When we started that first quilt, we wanted to make sure that people understood that the quilt that year was under new management. We wanted people to know that we weren’t the experienced quilters who had previously made those beautiful quilts. I was probably the most experience and I’d only been quilting for a couple of years. (And yes, this whole thing made me very nervous!) We also wanted to involve as many people as possible in making the quilt, hoping to stave off the dwindling quilters problem.
So one of our first jobs was to decide how to do these things. Before we even chose the pattern, we decided to go with batiks because those had not been used before. We also decided to recruit people (even nonquilters) to put the blocks together. Then we would publicize the hand quilting times, doing some in the afternoon and some in the evening to encourage a wide variety of people to come and quilt. In the year we made the Log Cabin quilt, we asked people to bring in fat quarters (after explaining in church what a fat quarter was) in various shades from cream to brown and lightest green to darkest green.
All of these efforts to involve as many people as possible required making announcements in church. Unlike the rest of the family, I am not fond of microphones. This may have been the most difficult part of these quilts for me.
We needed to move fast on the first quilt, so one other friend and I chose the pattern from one of my quilt books. We chose Repeating Crosses, from the book Encyclopedia of Classic Quilt Patterns by Leisure Arts. We chose it because it was one block (which looked easy!), looked pretty, and what church group wouldn’t want to do a pattern called Repeating Crosses?
In subsequent years, we have gotten together as a group sometime between Christmas and the second week of January to choose the pattern for the quilt. (We go out to lunch as part of this!) In early years, we passed around every book and magazine I had. Lately, I have started to narrow down the choices to streamline the process. (Of course, my library has gotten much larger also!) We ended up choosing our second quilt from the same book, a Double Irish Chain. We try to choose something different each year. We chose Double Irish Chain so that we could do some more noticeable quilting in the larger blank spaces. The following year we chose a Log Cabin with an appliqued star in the center of each block because we wanted to make something a little scrappy. The following year it was back to batiks with a quilt from the book Batik Gems by Laurie Shifrin. And last year’s quilt was made from a top donated by the mother of one of our church members.
Some things we have learned about choosing a pattern over the years are:
- Be careful about bias seams. The Repeating Crosses block is almost all bias seams. This was not a smart way to begin our career. I cannot tell you how many extra blocks we had to make because of varying sizes and stretched seams. (We did, however, use the extra blocks in pillow shams, so they did not go to waste.)
- Be careful about how many seams there are per block. The Log Cabin block was a bit of a nightmare because there were so many seams that if a couple were sewn a bit off, the whole block was off. (I actually ripped and resewed many of those blocks.) We also had more people return unfinished blocks on that Log Cabin than any other quilt.
- When possible choose a pattern where one or two people can do some strip piecing. The Double Irish Chain quilt could have been much more difficult if we hadn’t used strip piecing. This year’s quilt is mostly HSTs. It just made sense (to avoid bias problems and consistency problems) to have one person sew all those HSTs into little squares before passing out block kits for assembly.
The next big choice is, of course, fabric. Everyone on the quilt email list is invited, but the most people we’ve ever really had are 4 or 5. The truth is I have twice chosen the fabric all by myself. Luckily both times involved the batiks and colors I love. We have learned a few things about this process also.
- People loved the year we went scrappy and they could donate fat quarters. More people were able to get involved even if they were not able to sew or hand quilt.
- Even though our quilts are sold at a Christmas auction, Christmas fabrics (or colors people associate with Christmas) do not seem to bring in as much money.
- Batiks are very popular.
Now that you have made your way through this long post, here are some pictures of the last five quilts: