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!

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New Quilt Pattern Tested: One Block | Three Designs—Desert Series

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Desert Sun Quilt by Maeberry Square

Last month, I had the opportunity to test the newest Maeberry Square quilt pattern by Jessica Plunkett. This unique design uses a single block, but demonstrates 3 different layouts for distinct design options. I chose to make the 42” square Desert Sun design.

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Crop of Desert Sun Quilt

I’ve had a gift card to my local quilt shop in my wallet for some time. It’s not every day that I go to the local quilt shop and I wanted to use it to buy fabric for a special quilt. Now was the time! I flipped through my visual journal of sorts for color inspiration. (It’s a simple composition notebook that I occasionally tape clippings from catalogs and magazines into. Think of a primitive Pinterest board. Except, I cutout items or patterns that strike me and then occasionally, I task myself with adding to the pages—putting like colors or textures together. It’s just for fun with no goal, but it conveniently serves as inspiration for selecting fabrics for quilts.)

Here’s the one I chose: this photo/collage of juicy fruits. With the help of my young daughter, I chose a honeydew-green fabric, blueberry-blue fabric, and strawberry/raspberry-red fabric. I have yet to acquire the fabric for the backing and binding yet, but I’m thinking a deep blackberry purple for the back and cantaloupe-orange for the binding.

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Inspiration collage. Look at all that juicy fruit!

The squares are easy to cutout. The pattern lists exactly how many strips of each fabric to cut and then trim into squares. Having the strip number is so helpful! The blocks come together easily. This pattern uses a half square triangles, so if you’re a beginner quilter and haven’t learned the easy-peasy technique for making them, this pattern will let you in on that secret.

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Desert Sun Quilt

I’m pleased with the result! I thought that my colors would be gender-neutral (it’s a baby-size quilt), but I think the strawberry/red color skews it a bit more feminine. But then, who cares? Once I bind it, the added color may change the overall look. Although, I don’t have specific plans for this quilt just yet. I don’t know how to quilt it—hand, machine, or tie. And, I have three other quilts in progress right now. So, this one will probably be put on the back burner while I work on those. Isn’t it wonderful to have multiple quilts going all at once? Then, you don’t make any rash creative decisions. Haha! At least, this is what I’m telling myself.

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Desert Sun Quilt

If you want to make this quilt (or one of the other variations), the pattern is now available in the Maeberry Square Etsy shop.

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Desert Sun Quilt by Maeberry Square

Why I Label My Quilts

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My custom quilt labels I ordered last year.

Last year, it dawned on me that I should label the quilts I make with custom-made labels. This realization came in the form of hearing a statement about how a handwritten label on a newly installed breaker box in our house would indicate that the electrical work was shoddy. That is, a neat and tidy label shows that a professional did the work, and that the person takes pride in their work.

I immediately made the connection with creating quilts. Shouldn’t the person using or viewing my quilt know who made it? Some might still think that my skills are shoddy, but I do take pride in my quilting–ha! Adding a label feels like a signature. You wouldn’t sign your name to something you didn’t believe in, right?

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On the back of my chicken wall hanging.

Combing the internet, I finally landed on a site that allowed me to order customized labels in a small quantity. (I ordered 30.) This kept the cost down.

The labels simply say “T-Bud Co. Quilts Made By Theresa Budnik Combs.” Seeing it laid out in 3 lines, I think it becomes clear exactly where “T-Bud Co.” comes from (it’s an abbreviation of my name—a nickname). If I remember correctly, the font is Times New Roman, which is my go-to.

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On the back of my Ohio Star Quilt.

Here’s an aside: at the portfolio school I attended, there were many areas of study. I was in copywriting, but design was definitely the darling and most populated track. Although I was a writer, I still had to design my own portfolio—without all of the design training the designers received in the two-year program, of course. After dabbling with a couple of fonts, I decided to use Times New Roman because at the time it was the default font in Microsoft Word, my most-used tool. I figured instead of trying to look like I knew anything about typography, I would just be who I was: a writer with minimal design knowledge. Now, if I have the option, I always pick Times New Roman (and it’s no longer the default in Microsoft Word!).

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On the back of my Dazzling Pineapple Patch quilt.

Anyway, it’s very satisfying to finish a quilt and stitch on a label. One thing I’ll be playing around with is how to stitch it on. I wish my stitches were smaller. On my Ohio Star quilt, I used the same thread I used to stitch down the binding, both for aesthetics and convenience as I put on the label after I completed the binding. I’m thinking I’ll own the stitches and maybe make them a bit more noticeable with a signature color or thread. I’m thinking fuchsia.

I’m a bit curious, how do you feel about labels? Do you buy into the idea that adding a label shows you take pride in your work? Or do you let your work speak for itself? Have you purchased custom labels before or do you label them in a different way, say with a fabric pen? I’m curious to know!

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Custom quilt labels–having them should also serve as motivation to finish more quilts!

Reasons Why I Love Using Muslin for Quilt Backs

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Back of My Ohio Star Quilt

I love, love, love using muslin for the back of a quilt. I know, it’s not on-trend and I’ve even read a bit about a quilter who wasn’t interested in making quilts until she saw one WITHOUT a muslin back. But there are a few reasons why I personally love muslin quilt backing.

First, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to disassociate the art of quilts from the function of quilts. I believe quilts are meant to sleep under. They go on your bed. Quilts are meant to keep you warm. You need to stay warm to survive! Okay, so we can buy comforters and mass-produced blankets and quilts at a variety of brick-and-mortar stores and online sites. I don’t need to make a quilt in order to sleep comfortably. And, yes, I have, and will probably again, make a quilted wall hanging. Maybe I’ll make a quilt I love so much that I won’t want to have it on a bed every day and have it eventually wear down. (Yes, quilts wear down and get holes in them—they’re not invincible if you use them!) But, I will always sleep under a quilt (or two), because I believe in the functionality of quilts and I want my quilts to be beautiful and comfortable. Good muslin fabric is light and soft. It feels fabulous. It’s perfect for sleeping under. There’s a reason you can find muslin swaddle blankets (FOR BABIES)—it’s a soft and comfortable fabric.

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Detail of the back of my Ohio Star Quilt

Another part of my function reason is the cost of muslin. It’s relatively inexpensive compared to other quilting cottons. There’s a sense of economy when making your own quilt for use. I know, I know. Those mass-produced blankets/quilts/comforters are waaaay cheaper than making your own quilt these days. But, for me, there’s a nod to being fiscally efficient when I use muslin backing. If you’re a garment sewer, you may make test garments out of inexpensive muslin. You “make a muslin” before you cut into your really nice and expensive fabric.

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Back of Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt

My second reason for loving muslin for quilt backs is the aesthetics. A “blank back” provides visual relief from a well designed and pieced front. If a quilt is a piece of art, the viewer’s eye gets a break when they take a look at the back—nothing to see there! Or, maybe the quilting is highlighted by the solid color of the fabric. The focus remains on the front of the quilt. All the meaning can be stitched there, without being confused or misunderstood by another side. In contrast, a patterned or pieced back can add another level of meaning and overall style to a quilt. Muslin backing, like any other fabric, patterned or pieced, is an artistic choice.

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Detail of the back of Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt

I know better than to say “never,” but for now, I’m content on using natural muslin for my quilt backs. And, I love it.

What quilt backing can you just not get enough of?

The Evolution of an Idea: My Completed Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt

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Completed Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt

My Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt has been through quite an evolution. At first, I was going to make a series of single-block mini quilts and tie them with sequins. I know! Sequins and quilts! All the heart eyes! (I did a study, which you can see here.) I started with 3 color combinations that looked snazzy on their own: aqua and teal; navy and pink; lime green and purple. The only thing that links these fabrics is the white print on most of them. Before I had all 12 blocks done (the pineapple block takes a long time), I decided to stitch them together into a single quilt.

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These colors are so much fun in a single quilt, even though I’m not convinced they “go together.”

Once the top was done, I figured I would machine quilt it. I wanted to hand quilt it, but there are a lot of seams and that makes hand quilting pretty difficult. But, once I had it basted, I screwed the walking foot onto my machine and all I got were uneven stitches. I literally didn’t have enough time to fiddle with my machine (I had to pick up my kids), so I set it aside. In the meantime, my mind casually wandered to the apocalyptic: WHAT IF MY SEWING MACHINE IS BROKEN, NEVER TO MAKE ANOTHER STITCH AGAIN?!?! (If you’re me, this is a very rational and logical question to ask after unpicking about 2 feet of uneven quilt stitches.)

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I bound the quilt with fabric from each block to maintain the jumbled sense of colors.

I did my best to think through the problem. Hand quilting was out of the question, but what about doing ties? Like those textural crisscrosses with the tie on the back? Like I did on my Welcome Blanket? Ooooh! I liked it and didn’t look back.

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I left the ties long on the back of the quilt.

On a family outing, I convinced my husband to stop at a craft store where I jumped out of the car, ran inside, snagged more than enough skeins of embroidery floss, put on my blinders and walked straight to the registers, paid, and made it back out to my family in truly the 5 minutes I said it would take. (From this point on, I worked on this quilt with the same sense of urgency: I wanted to get it done, but I needed to get it done.)

As I was tying the quilt, I though, hey, there aren’t too many seams in the sashing. Oh, the gears were turning. I could do a running stitch in the sashing! And so I did. With the same thick embroidery floss I used for the ties. I got the texture I wanted in the beginning when I lamented there were too many seams to do hand quilting.

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Since popping a knot of embroidery floss into the fabric would have been hard while hand quilting, I left the knots on the outside. The knots just look like another tie.

I am so, so, so glad that my sewing machine and walking foot didn’t cooperate! The Quilting Goddess was surely looking out for me that afternoon: it was mean to be. I love how this quilt turned out!

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It’s not done until the label is stitched on!

Side note: this was March’s One Monthly Goal for the link-up hosted by Elm Street Quilts. Hooray! I got it done…and with some time to spare!

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Completed Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt