Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Life As A Long Haul Trucker

I don't really drive a big rig. I drive a mini van. What many of you would consider a brand spanking new mini van, we only took delivery of it at the end of June. I would much prefer to be driving something small, sporty, with dual exhaust and 5 on the floor. Owning a quilt shop means that you haul a lot of "stuff" with you when you travel for work. So much stuff that something small and sporty would never do.

The reason that I feel like a long haul trucker is that when I arrived at work today and parked my brand spanking new mini van the odometer read 6314 miles. A mere 61 days old and I am averaging a little over 105 miles per day. That is a lot of mileage for someone that has a commute to work that is measured in FEET!

Most of the mileage accumulated making 2 trips to Florida. The first was for a wedding at the beginning of July, the second was last Thursday, returning our daughter Lindsay to college in Jacksonville. I drove Pittsburgh to Jacksonville, moved her into her dorm room, and drove back home to Pittsburgh in 36 hours. Then I drove to Maumee Ohio, near Toledo the very next day for the Checker Open House. Checker is our favorite wholesale distributor and I was scheduled to give a lecture on Sunday and demonstrate my new Creative Grid ruler to other shop owners on Monday. It was great fun - even if it did require an additional 3 1/2 hours of driving- each way!

This is a wholesale event for shop owners only.
On Sunday the shop owners were treated to lectures by Electric Quilt, myself, Sue Hausmann and Eleanor Burns. Between and after the lectures they shop the warehouse for goodies to take back to their stores. On Monday the shopping frenzy included the opportunity to stop by one of 20 or so booths and chat with designers, authors and manufacturers of a whole assortment of product. That is me in the back corner demonstrating my new Creative Grid Quick Trim ruler. - you are going to love it!

Susan and Mary Jane of the Quilt Branch, authors of the "Six Halves Make A Whole" series were on our right. Susan's House ruler is a Creative Grid product too. We love their stuff!

Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs was on our left. I think I have been watching Joan demonstrate her purse patterns for well over a decade - is that possible? Her two new patterns are just as detailed and well thought out with step-by-step photos as they always have been.

Finishing out our little corner was Nancy Halvorsen. We are pretty excited about a new product we found that prints patterns right on to fusible web using your home printer. Nancy explained to Debby how to access a pdf of her artwork for the newest book and print the designs on the product - NO tracing! 'ya gotta love that!

From my point of view, one of the best things about this Open House is that Checker truly appreciates how hard we all work and Sunday evening after close, they take us all to dinner. It is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with other designers. I sat across from Eleanor Burns and next to Karla Alexander. Our table was close enough that I also had the opportunity to lean back and have a great conversation with Sue Hausmann. How's that for dinner companions?

I've known Eleanor for years, and it was nice to catch up on how her family is doing. This was my first opportunity to meet Karla, and it is easy to see why her books and rulers are so popular, we could easily become great friends! Check out that great mass of color behind her. Isn't her work beautiful!

It was my first opportunity to meet Sue Hausmann too. Naturally I feel like I know her from TV and I am quite sure that Sue had no idea who I was. She was gracious, delightful and I have to say that Sue is younger and so much more energetic and fun in person - I think PBS is so old fashion it actually ages people!

Sue and I have several things in common. This weekend tons of people were busy snapping photos and I don't think anyone took a good photo of either of us.

I don't think anyone would say that about Eleanor - she looked fabulous and entertained everyone with her barnyard presentation.

I'm adding this photo so that the next time your husband gives you a hard time about shopping at your local quilt store, you can prove to him that it could be worse - you shop by the yard - we shop by the bolt!
Now I am home for a few days before I have to head to Chicago for more Bernina training next week. The work here at home is piling up - what I really want to do is SEW!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Super Simple Sashing

Our very last setting option for the nine patch quilt is SIMPLE PIECED SASHING. There are hundreds of other options to explore, but this was intended to be a simple summer project, so let's not get too complicated! I do have to say that I am really looking forward to seeing photos of your finished quilt (or quilt top!) so please post them to the facebook page or email them to me at mailto:karen@thequiltcompany.com and I will post them for you.

Feel free to comment, make suggestions and let me know if you are interested in starting another project. We have momentum - why not keep going!

I think this simple sashing idea is the one that I will select for my finished blocks. I haven't decided on what color the sashing will be, although I have pondered the idea of colorwashing the blocks so that they shade across the quilt and doing the same with the sashing - in the opposite direction...... there I go complicating things again....

