Last Updated: 10/10/10


Ask Granny

   Granny - Who did you expect?  


Ask Granny your question about quilts and quilting. Your question and Granny's answer will appear below, the most recent appearing first. Please keep your question as short as possible, and please limit it to only one topic: 


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Dear Granny: How do you make a quilt have all those wrinkles and puckers, I love that look.  Is it the quilting or batting?  (from Debbie in Louisiana)

Granny:  Do I look like an expert on wrinkles and puckers???????  Well, of course I do, and I AM!  and the answer is "yes"and "yes".

The simplest way to explain it is, wash it and wash it and wash it again.  But, you know, what really makes that "comfy" look is using cotton fabrics and cotton batting.  It's called shrinkage.  And, let's face it, we all shrink a little with age, don't we?

(Well, maybe not Dolly Parton!)

Dear Granny:  Have you ever used a design wall and are they a good quilting tool? (from Mary-Ann)

Granny:  I used to use mine all the time!  (They took it away from me).  Absolutely the best design tool you can have.  If you are fortunate enough to have an entire wall you can dedicate to it, you can use a roll of cotton batting (regular size fits a wall big enough).  If you don't have an entire wall, you can use the back of a purchased vinyl tablecloth wherever convenient for you, and you can roll that up if you need to get back to it later!  Or tack up a good size piece of flannel on the wall by your sewing machine so you can get all the pieces in a block turned the right direction!  Saves a lot of ripping, and you can put the finished block up there and just sit back and admire it a while!  Here's why they took mine away :-(      Granny's Design Wall. Scott Weaver 2005.

Dear Granny:  Some of the blocks in a memory quilt were drawn with color pencils.  Any suggestions for a spray to seal these drawings on the fabric and to protect during washing/dry-cleaning?

Granny:  DON'T WASH IT!!!  Air it out on the line for a little, if you must.  Vacuum it a little, if you have to (put some panty hose over the vacuum attachment first).  Or spot wash, if accidents happen.  Memories are too much of a risk to lose. (Even though I lose mine all the time, teehee).

Dear Granny:   I am looking for the plans to make my own machine quilter.  I love the grace or the easy quilt but they're too spendy for me.  I would love to make my own.  Any ideas?.....(from A.M.)

Granny:  Only God can make a MACHINE QUILTER.  But if you are interested in making a QUILTING MACHINE and an inexpensive one--check out John Flynn's site:

Dear Granny:  Just one question for Granny.  It seems that all of your friends have passed, what do you owe your longevity to?  Thanks..............C.O., Land o'Lakes, Fla.

Granny:  Let's see.....I would say Grandchildren, Quilting, and wild, wild men!  (Well, maybe 2 out of 3).

Dear Granny:  Any suggestions on using men's ties in a quilt.  My friend and I just inherited boxes of them.  We want to make a quilt together this winter.  Thanks.

Granny:  My, my...neckties!  Oooo!  I envy you!  I had a dear friend once, had sooooo many husbands, at least a new one every 2 years or so.  Don't really know why they would die off on her so quickly.  Let me tell you, SHE had a LOT of ties!  She's gone on now, too.  Up or down, I don't know.  By chance, did you inherit HER tie collection???

There are sooooo many quilts to be made from old neckties!  Where do we start?  Get a book or two (maybe even from your local library).  One I recommend is Daddy's Ties, by Shirley Botsford, Krause Publications, $l6.95 or so.  There are many others out there, too.  

You could use them for all kinds of different blocks.  Dresden Plate blocks are great, and you just leave the pointy end on there and kinda' make it 3-dimensional.  And of course, Bow Tie blocks are great.  Then use what scraps you cut away for a crazy quilt or pillow!

You guys have fun and don't get all "tied" up, ok?

Dear Granny:   I know that quilts are to be stored in acid free boxes with acid free tissue paper folded in between, but the boxes are SO expensive.  Do you know of a good source for more economical boxes or an alternative to boxes.  I have several heirloom quilts and simply cannot afford $50 per box for storage.  Thanks!

