sides facing, place the white fabric unit on top, matching the edges carefully. Remove the temporary pin and pin through the outside fabric, the strip, and the white unit.

8. Pin and sew around all the edges with a 1/4 inch seam, leaving about two inches for turning.

Tip: Be careful not to sew over the folded strip on the inside.
9. Turn right side out, and press.

10. Edge stitch around the outside edge.
11. Create a button hole in the center of the outside fabric at the pointed end of the tag. The button hole should be perpendicular to the address and be the same length as the width of your strip, a little over 1/2 inch.
12. Fold the tag in half, overlapping the outside fabrics slightly to hide the inner white fabric but not folding over the address inside. Press.

13. Edgestitch along the fold.
14. Push the strip through the button hole, and your handmade travel tag is complete.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Free Motion Quilting on Essex

There are few things as therapeutic and fun as free motion quilting on whole cloth. I've played with fmq on Essex linen before to create this set of placemats. The recipient requested another four, so I got to try out four new designs and pick out another four lovely Kona solids to bind the placemats.
I used 40 weight Aurifil for the quilting, and I'm really happy with the results. The texture of this fabric combined with quilting is irresistible. I only wish I had time to make more.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Rugby Stripe Baby Quilt

I pulled out my bin of 2 1/2 inch scrap strips to make some Rugby Stripe Blocks on a bit of whim. These blocks are so quick and easy to put together, before I knew it I had enough for a scrappy baby quilt.
The blues, greens, and blacks make this version more masculine than the first, larger iteration of the quilt. I love how fabric choice completely changes the look and feel of a quilt.

I quilted it simply with my Bernina's serpentine stitch. You can play with the width of the wave and the stitch length and use the side of the walking foot to gauge distance between rows of stitching. These are about an inch apart.

The binding is a crisp navy and white stripe that should fit the nautical theme of my friend's nursery, and the flannel back will make this quilt a cozy on for her new little boy. At 41 x 55 it is a nice size to serve him through his preschool years too.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

More Improv Quilted Placemats

I finished up another couple of improv quilted placemats for my charity project for the year which is placemats for Meals on Wheels (#placemats4mow if you want to join in) made using up leftover blocks and scraps.
This was originally a test panel of strata for Improvising Tradition (affiliate link, although it looks like you can buy a signed copy from me in my etsy shop cheaper than that at the moment).This panel taught me that I prefer strata that is more monochromatic, but I chose to celebrate the pops of green as is by binding in a leftover strip of Kona grass green binding.  The perfect backing presented itself as an old Denyse Schmidt print. Love those dots.
I had fun coming up with a different quilting design for each shape, although some worked out better than others and some got repeated.
I made several strips of the improv technique in the second placemat a while ago. Several of the strips became a pillow, but I had a spare strip I've been looking to use. Bingo!
These placemats are numbers seven and eight, so it looks like I'm on track to make my goal of twenty to donate by December.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Improv Quilted Placemats

These modern, quilted placemats made good use of some leftover improv panels and scraps of grey solids. They are placemats numbers five and six for my year long project to make placemats for Meals on Wheels.
Placemats are a great way to try out new quilting designs. They are so quick to make too. I went a little crazy with free motion designs on one, and on the other I stuck to my walking foot to create dense waves.
I'd love to have you join me in putting your random quilt blocks of scraps to use to make something beautiful and useful for a homebound senior. Tag your photos online #placemats4mow to share your work. You can donate your placemats to your local chapter or any other charity of your choice. I put a little extra love in each placemat by hand stitching the binding.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Scrappy Triangle Quilt

It seems fitting to finish this quilt in time for spring. (Well, technically it is spring, although we're expecting a bit of snow tomorrow.) The bright colors of the Anna Maria Horner fabrics are undeniably cheerful and full of life, just like the season, and the low volume prints set them off nicely.
I used 50 weight white, Aurifil thread to quilt the top in a free motion figure eight design, which I  recommend if you are new to free motion quilting or have a largish quilt to handle on a home machine. The design offers lots of places to stop and adjust your quilt without interrupting the flow of the shapes. It can also be modified to fill pieced shapes, like these triangles.
The binding is another Anna Maria Horner favorite, and the backing is a soft, white flannel.
I'm sending the quilt to my grandmother. It will drape over the back of her couch where she will see it everyday. At 54 x 71 it is also a good size to fold over her lap on chilly days. She may not remember that I made it for her, but I'll feel better knowing it's there with her although I can't be.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

When Scraps Attack

 As you may recall, I finished piecing my scrappy Anna Maria Horner triangles quilt. I found a swath of white flannel for a cozy backing and got it basted. As I pondered quilting designs, it happened. The pile of scraps leftover from cutting all those triangles suddenly became irresistible. I had to stop everything and sew them into strip sets. Do scraps ever overtake your other projects?
The resulting rectangles made another set of placemats for a community service project for the year, which is a large stack of placemats for Meals on Wheels by December. These are perfect for leftover strips or blocks, paired with scrap binding and the odd fat quarter for backing.
I finished these quickly with some free motion quilting. Since the placemats will most likely be given to individual recipients, they don't need to match or be exactly identical in size. I'm eyeballing mine to be about 14 x 18 inches.

Now maybe I can get back to that quilt.