Checkbook Quilter

Checkbook Quilter



Checkbook quilter is a term that I just started hearing in the quilting world.  What it’s referring to is someone, like me, that pieces their larger quilt tops themselves but does not do the actual quilting themselves on their home machines.  I have friends who are fantastic quilters on their regular machines but so far, I haven’t mastered that skill.

If I have a small project like the hedgehog quilt we did at the beginning of these posts, I will do stitch-in-the-ditch quilting.  This term refers to quilting along the seam lines where two pieces of fabric come together.  I also will sometimes quilt diagonally across a smaller project.

Long-arm Quilting Machine
Long-arm Quilting Machine

However, if I have anything larger than a baby quilt, I usually pay a long-arm quilter to quilt for me.  This term might bring up a very strange image of a person with extremely long appendages but instead it is referring to a long-arm quilting machine that you can load an entire quilt on and using a sewing machine that moves around, quilt the quilt top. If you need to find one, you can ask at a local guild or fabric store.

Detail of Leaf Quilt
Detail of Leaf Quilt

Years ago, a quilt that was machine quilted was not prized as highly in quilting shows as hand quilted pieces but that has changed. Machine quilters can create amazing patterns. You can ask your quilter to do an all over pattern or to highlight certain portions.  Several years ago I made a highly complex leaf quilt and had to search to find someone that would quilt each leaf for me.  The quilter, Nancy Samples, did a fantastic job and it is one of my most prized possessions.

Detail of Amish Quilt
Detail of Amish Quilt

Of course, hand quilting has a long history and for some quilters, it is the only way to go.  I’ve done it a few times but have never tackled a full size quilt.  The image above shows  an Amish wall hanging from years ago. The trick of good hand quilting is to keep your stitches even.  You insert the needle, bring it up again and repeat until you have loaded the needle.  It is often referred to as a rocking motion.

There are different methods to transfer the quilting pattern to the quilt. In the past, I have used  a quilt stencil and a water soluble pen to mark the quilt.  Other people use chalk and a pouncing pad  to mark.  Other quilters I know prefer to do free form quilting.

If you have someone quilt your project, please remember to give them credit in your label.  Too often, they are the unsung heroes of the quilting world!

We’re Going Batty For Batting!

We’re Going Batty For Batting!

My new Vigorelli Sewing Machine
My new Vigorelli Sewing Machine

This post is about quilt batting but I just had to share my new pride and joy. I found this antique sewing machine at a local thrift store for $19.99 with a cabinet. I don’t really need a new machine but it was too beautiful to leave behind. Evidently these machines were made during 1950’s in Italy. The more well known Italian machine is Necchi and Mr Vigorelli worked for him and then left to produce his own sewing machine. I just love the color and the cabinet is in great shape.

Now on to batting…..
Batting  is the fluff between the quilt top and the backing. You can buy it two ways;  pre-cut bags or on big rolls in fabric stores. The pre-cut packaging has the quilt size on the cover; twin, double, queen, king. **When you are picking out the batting size be sure and include 6″ on each side of the quilt top.** Your choice of batting depends on several factors; use of the project, the weight you want for the project and the method of quilting you plan to use.

Polyester Batting
Polyester Batting

When I am making a baby quilt or a quilt  that is probably going to get washed a lot, I use polyester batting. It is durable and lightweight. It comes in different loft so you can make the quilt extra puffy if you like. Thinner if that appeals to you.  The lower quality polyester has a rough feel so try and touch it  before you buy it. It is not recommended for hand quilting.

Cotton Batting
Cotton Batting

Cotton is my next go to for batting. It comes in all kinds of specialty types. You can find organic, unbleached, even a poly/cotton blend.  I like the feel of it when I’m sewing and I like the way it makes the finished quilt lay when it is done.  This brand comes in 4 different lofts: Request, Select, Deluxe and Supreme. This is good for handquilting.

Wool Batting
Wool Batting

I myself have never used wool batting but I understand it is beautiful to work with especially for hand quilting. It is also warm and breathable. One website I read said that it shows off quilt stitches really well and resists creases so it is very popular with people who show their quilts professionally.

Black batting is a nice idea if you have a quilt project this is mainly black fabric. That way you are putting a black color behind the black fabric.

It’s also a good idea to keep the extra bits of batting that might be left over from your project. You might want to make potholders or a table runner or another type of small project in the future.  Another tip is that often times, if you are getting your quilt top professionally quilted, the quilter will have their own batting and you can include it in the price of the quilting.  Be sure to ask.

And that brings us to our next topic, quilting.

*Photos of the batting types were taken at my local quilt shop, The Quilted Angel.  Thanks for letting me take photos in the store.

This One’s for Muggs – The Jellyroll Race

This One’s for Muggs – The Jellyroll Race

Jellyroll from Moda

A friend of mine, Muggs, asked for an easy quilt to make so I wanted to show her the Jellyroll Race. I mentioned jellyrolls in my first post. It is a genius marketing idea where the entire fabric line is cut into 2 1/2″ strips and rolled up together.

For the Jellyroll Race, cut off the selvage of the strips (the ends that sometimes have writing on them or little holes) and then just start sewing, right sides together end to end. This is a great time for chain piecing. If you are unfamiliar with this term it means sewing piece after piece without cutting the thread on your sewing machine. Finish sewing one of the pairs together, lift up the presser foot on the sewing machine, grab the free end of the last piece added and place the next piece right sides together and keep going. You end up with loops of fabric connected by thread that you have to clip but after that you have a very long continuous 2 1/2″ wide string of fabric.

strips sewn end to end
Jellyroll Strips Sewn End to End

Next, you need to find both ends of this long string of strips.I didn’t have anyone around to help me so I tied one end to my fence and stretched it all out. You wouldn’t have to do that but it is a lot of fabric to handle. If you have the time and inclination, you can press all the seams open before you put it together. ** You need to cut off ~ 20″ of one end of the long strip. ** This makes the rest of the piecing look staggered. You don’t want the seams to line up when you sew it together.

Once you have done that, put the two strips right sides together and start sewing. Your fabric strip is only 1/2 as long as it was originally but it is still a lot of sewing. As you near the end, cut the loop that is forming from the two strips being sewn together and stitch all the way to the end. Press open the two piece strip set and once again, find the end and make another loop, sewing along the long edge.

Quilt top
Full Size Quilt Sewn from Jellyroll

Keep doing this until you get the width you want. As the quilt top gets heavier, I like to pin the area I’m sewing. I stopped when the top measured 52″ X 62″. This is a nice size for a throw size quilt. If you want to make it bigger, you could add borders. I’m not sure where this quilt is going so I will just live with it for awhile on my design wall.

Put A Name on It!

Put A Name on It!

A crucial part of the quiltmaking process that often gets neglected is the labeling.  Sometimes you have struggled with a project and you just don’t want to mess with it anymore.  Sometimes you are behind deadline and you need to send it off.  Often though, you just don’t know how to make the label and so it gets left off.  I have never regretted taking the time to label but boy, have I kicked myself when I look at a project years later and find that I DIDN’T take the time to write down the date of the project at the very least.

Labels can be fancy or low tech but get your name and the date on your work at the very least. Through the years I’ve tried several different methods.


I own an older embroidery machine so I stabilized a piece of muslin and then was able to machine embroider the image and then use a Pigma (indelible)pen to write the pertinent information. After I removed the stabilizer, I pressed under the seam allowance and then hand-stitched it to the back of the finished quilt. Some embroidery machines can be programmed to stitch strings of words and make a beautiful label.

Quilt Label Stencil
These label stencils have the advantage that they are reusable. You can stabilize the label material by ironing it onto freezer paper and then use pens to draw in the design. I would use a chalk pencil to put in the lines for type or leave them out entirely.

Fabric companies know what a pain it can be to make labels so they make panels that you can buy. Cut out the one you want, stabilize it and put in your info. One panel will have several designs so it’s a nice way to get a variety for your stash.

The newest way to make labels is to design the label on your computer and then print out the label on special paper that is fused to stabilizer and will go through your printer. This is the same type of material that people use for photo transfer quilts. I show an example of one I made several years ago that has never been washed. I’ve found that the colors did not last on quilts that I made years ago that have been washed. I do think that the technology has improved considerably in the intervening years. Still, it’s sad to see that I can no longer see the date on my projects that have faded.

Preprinted Quilt Label

These presewn labels are a great addition to a quilt project especially if the quilt is going to someone that may not know how to take care of their gift. I gave out quilts to my daughters’ friends and put these labels on all of them. They are made similar to a manufacturers label and they won’t fade. You can see them here; Gorges Quilt Care Labels I also added personal labels to the graduation quilts that I had designed on the computer.

Labeling is important to document your work and also give credit to the quilter if you have had it quilted by someone else. If you put a quilt in a quilt show, they will want it to be identifiable. It is also important for those that will come after us and enjoy the work we left behind. I own several antique quilts that are not documented and it would be wonderful to know who worked on the quilt and when it was made.

Be kind to future generations and put a name on it!

