Month: March 2020

What Is a Quilt?

What Is a Quilt?

What is a quilt? My answer is quilts are love. Quilts are art, whether they are destined for a bed, a lap, or a wall. A quilt is a very specific piece of work. It’s made of three layers: the top, the backing, and the batting. Some people make two layer quilts, a top and a backing, often a thicker fabric like fleece. Or the top could be made of t-shirts or denim, and the backing is cotton. What makes all these a quilt is that they are fastened down either by tying or stitching.

my beyond the brick wall quilt
Beyond the Brick Wall. Designed, machine pieced and quilted by Marijke Vroomen Durning

You can find mass produced quilts in many places. Some are nice, some not so much. And there’s nothing wrong with purchasing one if you find one you like or it’s what you can afford. But I’ve never seen a mass produced 100% cotton quilt (it doesn’t mean they don’t exist, just that I’ve never seen one). They’ve all be some sort of polyester blend. They’re also not one of a kind, and they’re not personal. There’s something special about creating a quilt, whether you know who it’s going to or it’s just one you wanted to work on.

Quilt sizes

Quilts come in all sizes. My favorite size is the lap-sized quilt. I’ve made so many that we’ve lost count. I like this size because it is adapted to the recipients. A tall person may get a longer lap quilt. Someone who uses a wheelchair may get a smaller one that won’t get caught in the wheels. A friend going through chemotherapy will get one that is easy enough to carry to the clinic, fits well on the chair, and keeps them warm. I’ve made them as small as 40”x40” to much larger.

Baby quilts are also very adaptable. Do you want to make one for a cradle? Do you want one that’s to be used for tummy time? A quilt that the baby will be able to use they grow? There are no absolutes. You do what you feel is right.

Bed quilts are a bit stricter when it comes to sizing. Do you want the quilt to just cover the top of the mattress or do you want it to drape down the sides? And what size mattress is it for? I quilted a king size and a couple of queen size quilts on my domestic machine. That was quite the project. Now that I have my longarm though, size isn’t such a deterrent anymore.

But quilts don’t have to be confined to laps or beds. You can make table runners, table cloths, placemats, bags, even postcards. Some people make wearable items, like jackets, from quilted fabrics. The sky is the limit.

If you’re just starting your quilting journey, there’s so much you can do. Experiment and enjoy!

Pandemic Life: Supporting Local Quilting Businesses

Pandemic Life: Supporting Local Quilting Businesses

Just like us as individuals, owners of local businesses are concerned about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection. Many of us are cutting back on non-essential activities that take us out of our home. What worries me, aside from the obvious health implications, is how this whole thing will affect all of our local, independent shops. Many of them operate on slim margins to begin with. A drop in sales can be catastrophic. So, what can we, as concerned citizens, do to help out? This may be the time to try online shopping if you’ve not already.

If you have a favorite local quilt shop (LQS) or business, perhaps you can ask the owner if you can order fabric online. Some do have online stores that you might not be aware of. Others may take special orders if you know what fabrics or notions you need. If you don’t have an LQS and shop where and when you can, I’d like to recommend some online shops that I frequent. I can only speak to Canadian outlets, so perhaps American visitors to my blog can add in the comments the online stores they like to use. I have shopped with some US businesses, but not in the past while due to the dollar exchange.

This list isn’t exhaustive – there are many places you can buy quilt items online. These are just the ones I use most often and feel comfortable recommending. (The names are hyperlinked, so just hover over them to go to their sites)

Online Quilting Businesses

Studio Bill Locke

Bill Locke is here in Montreal and he runs an online quilting business only. The best way to learn about what he has on offer is to follow him on Facebook, where he posts specials and new arrivals. Some of his offerings are limited so you have to act fast if you want a few yards/metres of the gorgeous fabric he stocks. Add to that, his prices are fair and his service is wonderful. Bill ships to the US, and for American visitors, you get more bang for the buck because of the US/Canadian exchange rate. Another plus for Bill: if you’re looking for a particular fabric, he will try to help you find it. That is how I got the brick fabric for my Beyond the Brick Wall quilt.

Stitch in the Ditch

I’ve ordered fabric and notions from this store based in British Columbia. Nulagh sells pretty well all things quilty plus other things. Service and shipping are quick. I enjoy browsing through what she has to offer and I almost always find what I’m looking for. I like that her mantra is Canadians Supporting Canadians. If you have any questions, Nulagh is responsive and I like that she takes email payments in addition to credit cards.


Dinkydoo is another BC-located quilting business. This store has been in business for 5 years starting as an online shop but she has since opened a brick-and-mortar shop as well.  I’ve bought a good bit of fabric from Dinkydoo, but what I like most is that she has great full roll sales of batting. It can be expensive to put out a few hundred dollars on a batting roll, and of course you need a place to store it. But, and it’s a big but, the savings are wonderful. When you think about how much you pay when you buy a batting pack at your local store and compare it to how much you get on the roll, there’s no question any more for me. I also buy some bolts of commonly used fabrics, like solid black. Shipping of all items is quick.

Flare Fabrics

You can find Flare Fabrics in Ontario, where the owner started this online only shop in 2009 as a side business while still working full time. She’s got lovely fabrics in yardage and precuts, as well as many other items, including bag supplies. The prices are fair and service is quick. Like many online quilt stores, Flare also offers sewing clubs with different types of fabrics.

Emmaline Bags

 I know this store isn’t a quilting business, but I’ve bought a large number of items from here when I make my bags and purses. Her selection is wonderful, great prices and wonderful service. She has a very active Facebook page where you can see the creations that use products from the store. If you are interested in bag making, in my opinion, this is the store to go to.

Do you have any store or business you’d like to add? There are a couple of online stores in Canada that I won’t recommend, but I won’t diss them here either. I will, however, mention my particular experiences if someone recommends a business I’ve had issues with.

So, one good thing about our art is that we can get what we need without leaving the house. And by supporting online stores like these, we are helping the owners stay afloat during this tough time.

the brick fabric from Bill Locke's quilting business in my beyond the brick wall quilt
Bill Locke found this perfect brick fabric for my quilt.

Will Fear of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Cancel Some Quilt Shows?

How Did I Quilt That: Butterflies in Flight

How Did I Quilt That: Butterflies in Flight

I haven’t forgotten about the hand quilters among us and here is a How Did I Quilt That for them: Butterflies in Flight.

My art quilt, Butterflies in Flight

I bought this butterflies kit at the Vermont Quilt Festival several years ago. Kits aren’t usually my thing, but the colors called out to me. So it followed me home and I made a few details my own, like the metallic thread on the butterfly bodies.

This one sat unquilted for a while because I wasn’t sure how I would do it. The only problem was all the seams, which makes hand quilting a bit tough.

I decided to use a metallic thread in curves to give the illusion of flight. Metallic thread can be tricky to use, both in hand and machine quilting.
With hand quilting, cut an even shorter length of thread than you might usually use. Every time the thread is pulled through the fabric, there is more stress on it. Sometimes, the thread shreds and splits. Some people coat their thread in wax before using it. I’ve done that but not consistently.

I randomly started lines behind each butterfly, swerving and curving until they looked right.

The edges, around the flowers, were echo quilted.

I changed the name of the design to Butterflies in Flight and it hangs in my hallway. It’s the first thing people see when they enter my home.

And that is how I quilted Butterflies in Flight.

Interested in how to choose what you’d like to make for your first quilt? Read my earlier blog post, Choosing Your Fabric and Design.

To Prewash or Not to Prewash Your Fabric

To Prewash or Not to Prewash Your Fabric

To prewash your fabric or not to prewash your fabric – that is the question. There are some questions in the quilting world that spark the biggest debates – something like should the toilet paper go over or under the rule, or is it ok to wear shoes in your house? One of the biggest ones in quilting is if you should prewash your fabric. So, should you?

should I prewash this new fabric?
New fabric – should I prewash it?


I used to always prewash my fabrics and thought it was the only way. I’d dutifully wash, dry, and iron all those big pieces of fabric and put them on the shelf for future use. Now I if I prewash depends the project.

My main reason for prewashing was to ward off any possible fabric shrinkage. Some people don’t prewash because they want the gathered, puckered look you get if you wash your quilt after it’s done. But in my opinion, this approach only works properly if all your fabric is from the same line. Different types of cotton shrink at different rates, so if you’re using a hodge podge of fabrics, as I often do, your quilt may not shrink evenly.

Color bleeding

I also used to prewash because of colour bleeding, especially red. I didn’t prewash one I made for my sister and it ran, ruining it. I was kicking myself after because I knew it had the potential to run, yet I went ahead anyway. Another issue I have is the chemicals on the fabric. And I have no idea where it’s been and what it’s touched. It feels harsh to the touch, but some quilters like that because it makes it easier to quilt.

The problem really lies with precuts, the jelly rolls, etc. Those are not impossible to prewash, but difficult. When I have a lot of red in those, I put them in a lingerie bag to wash them, but it’s not ideal. You can soak them in water to help remove excess dye.

I know there are color catchers and special chemicals that you can use to set colors, but I’m a lazy quilter, so I prefer to do things as simply as possible.

One major exception with prewashing

I never prewash if I’m making a one-block-wonder quilt. With this technique, you layer identical pieces of fabric or panels and cut strips. These strips are then cut into triangles to form hexagons. It’s vital that the fabric be identical in the piles to get six matching pieces with the cut. When you prewash, the fabric can get pulled in different directions. This makes it impossible to line them up so each piece is the same.

It all comes down to what you prefer. I still prefer to prewash but I haven’t for a long time.