Quilting: Where to Start

To those of you who don’t know, I really like to sew. In the past couple of years I have gotten into quilting. I think it’s a lot like the romance novels of sewing. Some romance novels (Pride and Prejudice, for example) are fine pieces of literature. They are heart-wrenchingly complex, bursting with symbolism, poetic nuance, and characters so deeply thought out you believe them to be real people. These are the double wedding rings of romance novels. Most people love and admire them, but few even dream of attempting to make one the traditional way. Fewer are successful.

Other romance novels, the ones I tend to read (except Pride and Prejudice… That is one of the very few books I have read more than once), are usually the same plot over and over again, with the exciting climax changing from a runaway carriage ride to a fall from the sidesaddle while attempting to make a jump much too daring for any real “lady.” These are the jelly roll race quilts that people start on and like so much that they decide to stay. There’s nothing wrong with this. I’m one of those people.

Here’s the thing: I love me some Pride and Prejudice. But that doesn’t mean I want to sew curved seams, or piece one inch almost-squares of fabric together only to have to use a curved seam to attach them. I would much rather sew a straight 1/4″ seam using manageable (I can see them without a magnifying glass) pieces of fabric with minimal cutting involved.

Enter: pre-cuts. I can’t tell you enough good things about pre-cut fabric. It all started a few years ago when fabric companies began selling 2 1/2″ x WOF (Width Of Fabric) strips to quilters. The nice thing about these “Jelly Rolls” (that’s what they’re called) is they go together perfectly. The fabrics are all from the same collection, which means there is literally zero thought involved in picking out fabric.

So. Simple.

Enter: little black rain cloud (five bucks if you get the reference… Except you, Mom. If you DON’T get the reference I will be floored). Pre-cuts are EXPENSIVE. Total bummer. Just when I get all excited, Kaia, you’re going to hit me with sticker shock. POW!

Well, hold on to your horses, dear readers (Mom, Elise, and Nikki)! I have a solution to this, too. And no, it’s not like the chapter in my raw food diet book on how to be raw on a budget that basically spent half a page (that was the entire chapter) guilt tripping me. Isn’t that thirteen dollar jar of raw almond butter worth your health? You’ll recoup the cost later when you don’t have cancer or need a lap band…I’d rather spend the $10 leftover from Peter Pan peanut butter on fabric or something else fun. In other words, I promise I’m going to give you real suggestions.

Enter: Jenny Doan. (I don’t know why I’m feeling like a playwright tonight…)

You WILL love this woman. I have been watching her for years. She’s a Mormon. I LOVE Mormons. I think they have one of the coolest systems of support for members, and I think they put the right amount of emphasis on family. I respect and appreciate that in today’s world of baby mama drama and foolish mistakes. Sorry, I got distracted. I didn’t know she was a Mormon until last week, or at least I didn’t read it on the website until last week. I think I always knew deep down that she was a Mormon and that is part of why I loved her so much.

Jenny Doan is also left handed. Woot.

Anyways, Jenny Doan, while not the owner (from what I can tell her son and daughter are the main partners in the shop), is the face of the Missouri Star Quilt Company. The MSQC invented the Quilters’ Daily Deal. The QDD is one of the best things to happen to quilting. It is up there with the advent of the seam ripper, rotary cutter, and pre-cut fabric. This brings me to my next point: MSQC has the largest selection of pre-cut fabric on the web. They use PCF (pre-cut fabric) for the QDD at least four times per week. Imagine, a Moda jelly roll, which usually runs for $39.50 or so, priced at $19 and change. I know. How awesome is that? SO awesome.

What else can MSQC do to help you ball on a budget? Well, they offer a TON of free tutorials on YouTube… Almost all of them feature Jenny Doan. Yessssss.

For the most part, the Missouri tutorials are pretty geared towards beginners. I made my first quilt from one of their tutorials, actually. I had been sewing for a while, I had promised my mom a quilt like a year before, Justin was still living in New Orleans and I was alone and missed him, and I saw this tutorial and literally, no joke, just happened to have a jelly roll that I had no clue how to use lying around. I had purchased it, much like the Kiwano Melon I ate last week, because I didn’t know what it was, I wanted to take it apart, and it was on sale. (yum.)

Jenny really inspired me to sew. I was up so late sewing the quilt that I slept through my alarm to pick Justin up at the airport at 5-something the next morning. Bad Kaia! He had to take a cab, poor guy! (Justin, I’m glad I was worth all the trouble in getting here. I am glad you came to visit, love you, and think you’re the very best.)

Here’s a photo of that first quilt. It now lives in the Utah condo on the couch, ready to warm chilly ski bunnies and boys at a moment’s notice. As you can see, I changed the pattern in the video… It turned out more like their Summer in the Park Tutorial… I don’t think I’ve ever made a pattern exactly. I always change something. Not even because I mean to, I just do. The border is a technique called chinese coins. I had no idea about that at the time. I called it making the quilt bigger so it would cover someone’s feet, and using up the extra fabric I had leftover. Go figure. 🙂

My First Quilt / My First Successful Sewing Project

My First Quilt / My First Successful Sewing Project

See? It's just right for couch snuggling after a long day on the slopes.

See? It’s just right for couch snuggling after a long day on the slopes.

The MSQC has inspired me many times with their giant selection and plethora of tutorials. The QDD has been fun because I have tried fabrics I never would have tried before, and I’ve really started branching out in regards to color and pattern. Thanks guys.

It would be remiss of me, however, not to mention some of the other amazing and fabulous resources out there on the web for FREE.

Kaye Wood, a woman who had her own quilting TV show for YEARS has began putting all of her shows on YouTube. She uses many of her own templates, but for the most part her stuff doesn’t require too many fancy tools or notions. She is very good at explaining things, and her quilt patterns and guests cater to all skill levels. One episode I particularly like is Rings That Bind, a modern twist on the traditional double wedding ring pattern. Ingenious. The supplies, if you’re interested, are for sale on Kaye’s site, here.

Quilt in a Day is another great resource for tools and tutorials. They have some free patterns as well. This is the easiest way I have ever seen flying geese done anywhere. MSQC demos them in one of their tutorials, here.

Looking at fabric manufacturers’ websites can get you free patterns as well. Here are some names to get you started: Moda, Benartex, Robert Kaufman, Alexander Henry, Riley Blake, RJR, Free Spirit, Windham Fabrics, Rowan, and Northcott.

Pinterest has THOUSANDS of quilting ideas, instructions for different sized-blocks, all kinds of wonderful things. You can follow me here.

There are also a lot of semi-web and non-web resources at your disposal for little or no cost. One is craigslist. I routinely see people posting fabric scraps under free stuff, and I usually find one or two listings under wanted for fabric and scraps. I once had a bunch of fabric left over from a nightmarish project that I truly never wanted to see again. Ever. I always feel bad throwing out usable fabric, though, so I stashed it behind some other scraps until I could figure something out. I found an ad that said this chick would PAY ME for the fabric. Shoot, ya’ll. I met that girl in the Sonic parking lot and bought her a limeade for taking that dratted fabric off my hands. It was a win-win. She got about two yards of brightly-colored, high-quality scraps, AND a free limeade; I never had to see that fabric again. Ever… And I bought myself a limeade, too. Craigslist is also a great place for used machines, machine feet and accessories, and other notions and tools.

The absolute best resource in the world, however, is your Local Quilt Shop (LQS). My LQS is called Tea Time Quilting. It’s a family business, run by Jana and her daughters (Jilena and Jaelyn… I sincerely hope I spelled those correctly) and husband. They are all wonderful people. It’s clean, organized, and since I have never made a quilt entirely from a pattern, I can tell you first hand they are ready and willing to help you figure yardage and pick out something just a little bit different, or really help you with whatever you ask… They are going to get their own post soon. 🙂

Quilters are generally a very friendly and helpful bunch. If you want to start quilting (or just sewing for that matter; quilts are an excellent place to start as they are useful, allow for error, help you get to know your machine, and don’t need to have any curved seams or complex pieces), start asking around. You can get pretty far with no money. I had a rotary cutter I didn’t like (it was made for righties and didn’t cut the fabric properly if I cut with my left hand) and had retired from use, and I ended up giving it away to a woman who wanted one but couldn’t come up with the cash right then.

Strike up conversations with fellow quilters in the shop. Often their experience is extremely valuable, plus you may make a few friends. Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re poor and looking for second-hand stuff. Some people have baskets of old but still perfectly good stuff that they have replaced with a more advanced tool or a different color or whatever, sitting in a closet because they didn’t want to wastefully toss it but didn’t have a use for it either. You may be the answer to their problem, too. (See Above.)

One last thing: don’t be afraid to experiment. Quilting is fun, and necessity is the mother of creativity. Use what you have creatively to make your own tools and find your own solutions.

Roast Chicken, Passionate Potatoes, and Goat Log

My cousin Hannah turned 18 last week. I took her out for coffee yesterday, and gave her a choice in birthday presents. She could have a quilt for her bed in college OR makeup from whatever counter she wanted at Macy’s. (I know. I am an amazing cousin.) After some deliberation, we went to Tea Time Quilting on Tulane here in the Heights. (Tulane! Roll Wave! PS- Did you know that Hanky Panky came out with a collegiate collection, and that Tulane is part of it!?! What good fortune!)