Granny:  I know I look like I belong in a museum, that don't mean I run one!!  I don't have any of my quilts stored away in some acid free, vacuum-packed, hermetically-sealed, vault somewhere!  My quilts are stacked on the beds or in the closet, ready to be slept under!  

But you know, I do have my dear departed mother's double wedding ring masterpiece in my cedar chest, where it has been for at least 50 years and it looks brand-spanking new.  So, anyway, let's do talk a little about where to put these things when you get so many, it gets to where you run out of room!

My Granny taught me (hard to believe I had a granny, hehe) to put quilts in the closet in an old pillowcase.  And I still think that's the best way to do it.  Even better, when you make a quilt, take the leftover scraps and make a pillowcase-sized bag to store it in.  That way, on the closet shelf, you can tell what's in the bag with just a glance at those scraps.  

AND PLASTIC BAGS WILL SUFFOCATE QUILTS!!!  You don't give them to babies, do ya?  So don't use them on quilts either.  Never, never, never!  I have a good ole' friend, that lives in that place downtown, she takes a large cardboard tube or a long piece of PVC pipe stuff and covers it with a little batting.  Then she puts an old sheet on the floor, then her quilt (folded), and rolls the quilt and sheet up on that tube, ties a ribbon around it, and sticks it in the closet!!  She has several standing in the corner of the closet and she takes them out once every 6 months and refolds them.  (Hmmmm, I wonder if that's what happened to her husband, Walter, that disappeared last year).

Anyway, hope this helps.  If it don't, then try donating your quilts to the Smithsonian and let them worry about taking care of them.

(Editors note:  Perhaps you might prefer to check out this site:  )

Dear Granny:  I inherited about 200+ yoyo's from my mother, who made them in the early l930's.  Mom died in 1998 at the age of 75, and I don't know what to do with the yoyo's.  I don't want to make vests, or pillows, as they would be used too much and wouldn't last long at all.  Do you have any suggestions?

Granny:  There's an old tale about how those things got that name, you know?  One day this little fella' was sittin' by his granny's knee while she made these little circle flowers.  He was watching very intently, and asked her what those things were called.  Her hearing gone, she yelled, "What??  Whatd'ya say?  Fer some reason granny can't hear ye!"  The little fella said, "Y'er Old!! Y'er Old!!  -- "What yoyo?" -- and from that day forward, they were called YoYo's.  (hehe, I just made that up, but it sounded good, didn't it?)

I had a friend once, she stays in that home downtown now, but she used to make the lovliest little quilts (till they took her needles away from her) and she used yoyo's.  She embroidered leaves and stems on plain blocks and then put a yoyo at the top of each stem, and stitched a little button in the middle of the yoyo to tack it to the block.  Cutest little flower blocks ever!  You might think of a project to use them like that.

If you can't come up with anything, try this link.  They have all kinds of free projects to use with yoyo's, even a little turkey!  

Dear GrannyI am 56, and 14 grandchildren and 6 great-grandkids, and love every one of them.  So in the last 23 years, I have made quite a few quilts.  My question is, do you ever have trouble with your colors running in a fabric, even if you have pre-washed it?  I have even added vinegar to my rinse, but the second time it's washed, I still get the pink look from the fabric.

Granny:  Bless your heart, you must have been a child bride!  14 Gks at 56 and 6 GGks! and you've been quilting 23 years---good for you.  Just about have to with that many youngn's to make baby quilts for, right?

As far as colors running--Honey, that's an age old problem.  And I qualify for both those words!

Lately though, I noticed some new-fangled things they have now, called "dye magnets" you just throw in the washer.  They are wonderful to soak up every little dot of "loose" dye floating around in there.  Also I know we used to use salt in the wash to set good ole' Rit dye with.

Hope this helps. ---my, my 14 gks and 6 ggks.....56.....makes me tired....

Dear GrannyI am making little chicken pincushions....can you tell me what to use for stuffing.....we used to use steel wool, but the one I am taking the pattern from is filled with sawdust.  Thanks for your comments...they are wonderful.

Granny:  Hi, (name deleted)!  I love that name.  It was the name of my sister's first and favorite doll baby!  She loved it so much, she loved it's head right off of its body, but that's another story...

How to stuff a chicken, eh?  Teehee

Seriously, I had a precious friend once (she's been gone for years now), that used to always give her husband his haircuts.  After he died, she stuck pins in his hair that she had stuffed her pincushion with.  She said it was somewhat comforting.  Don't know if she meant having some of his hair, or sticking the pins in!

Actually, hair is a GREAT stuffing for pincushions and needle cushions.  Lots of women my age saved the hair left in our brush at night just for that purpose.  As a second suggestion, I think good old plain wool is the greatest too.  Even if you use some old wool yarn you're not gonna' use, that would work.  Some people use the lint out of their dryer filter screen thingee.  I've also heard putting some gravel or parakeet grit in the bottom for weight, then wool or cotton or whatever.  Another useful item is your old support--er, I mean panty hose.  Those things seem to have 101 uses.

Sawdust is ok, but it's too lightweight for me, and it could get damp and make pins & needles dull.  Only problem I have with steel wool, or anything metallic, or food items to use or others (such as bird seed, beans, kernels, etc.) is that some areas are high in humidity.  You might get a cushion full of rust or even better, it might sprout!

So, hair is fair, wool is cool, and hose goes!

Dear GrannyI feel really stupid asking this question, but I need to know.  I know which is the straight grain of the fabric when the selvage edge is there, but when you are working with a small square of fabric with the selvage gone, how do you tell the straight grain?

Granny:  What's stupid about that question???  That's a doozie!!  Okay, get out your half moons and prepare to be edgycated!!...

There are 2 types of threads in a woven fabric: Warp and Weft.  Warp threads are the ones that go the length of the fabric (the up & down) and they also form what you call the selvage edge.  The direction of the warp theads is also referred to as the "true" grain.  Then there's the Weft threads (the weft & wight (spelling intended)) that run across the width of the fabric.  

You will notice that the width (weft) of the fabric has just a little "give" when you put tension on it.  The length of the fabric (warp) will have very little "give", if any at all.  But if you put tension on the bias (off-grain), you get lots and lots of "give".  This can make a large difference in your piecing and placing of triangles and borders.  Most people recommend using the true grain (length/warp) for your borders to stabilize them well.  But just remember when piecing blocks to be sure all your threads run up & down or left & right.  Not diagonally.

Have I totally confused you, bored you?  Excuse me, I think I need my nap now.   ZZzzzzzz...

Dear Granny:   I remember meeting you in 1994-95 at the Oklahoma Affair of the Heart .. I think is  the craft show you set up in....I bought one of your cookbooks and a little black and pink romper set that you had sewn looked like specialty for my beautiful grand daughter.....she took the prettiest pictures with those little britches on.. thank you for the memory's and good tips.... I am thrilled you are still around and such an inspiration to all those around you...  Wow  you can use a computer too.....great tips  thank you.  I would be thrilled to get your newsletter....  if I don't have the right granny then you have a twin somewhere.....

Granny:  Uh, gee, she sounds really nice, but..........They don't let me out much, so that must have been my evil twin.  Unless I missed remembrin' a year or two.....Did I pinch & jiggle your cheek?  If not, then it wasn't me.

Dear Granny:  I LOVE your site! Now why don't you just come on down here and move next
door!  Love, XXXX from , XXXX, Tennessee

The movers will be here tomorrow morning!  Can't wait to meet you!  Granny

Dear GrannyI am in my late 20's and a hardcore handquilter. (No machines here!)  I have that whole quilter's hump going on.  Since for me space is a problem, I am forced to quilt in my bed.  Short of surgery, any suggestions on how to prevent it from worsening and deal with it? 

