When our Acquisitions Editor, Lori Baker, asked me if I would like to make the Batik Sampler quilt, I was so excited! First of all, as a Technical Editor for Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, Quilting Quickly, and Easy Quilts titles, I have the pleasure of seeing many of Jean Nolte’s gorgeous designs. In fact, making Jean’s Imperial Diamonds quilt is on my quilter’s bucket list.
I’m also looking forward to making a sampler quilt for a couple of reasons. I recently found a 1959 snapshot of my great grandmother’s quilting bee in Salt Lake City. In it, the ladies are holding a quilt with an applique block that I’d never before seen – acorns and oak leaves. This tiny, faded photo awoke in me a curiosity to learn about quilt blocks that have been around for a long time.
Since then, I love to understand how older blocks got their names, and how they represent history. Isn’t it fascinating to imagine what quilters from long ago were thinking about? Batik Sampler has blocks with names like “School Girl’s Puzzle”, “Peace & Plenty”, and “Depression Quilt Blocks”. As we work through the upcoming BOMs I would love to hear from other quilters about their knowledge of the history of our sampler’s blocks and how they got their curious names!
Finally, when I found out that I would be making Batik Sampler, I started thinking about how I would eventually quilt all of the different blocks. Being a gal who enjoys working with rulers on my longarm, a sampler quilt seems to be a perfect place to explore all the magic of ruler work.
Having participated in Block of the Month and Mystery Quilts in the past, I knew how important it is to keep on schedule with them. I have one mystery quilt which only needs the final month assembly done. I’m embarrassed to admit it has lingered in my UFO pile, ignored for much too long. I also have a Christmas themed quilt that is completely cut out and waiting for some attention, but warmer weather drew my focus elsewhere. On the other hand, I absolutely love those Block of the Month and Mystery quilts that I have successfully completed!
Monthly programs offer quilters affordability, a do-able timeframe, and a chance to try new blocks or techniques! They make great group projects when guilds or friend circles (in person or online) collaborate to make a quilt they all love. I’ve seen how local quilt shops gain valued business by offering a time and place for local quilters to come together with Block of the Month programs.
To help myself get prepared for the Batik Sampler Block of the Month, I decided to get organized. First, I designated a plastic box in which I will keep the instructions, fabric, tools, etc. In that box, I also keep a small notepad that I write down ideas as they come to mind. For example, as I piece a block, I might think of a great way to quilt it later on. The notepad is a place I can jot down ideas to revisit in the future. I find the plastic boxes a great way to gather and organize the many pieces of a project, keep the fabric clean, plus everything is transportable if I take the project to a group sew.
As I’m cutting out patches and assembling units that will eventually become blocks, I keep them labeled in plastic zipper bags. The bags come in a variety of sizes and I can tuck a little piece of paper inside each one that says something like “A squares”, or “Fabric 1 B rectangles”, “Fabric 2 B rectangles”, etc. With a BOM program, often a few weeks elapse before I get back to my quilt, and using the plastic bags to sort and label helps me get back into the groove a little quicker
I also think about if I need to prepare the fabric before I start cutting and sewing. Some quilters always prewash their fabrics; some quilters never prewash. I think it’s a personal preference and also depends on how the project will be used. For example, a baby blanket is likely to get washed a lot, so prewashing makes sense. On the other hand, a few years ago I made a wall hanging from fabrics I purchased when visiting Amsterdam. Being a decorative item, it doesn’t get washed, so I chose not to prewash the fabrics.
For Batik Sampler, I notice there are some shades of red batiks. Good, bad and ugly experiences have taught me that of all the colors, red dyes seem to have the greatest potential to bleed. Even if the quilt won’t be washed, it is likely to be exposed to water if a quilter uses water-soluble marking pens during the quilting process. Our Features Editor, Mary–Kate Karr-Petras, shares my concerns in her blog about her Ohio Star quilt.
With that, I’ve decided I will pretreat my batiks, especially those with red in the dye, with a product called Retayne. This is a product that locks the dye in the fabrics, keeping it from bleeding onto adjoining patches, such as the cream batik in Batik Sampler.
I follow the instructions on the Retayne bottle, and after my fabric is pretreated, rinsed, dried, and pressed, it’s ready to go!
Finally, I like to get ready to sew with a few more simple steps (be sure to follow your sewing machine owner’s manual on this one). For me, I remove the needle plate and bobbin to clean out the lint and dust in the bobbin area. My favorite tool to use for this is a tiny soft dental brush like this one:
I find that these tiny brushes are inexpensive, flexible and easily get into all those little places.
When my machine is clean and put back together, I like to insert a brand new needle. For high thread count fabrics such as batik, I use a Microtex Sharp needle. Since I plan to use 50-weight thread, I think a size 80/12 or 90/14 would be good. With sharp needles, the point can be a little delicate, so it’s good to keep plenty of extras on hand. (I keep the extras in my plastic project box so that I don’t have to guess which size needle to use).
Finally, I like to pre-wind several bobbins in my chosen thread, so I can quickly switch them out as I sew. These are also kept in the plastic project box I’ve designated for this quilt.
Hopefully these preliminary steps that include some organization and fabric preparation will help assure smooth sewing and success for our Batik Sampler BOM!
So, thank you Lori, for the invitation, and thank you, Jean, for the gorgeous design. Please join me as we revisit some old blocks, try out some new blocks, and learn a bit of quilt history. We’ll eventually put it all together, transforming a little fabric, thread and batting into something spectacular!