In his brown cowboy boots and faded jeans, John Flynn looks more like a Montana outdoorsman than a quilting expert. But don’t judge by appearances. Flynn is a celebrated teacher for quilters around the US. He goes to about 12 quilting festivals a year, so he’s a pretty busy guy. A former engineer, Flynn has now filled a warehouse in Billings, Montana with lasers that cut his cool pre-cut fabric sets. Aside from that and teaching some unique piecing techniques for traditional quilts, he also manufactures quilting frames, and these are a mainstay at his festival booths.
Flynn thinks like an engineer. He “constructs” his quilts in the most efficient way and has developed new methods in the process. He said his most popular class—the one that always sells out quickest—is his Double Wedding Ring full-day course. That’s the class I took. Here’s the result of about 6 hours’ worth of work:
Traditionally, quilters making Double Wedding Rings would put together small, slightly curved rectangles of scraps of fabric, delicately hand-piecing each little rung in each ring, and then carefully cut the curves of the background fabric, and piece that together with the bands of the rings.
Flynn has sped up this whole process. First, you take strips of fabric and sew together 6 of them in long rows. Then, you subcut those rows, creating the bands of fabric. But wait, these bands are still straight, not CURVED like a wedding ring needs to be!
Enter the DART – Flynn’s brilliant way of making curves out of straight lines of fabric. You’ve surely seen darts in clothing before—it’s basically a way to create an upside-down V by making two separate seams that meet as a point. Using the top of the straight seam at the head of the rectangle as the point of the V, we were told to make another seam, diagonally, off that starting point, creating these unfinished triangles of seams. If you do that at each point on the band, you end up with a curved band! I’ll try to get a good photo of this to add soon.
He gave all the students in the class a little piece of red and white tape that would tell us how big the dart should be, which we attached to our borrowed sewing machines. Then we all patiently sewed individual darts on each rectangle of each band, creating curves in the bands where none had been before.
Pretty neat, huh?
We all were assigned a Janome machine. My first one was a Horizon, a new high-falutin’ machine with far too many features for my non-techie brain:
I guess the machine didn’t like me too much either, and it sewed everything with a weird gather in the bobbin thread. Eventually I traded it out for a Janome Memory Craft 6600. Now that’s a beautiful machine!
Only thing it was missing as a quarter-inch foot to create our lovely seams. It just had a regular foot. Well, I’m used to one with a little metal guide on the side that gives me a rather EXACT quarter inch seam allowance each and every time. Flynn got a little mad at us (me and classmates) for not being accurate enough with our quarter-inch seams, and therefore messing up the entire plan for things fitting neatly into each other. But he still agreed to sign my copy of his book 🙂
By fixing my work a bit, I was able to create 4 “footballs” (yes, this class was taught by a guy), which I will later assemble into one ring. LOTS more to go. Will I finish this project? I have all these lovely precut background pieces and strips, so I guess that will take me pretty far….
Here are some quilts made by Flynn to inspire us all. He handquilted them, too.
This is my absolute favorite. It’s his “Amish” version: