I wantses ... something

When I offer to make a quilt for someone, the first response is often unintentional panic. You suspect you have opinions, but you don't know what you want, and you don't know what to ask for. You probably don't know names of quilt patterns. You know what you like, but you don't know how to articulate it.

That's totally ok. That's how we start.

The parts

A typical quilt has three layers, like a sandwich: the top, the batting, and the backing. You see the top and the backing, and the top is usually the one with the intricate piecework. The batting is the fluffy stuff in the middle that traps air and makes a quilt warm. Once the three layers are stretched out over each other, you take your sewing machine** and do patterns of stitching over the three layers to attach them to each other. Once you've done that, you've got to cut away the excess around the sides, like this, to clean up the edges:

The three layers are now anchored together with overall stitching (the quilting).  Next task: cut the quilt free of the excess batting and fabric, then close off (bind) the edges.How it comes back from the quilter's
Carefully slice the quilt free of the excess batting and backing, then it's time to make up long strips of fabric to bind off the raw edges.Free at last! Free at last!

** Some people do this by hand. I don't. I'm not that crazy.

But that leaves the edges open and raw. That's not ok. Next I cut out a very long and thin strip of fabric, called the 'binding.' I sew it first, by machine, to the front of the quilt...

Here's what the binding looks like when it's halfway done. The first step: take a very long strip of fabric, and fold it in half lengthwise. You line up the raw edges of the fabric with the raw edges of the quilt, like you see here, and sew the binding to the quilt. 

For step two, you fold the binding over the raw edge, and hand-stitch it to the back of the quilt. Et voilà, nice clean edges on both the front and back!

This quilt is Sunfish: domesticat.net/quilts/sunfishHow the binding starts

and then hand-sew the other side invisibly to the back, to close off that open edge. It can either match the fabric near it, accent it, or contrast against it:

Here's a sample of what the binding looks like.Binding example
This fabric (a gorgeous blue stripe from Mark Lipinski's 'Califon' line) had long stripes running in one direction. I cut the binding strips crosswise to the pattern, so the finished binding would have lots of little stripes. I used the same fabric for the backing, and you can see it in this photo.

This quilt is Sunfish: domesticat.net/quilts/sunfishHow the binding finishes
John Wilson got this photo that pretty much sums up my life. That's me, in my usual spot on the couch, working on binding a quilt. Nearby are my laptop, phone, thread, remote control, and empty ice cream container.

Tenzing is claiming the quilt as his. After all, ALL quilts are his.Tenzing, Amy, and a quilt

More about the quilting!

The word 'quilting' is deceiving, because it can mean one of two things. If you're being totally strict, it should only refer to the stitching that runs through all three layers of the quilt to hold it together (as opposed to just 'sewing,' which is what you're doing when you're assembling a quilt top). In this strict sense, the quilting does indeed make a difference to the finished quilt. You have color choices here, too! You can choose a thread that blends into your fabric, or one that contrasts strongly.

Nothing like popping into the kitchen the next morning, looking at last night's work, and saying ... yes. That will do.

Each plate will have a double line of quilting, one line each ¼' inside and ¼' outside the inner ring. I'm also tracing each petal roughly ¼' inside each seam. Later, when more of the quilt is stable, I'll go back and add the decorative motifs in the empty circles inside each plate, and in the empty spaces between each plate. 

Right now? This is triage. This fabric is strong but it IS nearly 80 years old. I don't want to handle it any more than necessary until it's got the extra strength of the batting and backing helping it out.

What is this quilt? Why am I being so careful? See domesticat.net/quilts/primrose or today's blog entry, domesticat.net/2010/08/hello-pastel-unicornMorning after? No hangover.
A slanted shot of the quilt as it's ready to be packed up.

Blog entry: domesticat.net/quilts/chaos-theorySlant shot into the goal

I can also choose how dense the stitching can be. There are tradeoffs, of course: a more densely quilted piece will be stronger, sturdier, and last longer -- but it won't be as soft. A more loosely-quilted quilt will feel immediately softer, but may need to be treated with more care decades down the line. I quilted the hexagon quilt pretty closely (about 1" apart) because the fabrics were antiques, and I wanted to provide those fabrics as much stability as possible. I quilted Crayon Box a bit more loosely because I wasn't quite so worried about it.

Tenzing is determined to stay on this quilt. Sometimes it is easier to
just work around him.Not sure who is winning but I don't think it is me
  I discovered I enjoyed loops when I realized they didn't have to be single loops. I could double or triple them, double them back upon themselves, and get something that pleased me more.Detail: quilting patterns

I try to make all my quilts machine washable. You'll notice that all of these quilts have a nice, smooth top to them; when you wash them for the first time, the batting contracts about 3%, giving you that crinkled look that most people associate with quilts.

Backings on-hand

I always keep a few large swaths of fabric on-hand for backings. They're usually notable for one reason or another:

Backing fabrics I have on-hand
These fabrics were even better in person than I thought. Very happy.Flickr
Widdas Waltz, purple only. Liberty fabric. (British)
Found online. Good photo of this fabric.Flickr
Keiko Goke's "Circle In Square." I have it in this blue, and the warm-toned multicolor. (Japanese)
I have enough of this to back a twin-sized quilt.Flickr
Alexander Henry's "Villette." (USA)
While the photo is rust, it's the only one I could find. Mine is pink and blue. Enough for a twin-sized quilt.Flickr
Souleiado's "Le Jehangi" (French)
Dutch company, selling primarily to Africa. The fabric I fell in love with in London, but wasn't able to purchase until I came home to the States. From the 'Funky Grooves' collection.Flickr
Small Star, Vlisco (Dutch / African)
Repeat: 0.93 yardsFlickr
Charles, Marimekko (bought in Denmark)
Siirtolapuutarha, Marimekko (bought in Denmark)
Designer: Maija Louekari
Repeat: 44”Flickr
Rairai, Marimekko (bought in Denmark)
Pattern Designer:Maija & Kristina Isola
Material: 100% cotton
Repeat: 62cm

(Looks like Char wants this one.)Flickr
Ananas, Marimekko (bought in Denmark)
Pattern Designer:Maija Isola
Material: 100 % cotton
Repeat: 88cmFlickr
Kaivo, Marimekko (bought in Denmark)
Pattern Designer:Maija & Kristina Isola
Material: 100 % cotton
Repeat: 88cmFlickr
Pieni Unikko II, Marimekko (bought in Denmark)
Pattern Designer:Aino-Maija Metsola
Material: 100 % heavyweight cotton
Repeat: 125 cm

JP is interested in this one, but I should have enough for two quilts.Flickr
Juhannustaika, Marimekko (bought in Denmark)
Framed, by Anna Maria Horner (USA)
The 'oyster' colorway, #11057.Flickr
Rouenneries Deux, "oyster" color (USA / France)

Old or new?

Do you like rescued antiques or do you want something new? There's no right or wrong answer here. Some people love the idea of salvaging an old quilt, but some have specific color/pattern wishes that can't be satisfied by anything but an original. Both are totally okay!

Got a time period you love?

If you want something that looks very old, but don't know quite what you want, visit reproductionfabrics.com and poke around. This section isn't intended to be a definitive What Quilts Were Like At This Time reference but instead give you some guidelines.

[define time periods, provide examples]

Got a design you love?

These are some designs I have templates for, and feel comfortable tackling again.

Quilt top: sewn. Time to buy the batting, iron the backing, then get this puppy pinned together, quilted, bound, and given away.Flickr
Disappearing 4-patch
Okay, so we didn't totally hold it straight, but that's okay ... you get the idea. Much of the humor in this quilt can't be seen from this angle -- you don't see all the weird and funny pieces (pink and black skulls! backing fabric of cartoony bugs!) but this at least lets you see the overall effect. A traditional quilt done in as non-traditional a manner as possible!

Blog entry: domesticat.net/quilts/serendipityFlickr
Double Wedding Ring
A schematic assembled from individual photos of each of the 108 quilt blocks.  Zoom in enough and you'll see the numbers on each square.  (Here's hoping the finished project bears at least a slight resemblance.)

49 blocks pieced by Heather; 59 by me.Flickr
Broken Dishes
I've marked all the remixed hexes with notes so you can see which are a mix of old and new fabrics.

Wholly vintage: 41 of 59 (70%)
Mixture of vintage and reproduction: 16 of 59 (27%)
Wholly reproduction fabrics: 2 of 59 (3%)

Final blog entry:  domesticat.net/quilts/remixedFlickr
Grandmother's Flower Garden
I never got a shot of the bargello quilt, once it was finished. Asai was kind enough to bring it to Thanksgiving, so we could shoot a straight-on photograph.

