Newsletters

Hello and welcome to The Quilt Lady newsletter page. The newsletters are below, with the most recent first. Simply click where indicated to access the newsletter you wish to read. Alternatively, there is a monthly archive if you are looking for a particular newsletter and you know which month it was published in. I’ll be covering a whole range of quilt related topics, including long arm quilting, antique quilts, patterns, piecing and quilting, tips and ideas, and restoration. You will also find information on the latest workshop dates. If there is something in particular you would like me to cover, please let me know.

Make yourself a mug of something and settle in. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them, and I’d love you to leave comments and share similar experiences, frustrations and solutions.

Hello, and welcome to this month’s newsletter. As I’m typing this we are bracing for the storm, battening down the hatches, stocking up on essentials like wine and chocolate and getting the quilts ready in case the power goes out. Good job I have plenty of quilts. So, put the kettle on and get the biscuits out, and settle in for little while. I had the best time in Dorset with the UKQG Region 4 ladies at the beginning of last month. I stayed with one of those ladies in a farm house right on the coast – just a field away from the Fleet, and had time to go for a walk down to the water before we went out for dinner. Susan Denton who was to be the morning speaker, and I were taken into Portland for dinner by 4 of our hosts. Lovely evening, lots of chatter and laughter and delicious food. Then home for an early-ish night as we had an early start the next morning to drive to Wimborne for the meeting. There were lots of vendors, one of whom painlessly parted me from large amounts of cash in exchange for some beautiful antique quilts and paisley shawls, a raffle, and 90 some ladies to enjoy it all. Susan gave a wonderful presentation telling us about her quilting journey and showing us the quilts she had brought with her and slides of the ones she’d had to leave at home. Lots of oohing over those. I had just enough time to set up my quilts and join everyone for lunch before my talk. There were still people pouring over them all as the hall was cleared up around us. I finally got to fold everything up and cart it away before I was forcibly evicted. So thank you to everyone who made my visit so enjoyable, and I’d love to go back and do it all again. My next talk is for South West Quilters on November 16th at Tresillian. If you are in the area please come along and join us. It occurred to me that one of the questions I get asked a lot is where and how I store all my quilts. So I thought today I would talk about looking after your quilts. Even if you think you know what you are doing, read on. I hope you will still find something new, or even have an ‘aha’ moment. And these guidelines apply whether your quilt is 100+ years old or one you just finished quilting and binding. All textiles including quilts, and especially old ones, are sensitive to light, dust, heat – or lack of it, moisture, smoke, chemicals, perfumes, insects, animals, stains and unnecessary cleaning. Looking after them properly will ensure they last well into the future. Ideally, quilts should be stored opened out and flat on a bed, as they were intended to be used. So if you have a spare bedroom, with a double bed in it, and not too many visitors coming through, then go ahead and stack those quilts on top of the bed. Put a plain white sheet on the top of your stack to act as a barrier to light and all those other pollutants. You will need to keep the heating on low in there too as quilts don’t like fluctuating temperatures and cold. The Quilt Police (QP) would also mention that stacking more than 5 or so will damage the quilts, but I have to say that I have not found that to be the case, and when I check them I change the order they’re in so the bottom ones don’t get too squashed. Besides, I would need a huge number of bedrooms to be able to put only 5 quilts on each bed, and I somehow don’t think I’d get that one past my husband. If you have quilts that are old and made with dark coloured fabrics, then you could put sheets between the quilts to prevent the colour from rubbing off onto the quilts above and below, especially if those are much lighter in colour. A lot of us do not have the luxury of a nearly permanent spare bed, and storing our quilts in chests and cupboards is the only way to go. Fold them top out, which is counter intuitive if you are worried about dust and sunlight, but apparently puts less stress on the tops. Stack them edges out rather than fold out, so that there is no danger of light causing a fade line along the fold, which is what happened to this quilt from early 20th century Oklahoma, before I acquired it I hasten to add. IMG_2223 It’s best to take the quilts out regularly to check for moths (eek) and other damage, give them a good shake and then refold them in a different way. This helps to prevent the fold creases from becoming permanent, and stops them from becoming musty. Putting acid free tissue paper in the folds will also help prevent permanent creasing. This checking and refolding is also a good time to remind yourself of what is there, especially if you have a lot of quilts, or don’t otherwise get to see them very often. If you are storing your quilts in plastic bags, please, please don’t. The plastic prevents the fabric from “breathing”, and is far more likely to lead to mildew and mold problems. If you feel you need to store the quilts in something, then a cotton pillowcase or bag would be best. Friends of mine tack photos or photocopies of the quilts to the outside of the pillowcases so that they know which quilt is in each one without having to take it out to see. Keep your pets away from your quilts. They shed hair, may have unwanted tenants and have sharp claws and teeth. So, in the case of either the spare room or the cupboard, keep the door closed. Keeping the door closed will also help to keep out the worst of any cigarette fumes if you or someone in your home smokes. If, despite your best efforts, your quilt gets dirty, or in the case of antique quilts, has unidentifiable stains on it, what then? If your quilt is new(ish), and you made it, and you pre-washed the fabric, and you know the colours won’t run, and you know what kind of batting/wadding you used, and there are no areas of damage, then, and only then, can you go ahead and wash it. (QP might want to look away right now) but, I would put it in the machine, on a gentle/handwash/silks and woollens cycle, use a delicate/handwash soap, with a colour catcher even if I knew the fabric was colour fast, and use conditioner sparingly then line dry it, or preferably, dry it flat on the ground on top of a sheet. If, however, the quilt is vintage or antique, and you have no idea about the fabrics, their strength or colourfastness, and the type of batting, and/or there is any kind of damage, even a tiny rip or hole, then on no account risk washing it. The stain may well be removable, but often would not be. Brown coloured stains could be blood, or worse, or they could be wood oils from being stored in cedar trunks, and those will not shift at all. The fabrics may not be colourfast and will bleed or the colours leech away, and they may not be strong enough to withstand even gentle washing. The batting may be made from less than ideal materials that will also simply not stand up to any washing. The picture below is of a quilt I recently bought especially to illustrate this point. The top was pieced at the turn of the 19th/20th century, and made up into a quilt in the 30’s or 40’s. It has been tied, not quilted and the batting layer is shoddy, a woollen type padding made from shredded cloth. There are several areas of damage. When it was washed the damage was made worse, the batting disintegrated and what is left is now all lumpy, and some of the fabrics are shredded and faded. As a quilt it is beyond redemption. IMG_2222 Never, ever, ever dry clean a quilt, especially an old one. The chemicals used are simply too harsh. So if you can’t wash it, what can you do? You can vacuum it, very carefully. Lay it out flat on a bed. Use the wide upholstery head or the brush attachment, not the crevice tool, of your vacuum cleaner. Either put a piece of a pair of tights (pantyhose) over the opening and move it an inch or so off the surface of the quilt, (this is difficult), or buy a piece of fibreglass mesh used in car body repairs, wrap the edges in tape so they don’t snag on the quilt, and hold this about an inch off the surface of the quilt and then vacuum the quilt through the mesh, (this is much easier). You will be amazed, and possibly horrified, at how much dirt you can get off this way. It is worth bearing in mind here that old quilts have more value to collectors if they are in their original condition than if they have been washed, either recently or historically. The other thing to consider is what those quilts may have already been through since they were made. People may have been born or died under them, they could have been used to wrap precious belongings in and buried during troubled times, they could have been used as picnic rugs, playmats or dens and dragged through who knows what. Sleeping under them was only the tip of the iceberg. And through all of that, they could well have had the tar knocked out of them by being scrubbed and laid out to dry over bushes and fences. So here’s the thing. You have either taken considerable time and skill to make a quilt, or been lucky enough to inherit or acquire an old quilt. Either way you’ll want to take the best care of it that you can so that it can be enjoyed for a long time. So that’s all from me for this time. If you have any other suggestions or tips on caring for your quilts, please share them either here on the website or on The Quilt Lady facebook page. Until next time,
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Hi there, and welcome to another newsletter from The Quilt Lady. Kettle on, biscuits out, pull up a chair and sit yourself down. It’s a damp and grey day in Cornwall, but with those hints of the turning of the season outside comes the not to be underrated side benefit of feeling not the slightest bit guilty about staying in the warm and dry to do some quilting.

Before I forget, I have a couple of diary dates for you:

  • Saturday 5th October
    I am a speaker at The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles Region 4 Quilters’ day in Wimborne, Dorset. Doors open at 10:30 at the Hamworthy Club in Magna Road. I will be talking about a selection of my antique quilts covering a period of 150 plus years.
  • Saturday 16th November
    I am the morning speaker at the South West Quilters Open Day in Tresillian, Cornwall. Same idea, but it will be a different selection of quilts and a different topic.

If you are in the area on either day, come along and join the fun, I look forward to seeing you.

And now to that title. How many times have you seen a pattern for a quilt you’d love to make? You buy the fabric, make the top and then the final sentence is “Quilt as desired”. And how many of you have a moment of complete melt down before thinking “oh well, I can always stitch in the ditch or just meander all over”. If you ever felt you needed a little inspiration or guidance, read on, and I may be able to help.

Since I moved back to England to live I have had the very great pleasure of attending several quilt shows, in a professional capacity of course (Yeah, right! Ed). Some shows were very large, like the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham, and some much smaller and more intimate, including the shows by Carenza Quilters in Kea, Harbour Quilters in Mevagissey and Falmouth Quilters in Mylor. The workmanship was as outstanding, the range of patterns and colour was every bit as diverse as anything I have seen in other countries, but somehow, for all that, they were identifiable as English, ie, made in England by English quilters.

One of the reasons for that, I think, is the choice of colours, but the main reason that I feel they stand out is the amount of quilting on the quilt. I learnt to long arm quilt in America. I went to many quilt shows there, read lots of magazines, belonged to a local quilt guild and got involved in their community projects. I saw some beautiful hand pieced and hand quilted quilts, and many more machine pieced and quilted ones. I saw group quilts, art quilts, large quilts, small quilts, miniature quilts, quilted wall hangings, table toppers, ornaments, bags, clothing and quilted just about everything else over the course of 3 years!

My personal observation is that the quilting on an American patchwork quilt is different to an English patchwork quilt. They like more. More of it, more patterns, more thread colours, just, well, more ‘more’. And mostly this ‘more’ is gorgeous and rich and textured. But not always. There were times when I wanted to ask them what on earth they were thinking. When the quilting was so dense that the quilt was stiff enough that it could probably have stood up on edge by itself. When the style or amount of quilting completely swamped the piecing so that you didn’t notice the skill that had gone into the making. When it looked as though the quilter had seemed determined to use every sparkly thread and embellishment in their possession. When the quilter had lost sight of what the quilt was for.

But when they got it right, the result was sublime. The quilting enhanced the piecing, working with the pattern so that neither the piecing or quilting was the prima donna, but instead were a successful double act. When the thread colour, the designs and the embellishments were chosen and worked to enhance the mood rather than upstage. Sometimes it was really simple, sometimes daring, sometimes intricate and sometimes just plain fun.

So, I hear you asking, what are you trying to tell us? Well, here’s the thing. Whether you plan to quilt your top yourself, or take it to a long arm quilter, no, especially if you take it to a long arm quilter, be open to suggestions about making the quilting a bit more ‘more’. More doesn’t have to mean a stiff, un-cuddly quilt. There is a happy medium between stiff and not quilted enough so that great areas bag and droop unattractively (yes, you know what I am talking about). There are sometimes other very good alternatives to echo and outline quilting and quilting in the ditch. And yes, sometimes echo, outline and ditch quilting are just what the quilt needs, but not always and not exclusively.

Some, but by no means all, of the questions you can ask before you start quilting, or even better, before you start making the top are:

  • Who is the quilt for?
  • What is the quilt for? Will it be hung on a wall, displayed on the guest room bed or going to student digs?
  • Will the quilt be washed often/never?
  • Are the fabrics patterned or plain? Scrappy or ordered?
  • Are there large areas of plain fabric?  

If the quilt is for a baby or toddler and will be used and abused, have things spilled over it, drawn on and dragged over the floor, then spending a lot of time and effort on beautiful custom quilting is probably not worth the biscuit. If on the other hand it is a present for your son or daughter, or to hang on a wall, then it would maybe deserve a more elaborate design.

A quilt made for show on either a bed or hung on the wall will probably need a more elaborate quilting design than one destined for digs or a teenagers bedroom.

If the quilt is never going to be washed then elaborate and detailed quilting and going wild with the embellishments is fine. But a quilt that will be in and out of the washing machine and tumble dryer will need good solid holding together, rather than delicate and subtle quilting and fancy thread and embellishments.

If the fabrics you have used in the top are scrappy or highly patterned, the quilting can be as simple as you like, you won’t be able to make much of it out against the background. A paler and simpler fabric will show up the quilting far more, so you could and might like to make the design more elaborate.

Large unpieced areas – the plain squares set between pieced or appliquéd blocks, are perfect for showpiece quilting patterns. Feathered or Celtic designs for example, to stand alongside and support the piecing will look amazing.

And of course, if you have started out on this journey to make a show quilt, then the quilting design and thread colour should have been part of the very early design process, along with choosing the block pattern and the fabrics to make it.

If you are not sure what to quilt where, it is worth “auditioning” designs just as you would audition fabric to make sure it is right. A piece of clear plastic and fine non permanent felt tip marker are all you need. Edge the plastic with coloured tape so you know where it stops (very important). Place the plastic over an area of the quilt you are puzzling over and draw the design you think will work. Then go away and do something else for 5 minutes. When you come back look straight at the design and it will either be right in it’s setting or you’ll know it needs something else. If that is the case, lift the plastic off the quilt and rub the pen lines off the plastic, then try another design. You can repeat these steps as many times as you like until you get the right design for your quilt. If, when you come back, you are still not sure, try looking at the design through a camera, or even the wrong way through a pair of binoculars. This gives a perspective that somehow makes everything clear, whether right or wrong.

So that’s it for today. I hope I have given you something to think about, whether for the quilt you are currently working on, or for your future projects. If you’d like to share your thoughts, quilting successes and even failures, then please go to the website, www.thequiltlady.co.uk where you can add a comment to this newsletter. As always, please feel free to share this newsletter with your friends and encourage them to go to the website to sign up to receive it direct.

Until next time,
Sara

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Your eye candy for this newsletter is this wonderful crazy quilt in my collection.

Hello and welcome to another newsletter from The Quilt Lady. Make sure you have a mug of something and a biscuit or two, and make yourself comfortable.

Thank you all for the wonderful messages when I launched my website. As you can probably imagine, it’s quite a scary step to take, but it feels so much like this is what I am meant to be doing now. I would just like to reassure the person (you shall remain nameless – for now at least!) who expressed concern that I was encouraging you all to eat biscuits and pile on the pounds. And to the other nameless (so far) soul who complained that I only gave you permission to have one biscuit. To you both, I would just like to say “feel free to have as many biscuits as you would like. Just remember to break them in half before you eat them so that all the calories fall out first.”

…Continue reading
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teacups quilt caption
Grab a cup of something and make yourself comfortable.

Hi, welcome to the Quilt Lady’s newsletter. grab a cup of something and a biscuit and make yourself comfortable. Today I’d like to talk about taking your quilt to a long arm quilter. It’s a big and possibly scary step to take if you have never done it before, so I’d like to help take the fear out of the process.

…Continue reading
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