Jana, the owner, also runs Jana’s flowers on the same corner. Let me tell ya’ll: she is a trip, in a good way. She talks fast, walks fast, and knows her stuff. I think she is awesome, and I try to buy whatever I can from her. They also have a ton of fat quarters there, literally boxes upon boxes, all sorted by color, so if you’re into precuts you have to check this spot out. We walked around for a few minutes and ended up leaving with a pattern which later went out the window when we found fabric Hannah loves online that requires something different.

Free Spirit Fabrics have a TON of great lines. I have Deer Valley (how coincidental) as the shade in my bathroom, and have bought several yards of this and that for different projects. All of it is awesome. Hannah is deliberating over the Cottage Garden line. I happen to think it is amazing. They kind of have a Matisse-Floral-On Acid thing going. Love it.

On the way home from Tea Time, she decided to stay for dinner, and boy was that an excellent decision. First of all, Hannah and I found yet another common bond while hanging at my house: we are both serious Martha Stewart fans. Second of all, we ate roast chicken. I love roast chicken.

Now, if you did not know that Martha Stewart had little blurbs on Comcast OnDemand, I’m sorry you’ve missed out so far. They are wonderful. This month is (of course) all about Halloween. She makes glitter pumpkins, a shrunken head tree, and a scary candy bowl that Nikki told me I was not allowed to make because it would bring me too much pleasure in scaring innocent children. We watched almost all of them while I cooked yesterday.

On to roast chicken. I have something to say to anyone out there who cooks: don’t be afraid of the whole bird. You can’t be. They are so much better than the standard boneless skinless chicken breast. I bought a large organic, free-range, never-been-frozen chicken at Kroger yesterday for about $11. It fed Justin (who counts as two people), myself, and Hannah with enough left over for two lunches or a batch of chicken tetrazzini. Seriously, that was a good deal. It would have been even cheaper if I had gone with a bird with fewer bells and whistles, but that was not available fully thawed. I just rubbed it down with a compound butter and stuffed it with lemon halves and herbs. Easy.

Last week Mom had Bunco at her house. She had to make an appointment day-of, so we worked it out that I could help her cook. She made individual pot pies. While we were at Central Market, she found purple fingerling potatoes. I didn’t know purple potatoes existed, much less that they are incredibly good for you and packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Last night, when Hannah and I spotted baby Purple Passion Potatoes at Kroger, we bought them. 🙂

They were a little sweet, and about the same texture as a sweet potato. And they were bright purple inside. I boiled them in salted water and hit them with some finely chopped parsley, butter, lots of black pepper, some crushed red pepper because we like it hot, and a little cream cheese. I’ve done it with sour cream before (if you do this make sure to get a brand name container because the nicer stuff tends to hold up to heat better), and it would be good with goat cheese. I mean goat log.

The goat log part comes from the salad. Justin LOVES goat cheese. I credit myself with that introduction. I try to get him surprises at the grocery store, like some crazy mango-pineapple-guava juice or the supremely spicy Sabra hummus… or goat cheese. Hannah and I, being juvenile, thought that serving “goat log” would be hilaaarious. I mean, really. Goat log. Makes me giggle now.

I made a spinach salad with cherry tomatoes, the goat log, grated carrots, and a homemade lemony vinaigrette. I think it would have been nice with balsamic, too. Grated carrots, along with caramelized onions, are underrated in my opinion. Carrots are good for your eyes, and are loaded with nutrients. They are also cheap.

In Germany, they serve all kinds of little salads with meals. Karrotensalat, literally translated “carrot salad,” is my favorite. Some varieties utilize vinegar, others use a mayonnaise or sour cream base. I couldn’t get enough of it over there. They also had wonderful potato salads, cucumber salads, tomato salads, and more. If you are heading to Deutschland anytime soon, make sure to order them at lunchtime.

All in all, last night was capital. I love nothing better than being with the people I love. Feeding them and giving them presents are a close-second tie. I am so happy I get to make Hannah a quilt that she can take north with her. I know it’s sentimental, but I am honored that I get to be a part of her growing and finding herself as an artist, even if it’s just that I get to help keep her warm at night. I am so happy I have the luxury of making roast chicken on a weeknight. Seriously, Justin’s whole face lit up when I said, “roast chicken.” He smiled even wider at the prospect of S-S-S-Hummus. Hannah ate her weight in passionate potatoes and walked out with the recipe on a 3×5 card. I’m going to have to get mom to make her a cookbook with all the food we ate growing up in it like she did for Elise and I. What a wonderful evening spent in the company of Hannah, Justin, and Martha Stewart. I’m a lucky lady.

 

Side Note: All recipes are under Roast Chicken Dinner on the Recipes page. 🙂 Happy cooking.