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Tuesday, December 9, 2014


People often ask me how I got involved with quilting. A few years ago Marti Michell went around during a quilt show asking the quilt teachers whether they thought they would be doing what they do when they started quilting. One of the things she discovered was that most teachers did not start out thinking they would be teaching quilting. Like most crafts, people learn a craft to have something to take up their spare time or to enjoy a hobby.

I started quilting in 1985 when my husband and I moved back to St. Louis after being away for 10 years. I was teaching Special Education at the time and had my summers off. My mother was a retired home economics teacher and always enjoyed sewing so I thought it would be fun if we took a quilting class together. There was a quilt shop near me that offered evening classes so we signed up for a beginning quilt class. At that time Jackie Robinson of Animas Quilts owned the local shop. She was a wonderful teacher with lots of great stories of her travels.

The class lasted four weeks. Each week we would learn a new technique, starting out with the basics (rotary cutting, piecing, etc.) I remember how expensive that first purchase was! Rotary cutter, cutting mat, rulers, fabrics, and other important tools that I thought I had to have (and needed). Would you believe I still have that first cutting mat and it is still good? It had no lines on it but that wasn't necessary with the ruler to cut the strips with. The rotary cutter and mat had just come out as the "new fangled" quilting tools.

I had been a sewer since I was about 11 (and crafter from an even earlier age) and had sewn most of my clothes for a long time (including my own wedding dress), so I thought quilting couldn't be much different. I would learn a technique, go home and stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and sew so I wouldn't forget what I learned. At the end of that four week session, I think I finished 4 or 5 small quilt tops (just the tops) and I was hooked! Some of those quilts never got quilted but I did go on to making a king size quilt for our bed and some wall quilts for around the house. At that time I thought everything had to match my house. You can see here two of my earliest quilts. Can you guess what colors were in my house (the colors of the 80s)?

It continued to be a hobby for about 10 years while my children were growing up and I continued to take quilt workshops to learn new patterns and techniques. It only become a profession when I started to work part time in a new quilt shop near me, teaching classes and entering contests. Some of my students belonged to quilt guilds and it wasn't long before they started asking me to lecture and teach workshops at the local quilt guilds. I was now doing two jobs, teaching Special Education and quilting!

To be continued......

Today's group of fabrics is from the Bella Suedes collection with P&B Textiles.

The center fabric is a light grey. I decided to use it in my Liberty Square pattern. It is one of my miniature patterns that uses half-square triangles.

 Here it is with the Bella Suede fabrics.

I teach a workshop on precision piecing and on a variety of ways to make half-square triangles using this pattern. You can make it as scrappy as you want so fat quarters are good with this pattern. You do not have to use the same light fabric in the background if you want to make it really scrappy. The only fabric you need a little extra of would be for the borders and binding.

One of the ways to make half-square triangles is to cut the squares then cut them in half diagonally to make the triangles. If you have problems with your seam allowance you can always cut them slightly larger and trim the block down to size. These are 1 inch finished half-square triangle units. The formula for  figuring out what size square to cut out is to add 7/8" to the finished size of the patch. So with a 1" finished patch, you would cut out a 1-7/8" square. If you prefer to trim the patch to size, then cut out a 2" square. I like to put the two squares right sides together that will make the patch, so after I cut the diagonal, they are ready to sew together. 

The second way to make the half-square triangle units is to cut the triangles with a template. When you use a template that has the corners trimmed off, you can cut them from a strip that is 1/2" larger than your finished size. So with the 1" unit, I cut a 1-1/2" strip and use a template to cut out the triangles.

Another method would be to use Thangles or Triangle paper.  You can also make your own triangle grid on the back of your fabric or use Inklingo, which is a program that you use with your printer to print lines on the backs of your fabric. Finally you can use a foundation paper to paper piece it. My pattern includes a foundation section that you can copy.

To enter this drawing for the fat quarters and my Liberty Square pattern, please leave a comment on what your favorite method is for making half-square triangles and what you think you might do with this group of fabrics. I will draw a winner on Thursday.

As always, do what you love and love what you do. Thank you for reading, Toby Lischko