Quilt letter patterns: now it’s personal

Bundle Up quilt from Folk-Art FavoritesFolk-art and primitive quilts are fantastically fun to make, and here’s one reason why: they’re just not that focused on perfection. In fact, they discourage it. Folk art is a style that affirms individual creativity and invites invention. “Mistakes” are simply opportunities to add character! Start with a few basic motifs and soon you’re designing your own quilts, your own way. No strings (or threads) attached.

Conveying special messages in primitive quilts is a long-standing tradition, and quilt-letter patterns are a staple of the genre. Funny, silly, inspiring, or moving, incorporating words into quilts has a way of instantly connecting quilt maker and owner.

Tracy, our key accounts representative, has made several “message” quilts using quilt-letter patterns from the book Alphabet Soup. I’ll bet she’s too modest to call herself a quilt designer, but she’s designing quilts nonetheless. And she knows how to make fabric letters very, very well. Read on and you’ll see why: she’s had lots of practice—not to mention an amusing way with words.

Tracy at Fall 2012 Quilt Market(Right: Tracy helps build the booth from the ground up, Fall 2012 Quilt Market.)

So many times I’ve wanted to make a gift quilt even more special by personalizing it. I like appliqué, but it never turns out quite as I’d envisioned. So I was thrilled when I stumbled on an appliqué-free solution —pieced letters!— in Avis Shirer and Tammy Johnson’s book Alphabet Soup. I’ve used their pieced quilt-letter patterns many times to make personalized quilts and table runners for the special people in my life.

(I had to ask to borrow a couple quilts back from their owners so I could share them with you. Two of them haven’t been given as gifts just yet, so please—shhh!)

The first quilt I made using the quilt-letter patterns from Alphabet Soup was for a very dear friend who doesn’t much like the holidays—they stress her out! So two other friends and I decided she needed a Christmas quilt. It was just a simple block quilt, and luckily my assignment was the border. I felt the quilt needed to reflect her feelings about Christmas, so I added the words “Bah Humbug.” It’s now Leslie’s treasured quilt. She has trouble putting it away when the holidays are over!

Bah Humbug quilt

Here’s a close-up of the lettering.

Bah Humbug quilt detail

Leslie’s quilt was so much fun and so easy to do, it got me thinking. The next quilt I made was for some dear friends. We somehow got started exchanging monkey gifts—I mean anything to do with monkeys—and over the years, it’s gotten totally out of hand. We even have a saying that started from some crazy monkey email: “You are the bestest monkeys in the whole wide world that I can see—ooh la la!” Now I know it sounds stupid, but we say it all the time and it makes us laugh.

I made an easy block quilt and added the words “Bestest Monkeys” in world fabric (get it—in the whole wide world?). Then I added the “Ooh la la!” My friends were amazed and surprised. And even though it was easy and fun to make, I told them it was incredibly difficult. (But let’s keep that part between us, okay?)

Bestest Monkeys Ooh La La! quilt

Again, here’s a close up of those easy quilt-letter patterns:

Bestest Monkeys Ooh La La! quilt detail

Here’s another quilt I made for long-time friends. We’ve been friends since college and our children have grown up together. Even though we’ve moved several times, we still manage to vacation together. We call these trips Wigturf Tours (a combination of our last names). We’ve even met each other at airports with signs (like the chauffer drivers have) that say “Wigturf Tours.” People thought it was really a tour group! Well, you guessed it—I made another easy block quilt with “Wigturf Tours” across the top.

Wigturf Tours quilt
It’s going to be delivered this month!

This last quilt is a birthday gift for a friend who loves big mugs of tea. I used the quilt pattern “Order Coffee Every 60 Minutes in a Coffee Shop” from Back to Charm School by Mary Etherington and Connie Tesene. I put my friend’s nickname, “Queen Jane,” on the quilt to celebrate her 66th birthday, which was on December 2nd. But shhh, because I haven’t given it to her yet!

Queen Jane quilt
Only the Q’s tail is appliquéd.

It’s so simple to use the quilt-letter patterns from Alphabet Soup and put them together with any quilt pattern. It just takes a little planning. You can set the letters in any direction on your quilt. I can see using this for baby names on baby quilts, last names on housewarming gifts, first names for graduation quilts, “Nana” on a grandma’s quilt—the possibilities are endless! And although it’s really easy, don’t tell anyone. Make it seem like you did an amazing amount of work…or you’ll ruin it for me!

Your secret is safe with us, Tracy! Thanks for sharing your delightful friendship quilts. (See the quilts from Alphabet Soup.)

Have you made quilts that include words? What did they say—and why did you say it? Share your quilt story in the comments!

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