Game of Quilts

I’ve watched a season of Game of Thrones. It’s OK. I’m just not that interested in watching television to keep going with it. However, when I learned of the Game of Quilts competition that the Badass Quilters Society is hosting and saw the red and grey colorway, I had to participate. I chose to make a Mariner’s Compass of my own design. Unlike most quilted compasses, my points have varying lengths. This added a huge degree of difficulty as I couldn’t do a simple paper piecing project. I had to add curves to the inside of the sections. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty impressive if you understand the construction.

GoQFull3GoQNorth Corner

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Color and Quilting

Pawnee Night

Pawnee Night paper piecing pattern designed by Bad Girl Quilts

I have been teaching a class on paper piecing at Sew Downtown recently, and part of the class includes color theory. I’m confident enough with the basics: color wheel, contrast, color schemes, hue, saturation and brightness. I like to go to Color Scheme Designer 3 to get some ideas and see how colors work together, but I thought I’d Google color and quilting to see what else I might find. I was really surprised to come upon a color system called Munsell that I’d never heard of before. Not that I should know everything about everything, but I’ve been in school for the last two years taking graphic design and art classes.

Munsell has a color tree that’s a 3 dimensional representation of hue, value and chroma. They have a blog entry from Maria Elkins, a winner of quilt shows on the international level. After reading her blog entry, it is clear that Ms. Elkins has put a huge amount of effort into learning about color, creating striking modern quilt tops as studies in color. I’m in awe. I love that the quilts in this series show a side of quilting that isn’t about perfect points and matching seams but the art in quilting. Find the entry on Using Color Theory in Quiltmaking here.


While all of this is very helpful to understand why some color combinations are more appealing than other, quilting adds another degree of difficulty. Sure, Kona cotton solids are all the rage in modern quilts, but I still love prints. And with prints comes the dimension of additional colors within the prints and the scale of the prints.

As I was continuing on, trying to find more helpful information for my students in the paper piecing class, I remembered that Craftsy has a free block-of-the-month (BoM) class that teaches color theory for quilters while making a quilt, one block at a time. They do a great job of explaining how to use the print scale along with the main and accent colors within a print. Honestly, I don’t like the quilt they have on display. My opinion on why this quilt doesn’t work is that the batiks used have a lot of color and action going on and then the quilt itself uses a lot of small pieces. So take the class (it’s free!), but if you would prefer to use a different group of fabrics or fabric from your stash, do it.

Piecing before color/scale theory

Piecing before color/scale theory

Piecing using color contrast and print scale

Piecing using color contrast and print scale

I brought along a paper pieced UFO (unfinished object – or project – as we call them in the quilting world) that was one of the first projects I ever started. It uses a Debbie Mumm collection called Cabin Fever, and I call the project Adirondack Beauty. It’s a New York Beauty pattern with the woodsy cabin theme, hence the name. I noticed that there were several pieces I’d put together at the time (probably 10 years ago) that weren’t providing the impact that they should. Unfortunately I’ve cut all the pieces for the outside of the squares, so some of them will never look good. I didn’t bring the UFO along as a bad example, but it was perfect to show how much of a difference the end result will be if you take the time to learn before you cut.

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Free-Motion Quilting with Feathers

I took Angela Walter’s Free Motion Quilting with Feathers because I had to. What? Why would I have to? I worked at Craftsy for a bit. Not for long, but at the time this class was being created. I’ll be honest, my leaving wasn’t under the best of circumstances. Let’s just say that after being self-employed for a long time, being elbow-to-elbow with a couple hundred incredibly talented people just wasn’t for me. Why am I baring my career-soul like this? Because if I didn’t think that Craftsy has amazing classes that were well worth the money they’re asking, I certainly wouldn’t be promoting them. Yes, I make a dollar or two when you sign up, but my personality is such that I’ll shoot myself in the financial foot before doing something I don’t believe in.

Even if you’ve never given a rat’s behind about feathers, you’ll suddenly discover what you’ve been missing. Angela starts off by saying she doesn’t know why anyone wouldn’t like feathers. I’ll tell you why I didn’t care: too traditional. That, and they look way too complicated and only something you’d be successful with if you hand-stitched or used a computerized longarm. But because I was editing the program, I had to watch it.