Before you select the fabrics for the cornerstones for your project, you need to decide if you want them cut from one piece of fabric or if you want them scrappy. Scrappy seems logical, especially if you, like me, cut WAY too many squares for your nine patches to begin with! But I do like the look of that constant periwinkle with those green blocks - it is so hard to decide!


66" BY 82"

80 nine patch blocks

2 1/4 yards of sashing fabric

1/2 yard of cornerstone fabric (or 99 leftover squares)

2/3 yard of binding

5 yards of backing (you may be able to run the backing the opposite direction and use less fabric, but your fabric would have to be at least 44" wide after washing, with selvedge edges removed)

Cutting Instructions
From the sashing fabric cut:
30 strips 2 1/2" by the width of the fabric, cross cut these into 178 rectangles measuring 2 1/2" by 6 1/2"

From the cornerstone fabric cut:
7 strips 2 1/2", cross cut these into 99 squares measuring 2 1/2"

From the binding fabric cut:
8 strips 2 1/4" by the width of the fabric

1. Arrange the nine patch blocks in 10 rows of 8 blocks each, inserting one sashing strip between each block. Press all seams toward the sashing strip. Each row should begin and end with a sashing strip.

2. Construct the sashing strips for between the rows by stitching together 8 sashing strips and 9 cornerstones for each row. The rows should start and end with a cornerstone. Press all seams toward the sashing strips. Make 11 rows.

3. Stitch the rows together to form the completed quilt top. Press.
Then add borders if you like and 'quilt as desired".
Is that enough inspiration to finish your project? Could you use a little more encouragement? Post a comment here on the blog about how you plan to finish your quilt between now and August 31st and I will select a winner from the comments and award a beautiful fat quarter pack of batiks! The winner is determined by random number generator, so everyone has an equal chance to win, but you have to sign your post to be eligible for the prize - I can't send a package to "anonymous"! You don't have to have your quilt finished to post a comment, just let us know how many blocks you have made or how you plan to finish your quilt. I can't wait to hear from you!

Monday, August 16, 2010

To the Point!

Give your basic setting block option an Art School Graduate look by turning the blocks on point!

On point settings are not complicated, you simply assemble the quilt in diagonal rows instead of straight ones. We are going to use the same 8 block by 10 block layout and alternate the nine patch blocks with solid squares of the fabric of your choice. Once again, the black squares indicate the setting squares in my design wall photo.

I want to encourage you to think about your quilting design before you select the fabric for your setting blocks. If you plan to use a simple all over quilting design, then a print fabric like a floral or multi color print to compliment your 9 patch blocks will be beautiful. If you want your 9 patch blocks to really make a statement, select a fabric that has a more solid look. Then fill those blocks with knock-your-socks-off quilting!

You may have seen my Desert Nine Patch quilt that was featured in a full page ad in several quilting magazines. Keepsake Quilting is offering a kit for it (so are we on our website.) I created the 9 patch top, but the quilt was really brought to life with the quilting that was done by Maryjane Efstathiou of Thistles & Thimbles. Those solid squares gave Maryjane the perfect place to show off her talent - to rave reviews!mailto:thistlesandthimbles@msn.com

If you look closely you will notice that not all of my solid squares are the same color. To make the quilt more interesting, I chose 2 shades of off white, Straw and Parchment, and alternated them in the setting blocks. I made that decision before constructing any of the 9 patch blocks, so I was also able to make the light blocks in the 9 patches coordinate with the setting blocks. Parchment against Parchment and Straw against Straw - after all I AM an Art School Graduate!

Now before things get even more complicated, lets get going on the instructions!


68" BY 85"


80 nine patch blocks

3 yards for setting squares

2/3 yard binding

4 1/4 yards backing

Cutting Instructions

From the setting square fabric cut:

11 strips 6 1/2 inches

From these strips cut 63 squares measuring 6 1/2"

3 strips 10", cross cut these strips into 9 squares measuring 10 inches

Cut these squares diagonally twice to yield 4 triangles from each square for your side setting triangles

Cut 2 squares 6 inches and cut both in half, diagonally one time to yield 2 triangles from each square. These will be your corner triangles.


1. Arrange the 9 patch blocks in 10 rows of 8 blocks each, having each block on point. Fill in the center spaces with the setting squares. Fill in the outer edges using the large triangles. Place the smaller triangles on each corner.

