Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's our secret?

As of June 21, 2009 it's officially summer and we just completed our National Project Linus Institute in Bloomington IL. What an amazing weekend! We had Project Linus Chapter Coordinators and their assistants attend from across the country for 4 days of instruction, inspiration and fellowship. It is always amazing to me to be a part of the excitement as we gather together to share our passion for Project Linus.

When I am speaking or answering questions in a break-out session, I often share information about our local chapter and volunteers with our national audience. In addition, our attendees actually have been able to meet some of our chapter volunteers at our Expo on Thursday. During Institute, I enjoy relating stories of the tremendous volunteer spirit in our Central IL chapter. On many occasions I have coordinators tell me how impressed they are with our Central IL volunteers and ask me what our secret is. From my perspective, I see each of us with the same desire to serve others, standing side by side - anxious and able to respond to a need when it arises. But I know that it's more than that. Is it the friendships we have created as a result of our dedication to Project Linus? Is it because Project Linus gives us a reason to get behind a sewing machine or pick up our knittning needles/crochet hooks or rotary cutters? Is it because we feel the need to serve others and Project Linus fills that need? What is it?

So - I would like to know what it is that keeps you coming to our Make a Blanket Days, our Appreciation Breakfasts, participating in our special projects such as Camp Coco or TAPS, helping out at conference or just making blankets? Why do you do it? Please leave a comment by e-mailing me. Let me know what keeps you interested and motivated so that I can pass that information along to our chapters?

I know my posting is short. I'm exhausted and ready for my post-conference (institute) nap.

Have a wonderful week and happy blanketmaking!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

10 Blanketmaking Tips

June is an EXTREMELY busy time of year for me with Project Linus Conference (now called Project Linus Institute) right around the corner. Project Linus Institute is an event for our Project Linus Chapter Coordinators from across the country to gather together for blanketmaking inspiration, chapter training and fellowship with other coordinators. The coordinators then take what they have learned and share it with their local chapter volunteers. In just over a week, we will be in Bloomington setting up for our 4 day event. On Wednesday June 24th we will have classes and our opening reception. Thursday is our EXPO, Friday is our business meeting and Saturday is our Symposium. As we come into the home stretch of our preparations, I have been gathering some blanketmaking tips for my presentation for Friday. Here are a few things that I've learned:

1. Bath Scrunches: These wonderful little items are great to clean off your rotary cutting
mat. After many uses a cutting mat tends to collect tiny bits of thread. Rubbing a bath scrunchy over it will pick up a lot of these loose threads.

2. Scrappy Binding: Save the leftover strips from your quilt bindings and join them together until you have enough to bind another quilt. Using them on a Project Linus Quilt enhances the fun "kid-friendly" look of the finished project.
3. Quick and Easy Tying Solution: When tying a quilt, thread the needle with yarn or crochet thread and then, rather than cutting and recutting yarn from the spool or skein, simply pull the yarn through as you make your stitches at 6” increments across the quilt. You can easily stitch across the quilt - then cut your yarn half way between each "tie", tie them off and begin a new row. This eliminates the constant stopping to cut more yarn and makes this step much faster and easier.
4. Wind several bobbins before going to a class or Make a Blanket Day. You may want to consider purchasing pre-wound bobbins. This saves a lot of time and you don't need to continually thread and re-thread your machine when you run out of bobbin thread. I purchase my pre-wound bobbins at They last much longer than the bobbins I wind myself, the thread is of excellent quality and I think they're worth the price.
5. Stay Put Rag Squares: If you like to make rag quilts you may have found that you keep getting uneven seams on the squares. Part of the problem may be the need to regulate the pressure foot - but many machines will not allow you to do this. If you are sewing from corner-to-corner (on the bias) you may have discovered that pins just won't hold. Try using the quilter's basting spray. Spray both sides of the batting before making your "sandwich". This will keep the fabric from slipping and you will end up with even seams on all of your squares.
6. How to Sew a Straight Line on your fabric: Use painters purple tape. Just place the tape where you want your sewing line to be, then place the edge of the presser foot beside it and away you go. The tape can be replaced several times before losing it's tackiness, but it will leave nothing behind on the fabric.
7. Stray threads: Keep a piece of flannel or a small square of leftover fleece by your machine. When you snip the threads, put them on the flannel. They will stick to the flannel and not fly all over.
8. Easy roll binding: When binding a quilt, often times the binding starts to get tangled (or even caught under the wheels of your sewing chair when you're not looking). Try rolling the binding around your finger and when completely rolled up place it into a sealable plastic sandwich baggie. Seal the baggie and put a slit in the bag just under the seal ,(just large enough for the binding to fit through easily). Then put the baggie in your lap. As you sew and need more binding it automatically just slides right out... no twisting or catching.
9. and blanketmaking: Did you know you can get some great quilting, crochet and knitting videos online at Check it out by going to and doing a video search for "quilt" or "crocheting" or "knitting" to get all the current instructional videos. You can get more specific in your search by typing in "foundation piecing tips" or "how to double crochet" or "how to machine applique". Just ask your question and see what comes up!
10. Crocheting Chain Three Alternative: Crochet patterns always say "Chain Three" when you begin a row. Many crocheters do not like the look of that chain so here's an alternative: Yarn over twice then go through the intended space and work it like a double crochet. It works great and no one can tell where you began.

There are many more great tips out there - but here's 10 to get started!

Have a wonderful week and Happy Blanketmaking!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Scheduling our priorities

I love the quote by Steven R. Covey: "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities."

It's hard to believe that it's already June and the first day of summer is right around the corner. Since Project Linus ranks very high on my priorities list, I try to make sure that all of our major events are on my calendar early in the year.

January - February is always reserved for National Make a Blanket Day and its preparations. For those of you who are new to our chapter - this is an event at the Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth - held on a Saturday in February - where approximately 200 of our chapter volunteers gather together to make blankets. It's a lot of fun and a great way to meet new friends with similar interests while serving the children of our community. We have door prizes and lunch and new ideas and new patterns and a whole host of blanketmaking inspiration throughout the day.

Once Make a Blanket Day is over, I focus most of my attention on our National Project Linus Institute. This is a four day event that is held in June, in Bloomington IL for our chapter coordinators from across the country. Many of our Central IL volunteers help with this event and it seems like each year it gets bigger and better.

Then, I try to take a bit of a break in July, followed by August which brings about preparations for our Fall Make a Blanket Day. On a smaller scale, this event is held during the week - usually a Thursday - at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Decatur. We have about 120 volunteers and share a day together making blankets, listening to blanketmaking demos, door prizes and sharing lunch together.

In October I assume my National responsibilities and travel with Carol to the Houston International Quilt Show and Market for just over a week of general networking for our National organization.

November is reserved for Thanksgiving which is immediately followed by our Chapter Appreciation Breakfast the first week in December. Of course, birthdays, anniversaries, church responsibilities and family vacations are intermingled between the Project Linus events for the year. In addition, I always make sure that there's some time set aside for quilting! When the new year arrives, I find that I have basically the same agenda!

So, here's our Project Linus schedule for the rest of 2009 if you'd like to schedule these events as a priority on your calendar:

September 17th: Make a Blanket Day (pre-registration requested)
December 3rd: Appreciation Breakfast ($10.00) Pre-paid reservations required

We are pleased to announce that in the summer of 2010 we will be once again, making quilts for Camp Coco. We took some time off to re-group and hope that you will help us with this wonderful cause once again. In 2008 we had a very difficult time gathering enough quilts needed for all the kids at camp - which is why decided that our blanketeers were sending us a message that they needed a break. We hope that there is a renewed interest in helping out at Camp Coco and that we can get many of you interested in making a quilt for these great kids. For those of you who are not familiar with Camp Coco, it is a camp held each year near Bloomington IL for children who either have cancer or have a sibling with cancer. Here is the link to their website: Camp Coco has expanded its focus for 2010 and will be needing 160 quilts (quilts only - no fleece, crocheted or knitted blankets) by mid June, 2010. We ask that the quilts be no smaller than 40" x 55" - 60" and up to 72" in length. There are older teens who attend camp and they will need the larger blankets. Camp Coco prefers quilts with a outdoor or camp theme that would be appropriate for either a boy or a girl. If you make a quilt for Camp Coco you are welcome to take it to a drop-off location any time prior to mid June 2010. It needs to be bagged separately and labeled "Camp Coco" on the outside of the bag. For those of you who work on a camp quilt, you are eligible for a "campfire charm" as well. THANK YOU for your help!

I hope that you will take some time, not only to schedule your Project Linus priorities, but to schedule some time for your family as well as some time for you.

Happy Blanketmaking!