Ask Caron

If you have been reading recent blog posts on, you know that I was blessed to have had an awesome neighbor (Mary Schafer) who was a talented quilter.  I could ask her question after question about quilting, and she very patiently would answer all my questions with her opinions and provide suggestions to me along the way.  Her years of experience and knowledge were so valuable to me!

Not everyone is so blessed!  But if you have a quilting question and would like a friend to give you a suggestion, please feel free to ask me.  I will email you back privately and give you my response to whatever quilt issue you are dealing with.  In addition, I will be sending out tips and tricks on a regular basis to quilters who have subscribed to the ASK Caron list.  So HOP ON BOARD and let’s get to know each other.  NOTE:  Because I speak English, I am sadly not able to assist those of any other language.

Please sign up by emailing me , and I will email you back with my contact information.  Once you have my info, let’s get to know each other and we can work together to talk about quilting fun and any question you might have that you need assistance with.  Please note that your contact information will NOT be shared with anyone else.  If you have any questions, ASK Caron!

Pre-washing Fabric for Quilting

If you are a quilter, it won’t take you long to find a lot of mixed information on pre-washing fabric to be used in quiltmaking. Every quilter has their own answer to the “Should I pre-wash?” or “Shouldn’t I pre-wash ? dilemma.

As a life-long hand-quilter, I learned long ago that I will not risk damaging expensive fabric by NOT pre-washing.  I have seen what happens when I put a navy blue or red solid cotton fabric into a sink or washing machine with hot water and solid white fabric. It is not pretty, at least I don’t think so.  Thus, I pre-wash everything as soon as it comes home in my shopping bag.  You choose what you want to do.  It’s your decision. Totally.

I have had many quilters ask me the same question:  “But what if you buy a precut fabric pack such as those “5- inch charm squares” or any other size pre-cut fabric pack? How do you pre-wash THOSE?

mesh laundry bag

That is an easy question to answer, and it doesn’t cost much at all.

  • Invest in a couple of mesh laundry bags or a Lingerie Washing Bag set.
  • Open the zipper and insert a handful of fabrics that have the same color value (Example, your bag might have all red fabrics in it.)
  • Fill your kitchen sink with HOT water and DAWN dishwashing detergent.
  • Throw the bag into the hot water. Swish it around for a few minutes, then walk away.
  • Leave the bag in the sink for about 30 minutes, then look at the water.  If it looks like it has  a red or pink hue to it, pull out the bag, squeeze the excess water out of it, and fill the sink up with hot water and Dawn detergent again.
  • Repeat the soaking process until your water no longer has a color showing up in the water.
  • Drain bag and gently squeeze out the water.
  • Then soak the bag and its fabric contents for about 10 minutes in COLD WATER.
  • Rinse, soak, repeat until you no longer see any color.
  • Toss the bag with it contents into your dryer and let the dryer do its thing.  You might need to press your fabric when you are finished, but your fabric will be safe and you will not have red (or any other color) staining on your white fabrics.
  • The end.  Easy Peasy.

Where Were You When I Needed the Basics, Part II

Earlier this year, construction began on my husband’s new woodworking studio.  While my husband (Dean) could have built the building himself, he knew that he wanted a crew of construction workers who were SKILLED in their area.  He hired “All Phase Construction” and was extremely pleased with their work… every bit of it.  The construction team worked as a team, BUT as a team they each had their own special role in the process.  Some of them were experts in putting up the walls, some were talented installing the rafters, some did cement work or framing, etc.  They were taught by specialists to be the best they could be, at whatever their role was.

Dean and I were especially blown away by the electrician.  He came to the site knowing ahead of time that the studs and rafters would all be in place… perfectly.  A great deal of precision was expected of the construction team, and they did not let him down.  “Jim” set to work drilling holes for the wiring, and began feeding the wiring through those holes.  When we showed up at the end of the day, we were blown away by the precision.  All of the holes for the wiring were lined up in perfectly straight lines.  The wiring went through the holes perfectly straight.  And I can’t express enough how precise they were!  I could stand at one corner of the shop and sight down the length of the building and not see any wire bending anywhere.  The level of precision this gentleman showed was just amazing.  “Jim” was an expertly skilled craftsman and we were happy to have him on the team.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, Dean is a woodworker.  He is a fifth-generation woodworker, a skill brought over from England and passed through his mother’s side of the family down to him.  While Dean took woodshop classes in high school, it was his family and his years of experience that taught him the most.  He has built and sold so many pieces of furniture and artwork through the past 40+ years that we have lost count. He has refinished museum-quality pieces and been asked to restore items that have been destroyed by fire and flood.  All of his knowledge took time to learn, practice, and improve upon.  It didn’t happen overnight.  

As with  any craft or skill, learning takes time.  You learn best by studying other craftsmen, watching what they do, asking lots of questions, and trying your best to put what you have learned into everything you do.

When I wrote the post previous to this one, “Where were you when I needed the basics? Part I,” I shared it in a Facebook group I started called “Celebrate Hand Quilting.  Sadly, it caused a typical “argument” among several quilters instead of having a meaningful conversation.  No matter what skill or task you undertake, you ALWAYS do your best when you learn as much as you can about that skill.  Consider a high school student wanting to be a lifeguard.  Do you want that student to learn the most and be the best he can be before watching your sweet grandchild swim in the pool or lake?  You betcha!   What about that fireman/firewoman?  Don’t they need to learn as much as they can before they rescue someone from a burning building?  How about the airline pilot who is responsible for getting you and your family from one side of the country to the other?  I would surely expect that pilot to have proper training and skills to be able to handle that plane from one airport to the other.  I would WANT that pilot to have the knowledge that “Sully” Sullenberger had when he brought down a plane in the Hudson River!  Knowledge and skills… practice and patience… no matter what you do, always try and do your best.  Always!  It’s perfectly alright to ask questions, to ask  the “why” and “how” when you just don’t know.

Quilters, we need to lose the phrase “Quilt Police.”  When someone shows you a different way to stitch something, just say “THANK YOU” and move along.  Think about it later.  You might just be blessed to have someone like Mary Schafer show you a better way.  There will always be know-it-alls  wherever you go.  If you can’t tune them out, then simply smile and say, “Sorry, I need to leave…”

Where were you when I needed the basics?

I often wish that I had a grandmother or aunt who knew how to quilt.  I was a self-taught quilter who first learned a thing or two about sewing on an old Singer featherweight that my mother had.  Mom drew lines on typing paper and showed me how to thread the needle and then follow those same lines with needle and thread.  It took me quite awhile, but eventually I caught on.

I had a friend who was expecting her first baby when I was a freshman in college.  I had very little money to purchase anything for the baby, but my mom DID have scraps of fabric lying around.  Mom was a seamstress who sewed most of my clothes, so most fabrics that I found in our home were plaid wool, lining fabrics, and any shirting fabric that I could get my hands on.  Certainly not quilting fabric, that’s for darn sure!

I managed to find enough scraps lying around to create a pretty pitiful baby quilt.  And yes, it was pitiful.  I didn’t know that a quilt required a layer of batting between the front and the back!  You see, I didn’t have a quilt on my bed, and I didn’t even have a quilt in my house.  But I DID read about quilts in a book at the library, just never noticed that there was something called “batting” that gave it that puffy look.  My first batting was about two inches thick.  (Yes, I’m probably making that up; It was more like 1.5 inches thick.)  I somehow managed to make something that resembled a quilt and presented it to my friend.  Fortunately, she gave me a nice smile and told me how special it was.  Yeah, right.  It was a mess!

A few years later, my husband and my two sons and I moved into a house a few blocks down the road.  Much to my delight, my next door neighbor was a fabulous (and famous) quilter.  Her name was Mary Schafer, and what a blessing she was!  Mary had a habit of popping in on me, sewing supplies in one hand, a basket of fabrics in the other.  She taught me what quilting was all about.  Sometimes we sat on my couch and sewed.  Sometimes we sat on her living room floor and sewed.  Oh, the great conversations we had!  I learned so much about quilting!

Mary taught me the right way to hand piece a quilt, how to sew on a binding, and how to block the quilt when it was completed.  She showed me how to roll up a finished quilt so that it didn’t get creased when I folded it up for storage.  I learned how to tie a proper quilter’s knot, and how to sew a binding with a bias edge.

There is something special about learning the “proper” way to accomplish a task.  The skill is made even more special when you have a loving, talented teacher like Mary.

If Mary were around now, she would be confused by the phrase, “Quilting Police.”  You see , not only did Mary teach me how to quilt properly, but she also taught me a lot about plants.  Mary loved to garden!  And time after time, she would have me over to her yard to look at a special plant.  She taught me how to propagate plants so as to multiply them to replant in another area… usually in my yard!  If you don’t do it correctly, the plants will die.  There IS a right and wrong way with plants, just as there is with quilting.  So was Mary a part of the “plant police?”  Yes and no.

Today, the phrase “Quilting Police” is used more than it should be.  For some reason today’s quilters don’t like to be told how do do something.  I don’t know if it is because they don’t want to be “bossed around,” or whether they just don’t have an older friend or relative or knowledgeable person around to provide guidance.  Rather than bask in the friendship of the joy of quilting, I’m sad to hear about quilters who don’t seem to WANT to learn various techniques.

How do YOU feel about that?