Granny:  What???  Late 20's and already workin' on your hump?  Why, you're a mere child!  You shouldn't have ta' worry 'bout such things.  Granny feels sorry for you!  Never in all my years have I heard of anyone quiltin' in their bed!  If you were here, I'd take you under my arm and pat you on the back and say, "There, there,..."  That's so sad!  Why don't you pack your bag and come live with Granny?

Now about this "hump" thing.  I don't have to be a real doctor to know that this is not good at your age.  Yes, do more to prevent this.  I could just tell you to, "SIT UP STRAIGHT!!"  But it does take a little more than that.  Here's a couple of do's & don'ts from your ole' granny:

DO limit your quilting time to 40 minutes.  Get up and away from it at least that often.  Take a bubble bath.  Wash your hair.  Do some laundry.  Go to the kitchen or outside.  Go snoop on the neighbors.  Try actually cooking supper, anything!  I watch TV when I quilt, and I get up every commercial.  Who wants to watch them anyway?

DO use good posture.  If you have to, check into those contraptions they sell to keep your posture in check while you quilt.  (i.e., Body Rite Back Supporter, Posture Perfect)  You can find them in most online quilt catalogs.

DON'T quilt in bad light.  This will make you draw closer to your quilt level.

DON'T quilt low.  Keep your quilt at a level even with your bent elbows.

I hope this helps a little.  You can check out online doctors who specialize in "ergonomics" and quilting,  Dr. Colleen McDonough for one.  Or you can always pack your bag.......

Dear GrannyI saw your tip for the first time today.  Let me tell you how much I enjoyed it.  I only found this website today as well.  So now I will be a regular visitor.  I am old enough to be a granny, but so far am not.  I am retired and loving it.  I am a relatively new quilter, have been playing around with it for about a year.  I have completed a couple of quilts.  I do them "my" way, which may not be the correct way, however it works.  I don't do quilts which will win prizes, I prefer to do quilts that people can enjoy & use.

Granny:  Honey, you sound like my kinda' gal!!  Even if you're not an "official" granny, I am hereby appointing you an official GRANNY anyway!!

Too many women get hung up on precisely matching points, straight grain lines, etc.  All that is great, if you're after the top award at Houston!  I had a dear friend once, (she's with the great quilter above now) that spent all her years piecing and quilting the "perfect quilt".  Her quilts were wonderful, don't get me wrong, but they were never ever USED!

My fondest memories of a long lost relative years ago, (I'm not sure where she is now, "up or down") are of her wool quilts on the bed in the wintertime.  Running water was a bucket & dipper on the porch you ran to, and you could see through her walls between the boards.  I mean mud daubers' nests were the only insulation in her house!  But we stayed warm and cozy beneath all those (at least 8) wool quilts piled up on the bed.  Now that's what I call enjoyed & used!

ENJOYING & USING the art of quiltmaking is what it's all about.  Whatever works!

Dear GrannyMy granddaughter wants a quilt made with '30's pinks and greens.  Where can I 
find them?  I live in a little town in Mansfield, La.  There was a quilt shop in Shreveport, but it closed in May.  The pattern she chose is in Marsha McCloskey's book called "Peony".  Can you help me?  Thank you.

Granny:  Us grannies gotta' help each other, right?  There's a whole lot of those fabric shops online that sell all the 30's repros.  Wish I hadda' held on to more of it when I had it.  Who knew old prints would be so in style again?  I tell people to burn their double knit scraps, but now I'm thinkin' mebbe in 2050 it'll be back in style.  I got rid of mine a long time ago 'cause I don't plan to be around in 2050. Hehe. 

 Anyway, when I need some repro prints, I go to one of several shops online (i.e., Hancocks-Paducah, Connecting Threads, Keepsake Quilting) or go to Quilt or Quilts, Quilts, and check out fabric shops.  You can get a listing of those just in your state, if you want.  The new fangled technology is sure great!  Get what you want, without havin' to put on your makeup to go to town!  By the way, peonies are my favorite!  And Thank YOU!

