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Can We All Just Quilt Along?

The short answer is a resounding YES! Of course, we can!

Stacks of Quilt Fabric

Each one of us can easily “Quilt-A-Long” however, to be successful there are a couple of things you really need to do first.

FIRST: Choose a QAL that aligns with your schedule and skill level and make a general assessment of the overall pattern and block requirements. This comes in handy for the second step:

SECOND: Develop a system of organization. I’m not sure this should be item #2 – maybe item #1.2 or something.

Organization is as important as cutting accurately and sewing consistent 1/4″ seams!

Below is a quick show and tell of the basics I use at the beginning of every project – plastic bin, printed color chart and peel and stick address labels.

Color Chart, Bin and Labels

I am finding this system to be very useful with this particular collection of patterns. There are many squares and rectangles of every dimension imaginable. Some vary by only 1/4″ but here is the good news: I developed a few strategies to reduce – maybe even eliminate – the stress and frustration of managing so many small pieces of fabric.

Before I go any further, I’d like to discuss my first item –

FIRST THINGS FIRST – MAKING THE CHOICE

So far, winter in the mid-west has been brutal. Snow on top of snow, icy streets and cold temperatures ranging from Arctic to obscene left little convincing that the best way to weather this outdoor insanity Was to stay inside.

When it comes to fabric, sewing and quilting I need very little encouragement to spend the day sitting at my sewing machine but I was beginning to feel a little uninspired. Sure, I was finishing this bag project and a few charity quilts but once those are done what would I do next?

During my daily internet wanderings I did stumble upon a few QAL’s and BOM’s but there was always some element of the program that I couldn’t work around: A pattern or fabric I didn’t like, the monthly or yearly subscription price tag or the discovery that I was too late to register or so near the end of the program that I would never be able to catch up.

THE SILVER LINING

Did I mention how winter and I aren’t getting along? 🙂

No, nothing has changed however, I was able to appreciate at least one (actually, two) silver linings in this past winter’s Polar vortex. Something more inspiring than just staying indoors and online for longer periods of time.

The silver lining? The discovery a fun and informative blog – Seams Like A Dream – owned by Kate Colleran, which led me to yet another, (companion?) blog – Tamarinis – owned by Tammy Silvers.

As luck would have it, both of these ladies teamed up to create a QAL that I was able to join during WEEK 1 entitled, ” Adventure Quilt Along…a Road Trip Quilt”.

A quick read through the requirements and general instructions had me doing a happy dance!!! This is it and it looks like it will be so much fun!

Finally, I discovered a QAL that checked off a whole slew of boxes at once:

Quilting

Road trips

Learning new techniques

Using new tools

Choosing colorful quilt fabric, and

Sharing my completed blocks on social media and my website!

There were two other important details that helped me make the decision to join this QAL:

1) Signing up when I did allow me to receive every pattern and accompanying instructions for free and

2) Showing an image of the finished quilt revealed one of the most beautiful and colorful quilts ever! I still consider myself a “rookie” quilter but I knew right away I needed to make this!

Each of these talented ladies constructed a quilt using fabrics from two different collections. Kate used fabrics in solid colors and Tammy used batik printed fabrics.

QUICK NOTE ABOUT COLOR

Viewing each quilt I couldn’t decide which I like best – both are outstanding. However, history has taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to choosing multiple coordinating fabric colors (or colors of anything for matter) from a computer. Your best bet is to go with an established or curated collection. Color seen on a monitor is very different from what we see in real life. Colors generated for digital use are created using a CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) combination. The colors we see in nature are the result of combining the primary colors Red, Yellow and Blue. This is why matching or coordinating colors online is tricky.

I wanted to maintain a color palette similar to the one used by Kate and Tammy. Not only do I love each color scheme but I felt it would make it easier for me to actually follow the instructions! In the interest of time but mostly convenience I felt my best bet was to purchase fabric online for this project. So, in order to get the right number of each color I had to chose two separate fat quarter bundles that at least appear, digitally, to coordinate. You can view my choices here and here.

Quilt Fabric - Summer Hues

Quilt Fabric - Lakeshore Hues

ORGANIZATION

I realize this is not a new subject. I also recognize that anyone that has quilted or sewn anything has reached this same conclusion and developed a strategy or system for being able to store and locate the multitude of items needed to complete a particular project. So I don’t feel as though I have deciphered a secret code or located the Rosetta Stone of organization but in the early stages of this project I realized I haven’t read about anyone else system of organization and felt someone else out there could benefit from the fruits of my labor!

BOXES, BAGS AND TAGS

That pretty well sums it up.

1. A plastic box or bin with a lid. I like the see-through kind so I can see what is inside. These are my favorite – I have about a dozen. (See image above)

2. Adhesive tags or labels – I’ll use several sheets of address labels for this project. Once you begin to use them you will begin to discover many other uses as well. Generally, they are fairly cheap so no worries if you feel you bought too many.

With so many colors to choose from and with so little variation in colors between the green, blue and red/coral I found it very helpful to first label each fat quarter.

Labeled Fat Quarters

And label again once each quarter had been cut into the individual pieces:

Labeled Fabric Pieces for Quilt Top

3. Zip-lock bags. Four or five will do. They can easily be reused as you progress to the next block. At first, I began with only 2 bags.

Fabric Pieces in Zip-Lock Bags

For better organization I again sub-divided the “North” and “South” into the different sizes and placed those pieces into separate bags.

Labeled Fabric Pieces in Zip Lock Bgs

I may have been able to construct Block 1 of this project – Log Cabin blocks – without going to the extra trouble of separating and labeling each group but I’m also aware that I could not have gone from this:

Fat Quarters

to this:

Log Cabin Quilt Blocks

without having a meltdown (or two) along the way!

As for me, I can easily “Quilt-A-Long” as long as I’m organized and take my time and I’m not bringing out the seam ripper too often!

I’d love to hear your strategies for getting and staying organized with any quilt project. This is only my first quilt along but I feel organization is key to success. It prevents feeling too overwhelmed to begin the project and allow you to successfully continue with the project to it’s end.

10 thoughts on “Can We All Just Quilt Along?”

  1. This is a lovely article and I must commend you for putting up this insightful article together. So many useful tips all on one page; I actually bookmarked to look further learning. I have always choosen my skill level towards my passion which makes it very easy for me to be succesful in my field.

    I couldn’t get to know the meaning of quilting space when I started the article but I have later got to know the real meaning. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!  Stay tuned!  This site is still new and there is much more information to come!

  2. Is it an understatement to say organization is the bedrock of any project?. This article is awesome . There are so many useful points to note about project making. Arranging and organizing a work space is essential to the overall success of a project. Quilting along is a very useful method to achieving a fantastic result. This is a very insightful post as it open my eye to a better way of doing things Thanks for sharing

    1. So true.  In fact, until I really began quilting in earnest I had no idea how important it was to be organized.  If I had had more respect for organization early on, it would have prevented many mistakes and frustration!

  3. Good evening Susan,

    I am amazed at the perfect organization you need to make quilting a great experience. I can understand it is really necessary as there are so many small pieces and colors involved. I have never made a quilt before but do admire people who embark on this adventure. My best girlfriend started this while being in Australia. The first one she ever made was for her mother, then came her daughter and the third one she made was for me. I have it on my bed, the quilt is full of cute cats and I absolutely love to see it every day. Thank you for this detailed post, you never know if I might not start quilting myself.

    Regards, Taetske

    1. I feel this is such an overlooked aspect of quilting and one that can literally make or break the quilting experience.  There is nothing more frustrating than spending time trying to locate needed items and fabric pieces or thinking you have the right pieces only to discover after sewing them together that you’ve picked up the wrong pieces altogether!

  4. Thanks SUSAN for sharing this important article on Quilt-A-Long thing.I am so honoured to know all those things.Well my elder brother has intend to start a business on Quilt designing.He is a fashion designer and he already launched like his own start up.Like your dedicated worker Kate and Tammy he have appointed 200 workers in his small business and having a good interest. I think your expert opinion,tips & trick and direction will help a lot to get the confidence. 

    I had 1 question it would be great if you kindly give it’s answer.

    ⏺Where my brother can get all the raw materials from?   

    Thanks again SUSAN.

    1. Thank you for stopping by!  I have a similar path – going from interior design to quilt design.  It is inspiring to learn about another’s love for fabric and design.

      To answer your question: I purchase my fabric from a variety of sources – local fabric stores as well as online such as the Fat Quarter Shop and Fabric.com

  5. This article reminded me of the time when my late Grandma used to make quilts to pass her free time. As a young kid, I would often messed up her blocks of fabrics and placing them into different boxes which she had nicely organized. I didn’t understand at that time why those pieces had to be separated until much later in life, I realized that each has its own sequence to form a long-lasting piece of beautiful and durable quilt. 

    Winter is no fun for me too. Maybe this would be a nice project to start with the kids, passing down the skills to the next generation they called it 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your sweet comment!  Your story makes me think about a time when I was much younger visiting my great aunt who quilted.  I can easily see myself doing the same thing with her quilt pieces!  

       I would love to share these skills with my daughters nd granddaughters but sadly they have no interest in anything crafty or handmade! I hope you do get the chance to start a quilting project with your children 🙂

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