The story of this quilt: domesticat.net/quilts/lights-over-lothlorienFlickr
What you don't see is that Tim is gonna shank me if I try to take it back.

Blog post about this quilt: domesticat.net/quilts/lost-translationFlickr
Log Cabin, squares, and other variations
Finally, a well-lit photo of Sunfish! Soon, pinning and quilting!

Full info: domesticat.net/quilts/sunfishFlickr
Drunkard's Path and other circle variations
When I unfolded it for the first time, my heart thudded. How could anyone have thought this was only good for scissoring apart?

Full entry: domesticat.net/quilts/primroseFlickr
Dresden Plate
On my last week at the library, I asked Lexie if she could bring in her quilt so I could finally have a full photo of it. This is Star Stories, three years later, after use and love.

For the archive page about the quilt, see domesticat.net/quilts/star-stories

For an excellent full write-up of what this quilt was, and why the fabrics had meaning, see domesticat.net/2009/10/quilt-festival-story-star-storiesFlickr
Rotating stars
There. Done. To say I am delighted is an understatement. I am glad I took the extra time to sort the fabrics, to get a rough divide between warm and cool colors. The result isn't obvious, but it's subtly harmonious.

Also?  I just LIKE it. So there. Neener.  I'm keeping this one.

Approximate size: 80'x88'

Accompanying blog entry: domesticat.net/2010/03/these-are-few-my-favorite-thingsFlickr
Bricks and Stones
Squares assembled into 2x2 units.  Given that the entire quilt is only 6x6, that tells you how far along I am.  I should look at getting some appliqué work done now, before the pieces get too big.Flickr
Irish Chain
As in, seriously, get out of my house, you're taking up space and you need to go to your forever home! This queen-sized scrap quilt is ready to go off and see the world. It'll be shipped to South Carolina this afternoon.

Blog entry for this quilt: domesticat.net/quilts/crayon-boxFlickr
Scrap salvage
Finally, enough pieces of the 'ribbon star' pattern sewn together to give you an idea of what the repeats look like. As usual ... there's a sleeping cat in the background. Dear, silly Tenzing.Flickr
Ribbon Star
Stargirl is ready to go home with Crystal. It's my first quilt made, start to finish, after Jeff's accident.

For the details on this quilt, why it matters, and why it has the fabrics it does: domesticat.net/quilts/stargirlFlickr
Squares and rectangles
Much better in straight sunlight. Even better? After today I can smile and say that yes, I know where the companion quilt to this one is going.

Blog entry: domesticat.net/quilts/lucy-goosey

The companion quilt will be called 'Linus.'Flickr
Classic piecework
It's funny how the strips start settling down once they're sewn together.Flickr
Simple strips
It's proving to be a difficult quilt to photograph. I originally shot a photo of it in our department, and the colors looked muddied, so we waited for the thunderstorm to end and reshot it outside on the back loading dock. It's not great, but better.

Finished size is about 41 inches per side.Flickr
Mathematical tilings
...and here it is! it's ready to mail, go off, and have another life off on the west coast.

Blog entry: domesticat.net/quilts/chaos-theoryFlickr
Custom adaptations from something you love
We'll call this the 'after' photo, even though in truth there's one hole left to fix at this point. Overall I'm extremely pleased with the repair. It was absolutely worth doing, and I'm glad I took the longer route and did it right.

If you are new to this project, this is a salvaged/rescued quilt top, circa 1880s-1890s, that needed significant repair work when I bought it.  The main post about it is at domesticat.net/quilts/oregon-trail but there are updates during the repair process at domesticat.net/2011/02/scalpel-choice and domesticat.net/2011/02/penny-pound

It will be finished with materials appropriate to the period: cotton batting, and a double-pink 1800s reproduction fabric for the backing. Its final destination is a friend in Oregon, who plans to love it and use it, not store it away.Flickr
Restoration / completion of found antiques
Works so much better when you ask someone to just hold the silly thing up. Obviously, this is the baby-sized version. The baby-sized one for at first, and then the twin-sized one for lots of later years. See this photoset for shots of its bigger sibling or domesticat.net/quilts/snips for the story of why this quilt exists, and why it contains the fabrics it does.

Thanks for holding it up, Jeff. The things we do for spouses.Flickr
Recycling items with sentimental value
New Wave
Sashing. I love seeing the raw edges disappear into seams. Also lots of double-checking to make sure I don't put matching blocks next to each other...Flickr
Simple squares
Much better in straight sunlight. Even better? After today I can smile and say that yes, I know where the companion quilt to this one is going.

