Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS by Carolyn S. Vagts

One quilting industry company is trying to make a difference, one quilt at a time. Quilters Dream Batting and its owner Kathy Thompson, are on a mission to reach and educate people everywhere about ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease.
As a quilter, you can play a considerable part in the ongoing fight against this horrible disease in more ways than one. Hopes & Dreams is accepting donations in the form of quilts. These quilts will later be presented to ALS patients nationwide. Select quilts will later be auctioned off and displayed to bolster awareness and funds for ALS research. This is exactly where all of you can get involved. Not only can you help make a considerable difference, but you can also win great prizes like batting, cash, fabric, patterns, books, and sewing machines. Every quilt donated will be featured on the Quilters Dream Batting Facebook page.

During the process of researching this cause, I fgound that the best way to make others understand the importance of this cause would be in the words of its founder, Kathy. The story of her son is a heartbreaking one. Putting a face to this disease makes it real and undeniable.


At the age of 32, my wonderful son, Josh, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). In two years, the disease has taken Josh from a strong, happy, athletic young husband and new father to being completely paralyzed—unable to eat, speak or move. He is on life support.

To say his diagnosis and this experience have been devastating is a true understatement. It was shocking to learn that a disease that was discovered well over 100 years ago has absolutely no treatment or help available. Scientists still do not know the cause and do not understand the cascade of damage.

At first we thought ALS was rare, but it is the most common neurological disorder. Every 90 minutes an American is diagnosed with ALS, and every 90 minutes an American dies of ALS. Complete paralysis (referred to as a “Glass Coffin”) and death are so rapid that there is very little interest in ALS, as it is not deemed profitable.

Most ALS patients become paralyzed and die within six months to five years of being diagnosed. For an unknown reason, more and more young people are getting ALS. The U.S. military has also been particularly hard hit, and ALS is now considered part of the Gulf War Syndrome. Today there are an estimated 35,000–50,000-plus Americans living and dying from ALS.

Still reeling from the shock and desperation of my son’s diagnosis and the terrible losses and heartbreak that he has experienced, our family decided that the best way we can honor Josh and other devastated families is to help raise awareness, help raise money for research and reach out to help underserved ALS patients.

Sponsoring a quilt-donation program and quilt contest is something I feel very strongly about. When I contacted the Virginia director of the ALS Association, she was thrilled (coincidentally she is an avid quilter!). We are hopeful that the Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge will soon be an important annual event in an effort to help raise awareness, warm the hearts and laps of suffering and forgotten ALS patients and raise research money along the way.

Kathy Thompson
(Josh’s Mom)
The First Year

In the first year of the Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge, 1,324 quilts were graciously donated. Each and every beautiful quilt was photographed and posted on Facebook for all to see. Many quilts were displayed or auctioned off to raise funds for research. Also, 1,100 quilts were proportionately divided up and sent to every ALS chapter across the country to be distributed to ALS patients. Selected quilts were even exhibited at the 2010 International Quilt Market and Festival in Houston, TX. and were displayed, once again, at the same event the year after.

In what seems almost too shocking to believe, American Veterans are 66% more likely to get ALS than regular civilians. As Kathy’s letter stated, it is not just a disease that affects the older population. Increasingly, younger and younger people are falling victim to this terrible disease.

ALS patients maintain full intelligence, while the disease robs them of the ability to move, speak, eat, swallow, and breathe. Complete paralysis and death usually occur within 6 months to 5 years, following diagnosis. To date, there is no known treatment or cure.

Quilters Can Help

Quilters: ALS sufferers and researchers need your help, desperately. Please join in by donating your quilts today, in order to help warm the hearts and laps of ALS patients and raise awareness and research money for an ALS cure.

To help make a difference and be part of a hugely worthy cause, go to www.QuiltersDreamBatting.com and download your entry form. Your quilt will bring much-needed comfort and help raise funds for further ALS research.


I, for one, will be sending in a quilt from my personal collection. I surely hope that you will too. It’s no secret that quilters have big hearts. If there is ever a need, quilters will be at the front of the line to help.

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Quilting Around the Appliqué Block

By Wendy Sheppard

I wrote the article Block Quilting, which explained three methods for quilting on and around pieced quilt blocks. In this second of a two-part series, I present ideas for quilting on and around appliquéd blocks.

My hope for you after reading this article is that you will have some ideas for how to approach quilting your own appliquéd quilts. Creative, intricate and detailed quilting can be done using your homesewing machine. Let’s learn how.

As described in Quilting Around the Block, I use a decision-making process with regard to my quilting design. When deciding how to go about quilting my appliquéd projects, I ask myself the following: “Do I want to …”

… create a “flowing” effect using free-hand and unmarked background quilting, … add an overall texture to the appliquéd block, or … create a “design within a design” using a customized or stenciled quilting motif to achieve an appliqué-plus-quilting look?

Freehand & Unmarked Background| Quilting Background

quilting consists of continuous and repetitive quilting motifs that are stitched in the negative space of appliqué blocks. This type of quilting adds a textured look to the background fabric, while complementing the appliqué motif. Since background quilting is normally unmarked and uses a quilt-as-you-go approach, the resulting effect is a texture with flowing movement. A quilter may stitch echoes, pebbles, swirls and even feathers on the background fabric to create a textured effect.

In the quilting classes I teach, I encourage my students to begin free-motion quilting by doing background quilting first. Background quilting gives beginners great practice on moving their quilt sandwiches on their domestic machines. Since the resulting effect is an overall texture, beginners can quilt without the stress of producing perfect flowing stitches at every turn. Another person looking at the quilt often does not detect the minor mistakes scattered here and there because they are drawn to the overall effect of the quilting.

All quilting done on the sample block (Photo 1) was done without marking the quilt top. I started by stitching the background of the block. First, I stitched in the ditch along the turned edges of each ap – pliqué motif. Next, I echo-quilted (stitched a small distance from the “ditch” toward the background fabric) once. Pearls (continuous circular beads) were quilted along the echo to accentuate the over – all shape of the appliqué motif. Another echo was stitched a little way from the pearl garland outline creating a ring of “puffed” batting. This creates a more pronounced visual effect around the appliqué. Finally, I filled in the remaining negative space in the background with McTavishing quilting.


The appliqué pieces in this block were also quilted for additional visual effect (Photo 2). The possibilities are endless for quilting on appliqué pieces—think beyond merely stitching around the pieces—feathers, swirls, etc!



Allover Quilting (Quilting Beyond the Appliqué Block)

The “allover” approach to quilting involves stitching on both the appliqué pieces and the background and tends to blend the quilting and the appliqué block—the appliqué work tends to recede with allover quilting, especially if the quilting is dense. When one looks at a quilt block that is quilted with an allover quilting design, the quilting and the quilt block read as “one.” Quilting allover an appliqué block de-emphasizes the appliqué.

You can use either a marked or unmarked free-motion motif to achieve an allover quilting effect. Unmarked allover free-motion quilting gives an unpredictable look and creates visual interest because nothing is planned, while marked free-motion allover designs results in a planned and structured look.

In defense of straight-line quilting, which is dismissed by some, I quilted straight lines on the sample block (Photo 3).


In this case, straight-line quilting gives the illusion of seeing the appliquéd flower behind a trellis. Straight lines create a simple and clean look on a block.

Usually, grid quilting requires marking. You can add interesting visual effects by playing with straight lines drawn at different angles. I used 45- and 30-degree lines to create a slightly elongated diamond effect. Experiment with the distance from grid to grid for more interesting visual effect. Grids spaced 1/4″ apart look quite different from grids with 1″ spaces. You can either free-motion quilt or use your walking foot to quilt straight lines. My personal preference is to use my walking foot.

Design Within a Design

This third approach to quilting is different from background and allover quilting in that the quilting motif is marked on the block by either using stencils or a customdesigned motif. Additionally, the planned quilting motif(s) becomes part of the block, sharing equal importance with the appliqué. Centering and symmetry are often important when marking on blocks using this approach. Often, there will still be a little negative space left on the block after marking the quilt. When this happens, use background quilting to fill those open spaces. In this case, the background quilting should be dense to accentuate the main quilting design (Photo 4).


For the sample block, four leafy lobes were quilted around the appliqué motif in a symmetrical fashion (Photo 5).


The resulting effect is one that shows the quilting and appliqué motifs as being part of a larger overall design—thus a design within a design. The appliqué motif in the sample block takes on a three-dimensional effect because of the wool batting used in this project. The loft of wool is perfect for achieving a faux trapunto effect when quilting is done around the appliqué pieces.

More Universal Quilting Tips

Using fine thread as your top thread for free-motion quilting is wonderful for beginning, freemotion quilters. Matching thread color to the fabric color helps hide mistakes. Once you are more confident in moving your quilts while you free-motion quilt, experiment with contrasting colors and other threads to find your own customized combinations.

Home-machine quilters might consider using lighter batting (wool or silk, for example) to reduce the overall weight and drag of quilt sandwiches. I can more easily maneuver my quilts using wool or silk batting under the small throat area of my home machine. Additionally, quilters now have several choices

and products to aid in moving their quilt sandwiches. A product such as the Supreme Slider™ added to your machine bed reduces drag, the Quilt Halo© helps your hands guide the basted quilt, and numerous types of machine quilting gloves are available. Experiment to find out what works best for you!

When quilting (either straightline grid quilting, or especially in the case of free-motion quilting), train your eyes to look at the needle to plan for your next area of quilting, rather than using the edge of your presser foot as a guide.

As a general rule of thumb, I normally stitch in the ditches along the outer perimeter of the blocks to stabilize my quilt blocks. I generally do not quilt in the ditches along the patches of a block for an area that is 12″ square or less.


Upon completing the quilting, wet and shape the quilt sandwich. Lay the quilt sandwich on a flat surface to dry. If you used a wool or silk batting, blocking the quilt (squaring any distortion resulting from manipulation while quilting) may be necessary. Be sure the quilt sandwich is completely dry before handling to avoid distorting the blocked quilt.


Finally …

I hope this article has eased your fears about quilting on and around your appliquéd designs. Using any of these three methods is a great place to start if you don’t know how to begin quilting. Why not try re-creating the sample project? Then, use one or all of the techniques on your own appliqué project. I hope you have loads of fun planning how to quilt your next appliquéd masterpiece!

The Sample Quilt

This article assumes knowledge of piecing a simple quilt top and appliquéing a simple design. The sample project consists of three 12″-square finished blocks made with three contrasting colors, a 1″-wide inner sashing and a 3″-wide border. Needle-turn appliqué was used on the appliqué design. Use five contrasting fabrics to replicate the look of the sample project. Templates for the sample quilt are provided following this article and are also available for download and printing at QuiltersWorld.com or Free-Quilting.com.

I marked on the quilt top where necessary, prior to basting the quilt sandwich. With the exception of the straight-line quilting in the center block and the stabilizing stitches around the edges of all of the blocks, the quilt was free-motion quilted. I still prefer to use my walking foot for any straight-line quilting, even though it is not unusual to free-motion quilt straight lines.

Credits: Fabrics: Handspray Collection from RJR Fabrics Threads: YLI Silk 100 thread from YLI Corp. Aurifil Mako 50 Cotton (bobbin thread) Batting: Tuscany Wool Batting from Hobbs Bonded Fibers Needles: Schmetz Microtex 70 Sharp needles (piecing and quilting)


Block Quilting

By Wendy Sheppard

How a quilt is quilted often determines its final appearance, thus the saying “the quilting makes the quilt.” Working with students in classes, I have met many who are frustrated at not knowing what and how to quilt their quilts. Use these simple strategies I have developed for block quilting with your home sewing machine to transform frustration into elation in your next quilted masterpiece.

Using simple geometric and symmetrical motifs emphasizes the piecing of a quilt block.

Using simple geometric and symmetrical motifs emphasizes the piecing of a quilt block.


When deciding how to go about quilting my quilts, I ask myself the following: Do I want to–

• emphasize the designs of the pieced blocks that make up the quilt (referred to herein as “block makeup”),

• create the effect of an overall texture, or

• create an attractive texture that also highlights the piecing?

Quilting Within the Patches

Quilting mostly within the confines of individual patches of a pieced block with simple, geometric, and symmetrical motifs draws the eye to the makeup of the block (Photos 1 and 2). This approach to quilting is perfect for highlighting either simple or complicated piecing in your quilt.


Check your collection of quilting stencils for simple motifs to use to emphasize the block makeup. Don’t worry if you do not have a stash of quilting stencils to choose from; your local quilt shop should carry stencils or books with quilting motifs. The public library may also have books of designs. There are also numerous online sources for quilting stencils. Common household items also make great templates.

When quilting within the patches of a quilt block, start by stitching “in the ditch” along all of the parallel and perpendicular lines within the block. This stitching defines the block makeup and stabilizes the blocks. I use monofilament thread for this step to create “invisible” stitches. Proceed with quilting the other selected motifs to emphasize the individual patches.

All-over Quilting (Quilting Beyond the Piecing)

This second approach to quilting tends to blur the lines between the quilting and the piecing—the block makeup tends to recede with all-over quilting, especially if the quilting is dense (Photos 3 and 4). When one looks at a quilt block that is quilted with an all-over motif, the quilting and the quilt block read as “one.”



When used over the entire quilt an all-over motif creates a uniformly quilted texture. All-over quilting is highly conducive to unmarked free-motion quilting (as I did in the sample quilt) however; it can also be done by marking your quilt in full or part.

I like to do all-over quilting for a quilt made with busy fabrics. However, even if the fabrics are not busy, as in the sample, all-over quilting works just as well! Sometimes, you might even find an all-over quilting motif already decided for you in one of the printed fabrics in your quilt. Using a motif inspired by a print works well for blocks with large patches, like those found in snowball blocks, for example.

To do all-over quilting, I normally start by stitching in the ditch along the outer perimeter of the blocks to “set” the design, again using mono-filament thread. I generally do not stitch in the ditch along the patches of a block for an area that is 12″ square or less. Use multicolored thread when stitching an all-over motif to add interest to the design.

Quilting Beyond Patches, But Within the Block

This approach to quilting is slightly different from all-over quilting in that the quilting does not blend in as much with the block makeup. The quilt motif chosen should encompass the majority of the block, and not be limited by the boundaries of the individual patches of the block (Photos 5 and 6).



For this approach, I also only quilt in the ditches along the outer perimeter of the blocks unless the blocks are larger than 12″ finished.

Large quilting motifs from any quilting stencils work well for this approach to quilting. I personally like to use symmetrical feather quilting motifs for this combined technique—the feathers present a nice texture that doesn’t overwhelm the prominence of the block makeup. I like the symmetry of the quilting motifs to complement the symmetry of the block makeup. Straight stitching in the center of a symmetrical design provides an interesting contrast to the curved stitch lines. This mix of straight and curved lines also works to highlight the block makeup.

Other Universal Quilting Tips

Mark on the quilt top where necessary prior to basting the quilt sandwich. Use your stencil or template and your favorite marking tools to mark your design.

Using a fine thread as the top threads with a slightly shorter stitch length for free-motion quilting is a wonderful combination for quilters who are new to free-motion quilting. Matching thread color to the fabric color is conducive in masking mistakes. Once you are more confident in moving your quilts while you free-motion quilt, experiment with contrasting thread colors and other types of threads (rayon, metallic, etc.) to find your own customized combinations.

Home machine quilters might consider using lighter-weight batts to reduce the overall weight and drag of quilt sandwiches. I can more easily maneuver my quilts using wool or silk batting under the small throat area of my domestic home machine. Finally, practice, practice, practice. Over time, your quilting skills will improve.

Block Quilting Conclusion

Making a three-block quilting sampler, such as the one that accompanies this article is a great way to try out the three approaches to quilting traditionally pieced blocks. Try experimenting with different fabrics, threads and batting to find the combinations that work best for you. I hope the techniques I have shared will help you to decide how to successfully quilt your next pieced top.



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Overview of Quilting Notions

By Linda Turner Griepentrog

If you’re new to quilting, or just getting back into it after several years’ lapse, there are a few basic quilting notions you can’t live without. Not only do they make your quilting easier, but they help with accuracy and quality stitching as well.

Rotary Cutter


Most quilters have more than one rotary cutter—whether they’re different sizes or brands, these handy tools are key to accurate and fast cutting of multiple fabric layers. Available in blade sizes from 18mm to 65mm, use the smaller size if you’re cutting curves, and the larger one for straight cuts. Look for a cutter with a safety latch to protect you and the blade, and choose a handle style that’s comfortable for you—there are ergonomic options, cushioned grips and the traditional straight handles. If color is important, look for special-edition prints, or cutters that benefit a cause you support. Besides the basic cutting blade, add to your stash some decorative edge blades like pinking, scallop and wave edges for special finishing on items such as fleece quilts and quilt-block appliqués.

Rotary Mat

01-001625 001

01-001625 001

Rotary cutters must be used with a special cutting mat to protect the tabletop and maintain the cuttingblade edge. Mats are available in many sizes, from small ones convenient for toting to class, to tabletop size. For studio use, larger is better, but be sure your mat is at least 24″ across to accommodate most fabrics without refolding. Mats have some kind of printed gridwork, angles or shapes to help with squaring and aligning cut lines. Some brands are reversible with different line and/or shape patterns on both sides. Be sure whatever mat you choose has clearly visible lines and that it is self-healing for long wear. Add a rotating mat to your tool stash—it spins like a lazy Susan for easier cutting on multiple sides with just a twist. If you’re looking for double duty, look for a two-sided surface— one for rotary cutting and the other a gridded pressing board, a space saver perfect for toting to class.


Like cutters, quilters always have more than one ruler; but if you’re just beginning to acquire your quilting tools, begin with a 6″ x 24″ ruler that’s marked with 30-, 45- and 60-degree angles. This ruler spans traditional 45″-wide fabrics for easy strip cutting, and the angles allow for more complex cuts where needed. Square rulers with numbers on all sides, in 61/2″ and 121/2″ sizes, allow you to square up blocks and triangles with ease. Look for rulers with 1/8″ markings on all sides, and a nonslip surface for safer and more accurate cutting. Beyond these basics, there are myriad specialty rulers, so start collecting as your budget allows!

¼” Foot


Seaming accuracy is of the utmost importance, so if your sewing machine doesn’t have a 1/4″ foot, look for a generic version. Depending on the brand, one side may be 1/4″ and the other side 1/8″ or 3/8″ wide. This foot has a single, round needle hole for accurate straight stitching, and crosswise markings on the toes allow for accurate cornering and mitering tasks.

Slider Mat

Need help with sliding the fabric around smoothly for free-motion quilting? A nonslip silicone sheet that covers the machine bed makes slick work of the task. It can be trimmed with scissors to fit the feed dogs and machine bed, and has a tacky backing to keep it in place.


A full-size iron is great for pressing blocks, but if you want to work next to your sewing machine or tote a project to class, check out one of the mini-iron options. Offering various features and settings, depending on the brand, these tiny workhorses are handy to have. Along with the portable iron, protect your tabletop with a pressing pad.



Whether you prefer air- or water-soluble ink, there’s a marker to fit the bill. Shaped like a pencil or ballpoint pen, various brands offer different colors depending on your marking needs, and some offer a thick and thin marker on opposite ends of the same tool. Also look for washable chalk pencils in a variety of colors. It’s important to read the directions with all marking tools, as some become permanent if pressed over before removal. Test-mark (and remove) on a fabric scrap before you choose the appropriate method.


For piecing, use 100 percent cotton thread in a basic color, like off-white, gray or black. These neutrals span most every color range with ease, though if your fabric isn’t opaque, you may want matching thread. Choose a quality thread that’s smooth, tightly twisted and even in appearance. For quilting threads, the sky’s the limit—whether you select solid or variegated, look for novelties in rayon, cotton and metallic that fit the mood of your quilt. While you want to use a size 50 thread for piecing, you can use a 60-, 50-, 30- or 12-weight for quilting. Remember: the bigger the number, the finer the thread. Test-stitch to see what type and size you like best, and adjust the needle size to accommodate larger threads.



While some machines offer a built-in needle threader, there are times when it’s handy to have a separate threader. Look for a set that offers threaders in multiple sizes, with a thread cutter for those portable quilting projects.

Earth Envy

Organic threads and fabrics continue to enter the quilting marketplace, and other sustainable options, like bamboo, wool and alpaca batting are readily available, so consider quilting with earth-friendly options when you have a choice. Gather quilting notions before you start any quilting project!

Resources for featured products: 1/4″ foot, www.Clotilde.com Clover Markers, www.clover-usa.com Dritz Petite Plus Iron, www.dritz.com Fiskars Rotary Cutter and Mat, www.fiskars.com June Tailor Cut’n’Press II Board, www. junetailor.com Klaer Intl. Needle Threaders, needlethreaders@aol.com Martinelli Rotary Cutters and Mat, www.martinelli.com Olfa Rulers, Blades and Rotary Cutter, www.olfa.com SewSlip Mat, www.sewslip.com YLI Organic Thread, www.ylicorp.com

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Fabric-Dyeing Basics

By: Tricia Lynn Maloney

Fabric dyeing always seemed to be something better left to professionals until one cold and wet Sunday many years ago when my friend Dot taught me how to do it. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d imagined! In fact, it was relatively simple. With some basic supplies and the right chemicals, I dyed gorgeous fabric. You can too!


Measuring cups, containers, gloves and dust masks may be found at many large retail stores or hardware stores.

Basic Supplies

(CAUTION: Once you’ve used these items for dyeing, DO NOT use them for food preparation.)

• Plastic dishpan or sweater box

• Rubber gloves

• Dust mask

• Plastic spoons

• Several 12-ounce plastic cups

• 1 set measuring spoons/cups

• Paper towels

• 6 zip-top gallon-size plastic bags

• Gallon jug

• 3 yards 100 percent cotton solid white fabric (PFD—prepared for dyeing—if you can get it)

• Bucket

• Pitcher


Fabric usually has some kind of sizing or finishing applied to it. Sometimes these finishes can interfere with the dyeing process. RTD (ready to dye) fabrics have no starches, sizing or finishes applied to the fabric. PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabrics have had no added whiteners and are off-white in color. You may purchase RTD or PFD fabrics. Online sources are given at the end of this article.


Chemicals for home dyeing are readily available online.

Chemicals Needed

• 1 tablespoon fabric dye powder, color of your choice (Procion MX is recommended)

• Soda ash (available at your local department/pool store in brands pH UP and pH Plus)

• Urea (nitrogen crystals)

• Synthrapol (industrial fabric detergent)

Scouring Fabric

Unless using PFD fabric, you will need to prepare your fabric for the dyeing process. This process is called scouring, and it removes soil and finishes on fabric.

Cut or tear your fabric into six 1/2-yard pieces. Put your fabric into a hot wash cycle in your washer and add a few tablespoons of both Synthrapol and soda ash. There’s no need to dry the fabric.

Preparing Workspace

I prefer dyeing fabric outside so I don’t have to worry so much about the mess, but if you choose to work inside, work in a well-ventilated area and cover all surfaces with plastic sheeting (garages or basements work well). It’s a good idea to wear an apron or old clothes. Make sure all of your supplies are in your workspace and you have access to water.


Place the bags upright inside the plastic tubs, ready to be filled with dye.

Scrunch the fabric to add a textural look when dyed.

Scrunch the fabric to add a textural look when dyed.

Preparing Plastic Container

Place a layer of paper towels in the bottom of your plastic container. This is for catching spills, and it makes it easy to see if your bags are leaking. Into the paper towel–lined container, place six opened gallon-size bags, labeled 1–6. Roll the top edges down to help them stand up better.

Making Soda-Ash Solution & Soda-Ash Soak

To make a soda-ash solution, put 8 tablespoons of soda ash into a gallon-size jug and fill to the top with very warm water. Cap it and shake to dissolve the soda ash in the water.

To make a soda-ash soak, put 1/2 cup of soda ash into a bucket and fill it up with warm water. When your fabric is done scouring, place it into the soda-ash soak bucket until you’re ready to scrunch it and put it into the dye solution.

Making Dye Solution

PUT ON YOUR GLOVES AND DUST MASK! Measure 31/2 cups of
warm water and 10 tablespoons of urea into the pitcher. Stir until the urea is dissolved. Measure out 1 cup of urea water and set aside for a moment.

Measure 1 tablespoon of dye powder into a 12-ounce plastic cup and add a little bit of the cup of urea water to the dye powder. Mix into a paste. Then add the rest of the cup of urea water and stir until the dye powder is completely dissolved. Remove your dust mask.

Preparing Plastic Bags

Set dye solution aside for a moment and add 2 cups of sodaash solution (from your gallon jug) to each of the six plastic bags waiting in your plastic tub. Do this carefully because the bags will tend to slide down in the tub.

Folding Fabric

There are many ways to fold or wrap fabric for dyeing; but for this project, we’re going to scrunch them all. Scrunching gives fabric a wonderful mottled, organic effect that is perfect for appliquéd leaves and flower petals.

The tighter you scrunch your fabric, the more texture the fabric will have because the dye will not be able to saturate all sections of the fabric evenly. If the fabric is too tightly folded and/or secured, however, the dye will be unable to penetrate into the middle of the fabric. This makes what I call “oops” fabrics.

Don't scrunch the fabric so tightly that the dye can't penetrate to the center!

Don’t scrunch the fabric so tightly that the dye can’t penetrate to the center!

I usually save these mistakes for over-dyeing later, often in a different color so that I get some interesting color combinations. Remove a piece of fabric from the soda-ash soak bucket and squeeze out some of the excess liquid. Lay your fabric on a flat surface and use your fingers to scrunch the edges toward the center of the fabric. It will look something like a rose when you get it squished down into a small ball. Repeat with each 1/2-yard piece of fabric. Set fabric balls aside for a moment.

Adding Dye & Fabric to Bags

To Bag 1, add 1/2 cup of dye solution. Add a piece of scrunched fabric, being careful not to disturb its folds. Now add a 1/2 cup of urea water to the unused dye-solution remaining in the pitcher and stir. This dilutes the dye that will be added to the second bag.

Add the scrunched up fabric to the dyebath.

Add the scrunched up fabric to the dyebath.

Gently massage the fabric inside the bag.

Gently massage the fabric inside the bag.

To Bag 2, add 1/2 cup of the diluted dye solution and then another piece of fabric. Add 1/2 cup urea water to the unused dye-solution remaining in the pitcher and stir. Repeat process for remaining bags 3–6. Each new bag will have half the dye of its predecessor, which will result in six shades of the same color. Now seal the bags, removing as much air as you can. Massage the bags a bit to help the dye get into the fabric. Keep in mind that the more you massage, the more solid the color in your fabric will be.

The more the fabric is massaged, the more solid its color will be.

The more the fabric is massaged, the more solid its color will be.


Carefully dispose of any remaining urea water, soda-ash solution or dye solution down the drain. Rinse all spoons, cups and containers. Wash all surfaces. Make sure all chemicals are tightly closed before storing. Now you can take off your gloves.

Curing Fabric

Allow the fabric to rest undisturbed in the bags of dye for 12 –24 hours.

Washing Fabric

Add 3 tablespoons of Synthrapol to a warm wash cycle in your washer. While wearing gloves, squeeze the excess liquid out of fabric (in the bags) and add carefully to the wash, trying to minimize any splashing. You may need to add more Synthrapol to the second wash cycle. I usually wash dyed fabric three times to remove all excess dye. Dry fabric in dryer on a cotton setting until just slightly damp. Press fabric with iron to remove wrinkles. Trim off any strings. Enjoy your beautiful hand-dyed fabric!

Shown here are the six shades from light to dark green.

Shown here are the six shades from light to dark green.

Shown here are blue hues done with the same process.

Shown here are blue hues done with the same process.

Fabric Dyeing Resources Fabric, Dyes & Chemicals Dharma Trading Co. www.dharmatrading.com Pro Chemical & Dye www.prochemicalanddye.com Books Hand-Dyed Fabric Made Easy by Adriene Buffington Fast, Fun & Easy Fabric Dyeing: Create Colorful Fabric for Quilts, Crafts & Wearables by Lynn Koolish Fabric Dyeing for Beginners by Vimala McClure Dyeing to Quilt: Quick, Direct-Dye Methods for Quilt Makers by Joyce Mori and Cynthia Myerberg


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Preparing Your Quilt for Quilting

“One of the most important things I have learned is that taking the time to prepare quilt tops and backings before beginning the quilting process can make a real difference in the look of the finished quilt.” ~Terry Watson

Whether you are hand quilting, machine quilting or sending your top out to a longarm quilter, there are a few simple things you can do to make the quilting process easier and improve the look of your final project. These are not rules. I am not a badge-carrying member of the Quilt Police. These are suggestions, thoughts and ideas that can make the path to a finished quilt a little smoother.

Secured seams at edges of quilt top.

Secured seams at edges of quilt top.

Prepare Your Quilt by Pressing

Pressing, squaring up and trimming threads as you are putting your blocks or sections together are some of the best habits you can get into as a quilter. These habits will make sewing your quilt blocks or sections into a quilt top easier and more relaxing. We have all known the frustration of trying to align blocks or rows that are not quite perfect.

Taking an extra couple of minutes to press (not iron, press) and square up as you go eliminates many of those frustrations.

Well-pressed back of quilt top. Threads trimmed.

Well-pressed back of quilt top. Threads trimmed.

As you are putting the final borders on your quilt top, secure all of the seams that lead to the outside edge of the quilt. This is especially important for quilt tops with pieced borders. In fact, if you have a heavily pieced border (or no border at all), I recommend that you also run a line of basting stitches around the outside edge of the top within the area that will be covered by the binding. Both of these actions will add stability and keep the seams from pulling apart as you handle, fold and quilt the top.

Good quality, blunt-tipped children’s scissors by Fiskars.

Good quality, blunt-tipped children’s scissors by Fiskars.

A final and careful pressing of the finished quilt top allows you to inspect it before the quilting process begins. As you press the back or wrong side of the quilt top you can clip threads that you may have missed in the piecing process. Dark or medium shades of piecing thread can show through lighter portions of the quilt top when the top is pushed against the batting during quilting. Check for open or scant seams and make sure seam allowances are pressed in the direction you intended.

Stitch-in-the-ditch quilting.

Stitch-in-the-ditch quilting.

Many of us who learned to quilt in the last 25 or 30 years were taught to press our seam allowances to one side; usually toward the darker fabric. This creates a “ditch” or low side along the seam. If this is your regular method of pressing, and you intend for the quilting to include stitch-in-the-ditch, you want to make sure that you are pressing all of those seams in the same direction. If the seam allowance flips back and forth, the ditch will change sides making it very difficult to stay in the ditch while quilting. Consistent pressing of the seam allowance to the same side will also help keep the seam lines looking straight, especially the longer seams of sashings and borders.

Here's an example of an obvious shadow through an appliquéd top.

Example of obvious shadow through an appliquéd top.

You can then turn the quilt top over and press the front or right side. Here you can check for possible pleating along the seams, shadow of dark fabrics behind light ones, and see if there is any fullness within the quilt top or borders. Pressing from the front also allows you to see if there are any misplaced blocks. It is much easier to fix these issues now than during the quilting process.

The Big Board ironing surface is perfect for pressing quilt tops.

The Big Board ironing surface is perfect for
pressing quilt tops.

A Big Board or extra-large homemade pressing surface can help make this last pressing easier and more enjoyable. I bought an extra-large, heavy-duty ironing board, but it still had an annoying pointy end that cramped my style when trying to press yardage, backings and quilt tops.

I had my husband cut a piece of plywood to measure 50″ x 22″. I wrapped it in heavy-duty plastic (in case I want to use steam sometimes), two layers of cotton batting and some “extra” cotton fabric I happened to have lying around that was large enough. I used a staple gun to secure these layers of materials to the bottom of the board. I laid my new handy-dandy pressing surface on my extra-sturdy ironing board and voilá—a large, efficient pressing surface was born! I can easily remove it if I ever decide to iron something other than quilts. My cousin has her pressing board set up on top of her washer and dryer.

Creating Backings to Prepare Your Quilt for Quilting

If you send your quilt to a long-arm quilter for quilting, she/he will likely tell you your backing and batting need to be 6–8″ larger than your quilt top. She/he needs this extra fabric along the top, bottom and sides because of the way the quilt sandwich is loaded onto the quilting system. The edges of the backing need to be pinned, zipped or clamped to the fabric leaders of the quilting system and the sides are clamped and re-clamped as the quilt sandwich is advanced for quilting.

It is also a good idea to have these extra backing inches if you are hand or machine quilting the top yourself. Safety pinning the extra backing fabric over the edge of the batting and quilt top will help keep it from fraying as you quilt.

It is important to be aware that if the backing is pieced it should be stitched and pressed just as carefully as the quilt top. This can help eliminate pleats and puckers on the back during the quilting process.

Often backs are pieced with two or three lengths of fabric. Remove the selvage edges on the edges you are seaming to avoid extra bulk. I encourage my clients to leave the selvage edge on the outside edges of the backing as it usually makes for a straight, sturdy edge on which to attach to my leaders. If you send your quilts out for quilting you should ask your quilter what she/ he prefers.

The bit of extra time and attention you take when preparing your quilt for long-arm quilting not only makes for a less frustrating quilting experience and a better-looking completed quilt, it also gives you time to think about how you want to quilt your top.

By Terry Watson


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Quilt Batting Basics

Your quilt top is all done, and the backing is pieced—now what kind of batting are you going to use? There are so many choices in batting nowadays that this question is not as easy to answer as it seems.

Batting comes in many different lofts and several colors.

By Gina Gempesaw

Quilt Batting Basics

The Packaging/Size Batting comes either on a roll or is packaged by size. Most batting rolls come in predetermined widths—usually 45″, 60″, 90″ or 120″. It is also available in a narrower runner width of about 18″.

Purchasing batting by the yard off a batting roll is very convenient because you can specify the length needed for your project. You may not have as many choices in types of batting purchasing this way because most stores do not carry a variety of battings on the roll. Most packaged batting sizes correspond to bedding sizes such as king, queen, twin and crib. For smaller projects, there is also a craft size. These packaged battings are very quick and easy to purchase and use.

Choosing Batting

To choose batting, first determine the size of the finished quilt top. The width and length of the batting will need to be at least 8″–12″ larger than the stitched top depending on the preferences of the quilter. For example, if the finished quilt top is 60″ x 80″, adding the quilting allowance means that you will need batting that is at least 68″ x 88″, which is basically a twin-size batting. To purchase off a 90″-wide roll you would need about 2 yards.

Batting Loft 

Determining the amount of loft or thickness of the batting preferred in a finished quilt is a personal choice.

Batting Fiber Content

Fiber content is another important factor to consider when choosing batting. Batting labels will indicate whether the batting is made of cotton, polyester, wool, silk, rayon, bamboo or other fibers. They will also indicate if the batting is made of a blend of two or more different fibers. Sometimes, the label will indicate a small polyester content, which can be attributed to a scrim. Scrim is a thin surface layer of a polyester material that binds the batting fibers to make the batting less stretchy.

Additionally, for more stability and strength, some battings are needle-punched instead of using glue or resin to hold the fibers together. Some quilters look for these qualities since they make it easier to handle the batting for quilting.

Thermal bonding is another process that is now commonly used in batting manufacturing. Batting fibers are mixed with a small amount of low-melt polyester and then exposed to heat. This process requires sealing or glazing on the outer surfaces to add stability and to help minimize the potential for bearding, bunching and shifting. Bearding refers to batting fibers migrating through fabrics to the quilt surface. This is especially troublesome when using light-color batting with darker fabrics or vice versa.

Types of Batting

Cotton Batting Cotton is a natural fiber that has been used in quilts since at least the early 1800s. Today, cotton battings are extremely well processed, clean and very smooth. Unless it has a scrim binder, cotton batting can be easily quilted by hand or machine, and usually is soft and easy to drape. Shrinkage varies depending on the manufacturer and the manufacturing process. Some cotton battings shrink as little as 1–3 percent.

Pre-washed for a variety of reasons, including pre-shrinking, or if it will be used for hand quilting. Some battings will fall apart when prewashed, so it is critical to investigate the laundering recommendations. Air-fluffing a batting in the dryer before use is often recommended to remove fold or crease marks. After the quilt is completed, follow the general laundering guidelines found on the batting label. For the most part, quilts are usually laundered with little to no heat in either the washer or dryer. In fact, air-drying a quilt on a warm but cloudy day is the preferred method. Whether or not to launder batting is just one of the many things to consider when contemplating shrinkage in a finished quilt. The amount a quilt will shrink is based on many things, including the choice of fabric, thread and quilting density. For example, a quilt made with unwashed flannel will most likely shrink a lot more than a quilt made with unwashed regular cottons regardless of expected batting shrinkage.

Quilting Density

One of the most important things you need to know about batting is how close the quilting stitches need to be. This information is also usually found on the label. This is important information because if not followed, the batting will come apart during use and when laundered. This can ruin a quilt. While there are battings that require quilting stitches every 2″, there are also those where the stitches can be up to 8″ or more apart! How densely are you planning to quilt your project? Heirloom quilts might warrant very dense quilting. A rush quilt is easier to complete with less quilting—perhaps even tying instead of quilting—so in that case, batting that does not require close quilting stitches may be preferred.

Packaged batting comes with a label or information sheet about its content and use. These labels will include information about loft. A low-loft batting is usually about 1/16″–1/8″ thick while high-loft batting can be 1/2″ thick or more. A low-loft batting is typically easier to hand-quilt than a high-loft one just because the needle has to travel farther through the latter. A quilt made with a high-loft batting will be fluffier, while quilts made with low-loft batting tend to be flatter and will drape better. Using a batting with a slightly higher loft in a quilt with a lot of seams will allow the seams to nestle into the batting better and will eliminate seam bumps. Quilts used purely as wall-hangings will drape and hang better if made with low-loft battings.

Laundering Your Batting

If purchasing batting from a roll without take-along label information, be sure to get the name of the manufacturer and type of batting from the store. You can check the laundering information on the manufacturer’s website. Packaged batting provides laundering information on the label. Batting is usually ready to use as it comes. Some battings will need to be

Make sure you keep the laundering instructions for unpackaged batting with the batting.

Cotton batting is manufactured in a variety of lofts and can also be frequently found blended with other fibers such as polyester.

Polyester Batting

While polyester batting is made with a synthetic fiber, it has a looser density compared to cotton and has a higher loft in general. Loft for polyester batting is sometimes described in terms of weight in ounces. Polyester batting is easier to hand-quilt, resistant to molds and mildew, and usually will not shrink. Products with a lower loft tend to drape well and are suited for use in wall hangings.

Polyester batting runs the risk of bearding. Polyester batting is not considered breathable, which means it does not allow air to pass through. Quilts made with polyester batting can make for a warm quilt because it traps body heat. Of course, this can also depend on loft and the density of the batting. Some polyester battings may be very sparse so once it is quilted, the batting compresses to an extremely thin layer that can make for a cooler quilt.

Wool Batting

Wool is a natural, breathable fiber that is known for its insulating qualities. A quilt made with wool batting would be very warm yet lightweight, making it a great choice for use in bed quilts. Hand quilting through wool is a dream. There is no resistance to the needle pushing through the layers. In general, it has a higher loft than cotton and shows off quilting stitches well. Wool batting, however, is more expensive than cotton or polyester batting.

Other Fibers & Blends

Battings made of silk, rayon, bamboo and other fibers are also available. A lot of these are created specifically to cotton batting, polyester batting, and wool batting.

Use white batting when working with light or white fabrics.

Highlight certain desirable features of the fibers used. For instance, rayon is a wonderful fiber that is warm and also resists mold and mildew.

Specialty Batting

Also available are specialty battings created for specific purposes. For example, fusible batting allows a quilter to baste the quilt sandwich by pressing—no need to pin or stitch-baste. Certain projects such as pot holders and oven mitts require insulation to prevent heat transfer, so there is a heat-resistant batting that provides for that. There is also batting that has extra body, making it ideal for purses or totes. There is the batting made from flame-retardant fibers that would be ideal to use in a crib quilt.

Color Batting is usually one of three colors—white, natural or black. Cotton batting can be bleached (white) or unbleached (natural). For the most part, using white or natural batting does not make a difference in how the quilt looks. However, when the quilt top has a lot of white or light fabrics, the best choice is to use a white batting. Even though white is close to natural, a natural-color batting can possibly change the color of a white quilt and make it look a bit dingy. Black batting is used with quilt tops that are dark. For example, a quilt with a black background will most likely need black batting. This is the prudent choice, especially if there is even the smallest chance of bearding.

Batting Primer

The next time you visit your local quilt shop or attend a quilt show, look for different types of batting so you can test which ones you would like to use in future projects. Sometimes batting samples are available for free or for a small fee. Make sure you try quilting the battings you choose and take notes! Keep your notes and test samples for future reference.

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Get Rid of the Scraps – Free Quilting Scraps Ideas

As the year comes to a close it can be a good time to clear out your collection of scrap materials that have built up during a year of quilting. Patterns for scrap quilts are fun ways to use up all your stored scraps of material. Even if you don’t have an extensive scrap collection you can still make a fun scrap quilt with packages of pre-cut fabrics in any pattern or theme you can think of.

Small Projects for Small Pieces of Cloth

Maybe you only have a few scraps hiding with your quilting supplies, or you might have many scraps but all in small pieces. Either way, a small project is the perfect way to use up your supply of scraps. The Flower Magnet message board can help you use your scraps, as well as keep your family organized. When you use your favorite coordinating scraps you can transform a boring metal message board into something fun to use.

Little Pieces of Fabric Can Go a Long Way

If you’re an avid quilter, then your scrap collection could be extensive. That means that you can create large projects without having to purchase many supplies. This Scottie Dog Scrap Baby Quilt is a perfect idea for your quilting scraps. The adorable Scottie dogs can all be cut out of the same material, or if you want a very scrappy look they can be cut from any of your dark colored scraps. This quilt will look adorable in any combination of colors you might have.

Give Away Your Scraps as Cute Quilted Gifts

Quilted home décor looks as if it is both expensive and difficult to make. With quilting scraps patterns nothing could be further from the truth. The Modern Matches pillows look like they belong in an interior decorating magazine, but they can be made easily with any long quilting scraps. You could breathe new life to your favorite chair by adding one of these colorful pillows. They also make thoughtful housewarming gifts because you can easily create a cover to match any color scheme.

There is no shortage of ideas for your quilting scraps. You are only limited by your imagination and scrap collection. Never fear if you find a quilting scraps idea but you don’t have enough coordinating scraps to make it. You can purchase small pieces of coordinating fabrics that will bring any scrap quilt to life.


Top Quilting Shows You Must See in 2015

Quilt shows are fun times to get together with other quilters to see what is new in the quilting world. In 2015 there will be many quilt shows that should not be missed. You can attend workshops to learn new techniques to make your quilts ever more beautiful. You can also browse through galleries of beautiful quilts, such as the Double Wedding Ring with Stars quilt, to inspire your own quilting projects.

AQS Quilt week

This show is so popular that it has to travel throughout the country all year. In 2015 there are six cities hosting this show. The host cities are all over the country. No matter where you live there will be a show close to you. Attend one of the many workshops and discover new stitching techniques to bring your quilts to life. Or you can see new ways for to piece together a quilt top.

The Lancaster Quilt Show

This show takes place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in March. It’s not to be confused with the AQS show that takes place on the same dates. This show is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and to celebrate the directors are offering a free raffle with a gift basket worth $2,500 as the grand prize. Besides hosting many interesting workshops, this show boasts an exhibit of antique quilts. These quilts display how timeless a good pattern can be.


If you happen to be deep in the heart of Austin, Texas this February, you can attend the fun and vibrant QuiltCon. This convention is hosted by the Modern Quilt Guild and offers many unique lectures and workshops. It also offers opportunities for you to show off your quilting skills by entering your quilts in the juried quilt shows for the possibility of winning thousands of dollars in prize money. Maybe a quilt using the Dresden Star pattern will help you earn a top spot.

No matter which show you decide to attend you can be sure you will come home with more ideas about how to make beautiful quilts. Classic Quilting Patterns make timeless projects for you to show off your new skills.

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Simple Quilts to Make During Vacation

School may be out for the holidays, but that only means you have free time to practice your quilting skills. Simple Quilt Patterns are perfect for when you have a short period of time to finish a project. If you are an experienced quilter, a simple quilt can be finished in a week. Even if you are new to quilting a simple quilt pattern can help you develop your quilting skills without overwhelming you with a large project.

Vacations are the Perfect Time to Make Simple Quilts

Winter break may mean time away from school but it can be a busy time with holiday festivities. Simple quilts often don’t require long pieces of material, which makes them easy to carry around with you. The Make Mine Plaid Table Runner is a simple quilt that if it’s made with Christmas colors can be used to decorate your holiday table. Or if you choose to use your favorite colors, the table runner can be used all year.

Simple Quilt Patterns Don’t Have to be Small

Throughout the cold winter days of winter break you may want to make yourself a full quilt to cuddle up under every night. The Scrap Chain Quilt Pattern is a full size quilt that can be put together easily and finished before school resumes. This quilt pattern is also perfect to make over a winter break because it can help you clean out your scrap collection before New Year’s Day. You can start a new year with plenty of room for new fabrics for your quilting projects.

Stitch a Vacation Together with a Simple Quilt

No matter what size quilt you want to make, simple quilt patterns will give you many ideas for projects that can be completed during a vacation. Being able to complete a quilting project will help you unwind from the pressure of school, as well give you a feeling of accomplishment. When you return to school from your vacation you will have an impressive answer to the question, “What did you do on vacation?”

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