Quilts for Vets: Scrappy Strings

Yesterday, I had the privilege of teaching a beginning quilting class to a really great group of women, for a very fantastic cause.

My coworker Laura and I decided to make quilts for homeless Veterans in Western Washington; however, when we approached people seeking help working on the quilts, we had many responses singing a similar tune:

Great project. I’d love to help, but I don’t quilt.

After 10 or 12 responses like that, we knew we needed to change our approach.

What we decided to do was turn our project into a “make one, give one” beginning quilt class.

We had our first meeting and it was an absolute success getting our new quilters comfortable with sewing machines and foundation piecing 12″ x 12″ blocks.

Deciding Where to Begin

Foundation piecing string blocks seemed the least intimidating way to introduce these ladies to quilting and after some initial trepidation over sitting at a sewing machine, we all got to work, and I didn’t scare anyone away (that I know of).

Most of these ladies are all used to my rules-based personality (aka hall monitor personality), so they just tune out my “No, no, no…not like that…don’t do that EVER again’s.”

I had a whole long list of things to tell them, but they just wanted to get to work.

I really did have a thorough list.

Someday they might want to know more about the basics, but thankfully, foundation piecing scraps and strings makes it easy to throw out the rules.

I did warn them that they need to learn the rules before they can break the rules.

But that’s a lesson for another day.

Die-Cutting Fabric

I spent a morning prepping the fabric for the class ahead of time.

I was trying to make it as productive and stress-free as possible, for all of us!

Thanks to my Accuquilt Go!, I was able to cut A LOT of 1.5″ strips out of yardage in my ever dwindling fabric stash.

I still feel a little extravagant spending money on a fabric cutter when I have rotary cutters and a mat.  Yet after cutting 20+ yards of fabric in such a short time, I decided I should have bought one of these years ago.  It’s going to make quilting, with the added challenge of multiple sclerosis, much easier for me.


Our first class covered basic sewing machine operations, choosing and cutting fabric, foundation piecing, pressing blocks, and squaring up blocks.  It was a lot of information, but they hung in there and they did wonderful work for their first quilt blocks ever!





Small Challenges

I’m excited to see this project continue and help all of us give back within our community.  It was also fun to get together for a lunch and learn with my friends.

I was so busy trying to keep up with everyone that I didn’t take too many pictures.  I will have to try to remember to take a few more pictures next time!

Personally, I often struggle with a desire to be a hermit and contently hide away at home, but I’ve got a small circle of great friends (who somehow make me feel short at 5’9″).  They are patient with my shaky hands, tripping over words, and grandiose plans.  They are also apt to run up and down the stairs for me to get all the supplies I have scattered throughout my house.

My friends, both old and new, made teaching a quilting class a lot of fun!  I stepped out of my comfort zone to teach this class just as much as they stepped out of their comfort zone to show up to learn how to operate a sewing machine and make quilt blocks.


What’s Next?

I had a blast sharing my love of quilting for such a great cause!

The ladies were sent home with “homework” consisting of a bag of fabric strips and strings, as well as 12″ x 12″ foundations to bring back to the next class.

I’m pretty sure at least a few of the ladies were bit by the infectious quilting bug, because I have someone dropping by to get some more practice on a week night, and someone committed to working on this project every other weekend.

Choosing a foundation-pieced block, without too many rules, was a great starting point!

Our next beginning quilting class consists of learning to join rows to form the quilt tops and talking about the endless design options for working with string quilts.  Everyone will also make a quick table runner and hot pads just in time for their holiday entertaining.

If you’d like to help us make this project a success and would like to donate string blocks, orphan quilt blocks, or anything else, let me know.  We’d love to finish as many quilts as possible to donate!

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