“Postage Stamp” Quilt – a Graduation Gift

7 06 2017

My young friend Emily has reached a milestone – graduation from high school!

I love to make “Postage Stamp” quilts for graduates. All the tiny squares can symbolize the bits of knowledge they’ve crammed into their brains for the past 12 years. Amazingly, the bits and pieces combine together to make a beautiful and useful whole. I encourage young people to keep on learning.

“Postage Stamp” quilts are also a metaphor for keeping friendships alive by corresponding. Yes, it is an effort to keep up with friends long distance after graduation, but long-time friendships are worth preserving.

I made this quilt with 1 3/4″ squares that I cut from scraps and save in a box. My friend Linda made a portable design board for me by covering a sturdy piece of cardboard with batting and then with gridded flannel. As I lay out pieces for the wall quilt, my squares will easily stick to the flannel . . . unless I’m outside and it’s windy like on Memorial Day. In that case, I pinned each square to the design board, securing them until I sewed the squares into rows. I think alternating light and dark squares helps the eye to focus on the motifs of the dark fabrics. I arranged the 99 squares in 11 rows with 9 squares each. Click here to see a “Postage Stamp” quilt completely made with bright/dark squares.

The following picture shows how I pressed the seams so they would lock together when I joined the rows. Every other row is pressed to the right; the alternate rows are pressed to the left.

I obtained insider information from Emily’s mom for the border color; her favorite color is turquoise blue. I cut the inner solid border 2″ wide and the outer tone-on-tone border 3 1/2″ wide. The wall quilt measures 20 1/2″ x 23.” Straight line quilting with white thread in a cross-hatch design through the squares is simple, yet enhances the patchwork. I echoed the seam lines with white thread in the inner border and meandered with turquoise thread in the outer border. A congratulatory label on the back completes the gift.

Dinosaurs say “Raaarh!”

10 05 2017

Last week daughter Trinity visited us ostensibly to help hubby celebrate his birthday. We celebrated, yes, but we also quilted up a storm. I quilted a fall quilt that granddaughter Krystine finished piecing this summer. Click on the picture to enlarge it; you’ll see the leafy edge to edge quilting design.

And Trinity worked on three baby/toddler quilts as well as a large lap quilt her friend pieced. Quilting and bindings progressed smoothly and on schedule . . . and then we paid a visit to our favorite local quilt shop, Loving Stitches on Ramsey Street in Fayetteville, NC. The striped dinosaur fabric called Trinity’s name! She has a two year old great-nephew who loves dinos. So she mentally designed a simple quilt, bought the fabric, and stitched it up. I quilted a simple edge to edge design adding “raaahr” in the orange blocks, and I bound it while she worked on blocks for another quilt.

Needless to say, I had to lend Trinity a suitcase for the return trip. All six quilts would NOT fit in the two backpacks she arrived with. She couldn’t wait to visit Hagen and give him his “I love you this much” dino quilt. He loves playing with it, and the kid who never naps with a blanket fell asleep under the cozy, fun quilt Auntie Trinity made!

It is so rewarding to give a quilt to someone who loves and appreciates it, wouldn’t you agree?

“Conflagration” Quilt Top

10 03 2017

This is a wedding quilt for a young couple whose favorite color is orange. But since they bought red couches, the bride asked if I could combine red and orange in the quilt. She said, “I have always liked red and orange together.” Well, personally, I generally do not combine red and orange in the same quilt. I use either red, or I use orange. However, I concluded, after an online search, that orange and red could look really nice together. To see what I saw, search for “images of red and orange quilts.”

I found inspiration for this quilt from a “Nine Patch” quilt on Pinterest made by Leslie with black and white and lime fabrics. I changed the alternate blocks, putting a “Four Patch” on point, square-in-a square style. I purchased quarter yard cuts of 3 red tonals and 3 orange tonals, and I repurposed black and white prints I had saved for a different quilt project. All squares are cut 3 1/2,” and I cut white triangles over-sized so I could easily trim the alternate blocks to 9 1/2.”

I plan and edge to edge quilting design, and the backing is an orange/red and yellow print. But I’m in a quandary over thread color. Red or Orange . . . or Yellow? What is your opinion?

