My Completed Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt

I finally finished my Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt, crossing off my one and only 2021 quilting goal and completing the pattern I started making four years ago.

Label on the back of my Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt

A quilt label can mean only one thing: I did it! I finished my Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt, Sarah Fielke’s 2017 block of the month program. Yes, I have been working on this quilt for 4 years. It was my one and only goal for 2021. (And, I’m kinda proud that less than halfway through the year and it’s done!) Now, I have finished other quilts since starting this one here, here, and here, because apparently I like a good distraction.

I am so proud of this quilt. For being my first serious endeavor to make a quilt, I’m happy with how it came out. There’s very little that I would change. 

Let me tell you about some of the details. First, I have a notebook that I create little collages in. I just pull pages from magazines and catalogs and when the mood strikes me, I tape them into the notebook trying to follow some sort of theme per page. I used this spread for color inspiration.

Color inspiration collage

I learned so much while making this quilt. I learned needle-turn appliqué, foundation paper piecing, and how to assemble a medallion quilt. I honed my piecing skills. Some of the borders have a lot of little pieces! 

Center block of the medallion quilt

There were some changes to the pattern I made in an attempt to save time. Joke’s on me! And, in no way did my changes make this design better than Sarah Fielke’s original pattern. (Honestly, I prefer hers and the pattern came with 3 different options!) the biggest change I made was to the floral border. The two long sides were supposed to be different than the two short sides. I made all four sides the same. Again, this isn’t a better way to make the original pattern, it’s just what I did.

Floral border

To finish the quilt, I went back and forth about what to do. At 96” square, there’s no way I could ever had machine quilted it myself. To have it professionally quilted with a longarm machine (huge quilting machine that allows quilters to quilt FAST) would have cost a lot. It would have been worth it, but unfortunately not in my budget. Hand quilting it would have taken a lot of time. And so, I turned to my good old friend tying. I did crisscross ties with tails in the back in most places, but tied with the tails in the front in each flower to create “stamens” of sorts. I also couldn’t resist doing a touch of big stitch quilting in the thin blue borders and around the half Dresden plates. I’m 100% happy with how it turned out.

Roofs of houses were foundation paper pieced

Finally, sometimes you have to get creative and on the ground. Right now, my sewing machine is on a card table that also holds a bunch of other stuff. In this spot, I didn’t have enough room to stitch the binding on to the front of the quilt. Well, guess what? I just popped my machine onto my bedroom floor, stuck my right leg out so I could push the pedal and tucked my left leg in cross-legged style. I scooched the quilt along the floor as I stitched. Ideal? No. Comfortable? Not at all. Did it get the job done? Absolutely! 

There’s not much room on my floor either! And, yes, that’s my scorched ironing board.

I was so excited about getting this quilt done that I have already popped it in the wash and it’s on my bed. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to taking “good” pictures of it. But, it most definitely is a comfortable quilt to sleep under!

Unfinished, but this is the best whole quilt pic I have. When I take pics of the whole completed quilt, I’ll share!
Final border
Back with a bit of big stitching visible
Glamour shot of the big stitch quilting and crisscross ties

So tell me, what project have you been working on for what feels like forever? Any tips to increase creative productivity when you feel like you can’t get anything done? What questions can I answer for you?

My One & Only Quilting Goal for 2021

In 2021, I have only one quilting goal and that is to finish my 4-year-old Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt.

I’ve heard a saying about goals (and Google isn’t helping me verify it) that goes something like, “I’d rather you shoot for the moon and miss than aim for the haystack and hit it.” Basically, it means, go for the big lofty goals because just going for them is better than accomplishing small goals (even if you fail at those big goals). 

Me? The heck with that! I’m shooting for the haystack because I know I can hit it! I’m setting the bar low so I can just step over it! 

With that mindset, my only quilting goal for 2021 is to finish my Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt that I started in 2017 as Sarah Fielke’s block of the month program.

Last summer, I finished piecing the top and pin-basted it. See here:

It measures 96″ x 96″!

I estimate that I am 1/3 of the way done tying the quilt. It sits in a heap out in the open so I can easily do a tie here and there.

The heap.

I have the fabric for the binding. I just need to (1) finish tying it; (2) trim the edges; (3) make binding; (4) machine stitch the binding to the front; and (5) hand stitch the binding to the back. And then (6) throw it into the wash, because I wash my quilts after I make them.

This should be doable, right?…if I don’t start any other quilts or work on any of the other in-progress quilts I have. Of course, my 7-year-old convinced me to start a new quilt this past weekend because it was all her heart desired. Still, I’ll get this one 4-year-old quilt done, right? Right? Haha! Stay tuned!

What’s your quilty or crafty goal for the year?

3 Reasons Why I Choose to Tie a Quilt

I love tying quilts. Tying a quilt is easy and quick, creates texture, and lends to the overall aesthetic of the quilt.

Crisscross tie on the front of my Welcome Blanket Quilt.

Just because it’s a quilt doesn’t mean it has to be quilted! You can tie a quilt. That is, you can use thread or yarn to make ties all throughout a quilt to keep the quilt sandwich (quilt top/front, batting, and backing) together. And, just like every other choice you make when creating a quilt, there are a few good reasons to tie a quilt: ease/speed, texture, and aesthetics.

Back of the crisscross tie on my Welcome Blanket Quilt.

For me, the first reason I opt for tying is the ease and speed compared to machine or hand quilting. I have a beginner sewing machine. The throat space isn’t that generous, so it’s hard maneuvering a good-size quilt around the walking foot. Paying to have a quilt longarm-quilted can be, well, out of budget. Tying is easy. And, it’s super-quick compared to hand quilting, even though tying is done by hand, too. Getting a quilt done already is a good enough reason to choose the quick and easy route to completion!

Back of my Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt.

Whether you’re quilting a quilt or tying it, this step creates texture. Depending on what kind of batting you use and the pattern and placement of quilting stitches or ties, you create texture. Play around with the loft of batting and spacing of ties and see what kind of texture you can create. Let the quilt top pattern dictate the choice to tie.

Beads and sequins tied onto my Dazzling Pineapple Mini Quilt.

Finally, the result of any choice in the quilt-making process is an overall aesthetic. Tying can significantly impact the style and artistic impression a quilt makes. I personally think tying lends a homespun look to a quilt. You can play with it by thoughtfully selecting a particular type of thread, how long you cut the ties, placement, and so much more. Make a statement by choosing to tie your quilt.

Here are some things you can try with your next tied quilt. Some I’ve done and others I’ve got on my idea list!

+ Different threads or yarn. I’ve used cotton embroidery floss and a metallic floss, but I’d love to try a thick wool yarn.

+ Tie on the back. This is so fun when you create a crisscross on the front. I did this on my Welcome Blanket Quilt. Check it out here.

+ Tie with a bead or embellishment. Do it! I’ve used sequins and beads for a shimmery effect and I want to use buttons in the future. My Dazzling Pineapple Mini Quilt features sequins, glass beads, and metallic thread. See it here.

+ Length of tie ends. My favorite length is from my fingertip to the first joint on my middle finger. (Using this type of measurement reduces the number of tools you need!) Depending on thread, I can see going shorter or longer. 

+ Spacing of ties. First, you should make sure you have enough ties to hold your quilt sandwich together, but putting in a lot of ties close together could create an interesting style. 

+ Mix ties and quilting (hand or machine). Did it and I loved it! My favorite quilt has ties and hand quilting. Deciding to tie or quilt isn’t an either-or decision. You get to make up the rules! Originally I intended to machine quilt my Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt, but I ended up tying it and hand quilting it. Read more about how it came together here.

So, tell me, have you ever tied a quilt? Do you like it? Did you use any unusual tricks?

My Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt has crisscrosses tied on the back and handquilting.

Here are the quilts I’ve tied (more to come!):

Welcome Blanket Quilt

Dazzling Pineapple Mini Quilt

Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt

Handsewn Hexie Scrap Quilt (without Using English Paper Piecing)

I started a hexie scrap quilt using a custom acrylic hexagon template. I chose to hand sew the pieces rather than use the English paper piecing technique.

The beginning of my hexie scrap quilt.

I finally finished the last appliqué border for my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt and while I haven’t sewn those borders on, I was itching for some more hand sewing. (I used needle turn appliqué for four floral borders on that quilt.) I decided to try a hexagon quilt, with a catch.

It seems like every quilter has made a quilt with hexagons. A lot of times, I see it done with English paper piecing. But, let me tell you, that seems a little too time-consuming for me—basting and then hand sewing? Over the summer, a fellow quilter showed our guild how she hand-pieces hexagons. Ding! Ding! Ding! It looked like the perfect project to scratch my hand sewing itch and cross hexies off my quilting bucket list.

First, I had to acquire a hexagon template that would allow me to trace not only a cutting line, but a seam allowance line to follow with my needle and thread. I found a great one from HeyHexie on Etsy.com. The shop offers clear acrylic templates that either are solid or open in the center. (I needed the open center.) I also was able to select from a range of sizes. I went with 1 ½” with a ¼” seam. 

One of the first hexie flower blocks.

Because I want to do hand sewing, I know this project is very, very back burner. To slow it down even more, I decided I’d make it with my scraps of which I had 2 gallon-size freezer bags full. It took me some time to go through my scraps and trace and cut out a bunch of hexies, but I did it! I still have about a gallon-size freezer bag full of scraps. (I keep really, really small pieces of fabric!)