2. Stitch the rows together diagonally beginning in one corner. Take care to orient the side triangles in the proper direction on each end of the pieced row. Press the seams in each row in the opposite direction of the previous row.

3. Stitch the rows together to form the completed quilt top. Press,

The setting triangles are cut to size, but the corner triangles are a bit over sized. Trim the corner triangles as needed.

Tomorrow we will cover sashing options!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nine Patch with Setting Blocks

Yesterdays simple Block-To-Block setting option results in a 48" by 60" finished quilt. If you are looking to make something a bit bigger, the easiest way to enlarge the project is with solid setting squares! I am going to assume that you are making 6 inch finished nine patch blocks for these instructions. If you have chosen to make another size, you are going to have to do some calculating on your own.

The photo shows just 9 of my blocks on my design wall with black setting blocks. I don't know that I am going to use black in my finished quilt, but it photographed the best with my block assortment and made it easy for you to distinguish which areas I am referring to. You are also going to have to make a few more 9 patch blocks for this setting!


66" by 90" - a nice size for a twin bed


83 Nine Patch Blocks

2 2/3 yards fabric for alternate blocks

2/3 yard binding

5 1/2 yards backing

Cutting Instructions
From the alternate block fabric cut:

14 strips 6 1/2" by the width of the fabric
Cross cut these strips into 82 squares measuring 6 1/2"

From the binding fabric cut:
8 strips 2 1/4" by the width of the fabric.

1. Arrange the blocks in 11 rows of 15 blocks each. Begin and end the top and bottom row with a nine patch block (you should have a 9 patch on all 4 corners)

2. Stitch the rows together, pressing the seams in each row in the opposite direction of the previous row.

3. Stitch the rows together to form the completed quilt top.

Adding borders to your quilt if you have an extra deep mattress is always an option! Remember to calculate for the "shrink" that will take place when you have the quilting done. When making a bed quilt I like to have the top at least 4 inches larger than necessary before it is quilted so that when the quilting is completed it isn't too short for the bed!

If you would like a much larger quilt, make 85 nine patch blocks and cut 84 solid squares. Set them in 13 rows of 13 blocks each for a 78" by 78" quilt. With the addition of 10" borders on all sides your quilt will measure 98" by 98" which is suitable for a nice size queen. - I mean queen size bed, I'm sure you deserve to be treated like a queen and your size is very nice too - but I meant the quilt! Before I get into too much trouble, you are going to need 3 yards of fabric for the border.

Tomorrow - on point options!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Nine Patch Project

I started the summer Nine Patch Project on Facebook way back in June, a little over 75 days ago. The concept is simple, make one nine patch each day and by the end of the summer you will have enough for a quilt. Easy.

It is now mid August, I have a stack of 9 patch blocks (and many more squares that will eventually become 9 patch blocks when I get "all caught up" - see the vacation post below.) For those that have been diligent (and in some cases over achievers) it is time to post the assembly instructions. Easier said than done. Technology and I don't always agree on what is possible and what I am capable of accomplishing. Normally I write and illustrate instructions for publishing, paper publishing, not electronic publishing. I draw diagrams, layouts and write step-by-step instructions. That is WAY to much to post on Facebook, so I am directing all 800+ participants in the project here to the blog for the finishing details.

I am going to post one simple setting option each day for the next several day. That way I can show you photos, give you dimensions and discuss the options for finishing your 9 patch quilt. These will be simple finishes, nothing complicated, but I've taken the math out of calculating the sizes and numbers of things to cut.
There are a few "first-quilt-ever" participants in the group, so I thought that I would begin by giving simple, detailed instructions to start. If you have no idea of how to finish this project:

48" by 60"

80 nine patch blocks measuring 6 1/2 inches including the seam allowance.

1/2 yard for binding

3 yards for backing


Cutting Instructions
From the Binding fabric cut:
6 strips 2 1/4" by the width of the fabric

From the backing fabric cut"
2 pieces 54" by the width of the fabric. Remove the selvedge edge and stitch the pieces together to form a rectangle 54" by approx. 80".


1. Arrange your blocks in 10 rows of 8 blocks each. The seams in your blocks should be pressed to one side. Turn your blocks or re-press a few seams so that the seams that touch when the blocks are stitched together are pressed in opposite directions. This will allow the seams to "nest" and make it easier for you to match the intersections.
2. Stitch the rows together, matching the seams in each block to the adjoining block. Press all of the joining seams in one direction, alternating the direction in each row. For example press row one to the right, row two to the left, three to the right, etc.
3. Stitch the rows together and press the seams in a uniform direction. All of the seams can be pressed in one direction or they can be pressed from the center out toward the edge.
Your quilt top should measure 48 1/2" by 60 1/2" including seam allowance.

