Friday, September 08, 2006

Quilt Creativity For the Christmas Season - Family Theme

All of us have tons of miscellaneous items lying around the house that can be used to make wonderful Christmas gifts. These gifts I am about to explain to you can reach the heart of family members, and will serve as heirlooms to be passed on for generations.

Of course, this depends on the skills you have, as well as how much effort you would like to put into your Christmas gifts, but no matter how strong your skill level is, you are apt to find something that works well for you, and can save you money in the long run.

The first idea I am going to give to you, involves a little knowledge of quilting. Quilts are kept by family members and passed on because a lot of work and effort is put into them. Themes can be created when designing a quilt, and I have just the perfect theme for you that your family members are sure to love.

For this design to work best, you will first go through the numerous photos that you have stored away, and will sort them into piles that members of your family are sure to enjoy. A picture is worth a thousand words, and so the quilt we are going to make will be worth millions. Once you have hand selected your pictures that you feel are relevant to your theme of family, you will be able to figure out what type of design you are going to work with when creating your quilt. A simple quilt made of squares would work perfect for this piece of art you are designing.

Now that you have decided on a design that you are going to use, you are going to have to get yourself some materials to work with. This can be achieved from clothing and materials located in your house, or you may opt to go to the local craft store to purchase material more to your liking. Depending on the picture backgrounds, you may want to choose more light colored materials, but then again, it is completely up to you.

You will need to figure out a measurement with your quilt so that you know how much material you are going to need. I make my squares an even ten inches by ten inches, that way it is easy to figure out how much material I am going to need. If you need a blanket that is going to be 3 feet wide, you would know that there are 12 inches in a foot, so there would be 36 inches of material needed. (This would work for a bassinette.) This would mean I would need 40 inches of material for the width, and would be 4 squares, but four inches would not be used. This could make your quilt look off balance, so you would take this into consideration, and take two inches off on the outer left hand side, and the outer right hand side. I will explain this more in detail further on with this hobby. Anyway, you figure out just how much material you are going to need, based on the width. I like doing mine with an even 10 squares on the top, and 30 squares going down the sides. So I need 300 inches of material, but this has to be multiplied by two, because there is also a back on it. So what it amounts to is this: 1 1/2 yards by 4 yards, of each material that goes on the top, and 3 yards by 4 yards of the material that goes on the back of the blanket. This would cover the amount of material that you need for this project.

Once you have your material figured out, you will start to cut the material into pieces that you will fit together on your theme with your quilt. Keep in mind, that unless you make it simple, as I do with the ten inch squares, you may find that your quilt will be off by 4 inches on one of the rows, maybe more or less, and it will make your project look uneven. You don't want this, so on the amount of material that is not being used, you divide the extra in half, and compensate on the complete opposites sides for this amount. If this is the case, you will want to set this material into it's own separate pile, and not add any themes or creativity to them, and have them acting as borders instead. Either way, you now have all of your material design cut up to be used. These pieces will be placed off to the side for the time being, as you are now creating the length and the width, with the material, for your design. Once you have all of the pieces cut, you will be ready to perform the next step.

At this point, you should be ready for a break, and will have to scan each of the pictures that you have selected with your computer. It will be great if you have a digital camera, and have been able to take pictures you can just load into your computer, but chances are, there are special pictures you want on this quilt that will need to be scanned. This process can take some time depending on how many pictures you are adding to the quilt, and keep in mind, you may also want to use a photo program to fix any blemishes that may be found within the photo itself. Once you have your pictures fully taken care of, and in your computer, you will be ready to go on to the next step of the process.

Now, to get the pictures on the quilt, you will need to have some iron-on transfer paper that can be found at any local retail store, or office shop. The better the iron-on transfer paper, the better, but chances are, your family member is not going to really want to be doing anything with this quilt that will get it all dirty. Just the same, eventually this quilt will need to be washed, and so it is important that you select iron-on transfer paper that can hold up to the cycles of the washing machine.

