Do you quilt because you love the process or because you love the finished project?
Some quilters are project people. They make a quilt to have the resulting on display in their home or to give as a gift. They will make a quilt when needed or wanted but also have many other crafts available to do. Project quilters buy what they need but are less likely to have major stashes of fabric, books, patterns, and tools.
Quilters who are process people will make quilts simply to be making quilts. They love the process so much the end result -- a finished quilt -- is of secondary importance. Process quilters tend to stash fabric, books, patterns, and tools out of proportion to the amount of quilts they will ever have time to make.
Project quilters will buy a pattern or book and make a quilt and be very happy to have it finished and on display. On the other hand a process quilter will want to take time and energy to think and come up with a creative use of fabric, a change in the pattern or something unique to their individuality.
If you are a project quilter or a process quilter and would like some tips and pointers to get your creative juices flowing you might find some help reading the paragraphs below.
Creating Unique Quilts
Every quilter has her own style of creating unique quilts. You can begin with simply making blocks or units and putting them together. After all the blocks are put together, then choose a border. Or quilts can be planned from the beginning very carefully on graph paper or with computer software with every block design and color choice decided upon before beginning to cut any fabric. Many quilters use both methods and some quilters will only work with one method or the other.
If you are making a quilt from a pattern or a book many of the creative decisions are already made for you and all you need to do is to "plug in" your fabric and color choices to the formula of blocks and borders already planned. There is nothing wrong with this method of making quilts. Many beautiful quilts are made exactly like a commercial pattern using the quilter's personal fabric and color choices.
If you are going to start your quilt by making blocks or smaller units you will definitely need a design wall. A design wall can be made by covering a large 4" x 8" sheet of foam board with flannel, felt or fleece. The large sheets of foam board are available for purchase at home center supply stores. Two sheets of foam board would give you an eight foot square design wall. If space is available in your studio, a design wall large enough for a full size quilt is very helpful.
Another alternative for a design wall would be to purchase a wide window shade, and cover it with flannel, felt or fleece using a spray adhesive. Then install it over a wide door or window. This can be pulled down and used as a design wall -- then rolled back up to be out of the way when not needed. Your quilt pieces will remain on the wall when rolled because the back side of the window shade would be smooth and not attract the fabric pieces. Be sure to roll the shade down and up carefully so the quilt pieces don't fly in all directions.
For a small design board purchase a "display board" at the office supply. They are made of corrugated cardboard and are relatively inexpensive. It can be covered with flannel, felt or fleece using spray adhesive. My display board is 36" high and 24" wide when folded and 36" x 48" when opened. Because it has the folds it will also stand alone on a table or lean against a wall. This would be a great size for a wall quilt or baby quilt or simply for piecing blocks.
As you piece a block or partial block units place them on your design wall. Move them around as you wish. View your blocks through reversed binoculars, or a camera viewer, a reducing glass (opposite of a magnifying glass), or purchase a door peephole. A door "peephole" is a security viewer that is installed in doors so you can see who is standing outside before opening the door. Door peepholes are available at home centers. An inexpensive one is usually less than five dollars.
Many quilts are designed from the center out. You choose the fabrics and colors you wish to use in the main part of the quilt and after piecing the blocks or units and stitching them together, take your pieced portion to the fabric store and choose fabric for the border that works with the center area of your quilt.
On the other hand many quilts are made by choosing a beautiful print for the border and the colors and fabrics for the main part of the quilt are chosen to coordinate with that. And many basic quilting books use exactly this method. Choose a beautiful print and "pull" colors from that print to make your blocks and center area. The authors are working on the premise that the fabric designers know about color theory and the colors used within a fabric print will follow one of the variations of the color wheel such as "complimentary" colors, "analogous" colors, and "triad" colors.
Some quilt designers and authors recommend a "polychromatic" color scheme -- using all colors. The premise is the more colors you use the more colors you may use. Multi color and scrappy quilts are very beautiful although on some opinions very "busy". Your opinion and preference is most important. Make only quilts that make you happy!
When creating a quilt, choosing colors and fabrics can be difficult for many quilters. There are certain colors that each person particularly likes or dislikes and it is my belief that we should choose colors that we like. If we don't like the colors or fabric combination we won't want to continue and finish the quilt. I know a quilter that always uses blue in all her quilts, and another always puts pink in her quilts. Some quilters prefer green and that color is predominant in their quilts.
Occasionally you will want to deviate from your usual colors and try something different and that is OK. Guilds offer challenge quilt projects that if you participate you will learn to work in colors or pattern designs that you wouldn't choose for yourself. Yet in these situations you usually learn a lot and have a good experience working in a different manner than usual. Color selection in colors you don't usually use is not difficult because good color sense carries over into color combinations that aren't your special favorites.
Remember, your color and design selection needs to please yourself. It is most important that you are pleased with your quilt. It is your quilt and you are making it. If you don't enjoy the colors, fabrics, and design of your quilt it might not get finished. And finishing is better than perfect.
Care Of Scissors And Shears
Shears are usually bent handled. They come in several sizes usually a 7" or 8" blade. Shears are traditionally used to cut fabric for sewing and quilting. If you have a smaller hand, you might want to purchase a smaller shear. Try on several pair at the store before making your decision. The finger openings need to fit your hand. Be sure to purchase the best quality your budget will allow. They will last a long time. Some brands of shears have a lifetime guarantee. Test the shears by cutting fabric. Shears need to cut well right up to the point. If they do not, try another pair or another brand.
Hide your good quilting shears from the rest of the family. You do not want to use them for anything but fabric. Be emphatic about this policy or they will use them to cut window screen, wire, and pizza. If you happen to cut freezer paper or fusible web paper backing with your good shears, don't worry these papers will not damage your shears.
A new pair of shears will come with a small amount of oil at the screw hinge. Occasionally add another drop of sewing machine oil by holding the shears in an open position and placing a drop of oil between the blades right at the pivot screw. Open and close the shears several times to distribute the oil. Wipe off excess oil at the pivot and then wipe the blades with the same cloth, cleaning the blades with the remainder of oil. If the shears are wiped carefully, the oil will not absorb into your fabric.
Shears are available in right and left handed models. The left handed quilter will need to look a little harder to find a left handed shear as only a few of the better brands make them. Be sure the handles fit the left hand and the blades are exactly opposite of the right handed shears. If you hold the shears in your left hand and open the blades the lower blade is closest to you. These shears are referred in the industry as "true left handed" shears. Some brands have left handed handles in right handed blades. These backwards shears can cause problems for a left handed quilter as when the shears are held in the left hand, the right handed blades are between her eyes and her cutting line.
Scissors are usually smaller than shears and have straight handles. Most scissors have a blade length of three to six inches. There are very small scissors available such as a one inch blade -- made especially for traveling on airlines. Scissors are usually used for cutting paper and templates, or for snipping threads at the sewing machine. It is recommended to keep a special pair for paper, template plastic, and cardboard. Scissors also need an occasional oiling as explained for shears.
There is a belief that paper dulls scissors but if you wipe the scissors with a cloth with a few drops of oil, they will stay sharper longer as it is the acid in the paper that causes scissors to dull. If you wipe them off occasionally, the acids will be removed and your scissors will stay sharper longer.
The longer the blade the easier it is to cut paper or template plastic with a smooth cut. If the blades are shorter, you will open and close the scissors more and the cuts will be shorter resulting in an uneven edge.
Scissors for clipping threads at the sewing machine might be shorter blades or embroidery scissors. Some quilters use thread clippers that have a spring to keep them open and ready to use. You will need to try out several types and decide from your experience which style works best for you.
Scissors are very difficult to find in left handed models. While there are at least three brands of left hand shears available for purchase, scissors are almost impossible to find for left handed quilters. I have found left handed scissors at beauty supply stores. They are "barber" style scissors with the little curlicue on one of the handles. I have a pair of six inch and a pair of five inch "barber" scissors. Obviously the hair cutting industry has recognized that there is a need for left handed scissors before the sewing industry.
Whatever type of scissors and shears you choose remember to take a few minutes to put a drop of oil in the screw area and wipe the blades. Your scissors and shears will last longer and stay sharper for many years.