Charity quilts

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I’m a member of two quilt guilds here in Fredericton, and something most quilt guilds do is make quilts for charities.

The members donate fabric, batting and even money. Some have work days where they sort the donated fabric and plan quilts. Sometimes they even sew them up. Then others volunteer to quilt and bind them.

So that’s what I did.

I got a quilt from each guild to finish and quilted both of them up. I made sure to keep them in separate piles so I wouldn’t forget which quilt went back where. This week, I delivered both.

The first one was this one bordered in a deep green. I liked the green. Hourglass blocks alternated with four path blocks, and I quilted the squares with a curving line next to each seam. The triangles in the hourglass blocks got a looping swirl. I did use my walking foot first to stitch in the ditch and stabilize the entire quilt.


This was the one that also gave me thread issues and I broke two needles because of a pin in the spool of thread, ugh.


Not five minutes after I handed it over to the lady in charge of the charity quilts, it was handed to a fellow member to give to her friend who has cancer. I hope it provides her with some comfort & warmth.


The next night, I went to the other guild and handed over the second charity quilt. This one was backed with fleece and did not use batting. I got overly ambitious with the quilting designs, using swirled hooks in the blue sections and looping Ls in the white print, which wound up invisible. Either way, it’s still cuddly and useable. I think this one is going to Transition House.


On top of donating quilt to various organizations, and things like the placemats one guild made for Meals on Wheels, both guilds regularly contribute to other charities and whoever has a need. At one meeting a couple members are working directly with Syrian refugee families. Many of us have things to donate, so we’re working on pickup, and we also passed a motion to donate money too.

Both guilds heard of a fellow quilter in need – an art quilter and teacher from Nova Scotia has cancer and money was raised from members and matched from the guild accounts.

The big thing I noticed about this is there were no announcements in pubic, no press releases, no social media – the ladies just go out and do it. We see a need, we pass a motion, we send funds and we pull together.

I like that, and I’m happy to do what I can.

(I brought home two more quilt tops to quilt).

Pinwheel baby quilt

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Sometime last year I did a quick and easy throw quilt from Tula Pink’s Elizabeth fabrics and very large rectangle snowball blocks. No pictures or write up yet though, sorry.

But! The triangle bits cut off the corners were plentiful and quite large. Enough to make a baby quilt for sure. I sewed up each corner as I cut them off – working on two quilts at once – and played around a bit with layout.

Still need cornerstone dashing on the sides, but this baby quilt top from scraps is almost done. #quilting

Pinwheels are pretty straightforward, so to liven up the boredom, I also added sashing with cornerstone blocks from more scraps. The white sashing itself was from my white scrap bin too.

I swear, this fabric is going to live on forever… I also have a runner from more scraps from the same project.

All done! It's about 38" square, baby quilt sized. Gonna sell it so if you want it holler. Ready in January.

I posted a picture of the completed top and Kathy contacted me to claim it for her granddaughter. Fun! Anything for a fellow member of the cool grandma club.

For the quilting, I wanted it to be nice and custom and pretty and basically what I call quilting the heck out of it. But first, I stitched in the ditch around each block. Technically I could have left it there, it was secure enough. But you know me!Today's project. Some might think this is done or they may stop here. I ditched along the seams in all directions for stability for the next steps. After lunch I'm gonna quilt the hell out of this and you can see the difference. ?

I wanted to challenge myself as well, and time it so I could see how long it took for me to quilt when focused.

The sashing has back and forth lines, sometimes called switchbacks.

Each cornerstone has “bumps” – a curved line that goes from corner to corner.

The pinwheels also have bumps in each triangle, but with them all together almost form a flower. It only took a couple of blocks to figure out the best way to travel with the least amount of back tracking.

An hour and twenty five minutes. That's how long this took me to quilt. This includes changing the needle that was giving me issues and stopping to wind 3 more bobbins. Yep, I quilt fast.

Did I mention I hate breaking threads? Most of the quilting here is done all in one go, save for bobbin changes.

The small border around the outside, same width as the sashing, is done in half feather bumps, just to soften the look a bit. I had trimmed the quit after the first step of straight quilting, and by the time I got to the borders was kicking myself. Some places I was holding on with my fingertips!


Super happy with those corner turns too.

So, time spent doing the initial straight quilting was 20 minutes. I stopped for lunch, swapped out the walking foot for the FMQ foot and went at it, knowing what to do for each section. I quilt fast and at top speed. Time spent for the custom work? An hour and a half. Maybe an hour and 20 mins.

Then it was on to the fabric choices for binding. I sent Kathy a picture with options.


She picked the green stripes. Perfect! I cut it on the bias, because bias striping is always a great choice.


The finished quilt.


All this puckered crinkly goodness is after washing. It already looks like a family heirloom!

Have a look at the back.


When the quilt arrived at Kathy’s place she said the same thing my mom always says. “The pictures don’t do it justice!”  😀

Thinking about a longarm

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For those of you who are not quilters, or not familiar with a long arm, it is a quilting machine. It looks like a sewing machine, but it is on rails on a track. The operator moves the machine over the quilt, instead of doing what I do now – maneuvering the quilt through the machine. A long arm is pretty much the Holy Grail of quilting equipment.

I super love quilting. Well, I’ve been sewing for 30+ years, quilting off and on, but when the modern quilting movement hit and free motion quilting became popular, it was something that really struck me. I wanted to try it so I did.

And I LOVED it.

Eventually I upgraded my trusty 25 year old machine to a shiny new Bernina QE 440. Holy wowzers. Any struggles I had learning to FMQ were solved. All I needed then was practise. And boy howdy have I been practising!

For the past two or three years I have been treating my quilting hobby as if it were a business. The volume of quilts being finished is pretty good – around 25 a year. Some of them have hours and hours of quilting time. On one (not gonna say which one) I’m sure there were 16 hours put in. (No, I didn’t charge enough and the price I did charge made me gulp anyway.)

I have a full time job too. That’s not going to change. I’m perfectly happy right now being a part time quilter. And as in any kind of manufacturing business, one of the biggest ways to increase your business if you can’t increase the time, is to produce things faster.

That’s the other thing you can do with a longarm. It’s just *faster*. Even with the custom quilting work. If you ever wonder why I’m so hard on my on work, it’s because the people I look up to are not only long arm quilters, but leaders in the field. You know, people like Angela Walters, Karen McTavish,  Judi Madsen, Karlee Porter.

So, what’s stopping me? Well for starters – the price. YES I know I have a Bernina, which is like the Ferraris of sewing machines. But we got a deal on it (shop model) and … my mom bought it for me. In return, I do all her quilting. Fair enough.

A longarm starts at $5,000 US dollars for the most basics of models, for small quilts. They also come in sizes. So that 5K model? It only does baby and lap size quilts – no larger. You want one that will let you do up to king size? Now you’re looking at 12K. You want computerized controls? Shoot up to $20k.

If you’ve ever sent your quilts out to a longarmer to quilt for you – now you know why they charge what  they do.

Longarm machines also take up a LOT of room. The largest have 12 foot tracks. Plus you need to put them somewhere you can walk all around them.

Those of you who don’t follow me anywhere else may not know we bought a house last year. well, a year ago last November. We are still renovating and haven’t moved in yet.  Renovations are expensive! Plus my new sewing room currently looks like this:


It will not be finished before we move in.

Another challenge is you can’t just go to your local quilt shop or fabric chain and pick one up. They are sold via dealers. The closest to me are Halifax or Montreal. Minimum 6 hour drive in either direction. And what happens if I get one and it needs maintenance or repairs?

Plus there’s so many different features and add-ons, I don’t even know what I want or need yet. I need more exposure. While there are 3-4 people locally (within 100kms) who offer longarm services, none of them (to my knowledge) rent time on the machine to other quilters or give lessons.

So yeah – for now this is on my dream list. I know that “someday” it may be possible, but realistically it will be 2 to 5 years before I can even seriously look at some.

And take for a test drive.

And do the quilting I dream about.

Until then I’ll just drool and doodle and be the best domestic machine quilter I can.