Okay, so you have arrived home, with your transfer sheets in hand, and you run over to your computer. You are going to be putting the pictures on your transfer paper at this point, but there are some things you should know about the printing process. First of all, transfer paper can be somewhat expensive, and so you don't want to waste it in the process of printing your family pictures. So, you first want to make sure that there is enough ink in your cartridges. You may want to make sure you have a new set of ink cartridges, but if you know you have enough, that would not be necessary. Another note of interest, is you will want to make sure you are inserting your transfer paper into the tray in the right format, so that it doesn't print on the wrong side. Also, another keen point, is when you go to print, make sure you click on the button for quality, and make sure you put it on best quality, so that you don't have any lines in your picture, and it looks like it came straight from the photo lab.

On best quality, your pictures will take some time to print, but it is well worth the effort, because when you are through with this part of your project, you will be able to trim off any of the parts of the transfer paper that you don't want to show on your quilt, and set them off to the side. You are now going to be ready to start adding the pictures to your theme.

Now, for the material of your quilt, you have the pieces that you have cut to go on the top, and a full length piece of fabric for the bottom. This way your quilt will be thick, and it will hide all of the edges of the material that were sewed together. In the pile of cut materials, you should have at least two different kinds of material, and if you haven't done so already, you'll want to sort the pieces into their own piles. You will decide which of the piles is to have the pictures, and which is to stay plain. When I did this, I used a flowery material, for no pictures to be placed on, and used a plain color white as the opposite material. Then I placed the pictures that I used on the plain white colored fabric so that they stood out, and edges of the transfer paper became invisible with the background.

Now you are going to have to get the ironing board and iron ready to add your pictures to your material. Once you are ready, there are instructions that come with the transfer sheets. Make sure you read them over to make sure you are ironing all of the pictures on correctly. Then you are going to set your pace, and start ironing on all of the pictures that you wish to be on the quilt that you are creating. If you are doing this on light colored material, particularly white, you will see a perfect recreation of the picture you had in your box, and it will now be ready for you to start putting the pieces together.

To make things easier for sewing, I also take a 1/2 an inch of material on all sides of the fabric, and iron it so that it is folded over. This way there is a crease, and when I sew my fabrics together, I use the crease to sew in a straight line. This is also good because it keeps all of your squares equal in side, and easier to work with.

Well, you could do this part by hand, but I imagine you'll wish to take out the handy dandy sewing machine. You are going to alternate materials, and when I created my quilt, I acted basic with my squares. I created them in 10" by 10" squares, so that measurements were easy to figure out. My pictures were smaller than the 10" squares, and to make things look more elegant, I also sewed on ruffle trim around each of the pictures that matched the alternating pattern colors. Now is the time for you to get creative to. You are now going to decide what your picture squares will be dressed up with.

I did all sorts of things on the different quilts that I have designed, and perhaps I could share some creative ideas that can be used on these squares to give them charisma. When I created a Christmas theme out of my quilts, I took pictures of every Christmas that I could find with all family members, and of different years. I created my picture squares so that I could place additional items on the squares to make them personal. One Christmas, we all made gingerbread cookies, and have fond memories of that day. I went to the local thrift store and looked through their Christmas items. There were 10 ornaments, made of felt and stuffed, that only cost me fifty cents. I took them home, and sewed them on selected pieces that involved our baking experiences. I also created one side of a miniature stocking and sewed them on various picture squares, but added a button and a top piece to fold over, so that I could put a mini present in it. I took a small, stuffed pillow ornament, found at the thrift store, that was in the shape of a wreath. I took the wreath home, and hand-sewed some little jingle bells of different colors on it. I then placed my new looking cloth ornament onto one of the picture squares.

The trinkets that can be found to create your quilt can be obtained in a very cheap fashion, just by visiting the local thrift shops, or garage sales in your area. Purchasing used items, and decorating them up adds to the fun and ideas of your quilt. You just don't want to use things that will fall apart or be uncomfortable to sleep with.

Between my cloth ornaments, hand designed stocking with miniature gifts in them, and the ruffle, my squares were totally unique, fascinating and provided a lot of enthusiasm for looking at the little gifts that came with the quilt. Anyway, I think you pretty much get the gist of it. Just make sure you are creative, and use the local thrift store, because you can find so many unique items to add to your quilt that are machine washable. Adding your own touches to these items really makes it look like you worked for years on everything.

Now that you have all of your picture squares dolled up, you can start to sew these sets of fabric together. I highly suggest that you lay them out on a surface somewhere, so you can get a good perspective on what the quilt will look like when it's finished. I find I spend a lot of time organizing, and reorganizing each of the pieces that I have laid out. Once you find the look and style you are comfortable with, you are going to sew the pieces together.
Next, I take two fabrics and put them together facing each other. In other words, I make sure the top of the blanket is folded onto the middle. I use the crease that I created earlier, and I sew straight lines. I start on the left of the blanket, and sew the first row, then I repeat what I just did and sew the second row. Once these two pieces are together, I sew them together up the middle. I keep repeating this process until all of the pieces are placed together, and the top of the blanket is completed.

Whew! You have now finished all of the major steps to completing this project, and you should pat yourself on the back. The next part of the project involves making the quilt, as a whole, look more beautiful. This is done on the long piece of material that goes on the back. You can use anything you desire, and I made mine simple. I went to the local dollar store, and purchased those dangly ornaments, made of material that were used in the olden day. I bought four of them and sewed them on to each of the four corners of my blanket. I felt there was already so much to look at, that this simple approach would save me time, and money.

Now you have to have material to stuff the blanket with, if you feel it's necessary. I added a thin layer of stuffing material, that I bought at the fabric store for $3.00 a bag. I figured that since the material I chose for the bottom of the quilt was a fleece material, it would be warm enough. I just added the stuffing so that it would look a little thicker and plush. Once you get home, you are ready to pretty much finish your blanket, with the exception of one more, tiny duty to fulfill.

Now is the point where you have two pieces to your blanket. The cover, and the backing have been created. You will now be able to place these two pieces together, and sew them with your machine. You'll want to make sure that you keep the top of the quilt open so that you can add your stuffing to the quilt you are creating. Once you have the two pieces together, start adding thin layers of stuffing to the inside. You don't have to be perfect at this point, but it does make it easier to be organized at this point now, rather than later.

Once the stuffing is in place, I took the biggest buttons I could find, that I had collected over time. I now took these buttons, and placed them at various areas where squares connected, and sewed them by hand. I made sure that each of the areas had the stuffing just the way I liked it, and these buttons served as a way to try to keep it in place, rather than slide around. When I was all finished with the buttons, I then sewed the remaining top layer together, and my quilt project had been completed.

You can now stand back, and marvel at the creation you have just made. This gift will be so awesome, you may even want to keep the first one, so make sure you give yourself enough time to make two of them! I personally sit down and figure out how many of them I have to make, and create everything one step at a time, but for each of the projects I need to complete. Each step I complete is done by taking care of each of the 3 blankets with each step. It does make your creations come to life a bit more fast with the organization.

You don't have to make full size picture quilts for Christmas presents. You can make wall hanging quilts as well, that are much smaller, easier to make, and just as beautiful and cool. You wouldn't need to add stuffing to one of these wall hangings, and so it does save you time and money. So if time is of the essence, but you really want to create some of these, try doing some wall hangings, instead of the bed cover quilts.

I think I have pretty much covered all of the topics, and if you are making this design, I'm sure you have some basic understanding of quilting. Even if you don't, I think I explained pretty thoroughly how to get this project accomplished. Use your creativity, and go the cheapest route that you can get. Use my ideas if you want to, or come up with themes of your own. This is a hobby, that once you get yourself hooked on, you just don't want to put it away, and what's best of all, you can also make a lot of money creating these designs for people that you don't know.

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