Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Christmas is Coming!

When I made my "Night Before Christmas" quilt, I used 4-inch blocks for the cornerstones. At the same time that I made the 4-inch blocks, I also made identical (but larger) 6-inch blocks and 12-inch blocks.

I finally set my 6-inch pieced blocks into a quilt. I used a dozen of the pieced blocks with thirteen 6-inch applique blocks. Each of the applique blocks has a little motif that is found in the larger "Night Before Christmas" quilt. The patterns for the applique are all in one of my new Night Before Christmas patterns, "Patterns for Twenty 6-Inch Applique Blocks." What I love most about those little applique blocks is that they are small and simple -- each one took less than 30 minutes to applique. How cool is that?! So here is my new quilt, "Christmas is Coming." It has big, wide sashings: three inches by six inches. That helps grow a quilt quickly, right?!

"Christmas is Coming!"
56 x 56"

Now I want to figure out how to set the 12-inch blocks in a quilt top. There are lots of options. Most sampler quilts end up being humdrum: add sashings and cornerstones, and then frame the quilt with one or more borders. Sometimes, that is actually the best way to set a dozen blocks, but this week I intend to spend time thinking about how to set sampler blocks into a unique quilt top. Hopefully, you'll see my 12-inch blocks here, soon.

Until then...
Happy stitching!


(c)2008 Susan H. Garman

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sizing Your Sashing and Borders

The question was asked of me, "How do you decide on the size of your sashings and borders?" It's a very good question. You can find all kinds of guidelines in books - from using "fibonacci" rules for sashings and borders (where each border grows, equivalent to the sum of the previous two, so a 1" border followed by a 3" border would be followed by a 4" border and then a 7" border...) to using multiples of the size of units within the blocks (e.g., 2" squares within a block would dictate using 2" borders or sashings). I don't consciously pay attention to rules, though.

I am morely likely to look at the set of blocks I intend to assemble into a quilt, and ask them what they need. Sometimes a set of blocks says, "don't crowd me!" and other times the blocks may whisper that they want to stay close together. I nearly always "audition" various widths of sashings -- I lay out the blocks and try out different sashing widths and fabrics until I think I have the right combination of both width and color. Often, there is more than one "right" answer, so I may also think about how I am going to quilt the quilt after it is put together.

With borders, I go through the same process: I lay out the same blocks, now assembled into a quilt top, and audition various widths and colors of fabrics. After a good amount of playing, one of the choices becomes the "winner" and the rotary cutter runs to do its job before I change my mind.

In The Night Before Christmas, I knew that the appliqued blocks were all very "busy." There is a lot to look at in each block, and so the blocks really needed to be separated, lest they become a jumble of competing images. The old adage of "No fighting!" works in quilts, too. I chose a 4" sashing because that was the smallest size of cornerstone I wanted to make, knowing that I wanted to use a pieced block in each cornerstone unit. I chose pale off-white as the color because it looked like a bed of fresh-fallen snow, which was appropriate to the story -- and it didn't fight with the images. It gave them some breathing room. I also know that I want to quilt the sashings with a feathered vine -- and that the vine will look better with that same "breathing room" around it.

When it was time to decide on the final borders of The Night Before Christmas, I had the blocks all sewn together with the sashings, and I started laying out fabrics in varying colors and widths. Reds were too domineering for the quilt. Multi-colored prints (e.g., a Christmas print) were distracting. A single border did not frame the quilt well. Inset pieced borders seemed to fight the cornerstones. The outer borders of any quilt are, for me, much like mats and a picture frame: you want them to showcase what they surround and add to it, not subtract from it.

So, in a rather large nutshell... that's how I decide the size of sashings and borders. I often lecture before guilds on "the design process" and describe the set of mental exercises that have gone into many of my quilts. Each time I give that lecture, I focus once again on how I actually make design decisions. Much of it is simply what appeals to me visually; wish as I might, I have yet to discover a magic formula!

By the way - if any of you are interested in making this quilt, I have started a Yahoo! Group called "Night Before Christmas." I hope will be a forum to support those of you who choose to make this quilt. You can find it by going to

appy sewing -

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Night Before Christmas...

Finally, finally, finally! I have finished the quilt top for Night Before Christmas. Below you will see all twelve blocks (and now you don't have to go and hunt the first six down from a previous blog post), as well as the setting option I have chosen. This quilt was truly a labor of love -- lots of hours went into it, but the results were worth the effort. Now, I'm chomping at the bit to start quilting the quilt. Quakertown Quilts ( is offering quilt patterns for this quilt, as well as fabric kits for those who want someone else to choose their fabrics. Below, I'll also describe some other options I've added to this block of the month.

"Twas the night before Christmas..."

"Not a creature was stirring..."

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care..."

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds..."

"When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter..."

"When, what to my wondering eyes should appear..."

"Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound..."

"His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!'

"He spoke not a word but went straight to his work..."

"And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose..."

"But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight..."

"Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

And here is the final quilt -- with large sashings that help each block define its own portion of the story. The applique blocks are each set with small cornerstone blocks -- there is a separate pattern available for all of the cornerstone blocks.

The Night Before Christmas
(c)2008 Susan H. Garman

There is also another separate pattern available with twenty different 6-inch applique motifs which are also appropriate for setting cornerstone blocks - or as small applique blocks for an entirely different quilt. Most of the applique motifs can be found in the larger Night Before Christmas quilt: stars, holly leaves and berries, assorted toys, Christmas trees, etc. They are simple and easy-to-applique blocks. I hope to post a quilt with these in the next few weeks!

Until then... I hope that life treats you well. Happy stitching!


All contents: (c)2008 Susan H. Garman