The Truth About Charm Packs, 3-20-21

When charm packs were first introduced about 2010 (can’t remember exactly), Country Threads embraced Charm School as a monthly club. As a member of Charm School, you received one charm pack per month plus one additional piece of yardage and an original pattern. The challenge was to make a small quilt with ONLY one charm pack and one additional fabric plus binding.

Most designers today call for multiple charm packs and use only the chosen pieces. Following our very specific rules yielded great quilts sometimes but mediocre ones at times, too, depending on the charm pack.

Charms packs are just so irresistible – I am guilty, guilty, guilty! I love to pick them up and ruffle through them and usually end up buying it because after all, it’s only $10, right? However, I do not like using the same design in 6 different color ways in one project nor do I always like every design in a charm pack and it’s a sure bet some of the duplicates are not my favorites. For fabric designers who make quilts using ONLY their fabric line, I’m sure it’s very hard. The line is all the same hue making for a boring quilt – in my opinion.

Please remember that I am telling you how I feel about sewing with a charm pack, not the consensus of most quilters. Our Charm School led to two books published by Martingale – Charm School and Back to Charm School. The designs are great and I’ve remade many of them through the years with fabric from my collection.

So what am I sewing today while I watch the basketball games? Mindless sewing of triangle squares with many shades of azure blue.

I’m still working on the block – I’ll save that for another time.

Tami came after Siri today and I know Siri recognized her! It was so sweet and I’m sorta sad that she left. I wish I could have brought her to the house but with crawl spaces and three floors in this big house, I’d never see her again.

So now it’s back to the ballgames. There have certainly been some surprising upsets which is typical March Madness and the reason we love it so much. Sometimes the underdog does win.

32 thoughts on “The Truth About Charm Packs, 3-20-21

  1. Betty Klosterman

    All along I’ve been thinking the Charm squares are the 2 1/2″ squares. What are they called? I’ve made 1 table topper somebody showed in the DD, but I’ve made a lot of stuff from my 2 1/2″ cuts over the years, especially kid’s stuff.
    Betty from Rapid City

    1. Kathy in western NY

      I think the 2 1/2” squares are called mini charms or quilters candy. Mary – we should have a show and tell of projects we have made with this size too as I have lots of them cut from my scraps and make 9 patch’s for charity quilts from mine.

      1. Mary Etherington Post author

        Kathy in western NY – what a good idea! I’ll put the request in a post – coming right up!

  2. Carolyn BARNETT

    Mary, I have both of your books on Charm quilts and love and use them often. Over the years I have bought less charm packs as I have such lovely fabrics {from over 30 years of quilting} that I just take my Go cutter and use my 5 or better yet 6″ die and cut them myself. I store all my charm squares by color not fabric line. Much easier for me to design a quilt that way. In the early 90’s I made quilt samples for Robert Kaufman to be displayed at Quilt Market and other trade shows. I could not add any additional fabrics to the design line and I found it very challenging as well as boring. For me, choosing the fabrics in a quilt is what makes the quilt I make unique and personal. Charm squares, fat quarters and jelly rolls are just an additional tool to make my scrap quilt more varied, rather than using the entire line to make a quilt. Thanks for letting me share! Carolyn

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Carolyn Barnett – well, you know EXACTLY what I mean about how hard it is to make a beautiful quilt using only one fabric line. Such a challenge!

  3. Julie D.

    I also love buying charm packs–they just pull me right in at a quilt store! My sister and I were able to make the new Cha Cha Cha table-runner from Terry Atkinson that uses one charm pack, plus some yardage. I have to look and see if I have the Country Threads books you show on this post. Surely I have them because I love everything you and Connie designed!! And Siri, such a beautiful cat and I know you’ll miss her.

  4. Kathy in western NY

    Interesting to hear your charm pack thoughts, Mary. I too keep buying them but I recently purchased the cake walk book and am thinking I probably would be happier making some of the 10” squares quilts in that book. Might have to buy a layer cake soon to see or if I can cut my own with coordinated yardage. Either way precuts were a game changer in the quilting industry just as the one shot Johnson and Johnson is for this virus. One and done.

  5. Deb Bayne

    I have to tell you that my daughter called me early this morning (she’s in MN and I’m in Japan) to tell me about Ohio beating UVA. Shocking, but I bet it was a great game. Now, do you still have any of the charm school books available or should I order them on Amazon (or somewhere else you’d prefer)? I saw the bullseye pillow in the Return to Charm School book and LOVE IT !

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Deb Bayne – yes, it was quite a game – it deserved a phone call – haha! You’ll have to order them on Amazon because we don’t have any for sale. They’re so old they might even be out of print – I can’t remember – but I’m sure used books are available. Since you’re overseas shipping will be easier for Amazon than me as well. Maybe an e-book?

  6. Jeanie S, Central Illinois

    This was a great post, Mary. I also have all three of your “charm” books. I have made several of the patterns and never tire of looking through these books. I have so much fabric in my stash, I usually cut my own, rather than buying charm packs. When we are out in the camper, these books go with; they are the perfect size projects for camper sewing. 🥰

  7. Kathy Hanson

    I have both of your charm square books and really like them. I am a sucker for charm squares too but feel like you do about them. Now I cut left over fabrics either into 5 inch squares or 2 1-2 inch squares. I have been using some of them. I am sure that you will miss Siri, what a beautiful cat!

  8. Jo in Wyoming

    Mary, you can make the best use from fabric I’d leave in the drawer! You missed your book “Sew Charming”. There’s a lot of fun quilts in it, using charms or 5” scraps.
    I ventured away from home today, many streets have only one lane open. It’s so unreal. Our trees have so many broken branches. Today I saw an owl sitting in the big evergreen in the front yard. I’m sure it has a nest close. I hear it at night often.
    Siri is a beautiful cat, when I win the lottery, I’ll get you one!