First of all, Angela is young and vibrant and fun, and although feathers are traditional, Angela is anything but. She provides you with many options and a few different methods for making feathers, with or without marking. Feathers in squares. Feathers in circles. Feathers in borders. Feathers with points. Feathers with echos… you get the point. I could not wait to get something done that would allow me to play with feathers.

The class is well worth the regular price, but right now it’s on sale! Go to Free Motion Quilting with Feathers today and sign up. You’ll love it. If you don’t have a Craftsy account, it’s free to join. There are many valuable free classes on the site in addition to the paid classes.

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Finishing Your Quilt

I’m lucky enough to have a longarm machine. Some would call it a midarm, but whatever you call it, it rocks when it comes to quilting my quilts. I started out with my signature flames quilting pattern and have grown a lot in the last year thanks to some Craftsy classes (love Angela Walters’ classes and the class on quilting with templates).

Before I had my longarm, I finished all of my quilts myself on my regular sewing machine.

Wholecloth quilt

I put this on the old quilt frame so I could mark it for quilting on the longarm.

The hardest part for me was getting the whole thing basted without wrinkling on the back. I finally made an old-school quilt frame out of four 8 foot pieces of 1″ X 4″ hardwood wrapped in batting leftovers and old sheets, fastened with upholstery tacks. I clamped the pieces of wood together into the size I needed and rested it on chairs. I came up with this idea after helping my former future sisters-in-law (I never actually married the guy) tie quilts. You pin the backing to the sheets tacked onto the rails, layer the batting over that, and pin the top on over all of it. Then you unclamp the the corners and roll two rails on opposite ends in toward the middle until you can reach all parts of the interior of the quilt. You have to unpin the sides while you do this, and then repin as you move the rails out after pin or thread basting everything in the middle. You keep working the rails out, basting as you go, until it’s all done. Then you take it to the machine.

But if this sounds confusing and you don’t care to store four large boards, Leah Day demonstrates an excellent method to baste your quilt sandwich in her Craftsy classes. She also has a couple of classes where she demonstrates dozens of quilting stitches along with some helpful hints on how to wrestle the quilt around on your home machine and get beautiful results.

If you haven’t already joined Craftsy, it’s free. Follow any of the links below, and you’ll be able to sign up when you get there. There are also several free classes you can take, and not just quilting. Craftsy is an excellent resource for everything, well, Craftsy.

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Free Craftsy Quilting Class!

I stumbled upon this class the other day. It’s a new Block of the Month Craftsy class for 2014. This year they’re incorporating color theory. I haven’t gone far into it yet, and it may be very basic for someone with a lot of quilting experience, but I find I always learn something. And hey, it’s free! If you don’t already have a Craftsy account, it’s free to join. And it’s not just quilting, Craftsy has expanded into cooking and fine art classes over the last year. There’s something for everyone. Check it out!

FREE Block of the Month class at


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The Award Ribbon Quilt

Award Ribbon QuiltEarly in 2013 I got a call from a woman who was interested in having her daughter’s horse show ribbons made into a large wall hanging for Christmas. I’d never heard of this before, but after some Googling, I found several examples. Because there was very little fabric involved, and it was only going to be 60″ by 60″, I didn’t charge very much. I thought it would take me around 30 hours max. I need to figure out a better way to determine pricing on a project I’ve never done before. I’m not sure that I’ve ever spent so much time on a quilt. The result was incredible, which is good because I put so much effort into it, but I’ll never do another. Of course now that I’ve done one, I know what I would be up against or what I would do differently.

The customer came to my shop with a box full of horse show ribbons. She wanted some of the rosettes attached to the outer edges of the quilt, so those ribbons were in separate bags. The ribbons were sorted by color. It’s hard to believe that one person could have accumulated that many ribbons. She also provided a picture of an award ribbon quilt that she liked. It was similar to a Lone Star Quilt pattern.

I started by disassembling all of the ribbons. That was easy enough. When that was done, I realized it was going to be hard to figure out how to cut the pieces without having a pattern with specific colors. I wanted to make sure the customer was happy with my interpretation, so I whipped something up on Electric Quilt software and sent a picture off. She liked it, but she wanted more of the blues, reds and purples. That makes sense, since those were the more successful shows.

The design was helpful, but then came the problem of figuring out which ribbons would fit without cutting through the printing on the ribbons. I got stuck, afraid to cut ribbons as needed, and not sure how they would all go together. It was at this point I decided to not sew the ribbons together directly, but to do more of a giant applique. I purchased a large piece of white percale, cut it into a square a little larger than the intended finished size, and proceeded to apply a massive amount of Heat and Bond to the entire piece. Heat and Bond

The early days of the award ribbon quilt.

The early days of the award ribbon quilt.

is a product that is sticky on both sides when heated with an iron. So I ironed pieces onto the big square piece of fabric with the intention of ironing all the ribbons in place before stitching. And that’s what I did.

Each ribbon had to be measured individually. It was cut, measured again, cut again, and finally ironed into place. Because ironing a ribbon directly will cause it to melt, I had to use a pressing cloth. Because my normal iron was too big, I dropped $25 on the tiny Clover iron. With the previously mentioned purchases and this one, I’ve now spent about $75 on a quilt I priced for labor only.

All ribbons are in place.

All ribbons are in place.

The measuring, cutting, measuring, cutting, and ironing of each ribbon took weeks, no months, to complete. It was the only project I worked on for the first 8 months of 2013. I was moving my shop to Greeley at the end of August, so I kept plugging along to get it done before I moved.

Once I had all the ribbons in place, I did a zig-zag stitch around every ribbon with clear thread. Then I added solid black squares to the corners and solid black borders. This was where the rosettes were going to be placed. As these steps were taken, I noticed that where ribbons were cut, they were

Award ribbon quilt ready for quilting.

Award ribbon quilt ready for quilting.

starting to fray. Three bottles of Fray Check, at $5 each, covered all of the ends, but wasn’t particularly pretty. I knew I’d have to do more stitching on the top to manage the fraying ends, but I chose to quilt the piece at this point. I stitched in the ditch along lines that were good separations based on the design.



Adding the bias tape.

Adding the bias tape.

My attempts to stop the fraying were getting me nowhere. The more I tried to satin stitch the ends, the more they frayed. This was when I decided that quarter inch bias tape would have to cover these ends. Lo and behold! They make iron-on 1/4 inch black bias tape. And it isn’t cheap. $35 on black bias tape, which, after being ironed on, did not stay on.  Can you imagine my frustration at this point? But I could not hand the quilt over in this condition. I put a twin needle in the machine and once again stitched over almost every ribbon edge on the quilt.

I finished up by attaching velcro along the black corners and borders and gluing the other half of the velcro to the back of the rosettes. That way the customer could attach the ribbons however she wanted. I don’t have pictures of it with the rosettes attached, quite possibly because I didn’t care by then.

The quilt is beautiful. It ended up being handed off between my boyfriend and her husband. Willie tells me that her husband thought it was gorgeous. I haven’t heard a word from the customer. No news is good news?

Lesson learned: People want to know what a project is going to cost before they commit to it. Perhaps leaving it open that I would charge for any extra materials needed would have softened the blow a little.

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Design Inspiration

Quilting has many levels of creativity. A couple of years ago I picked up a pattern at a quilt show in Loveland. They were being sold for $5, and every vendor at the show had made a quilt with that pattern. It was amazing how different the pattern looked with the various fabric choices. When I decided to make the quilt, I did something I’d never done before. I picked out fabrics from a collection. I felt like it was cheating, that someone else had done all the work. But there are still choices to be made when picking fabrics from a collection. When I started putting the quilt together, I realized that one of my choices did not have enough contrast, and I had to change things around a bit. Even if you’re purchasing a kit with the fabric included, designing is involved. You still have to choose how it’s going to be quilted.

On the other end, some people have no use for patterns or prefer to create their own. Where do they think this stuff up? I find challenges or contests to be a great kick in the butt. Even if someone’s telling me what to make, what pops into my head is not what anyone else will dream up. Take the Spoonflower weekly fabric design contests for example. I entered the sailing fabric contest, and was given a limited color palette. It was fun to push myself with something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Another contest I’m going to enter is the Alliance for American Quilts Twenty Contest. I found this when I was doing some work with Allie Aller for Craftsy. The quilts are 20″ square, and have to mean something to you with regard to the number 20. I’m having fun with it. It’s a last minute thing for me, but it’s a great opportunity to do something different.

Another avenue for inspiration are guilds and classes. You can find some great free classes at Craftsy, and if you weren’t able to make QuiltCon in Austin, be sure to check out the FREE QuiltCon Lecture Series 2013. I haven’t been able to watch it all yet, but the class is set up so you can jump around and watch the lectures in any order you wish. Have fun!

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Quilt Backing and Quilt Sizes

Quilt backing can be an afterthought for quilters. It makes sense; most of your time and focus is on the pieced top of your quilt. To me, it’s a lot like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. By the time you get to the end of cooking, you’re sick of dealing with it. It’s also exciting to get to the end of the project and see the fruits of your labor. Sometimes you’ve thought ahead and purchased the backing when you picked up the fabric for the top. I don’t often do that. Maybe it’s because I love fabric buying excursions, and I can make the backing a separate trip. Sometimes I think I’ll have fabric in my stash, although how likely is it that I have a 5-yard matching print lying around?

All that being said, I’d like to talk about a few quilt backing related things:

Quilt Sizes

Quilt sizes are arbitrary. It is whatever you want it to be. I’ll give you the standard mattress sizes for the USA and Canada (in inches), and you can decide how much you want the quilt to hang over the sides.

Twin/Single 39 x 75
Twin/Single – extra long 39 x 80
Double/Full 54 x 75
Double/Full – extra long 54 x 80
Queen 60 x 80
Olympic/Expanded Queen (who knew?) 66 x 80
Queen – extra long 60 x 84
King 76 x 80
California King 72 x 84


Quilt Backing Yardage

This is also easy, but it’s a little tougher to explain. Most fabric is around 42” to 44” wide. I estimate on the side of caution, calculating as though the fabric 40” wide. Some people insist on piecing the back either vertically or horizontally; I choose based on the best fit and the least amount of scrap. If your quilt is longer than 80” on one side and 80” or less on the other side, then you’ll want the width of the fabric to span the side that’s <= 80”.

For example, you’re making a queen size quilt that’s going to be 90” wide by 80” long. Because the length is 80”, the strips of backing fabric are going to run horizontally as in the image below. Now that you know you are going to need two strips of fabric, you just need to know how long to make those strips. Let’s do the math: 90” + 6” (3” on each side) = 96 inches. 96” times 2 strips equals 192”. 192” divided by 36” equals 5 1/3 yard – let’s say 5 ½ yards for a little wiggle room. Let’s do that in another format:

90” + 6” = 96” (The width of the quilt plus 3 inches on each end)

96” X 2 = 192” (The measurement above multiplied by the two strips required)

192” / 36” = 5.33 yards, or round up to 5 ½ yards (The amount of fabric determined above divided by the number of inches in a yard)

It’s going to change based on your quilt, especially since you really do want to try to make the backing at least 3” larger than the top, all the way around. If you can only make it a couple of inches larger to keep from having to buy and piece a lot more fabric, that’ll work. But remember, there’s nothing wrong with having extra fabric lying around. Also, I can’t tell you how many quilts I’ve made, but when it comes to determining the yardage for backing, I always draw a little picture like the one below to help figure it out. It may not be necessary, but it gives me comfort.


 Craftsy Classes

All that being said, I urge you to check out Craftsy’s FREE class on Creative Quilt Backs before embarking on your next backing adventure. Check out all of the other free Craftsy mini-courses by clicking here. Another good free quilting class is the QuiltCon Lecture Series 2013.

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The Next Chapter of Bad Girl Quilting

Yeah, the plan was to hit the ground running at my new business location when I got back from Vietnam. In one of my last few days in Vietnam, I came across a job opportunity that was too good to ignore. I applied, I interviewed, and I took the job. I love Craftsy. I love the community, I love the people who work there, and the classes are amazing. I’m mostly self-taught on everything, and while that works, I feel like a newly enlightened (quilting) soul. Unfortunately, working full time and continuing to teach motorcycle riding on the weekends didn’t leave me any time for putting my new skills to work.

I’m back at the shop full time, starting on Tuesday, April 30th. While I’m not at Craftsy full time anymore, I’m still associated in many ways. One of those is as a Craftsy affiliate. I love Craftsy, and I want you to love Craftsy too. If you follow the link on my home page or any of the banners on my website, you can sign up as a member of the community for free. While you’re there, look around for classes of interest or patterns for your next project.

Craftsy isn’t just quilting. Before I worked there, I purchased a workshop to make my own lip balms, salves and body butters and another to make cheese. Perfect Pizza at Home is a free class (there are several great free classes) Craftsy has some amazing cake decorating classes as well. Some are for the home hobbyist; others require steel rods and band saws (yeah, cake decorating).

So please, if you aren’t already a fan of Craftsy, follow the link below and check it out. You’ll love it. I promise.


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