Monthly Archives: January 2012

The First Sanctuary

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As a minister, a church sanctuary is my first sanctuary. My sewing studio is the second. This past Sunday, I was installed as Pastor and Teacher at the Reformed Church in Kinnelon, in Kinnelon, NJ.

It is an interesting blend of circumstances that was celebrated on Sunday afternoon when I was installed. This congregation, when it was searching for a new pastor, was looking for one who would serve on a part-time basis. I was able to accept this position with them because my quilting business provides a supplemental income for me.

Unknown to me before my arrival here a year ago, this congregation has a long history of being “gifted” with altar cloths that are handmade and quilted. There is a set for Advent and one for Lent. A set with butterflies bespeaks the resurrection of Easter. A set with rainbows (symbolizing covenant promises) and the wedding ring pattern is brought out for weddings.

It was only fitting that, for my installation, I, the pastor who is also a quilter, provide the congregation with its next set of quilted altar cloths. In the first picture above you can see the cloths for the pulpit and the Communion table. The second photo is of the stole I wear on top of my preaching robe. This new set will be used during the liturgical season known as Ordinary Time.

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Not bad for a basement corner!

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It snowed this past Saturday and to stave off any  “stuck-in-the-house” blues, I decided to do some cleaning and sorting and reorganizing work in my sewing studio. Two of my stepsons made some racks for my fabric bolts over Christmas and I finally had a chance to get them in place. Here are are some photos.

Making a box of chocolates

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I was sitting in a meeting this morning and my mind wandered a bit (doesn’t that always seem to happen to me?). I’m glad it did because all of a sudden I remembered that I have a whole bolt of chocolate-candy themed fabric I picked up last summer and planned to use for birthday table toppers. The fabric is from  Robert Kaufmann’s “Confections” collection.

Once I remembered that I still had the whole bolt to use, I began to think about how perfect this fabric would be for Valentine’s Day items. So, as soon as I got home from the meeting, I started pairing up the candy fabric with some coordinating prints (a pink and a chocolate brown).

I now have the tops of a table topper and 6 placemats. Tomorrow I will do the quilting on them, add some coasters and mug rugs, and then list everything on my Etsy shop, http://www.secondsanctuary.etsy.com.

The Caring Quilt

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My mother-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2007. I knew that chemotherapy and radiation would be hard on her tiny frame. I wanted to help her be comfortable, and even cheered up, during the treatment process. So, I found a whole bunch of novelty fabrics that related to parts of her life. Fabrics about bowling and cards and painting and music and teaching..and so much more. I stitched them all together in an arrangement much like the one in the photo here and called it her “Caring Quilt.”

I have since created a listing of this kind of quilt in my Etsy shop, http://www.secondsanctuary.etsy.com. Each year, at the holidays, there is at least one person who orders one of these quilts from me. What an incredible experience it is for me to learn about some beloved family member for whom a Caring Quilt is ordered and what a privilege it is for me to labor in the process of bringing this gift to life.

Here are some other photos  of Caring Quilts.

A pattern of my own.

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Several years ago I was in a meeting in Chicago and was getting bored. This was the last day of three straight meetings and I would be leaving that afternoon to return to my husband and child in New Jersey. As I sat there at the table, my mind wandered to a packet of fabrics I had at home. This packet was purchased because the theme, robots, was one of my son’s favorites. I began doodling quilting patterns that would work with the robot fabric. Finally, I had a plan!

When I arrived at home that night it was close to 10:00 pm. I was too jazzed about the quilt pattern and the fabrics to go to sleep. So I set out to cut the fabrics and sew them into the idea I had in mind. By 11:30, I had a quilt top completed. The next day, not only did I have a complete quilt to give my son, but I also had the start of a pattern design that has been a favorite for me, my customers and my friends for four years now.

At one point along the journey of this pattern, I contacted the editors of McCall’s Quick Quilts magazine and told them about my original quilt and the other quilts it led to…like the one right here:

The editors liked my idea and paid me to make a version of the quilt using Alice Kennedy’s Strawberry Fields fabrics from Timeless Treasures. Here’s the link to that feature:

http://www.mccallsquilting.com/quickquilts/articles/The_Modern_Baby

Just goes to show you that daydreaming is not always wasteful.

Calvin’s Classic Quilt

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About a year ago, a woman from Maine ordered one of my Classic Americana quilts. “It’s what I’ve been looking for for years,” she wrote in the message to me when she made her purchase. The quilt I made for her and her family is the one in the photo below. That’s her son, Calvin, checking out his crayons as he colors  away his afternoon.

Since the time I made, and sent, this quilt, Samantha (the mother) and I have become pretty good friends. And, since she is an excellent photographer, she’s been willing to do product shots of a lot of my quilts.

It’s funny the paths that quilting can lead to.


How I Do What I Do*

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Someone just recently asked me the secret to my quilts. The advice I gave her is the same information found in quilting instruction books everywhere.

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First, collect A LOT of fabric.

I have been amassing my fiber inventory for nearly 25 years. I have old, old prints. I have scraps from clothing and aprons and tablecloths. I have pieces from entire collections. I have full bolts of a single print from a collection. The list goes on. You need a lot of fabric to get that pieced-together look of a Classic Americana quilt.

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Second, I sew 5″ squares into strips of three, trying to have a good representation of light and dark even on the strips.

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I sew with a 1/4 seam allowance. This is a perfect amount– just enough to keep the seams together, but small enough to prevent a lot of bulk, which is important to consider when making a quilt. Quilts have a LOT of seams.

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I always make a standard 9-patch block. This means three squares across and three deep. It’s easy to whip these blocks together once you get started and you can easily have diversity of color and prints in a single 9-patch. I LOVE ironing nine-patches. I could do this for hours, and sometimes I do.

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Before you know it, you will have a many 9-patch blocks–all set for arranging into sections.

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I have created an intermediate block of squares that is larger than a 9-patch but smaller than the whole quilt top. I called it the SIXER because it combines six 9-patch blocks (two across and three down). Organizing 9-patch blocks into SIXERS will prevent you from sewing long strips of 9-patch blocks and trying to stitch those strips together. The chances of getting all of the squares to line up correctly are terribly slim with long strips. SIXERS make it possible to get the corners to meet where you want them.

I use four sixers to make a lap size quilt (54″ X 81″). Two across and two down.

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Once I have the top loaded on my long-arm machine, I bring all of the layers of the quilt sandwich (top, batting, backing) together with a casual meandering stitch. The rhythm of quilting this way is calming and enjoyable. It actually goes by pretty quickly.

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An alternative to quilting on a long-arm machine is to baste the quilt layers together, using thread or safety pins, and stitch right through the middle of each squares, creating a plus sign in the middle of the square.

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Finished product.

In the end, you’ll have a great, old-fashioned looking quilt to use as a comforting and sweet backdrop to your life.

*The instructions in the blog are meant to help someone make a quilt one or two times for their home as a gift for a friend or family member. The use of these instructions for using in manufacturing quilts for sale is strictly prohibited. The terms Classic Americana and SIXER are protected by copyright.