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Jo in Wyoming – I am laughing out loud here! You’re right – that’s another charm book! Good grief – I was always in charge of Charm School and Connie did Civil War Club but it’s hard to believe I designed so dang many of those little quilts. Yikes! Thanks for remembering!

    2. Holly

      I just found that one too on Thrifty Book and the other two on eBay. I have a bunch of charms both packs and cut by me. Ready to go. Thanks everyone for reminding Mary about her published works. What a gal.

      1. Mary Etherington Post author

        Holly – I went to my cupboard and found Sew Charming, too, and many of those little quilts looked fun – I think I going to start one. Haha! Like I said, I’m pretty guilty of buying charm packs , too!

  9. Judi L.

    Mary, I’m with you. As enticing as charm packs, jelly rolls, and fat quarter bundles are, I don’t like using the same print in different color ways in my quilts. I, too, find it BORING! However, I also understand that when a fabric designer designs the fabric, there are usually 35-40 pieces in the line using the prominent colors in the design. I think that’s what the manufacturer wants, therefore, you have the same print, different colors. And, believe me, I have certainly bought my fair share of fat quarter bundles.

  10. Diane and Squeal I. central Ohio

    I have Charm School, but how did I miss Back to Charm School? There are very good patterns in Charm School. Iowa is looking good😃🏀. Spring is here. 63 today.

  11. Bobby Sutton

    I know you will miss Siri. What a beautiful kitty. I wanted to say that I loved your quilt with the bird fabric. It is very stunning. That pattern really shows off the bird fabric!
    Because of Covid, Leslie, Diane, and I can’t get together to quilt. We are all working on our own, but its not the same. Your blog and the readers ‘show and tell’ are such an inspiration during this time of social distancing.

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Bobby Sutton – I’ll bet you guys miss getting together, don’t you? Hopefully it will be over soon – we’ll all have lots to make up for.

  12. Judy B.

    Why did Tami come and pick up Siri? Was she left for you take care of or was she a stray and you found a home for her. Also I wondered why Siri recognized her! Inquiring minds!
    I also read your blog and love animals of all kinds, but we have a long haired cat and he sheds terribly. We always had a dog and certainly cats are different. But since I couldn’t walk a dog because of my knee replacement and I knew I would have to have the surgery, my daughter found this cat at a shelter, so we adopted him.

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Judy B – a blog reader in Alabama has a friend in Iowa who works for the USDA and was called to Las Vegas to give Covid vaccinations so her elderly parents were keeping Siri at their home close to me. I offered to keep Siri for Tami, her owner, until she got home and will board her again if she gets called away for work in the future. No, I was not adopting Siri – I was only keeping her safe and happy for Tami, whom I met for the first time today when she picked Siri up. They had not seen each other in a month and it was a happy reunion.

      1. Judy

        Happy for Siri – you always take of your animals and go beyond to care for them and love them too! You are a special person!

  13. Susan in PA

    I agree with you about the precuts. By the time you pull out the different color ways (I don’t like them in the same quilt) and the one or two that I really don’t like, there isn’t much left. They always look so pretty in the store that it is a temptation. I am more likely to buy a jelly roll and mix it in with my existing fabrics just for a little variety.

  14. Donna Sproston

    Those two charm books and a couple of years membership in your charm club taught me how to quilt. I still make some of those patterns. I also have a tub of leftover squares, but they do come in handy for practice blocks and backs of pin cushions.

    Siri will miss you!

    A year ago week, I started my cancer journey at Mayos, arriving as Covid restrictions began. I have returned twice since my surgery the end of June, and remain cancer free. Piecing and quilting has been my salvation. I thank you for that!

    1. Kathy in western NY

      Donna – it’s good to hear how you are doing. I remember back when your cancer journey began. I take it you can cross the Canadian borders for medical treatment without difficulty as I keep hoping it will open up soon here. Keep fighting and glad for the good update. Happy hands, happy heart I say.

    2. Mary Etherington Post author

      Donna Sproston – can it really be a year? I’m sure it’s been a tough one for you but we’re all so happy and relieved for you to be cancer free! Thanks for your thoughts on Charm School!

      1. Donna Sproston

        Thanks for your kind comments. We made nine trips from west central Illinois to Rochester, MN during 2020 and made our latest one in February. We spent 39 nights in Rochester but came home weekends during radiation. So we traveled a lot during the longest year of most of our lives, just not to our bucket list destinations. I have an incredible team of doctors, and I will be returning to Mayos for nine more years. Hearing those magic wotds “cancer free” is a continuing blessing. Those little charm quilts were easy to take along and bind so Country Threads went along on my journey. I also have the third book plus a folder of Mary’s designs that were never published.

  15. Marj in Western Wisconsin

    Good luck to Iowa tonight, will watch until time to watch Badger women hockey team play for the championship. Go Badgers!

  16. Launa

    Know you will miss Siri.
    I had the book name wrong, but my husband helped me search in places I couldn’t reach in sewing room. This walker is helpful, but I know the Simple Seasons is hiding in there somewhere! Probably has fabric with it for a quilt I planned to sew? If I order the book from Amazon I bet I’ll find mine.

    Was surprised today when my son returned from helping a friend. In he came with a beautiful quilt rack….friends are remodeling and the previous owner left the sturdy quilt rack. Lucky me.

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Launa – it will turn up when you least expect it! Haha! What a lucky break for you – a new quilt rack! Now why in the world would someone leave that?

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