Blog entry: domesticat.net/quilts/lucy-goosey

The companion quilt will be called 'Linus.'Flickr
Classic blocks
Mod Mosaic
Each block is 23' finished. This is a 4x4 set of blocks.Flickr
Carpenter's Square
I've quilted the center star (my brain yells 'it's an asterisk!') and I'll work outward from there to avoid quilting any bubbles into the backing.

This quilt is based on a Hirschhorn tiling. Details of the quilt, 'Sunshine,' are at domesticat.net/quilts/sunshineFlickr
Hirschhorn tiling
I will swap out a few stars on this quilt top, but not as many as I feared I would need to.

It's quite striking. I'm pleased.Flickr
Penrose tiling
FINALLY! After four months, this beastie is finally done. 

Details on the construction of this quilt are available at domesticat.net/quilts/octopus-garden

Pattern: Swirl.
Hand-pieced (NOT appliquéd!)
Machine assembled
Machine quilted

Time estimates on hand-sewing:

32 interior 4-swirl pieces: about 48 hours
28 exterior 3-swirl pieces: about 28 hoursFlickr

Things I haven't tried yet

I've seen so many fabulous things that I haven't gotten to attempt yet. I have a few in mind that I've wanted to tackle, but I just haven't found the right recipient or the right fabric yet.

Eightfold symmetry. Aperiodic.

I have an .eps of this tiling.

Found at tilings.math.uni-bielefeld.de/substitution_rules/ammann_b...

Doable with the rhombus from the Feathered Star set and a square piece.
Rhombus angles: 45° and 135°Flickr
Ammann-Beenker tiling
Seen at tilings.math.uni-bielefeld.de/substitution_rules/shield

I have the squares and equilateral triangles, but I would need to make the shield piece.Flickr
Shield tiling
12-fold symmetry

Seen at tilings.math.uni-bielefeld.de/substitution_rules/socolar

Partially doable. I have the hexagon and square, but I'd need to make the skinny rhombus. Looks like a 30° and 150° rhombusFlickr
Socolar tiling

Make it personal

if I'm going to do this, I'd rather tailor it to your interests. Don't assume I know. The quilt fabric world has a lot of crazy stuff in it. Here are some ideas:

  • old clothing with sentimental value (preferably cotton, but I can work with poly-cotton blends) to be cut up
  • Color scheme? bright colors? dark and intense colors? pastels? scrappy and random? a specific color combination?
  • Do you like things that look old, or things that look modern?
  • Any particular ethnic style that appeals? Some options: French country (soft reds and tans), Japanese, Chinese, Scandinavian, Russian, African wax batiks, Southwestern
  • Do mathematical tiling quilts appeal?
  • Favorites: sports team, color, cartoon character, city, movie, TV shows, holiday, hobby?
  • Flowing curves, straight lines, or something else?

Lastly, a word about Felis catus

Quilt cat #1: Tenzing was my quilt buddy ... whether I liked it or not. Edmund didn't give a toss about snuggling on quilts, but every single quilt I worked on during his life was 'pre-loved' by Tenzing. This is also why I wash every quilt I do -- at least once, sometimes twice or more -- to make sure there are no issues. If you or anyone in your household are cat-allergic, let me know and I'll take extra precautions to keep my 'helper' off of your quilt. If you are severely allergic, I'll wash your quilt twice and then take it to the dry cleaner's immediately before sending it to you, just to be sure that you won't have a reaction. Here's why:

'I don't care if you're fixing popped seams. I'm trying to SLEEP here, woman. Don't you understand I'm a geriatric rat bastard of a cat and I can sleep wherever I want?'

'Move, Tenzing.'

[indignant meowing]Mine, mine, mine. Mine. Mine? MINE!
This particular spot on the couch is apparently going to be Tenzing's roost on every quilt I make. I've decided not to fight it this time. I'll be done soon enough.Quilt sprint, night #4: quilt kittens
He does SO love snoozing in the quilt fabric.Thanks, Tenz.
I'm keeping the quilt. He's practicing sleeping on it while I make it. After all, the warm tones complement his fur so nicely.I'm practicing, Mom.
Answer: wash the quilt. Put it on the table where the cat wants to be, and drape a two-yard piece of unbleached muslin over it. The cat thinks he's ruining your quilt and you get some peace while you work.Compromise is the key to not killing your cat.
'I don't care if you're fixing popped seams. I'm trying to SLEEP here, woman. Don't you understand I'm a geriatric rat bastard of a cat and I can sleep wherever I want?'