Inspiration for “Quilter’s Candy”

31 01 2017

Our “Use your pre-cuts” challenge for the first quarter is using Fat Quarters or Quilter’s Candy (2 1/2″ squares). Happily, I made my goal already! You can read about a quilt I made from Fat Quarters here.

But I’m thinking maybe some of you need ideas for using the deliciously sweet packages of Quilter’s Candy. To that end, I’ve searched my blog’s media library for examples of quilts made with squares. The photo roll begins with my latest quilt top finish – made with leftover 1930s repro 2 1/2″ squares. Imagine the quilty, home-y feel if muted or Civil War repro fabrics are used, and the blocks are set on-point for visual interest.


Last June I made a quilt for Charlotte, my baby grand-niece. The quilt is made with 2 packages of Quilter’s Candy sewn into Four Patches. I framed the Four Patches with narrow white strips and inserted alternate squares of navy anchor fabric. My niece declares it coordinates perfectly with the nursery décor.



“Aunt Sukey’s Choice” 12″ blocks are constructed from 2 1/2″ squares along with 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles for the “Flying Geese” units. This design would sew up quickly if you purchased coordinating Quilter’s Candy and a roll of 2 1/2″ strips from which to cut rectangles.

Postage stamp quilts are a snap to sew when the squares are already cut! Consider alternating print squares with plain white or ecru squares. Mini quilts such as the one pictured make wonderful gifts for wall or table.

A star block with ferns

DSCN7512You could make some color/fabric coordinated placemats. Those pictured were made from 3″ scrappy squares, 35 squares each. Adapt the design by sewing 63 squares in a 7 x 9 grid to yield 14″ x 18″ placemats.

My friend, Tricia, used small colorful squares as cornerstones when making this predominately blue and white quilt. Wouldn’t this idea stretch your tiny package (or two) of Quilter’s Candy into a lap size quilt?


A sampling of quilts made from squares wouldn’t be complete without a “Nine Patch” example. Cindy made this with nearly solid mottled prints. Set on-point with alternate white background squares, the “Nine Patches” seem to float.



DSCN6080I made this mini quilt for my sister from a Quilter’s Candy package plus a few fabrics from my stash. I paired each 2 1/2″ colored square with a tan background square right sides together. I drew a diagonal line on the wrong side of each tan square and sewed 1/4″ away from both sides of the line. Then I cut the squares on the drawn lines and pressed the seam allowances toward the darker fabrics. So petite and country, just as my sister prefers!


I hope the quilts pictured in this blog post have jump-started your creative ideas for using Quilter’s Candy. I would love to share pictures of your projects for Fat Quarters or Quilter’s Candy with blog readers. (aby.quilts@gmail.com)



1930s Four Patch Baby Quilt

28 01 2017

This past Thursday I enjoyed a sew day with my friend Heather. We worked on various projects and caught up with what is going on in each other’s lives. While Heather trimmed some patchwork blocks, I rotary cut borders for a lap size quilt and sashing for my Splendid Sampler of 6” blocks (more on that in the future).

fullsizerender-10Another of my projects was making a Four Patch baby quilt. As always happens, I have scraps leftover from a recent quilt top finish. If you remember, I purchased a roll of 2 ½” strips of 1930s prints and solids to make the 6” blocks for a Vintage Farm Girl lap quilt. I decided to use my scraps to make a baby quilt.

I was inspired by a sweet quilt on Pinterest featuring Four Patches each made from four different 1930s prints. The Four Patches combined with white sashing for a pretty, fresh finish. My quilt does not look quite as soft and sweet because of the solids I included. (I HAD to use those solids in order to use up my scraps.) Note the Four Patch in the bottom right corner of the photo; you can see that I pressed the final seam open to reduce bulk.

img_0580 Before beginning my project, I calculated that I needed 32 Four Patches and 32 white 4 ½” squares. Placed in an 8 x 8 grid, the dimensions of the patchwork would be 32” square. By adding 4” wide borders, the quilt measures 40” square – just the right size to fit on 42” – 44” wide backing. I considered purchasing 2 1/4 yds. of 1930s print for borders, backing, and binding, but decided to check my stash first. There I found enough of my favorite lil’ chicken print for borders and a multi-colored polka dot for backing. Neither print is 1930s repro, but both blend with the colors and playful nature of the baby quilt. I am not sure yet what I’ll use for binding. Click on the picture to zoom in for a better view. I draped the quilt top over the front porch of our new home. Here’s hoping the contractors finish in the next week or so.

I had some help from Heather’s five year old daughter with laying out the squares and sewing them together. If you are wondering how such a little girl could reach the sewing machine foot control . . . Christina found a little stool on which to rest the foot control. I pinned and helped her guide the pieces beneath the presser foot. Teamwork at its best! After lunch, when she tired of helping with my project, Christina worked on her own quilt in progress from 6″ floral charm squares.


What a fun sew day! Including Christina in Heather’s studio was so rewarding – It’s great to motivate and encourage the next generation of quilters!


Fat Quarter Challenge – November

7 11 2016

Each month of 2016 I’ve challenged myself (and blog readers) to use Fat Quarters to make a project. I promised to show my quilt ideas by the 15th of each month, and I invite you to send pictures of your projects for subsequent blog posts. aby.quilts@gmail.com

I was inspired by Lynn Lister’s “Cozy Cabins” published by McCall’s Quilting magazine. Click here to see a picture. You can download an e-book which contains the pattern from the McCall’s blog (Friday Freebie, Oct. 7, 2016). The muted fabrics Lynn chose say “fall” to me, and I have plenty of those hues in my stash! I cut strips from these fat quarters as well as from stash yardage and scraps.


At daughter Trinity’s suggestion, I cut the center black squares 3 1/2″ and strips 2″ wide. This yields a 12 1/2″ unfinished block, so I can easily use my 12 1/2″ acrylic ruler to square up the blocks prior to assembling the quilt top. I plan to make 30 blocks total. I’m off to a great start with 18 on my design wall!


At first, I cut long strips and sewed successive rounds, cutting the strips to the correct length after sewing and pressing. But I found it saved time if I cut all the strips needed for one block and pinned them together as a “kit.” The strip lengths my blocks require are 3 1/2,” 6 1/2,” 9 1/2,” and 12 1/2.”


By scrutinizing Lynn’s quilt, Trinity and I noticed that darks, mediums, and lights were used. And blocks set side by side needed to contrast in value. In other words, since the block in the top left of the quilt has a dark outer round, the adjacent blocks need to have a light or bright outer round. Noticing the value placement guided my planning; I need 15 blocks with a dark outer strips and 15 blocks with light or bright outer strips.

Would you like to Quilt Along, making “Cozy Cabins” blocks this month? Perhaps you’d like to change the size or the color palette.

Vintage “Jacks on Six”

19 09 2016

img_0115Cindy, a friend of a friend, asked if I would finish a “Jacks on Six” quilt top her mother pieced years ago. She found the top while looking through some dresser drawers and thought it would be a wonderful gift for her soon expected granddaughter. I agreed to finish this family treasure for the next generation’s use and enjoyment.

As with most vintage quilt tops, this one did not lie flat when spread out on the floor. My usual solution is to use a high loft batting manufactured by Fairfield. But I wanted to give the quilt weight as well as pouf, so I used Hobbs 80% cotton/20% polyester AND Fairfield low loft polyester batting. The poly batting and simple meandering quilting in the quilt’s interior helped to ease in fullness. I used off-white thread because most quilts made in the 70s were quilted with white thread. A curling vine adds interest in the narrow white border.

Working with this quilt caused me to compare the “rules” we quiltmakers follow today with the quiltmaking conventions of the 70s.

Rule #1 – Thou shalt make quilts with 100% quilting cotton. Haven’t you heard this rule preached ad infinitum? The reason behind the rule is that using the same fibers throughout the quilt will ensure that it goes together without puckers resulting from uneven stretching and that the quilt will wear evenly over time. In contrast, besides quilt-weight cottons, Cindy’s quilt contains kettle cloth, seersucker, cotton/poly blends, and light weight canvas for home decorating.