Beyond this blog…..

Beyond this blog…..

Being a quilter of a certain age, I like to have print resources on hand to look through and get new ideas.  I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you in case you want to build your own library.


These are two great resource books. The authors are wonderful and they break down patterns for you and provide useful tips and techniques. I’ve made several quilts from them and they do a great job.


I love quilt magazines and have a very hard time getting rid of them. McCalls has a nice range of projects for different skill levels and beautiful photos. The other item pictured is a quilt book that has nice simple projects. There are tons of books out there and it can get very expensive buying all the ones you want. A nice compromise is going to your local library and checking out books from there. I love the library! No risk and no money lost and supporting an indispensable part of our community.

Speaking of community, it’s more fun to quilt with other people. Check out local guilds for like minded individuals. Often they will have classes and/or guest speakers. Show and Tell is a great way to see what other quilters are up to and show off your own finished projects.

Another community support system is your local quilt shop. If you are lucky enough to have one in your area, they are ready resources for answers on techniques, problems and the inevitable question “Do these fabrics work well together??”

Another term for your quilting dictionary – Shop Hop. This is a weekend where the quilt shops in an area coordinate and each shop has a little free giveaway and quilters travel from shop to shop and visit and buy fabric and spend the day glorying in the fun of quilting.

Next week is a surprise (mainly because I’m not sure what I’m doing!)


Patriotic Windmill Block

Patriotic Windmill Block

In past posts, I showed an easy 4 Patch block so this time I thought I would show you how to do a more complicated block.  My local guild makes blocks that get made in to quilts for the military and this is one of the blocks that we have done.

**The fabric requirements below are for one block only. ** You will need three high contrast fabrics.  For the purposes of these directions, I will assume that the background fabric is white and the other two are red and blue.

  • white background 6 1/4″ square
  • red 6 1/4″ square and 2 – 4″ squares
  • blue 6 1/4″ square and 2 – 4″ squares

Take the three 6 1/4″ squares and cut twice on the diagonal as shown. To do this, lay out your ruler, diagonally and cut once across the entire piece of fabric. If possible, turn the cutting mat and cut the opposite way. It’s more accurate if you don’t disturb the fabric and just turn the mat. Carefully layout the block pieces before you begin construction.


Next week I will have a few resources that you might want to purchase or look at to further your quilting knowledge.

Quilt Sandwich?? Can You Eat It?

Quilt Sandwich?? Can You Eat It?


Once the quilt top is finished , the backing fabric has to be chosen. Since this project is going to be a baby quilt I want it to be nice and cozy so I wanted it to be flannel.  I had this fun underwater fabric in my stash so I used it on the back.  The backing fabric needs to be bigger than the quilt top.  On a bed sized quilt, the usual advice is add 6″ to each side.  Since this is much smaller and I’m quilting it on my home machine, I only added an additional 3″ on each side.

Batting is the next consideration.  Once again, the idea is to consider the use.  I chose a polyester batting because a baby quilt is usually going to be washed repeatedly and needs to be able to stand up to a lot of use.  Polyester gives the finished quilt a bit of poof or loft which I like in a baby quilt too. Batting can either be purchased in a package as I did or on a roll in a fabric store.

Now you have a quilt  sandwich. Basting it all together can be a problem.  Some people pin it with safety pins.  Other people baste it with needle and thread or on their sewing machine. For this small project, I used a spray adhesive.  The trick is to lay out the batting, spray it and then roll out the backing fabric over it.  You can smooth out the wrinkles as you go.  After that, you flip it over, spray the other side of the batting and roll the quilt top over it.  Be sure to spray the batting and not the fabric. After the quilting, I will wash the quilt to get the adhesive out of the quilt.

Once the quilt sandwich is assembled it is time to quilt it on the machine. The best way to do this is to use a walking foot as shown in the photo.  I know it looks strange but the bottom of the foot has a tread on it and this reduces drag on your project as you sew it.  If you don’t have one of these (and they don’t always come standard with a sewing machine) you can use a regular foot but watch out for the fabric bunching up under the foot.

You also want to set your stitch length to a bigger stitch.  I set my machine to 3.5 or 4 length.  For this quilt, I just stitched in the ditch or along the seam lines. It makes the blocks ‘pop’ out and secures the quilt top and batting and backing together. ** The standard rule is to quilt no more than a handswidth apart.** This prevents the batting from separating and bunching up after repeated washings.



So here is the finished project.  This photo shows the binding on but not sewn down to the back.  I will do a future post on binding quilts.

Next week, however, will be a video that I filmed about how to put a more complicated quilt block together.