Now, I have a stash of hexies that I can pull from to put together a flower block whenever the urge strikes me. I’ve already made several blocks. I also have about half a dozen sets of hexies chosen to be sewn together so I don’t even have to make any color choices when I’m ready to do some hand sewing!

Stash of hexie pieces.

As an aside, my kids LOVED playing with the teeny tiny scraps of fabric that were leftover from cutting out my hexies. Instead of throwing these bits of fabric away, I let my kids glue them to pieces of paper. Some of their creations were really great. I also let my 5-year-old choose hexagons for a couple of flowers. I was cringing at some of her choices, but I held my tongue because 1) this is a SCRAP quilt—it’s not going to be an amazing example of color choice; and 2) I figure when I give her free creative reign, she’s gaining confidence in her creativity—I mean, how proud will she be (heck, how proud will I be) when she can see HER flower in the finished quilt? What’s your hand sewing go-to? Have you ever made a hexagon quilt? I think Grandmother’s Flower Garden is the original hexie quilt.

Another hexie flower block.

Want to see more of my hexie flower blocks? Head over to my Instagram feed!

Mended M&M’s Quilt & 3 Tips on How to Extend the Life of a Quilt

My M&M’s quilt was in dire need of repair after 18 years of use. I removed the damage, added new binding, and discovered with tips for extending a quilt’s life.

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After years of use, my M&M’s quilt had holes and the binding at the top was falling off.

When I left for college, my mom gave me one of the first of her M&M’s quilts. She collected M&M’s fabric for several years and then decided to make a quilt for each of her 6 kids. Luckily, I graduated high school just as she was beginning this endeavor and didn’t have to wait too long for mine. It was my dorm quilt—the quilt I slept under every night for 4 years of college. (I had other quilts and blankets that I layered with it, too.)

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My beloved M&M’s quilt. I love how my mom made log cabin blocks from the colors of M&M’s.

After college, I kept using it and although my mom made and gifted me at least 2 more quilts since the M&M’s quilt, I’ve used it regularly in the 18 years I’ve had it. That is, I used it until the top of the quilt started wearing out and the binding came off and I couldn’t use it without getting tangled up.

Mending this quilt has been on my to-do list for at least a year (it’s on my 2019 To Make List) and the quilt has sat in my office/sewing room for probably that long. (Okay, so maybe I only used the quilt for 17 years before I had to set it aside for mending!) I even bought the fabric for the mending about a year ago! Finally, finally, I set out to mend this quilt last month.

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I bought some M&M’s fabric online that was listed as “cotton.” Alas, it was some type of blend, so I went with this fabric, which I think blends well with the backing of the quilt even if the colors aren’t 100% M&M’s.

It really didn’t take too much time. My method was simple: I cut off the top row of blocks that had all the wear. I then made binding (continuous bias—my first time!), stitched it to the front of the quilt where the batting was now exposed (going a bit down the sides to create a secure finish), and then hand-stitched the binding to the back. Done!

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So, I knew it had to be done, but putting a quilt under my rotary cutter was emotionally hard! I felt like the Yellow M&M’s seen in the fabric! Ha!

As I was working on it, my 4-year-old put dibs on the quilt, so for now, he’s sleeping under it. There are still some worn areas that I know with more time—and probably sooner than 18 years—will require more mending, but I’ll just mend as I go.

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Here, you can see the contrast between the old binding and the new binding.

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My mom had simply folded the backing up to the front to create the binding. Such a good trick!

This was a learning project for me. I made continuous bias binding for the first time. I used the Fons & Porter method, which you can find a video here. My mom had sent me a page from a magazine that explained it and it had a handy formula for how big of a square to start with.

Then, this project really had me thinking about how to extend the life of my quilts. I’m a firm believer that quilts should be USED. They should be slept under and enjoyed and worn out…and mended. How can I get as much use out of a quilt before I have to mend it?

3 Tips on How to Extend the Life of a Quilt:

1. Make non-directional quilts. Don’t design a “top” or “bottom” into a quilt. The M&M’s quilt has directional fabric, all going from top to bottom. I think this is correct and my sense of right and wrong is what led me to keep making my bed with the top of the quilt at the top of the bed! If a quilt is non-directional, then you can do number 2.

2. Rotate your quilt on your bed. Every time you pull it out and put it on your bed, flip what you had been using as the top to the bottom, again and again. My quilts show obvious wear at the top even though I swear I don’t gnaw on them in my sleep!

3. Finally, have lots of quilts to use! This tip is my favorite, because can we really ever have too many quilts or make too many quilts? I don’t think so! With many quilts, you can change the quilt on your bed frequently, instead of just rotating it like in the second tip. I know a lot of quilters make holiday quilts, which I think is a great way to incorporate this idea. Sure, each quilt will be used less than if it was used every single day, but they won’t need mending quite as often.

Have you ever had to mend a favorite quilt? How did you do it? What are your tips for making your quilts last? Let me know in the comments!