Rule #2 – Thou shalt buy thy fabric at quilt shops for they shall surely offer quality merchandise. We love all the cotton manufactured especially for us quilters! And we patronize local quilt shops to purchase the solids, tone-on-tones, geometric prints, florals, stripes, and plaids. Contrast our current practice with the idea of making quilts with scraps left over from garment and home decorating projects. I don’t know about you, but I rarely make clothing; it’s less expensive nowadays to buy readymade clothing. And it’s generally less expensive to buy readymade curtains and pillows. But 40 years ago this was not the case. Many homemakers made clothing for themselves and their families as well as curtains and pillows for decorating. And thrifty ladies used the scraps to make quilts.

Rule #2a – Thou shalt surely not re-purpose bed sheets for thy quilt. Many bed sheets are woven with a higher thread count than quilting cotton, offering resistance to the needle which might translate into skipped stitches when machine quilting. Contrast this rule with a current trend among some quilters to use vintage sheets, softened with years of use, as quilt backings. You can appreciate the available source of white fabric found on the edges of a sheet too worn in the center for bed use. Cindy’s mother used white sheeting as a narrow border around the quilt.

Rule #3 – Thy scrap quilts shall look color coordinated. Nowadays fabric companies require designers to design 10-20 prints and tone-on-tones that would coordinate well in a “planned scrappy” quilt. Compare this marketing trend with the earlier practice of “everything goes” in a scrap quilt. Orange, red, and pink set side by side; large scale prints, ginghams, stripes; no matter the style, all can go in the same quilt.

Rule #4 – Thou shalt cut thy pieces accurately. Rotary cutters and rulers help us with this task. Consider the simple tools quiltmakers used prior to the invention of the rotary cutter:  scissors, light weight cardboard for templates, and marking pencils for tracing around the templates. Most quiltmakers today aim for precision in cutting whereas many quilters in past generations, who did the best they could with what they had, counted on copious hand quilting to compensate for piecing anomalies.

Rule #5 – Thou shalt piece efficiently. Today’s quilt designers study quilt block designs, asking, “Could this block be made a simpler way?” Take a close look at this “Jacks on Six” block. Notice that the block is made entirely of half square triangles. I would have substituted squares for 3 of the HST units. However, using triangles allows for an interesting mitered effect when using stripes as you can see in the photo below.


Rule #6 – Thou shalt sew consistent scant ¼” seam allowances. This is the biggie, the most important rule most quilt instructors harp on! Upon inspecting the back of this quilt, I discovered that the seam allowances varied from 1/16” to 3/8” in width. This inconsistency caused the blocks and the quilt to bubble (not lie flat).

Rule #7 – Thou shalt use neutral thread. Most quiltmakers these days piece with off-white, tan, light gray or pale yellow, feeling these neutral colors will blend with most of the fabrics in their quilts. Contrast this with quiltmakers in the past who sewed with whatever thread was currently on the machine or on the bobbin, leftover from a home sewing project.

Rule #8 – Thou shalt measure and trim block units prior to constructing the blocks. It’s always a great idea to compare the actual measurement of the sewn block units with the measurement given in the instructions. If your units aren’t the correct size, either adjust the seam allowance by re-sewing or trim the units to the correct size. The “Jacks on Six” blocks would have gone together more accurately if all the HSTs had been trimmed to the same measurement prior to assembling the blocks.

Rule #9 – Thou shalt measure and trim thy blocks prior to sewing them into the rows of thy quilt. Despite our best efforts, quilt blocks don’t always turn out to be the correct size. Because fabrics are a bit stretchy and we aren’t robot seamstresses, we need to measure and trim all the blocks to the same size prior to assembling the quilt top. This is particularly important when making a sampler quilt. Following this rule is your quilt’s best chance of lying flat.

Rule #10 – Thou shalt measure thy quilt through the center to obtain the correct measurement for thy border strips. Following this rule avoids the wavy border syndrome.

Although Cindy’s mother did not follow all the current “rules” 21st century quilters espouse, her quilt has one benefit ours generally don’t. Memories.

Cindy said she took a trip down Memory Lane when she lifted the quilt top from the dresser drawer and unfolded it. The fabrics in the quilt recalled images of kitchen curtains, new school dresses, and her mother’s aprons. The memories prompted by fabric are certainly a benefit of an “everything goes” scrap quilt. These types of memories can’t be emulated by purchasing coordinated fabric from one line. No matter the broken rules for cutting and piecing, this is a quilt of enduring memories, truly a treasure for Cindy’s family.