4. Layer your quilt top with the batting and backing and baste the layers together. I prefer to thread baste instead of using safety pins, but pins are fine too. Your basting should be done in both directions (up and down and across) and close enough together that you can't put your hand on your quilt without touching it, about 5" apart is great.

5. Quilt as desired. - the infamous quilting instructions! You can easily quilt this project by hand or machine. If you are working by machine, you will need a walking foot for straight line quilting. If you have never done quilting before, taking a class at your local quilt shop is a great idea, or at least stop by and ask a few questions.

6. Trim the batting and backing so that it is even with the quilt top. Stitch the binding strips together end-to-end on a 45 degree angle to form one long strip. Press these seams open. Press the binding in half so that the right side is showing. Pin the binding to the quilt top, mitering the corners and stitch in place by machine. Fold the binding over the raw edge to the back of the quilt and stitch in place by hand.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vacation Time Warp

Last week our shop was closed for "vacation".

Webster defines vacation as "Time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure". I must be doing it wrong. I spent everyday last week at work, cleaning, sewing, organizing and attempting to accomplish everything that I have been putting off until "later". If you are anything like me, you already know that "later" never comes, you have to put your foot down and make it happen.

My number 1 priority for the week was to make curtains for my bedroom. These are the very same curtains that I intended to make on our week of shop vacation LAST year, but I ran out of time. I have had the fabric from my Counterpoint line ready and waiting for about 18 months. Enough is enough. If nothing else happened, I intended to stitch up 8 simple panels for the 4 windows in our bedroom. To be perfectly honest, I also had in mind that with an entire week to get the job done I would also be able to stitch up pillow shams, bedskirt and bathroom curtains to coordinate. The quilt top was already assembled and ready to go to the quilter. Piece of cake - I had a whole week!
Before I could start on my bedroom project, I had a bit of work to finish up. I haven't mentioned it to anyone yet, but I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to design a custom ruler for Creative Grid. I love the Creative Grid brand and we sell tons of their rulers. A few weeks ago I was starting a project and found myself adding markings to the ruler I was using to make it work the way I wanted it to. I gave my friends that make Creative Grid a call and the next thing I knew, my ruler design is being put into production! I will be introducing it at a wholesale show later this month - and of course I will debut it here as soon as I get my hands on one!

I have to have quilts ready to show what the ruler can do for the show. Because of the tight timing, I have to make the quilts using my hand drawn version so that I can get them finished, quilted and the patterns published. Here are the two quilts that I made before I could start on my bedroom project. Both quilts were made with Tonga Treats 2 1/2 inch strips, but the ruler is a general use ruler, not something that has to be used with strips.
I quilted both of the quilts myself with lots of help from our Bernina 830. I'm really new to this whole embroidery machine thing, but I think that they came out BEAUTIFULLY! The quilting patterns are from the Holice Turnbow collection that was included with the Version 6 software. It was amazingly simple to resize, adjust, and position the designs exactly where I wanted them right in the machine. If you have never used your embroidery machine to quilt a project, I encourage you to give it a try.
Although the retail shop was on vacation, the wholesale side of our business still needs tending to. Just about the time I was ready to unroll the curtain fabric, the fax machine spit out a huge pattern order. Without "staff" it was up to me (with help from my husband and kids) to print, fold and bag a few thousand patterns. It was Thursday before I touched the curtain fabric.
Friday was a day of determination. Curtain panels or bust. If you know anything about making curtains, you know that the rods have to be installed before you can start because you need them in place to take your measurements. That required husband help. While I was at it, I talked him into painting too. My husband, like most, likes to have "help" when he does a job. The curtain panels were pushed back and finished on Saturday. We agreed to paint on Sunday.

While I was finishing up the curtains, I sent my husband with fabric in hand, to Home Depot with specific instructions to have them color match the blue for the wall paint. It is a computer generated color matcher and professed to be perfect - I disagree. It isn't even remotely close - but it is on the wall.
The room is clean, the curtains are up and the week is over. Now you just have to imagine what it will look like with the quilt, bedskirt, shams and bathroom curtain..... maybe next year.