'Move, Tenzing.'

[indignant meowing]Mine, mine, mine. Mine. Mine? MINE!
I'd say 'it's like he knows this quilt is staying with us' but let's be honest, he does this to EVERY QUILT I MAKE.You may bind it when I wake up
Tenzing has declared 'Kissing Thief' as his, his, his. The funny part? For once, it's actually true. It's a scrappy quilt of beloved blues and greens to keep his omnipresent kitty fur off of the love seat. 

So he can shed on this one as much as his little kitty heart desires.Ironically enough, this one's ACTUALLY his.
Cover the quilt. Let the cat sleep on it. Everyone wins.A great reason to keep spare batting
Tenzing is determined to stay on this quilt. Sometimes it is easier to
just work around him.Not sure who is winning but I don't think it is me
Tenzing is a PRO at sleeping on quilts-in-progress. You can just barely see my sewing machine in the background. 

It's a ritual. He sleeps on every quilt. Every single one. If it's not soft and warm enough for Tenzing, it's not soft and warm enough for people I like.

Good thing quilts are machine washable.

This quilt-in-progress is Stargirl: domesticat.net/quilts/stargirlWe're professionals. Don't try this at home.
Tenzing does not want me to work on the quilt. He wants to sleep on it. If my quilts aren't good enough for Tenzing, they're not good enough for my friends either.Forget previous photo. Am now officially dead of kitty cute.
Crystal jokes that my quilts are all pre-loved by Tenzing. He is indeed quite helpful in the pinning stage. All quilts start out as Tenzing's. 

This quilt is an 1880s quilt top that I did significant repair work to. For details, see domesticat.net/quilts/oregon-trailThe 'pre-loved' stage
John Wilson got this photo that pretty much sums up my life. That's me, in my usual spot on the couch, working on binding a quilt. Nearby are my laptop, phone, thread, remote control, and empty ice cream container.

Tenzing is claiming the quilt as his. After all, ALL quilts are his.Tenzing, Amy, and a quilt
Tenzing was not interested in me making the bed any further. He was comfy, so that meant I was done as far as he was concerned...As far as *I* am concerned, the bed is made
Tenzing has adored this quilt almost beyond reason or comprehension.Mine. You cannot haz.
Tenzing appears to still be bitter over the loss of Oregon Trail, which he adored. Revenge, of course, is sleeping on the next quilt.Recovering from the loss of the LAST quilt
Dear, sweet, snuggly Tenzing.Some things remain the same.
He's been awfully attached to this one. Unsure why.Sew to the paws, then stop.
 Scarlet had a couple of popped seams, so I settled in to fix them while I was on call. I had my usual help.Error-checking Scarlet
 He gets annoyed at the tiniest things, but I can be putting on binding and chugging away at ninety miles an hour and he WILL sleep right through it.

Behind the mountain of quilt is my sewing machine.Look, just don't sew and we'll both be happy
 If I moved the quilt, he moved too. So helpful. So very, very helpful.

Brat.If you move it, I'm going to move with it.
Just because I was finishing the quilt quickly doesn't mean Tenzing wasn't gonna have his say. All quilts must be pre-loved by the bratcat.

Full story at domesticat.net/quilts/fledglingI'm on to you, Mom.
 Doesn't care what I do, but if I toss him on the floor he'll be right back.

Brat.Benign overseer
 Helpful, as always...Tenzing helping Fuego be quilted
 Tenzing's eyes drifted shut right after I took this photo.Mine. You cannot have.
 I lie on fabric. You stop sewing. Got it?Lemme 'splain.
 This time he will not be denied. He WILL lie on the quilt top.

Turdcat.I snuggle now. Stop whining.

Quilt cat #2: Kolohe is calmer. Kind of. He's far less insistent than Tenzing was, but he's a sneaky little brat. He waits until I go to work, and then nests in my fabric. Cats are real jerks sometimes.

The vacant position of #Quilt #Cat has been filled.The vacant position of #Quilt #Cat has been filled.
 Answer to 'Can I have my sewing project back.'

Twit.Flickr  #Quilt #cat.#Quilt #cat.
 Mom calls me her 'bad tabby' and laughs to herself every time I do this. #cats #sewingMom calls me her 'bad tabby' and laughs to herself every time I do this. #cats #sewing