Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's all about heart with Manda and Love Letters

Howdy!  Are you in the mood for love?  I know, it's a personal question, so I suppose I should introduce myself.  My name is Manda and I blog occasionally at Manda Made Quilts. I'm a nobody in the world of quilt bloggers. If the name stayathomelibrarian is familiar, you've more than likely seen me over at Flickr. There I help Katherine moderate the Bee a {modern} Swapper Bee, the most awesome and original of bees.  I did host the Word Play Bee, although we've just finished up, you could browse for some inspiration.

We aren't much of Valentines celebrators around my house, but when Madame Samm at !Sew We Quilt! put out a call for the color red and heart themed tutorials, I asked if readers might be interested in a quick lesson in the "L" word.  So, here I am.  Are you in the mood for love?

Handmade valentine by stayathomelibrarian

Pick a letter fabric, and a background fabric.  In my observation, using solids is the easiest.  If you use a print, try to use one that has a small design, and not too busy.  If the prints coordinate too closely, it may be hard to read the word.  In this case, I'm using red for the background, and white for the letters. 

I use a ruler from June Tailor called a Shape Cut to cut both of my fabrics.  Staci posted about this tool a few weeks ago.  I use it to cut 1 inch and 1.5 inch strips before I get started.  Occasionally you do need wider pieces (as in the V below), but this will get you started.

A word of caution when using this ruler.  Take your time when using it.  Pay attention to where you place your hand in order to hold the ruler. Imagine this pencil might be your finger.  Things could get a little- dicey (pause for audience laughter).

Piecing letters is easier than you might think.  Before we start, I want to put forth a tip that'll save you some grief. Set your stitch length short.  It needn't be this small, but after my first few words fell apart in the wash, I made it a habit to set it low when I sit to join my strips.

Now, get one of each of your strips and stitch them together.  Press the seams open.  Open?  Does it matter? Well, I really think it does, and I'll tell you why.  Pressing the seams open keeps it looking flat.  If you press your seams to the darker fabric, in this case the red, the bulk  of the pressed  seam would cause the background to appear raised.  In instances where the letter fabric is the darker fabric, the letter would appear raised. However you decide to press your letters, choose a way and stick to it.  But don't skip pressing.

Add the bottom piece to construct the letter "L".  If you want to make your letters wonky, trim at angles before adding the bottom piece.

For the O, cut a piece of the background fabric and build your "o" around it.  You can be really creative with this letter.  It doesn't need to be as boring as this one.  It may be hard to imagine, but this is one of those letters you can make your own by changing your trimming angles, and using different width of letter fabrics.

The V is my favorite letter.  Once you can make the V, you can make the W, and Y.  The W is two Vs placed together, and the Y is the V with a stick on it.  I like my Vs pointy bottomed, and it is my pleasure to show you how to achieve this look.

Put a piece of wide background fabric with one of your wider letter strips.  Also sew together thin pieces of each of the fabrics.  

Eyeball the strips to decide on the angle that you like best.  Cut your strip on this angle.

This is where your point comes in.  Resist the urge to attach these pieces at the bottom.  Offset it so that when you sew the pieces together, press it,  open it, and trim it,  that the letter will come to a point.  If not, you'll get a flat bottomed v. 

Add another piece of background fabric.  As wide as you can stand it, you can always trim it down later.

I tend to make the most of my fabric.  Meaning, I dig through the pieces I've trimmed in order to construct easier letters.  The E is one of these easiest with which to do this (also the lowercase l, and i).

Can you see it?  I joined these three pieces together, and then added an unused letter fabric in order to make this E.

This is where you get to play.  Arrange your letters.   You might want to save trimming your letters until you get to this point.  As it concerns anything, practice makes perfect, and I for one need a lot more practice, but through some trial and lots of errors, I've found my way to piece letters.  That's the best thing about liberated, improv, free, unruly- or whatever you call- style of piecing.  There is no right or wrong way.  There's no need for the size of your letters to be uniform.  When you're first piecing, you might want to try making larger letters before trying smaller letters.

So, I hope I've hooked you enough to want to make some more letters.  There are plenty of resources which you may use. Word Play Quilts: Easy Techniques from the UnRuly Quilter by Tonya Ricucci is a great place to start.

Many thanks to Madame Samm for having me today.  Please drop by my blog sometime for a visit. 
Manda Made Quilts


  1. You made that look so easy, thanks

  2. wow ! totally awesome tut, Manda. There are some REALLY overly complicated word tuts out in quiltland but you really did a great job creating this version - many thanks as I am off to make some quick post-Valentine mug rugs =]

    major hug to mme Samm as always for this terrific place!

  3. How fun! Thanks for sharing your great tutorial!
    Quilting by the River

  4. Thanks for sharing this tutorial. I must try pieced words...they look fun!

  5. Great tutorial....I've never made letters yet, but I think I can after seeing this project. :) Thanks for sharing with us!

  6. The possibly are endless once you know the secrets--especially the good fabric choice secret--thanks!!

  7. Thanks for the tutorial. One quilt challenge a few years ago that I participated in was...there had to be a word in the quilt. This would have been helpful...I just embroidered my words....I will keep this in mind for a future word project.

  8. I've had that book for a long time and after glancing through the process I set it aside thinking, not as easy as they say. But after your great tut, Manda, I think I'm ready to dive right into word play!

  9. Good Morning Manda....and yes love is in the air...I love words and no word brings on more emotion than this one...thank you for your tut my dear sweet one...

  10. Sew cute and sew simple. Thank you Manda!

  11. Wow simple but effective!

    Also I'm holding a swap on my blog. If you're interested feel free to check it out =D"

  12. LOVE the Word Play letters! I'm doing pillowcases with my Grandchildrens' names on the cuff. Making them for their b-days this year using this method. It is sew fun! You can see two of them on my BLOG.

  13. Thanks for sharing Manda. You make it look so easy.

  14. Manda, you are the word making princess!! Some day I will bravely venture into piecing words. Great tute! ;)

  15. This is darling... Love the quilt that you made with your children's names and nicknames on your blog! Would be nice to work that into individual quilts and hide a name in a pattern. Gives me something to scheme about! ;) Thank you so much for sharing your talent. :)

  16. Hi Manda,

    "Love" the wonderful tutorial! : )

  17. Love your site this is a good ruler cutter, wish I could of got in on the olio iron thing I've always wanted one. Love to quilt on chemo right now

  18. Very pretty! It looks so difficult, yet you make it so easy!
    Going to make it one day soon!


You think they are just words...they are sew much more than that...your wee messages tell me, you are kind, smart and important...