(Editor's note:  Above mentioned sites are listed on our Links Page)

Dear GrannyHow old are you?

Granny:  OLD???????  What are you, some kinda' smart aleck kid???  Hmmm....Ok, I guess that's a fair question.  Well, in "quilty years" I'm about 29, 'cause it'll take me another 50 to 60 years to finish all my quilts!!  (How's that for a fair answer!)

Dear Granny: What are the considerations in choosing batting?

Granny: It's all a matter of personal choice - low loft, high loft, traditional, down, cotton, bonded, needled, white, grey, natural, pre-shrunk, and on and on and on. You can make yourself dizzy in the aisle at Wal-Mart, so hold onto your cart!

About bonding - some are bonded on one side, some on both sides, some not at all - bonding is good. It prevents "bearding". I had a precious friend (may she rest in peace) who put unbonded batt in a navy blue quilt (she was a sweetheart, but a little short on gray matter) and after a few years and a few washings, that quilt had bearded so bad it looked like it was turned inside out.

Personally, I prefer low-loft traditional poly batting for my masterpieces. But if I were making a couple of throw down on the floor, take on a picnic, tied, everyday quilts, I think I'd use a high-loft poly batt.

Dear Granny: Is it a mistake to use bonded polyester batting in an all-cotton quilt?

Granny: If you're gonna use poly batt in a cotton quilt, be sure to pre-wash all cotton fabrics. I had a dear friend (she's gone on to be with the Great Comforter) who put poly batt in her unwashed cotton-top quilt - what she got when she washed it had more puckers and wrinkles and bulges than she did! (bless her soul)

Dear Granny: How can I tell which battings will shrink?

Granny: If you want to know which ones shrink - for heaven's sake, girlie, get out your half-moons and read the labels! (I keep mine on a chain around my neck so I can find them when I need to read.)

Dear Granny: A friend gave me a large bag of double-knit scraps. Any suggestions on how to use them?

Granny: BURN 'EM HONEY!! Double-knit scraps are a plague upon us all! I personally love to wear double-knit (purple, preferably), but what to do with the scraps? Everyone and their dog, literally, has a double-knit tied comforter. They are boring, heavy, hot, and could possibly be used to suffocate someone. I had a dear friend once (God rest her soul) who cut up her scraps into 3" bias squares. Then she sewed them to a muslin base in a circular path and made beautiful bath rugs and door mats. When they got dirty, she just threw them in the washer and Presto! just like new. Those rugs will never die. Archaeologists will dig them up 1000 years from now and throw them in the washer and Presto! Don't get me wrong, I'm not one who likes to throw away anything. Land's sake, I still save my old pantyhose and used bread wrappers. But - when it comes to double-knit scraps - Granny says, "Flick your Bic, sweetie!"

3/15/2010:  New tip:  Use your double knit scraps for dog quilts or pillows for your local animal shelter.  Make some doggies happy and comfy!
(submitted by Lea from Michigan)

Dear Granny: What size quilting needle would you recommend for a beginning quilter?

Granny:  Well, ain't you sweet, a beginner, eh? Well, dearie, they say the smaller the needle, the smaller the stitches. But, who are they anyway? In all my years, I've never found out who they are. I had a dear friend once (may she rest in peace) that used a size 12 gold-eye needle. She was a fine quilter of many years and had fine stitches too. But that hole in that size 12 needle is so small, she spent more time tryin' to get the dang thing threaded than she spent quilting. But for a beginner such as yourself, Granny says, "Eight is great and nine is fine."

Dear Granny: I have no daughters. What will happen to my precious fabric collections when I die?

Granny: Never say that word to an old lady. I had a dear friend once (she's gone on now) who probably had thousands invested in fabrics. She left them in her will to her church group. Ask around. If your church ladies don't quilt, they'll know one that does somewhere. Granny says, "Give while you live!"


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