Saturday, January 30, 2016

TUTORIAL: Snuggly Cuddly Strippy Quilt

A few days ago, my sister-in-law told us she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would start chemo therapy this week.  Time to get busy on a quick quilt she can take with her to treatments.  Here is what I came up with:

It needed to be fast to make, attractive enough and have flannel on the back at least.

Thursday morning I shopped my closet and found two floral flannels I've been saving for the right project--they were pieced together to create a 60" x 60" back.  Not having many more flannels I worked with these cotton  fabrics, mostly the Cumberland collection by Fons and Porter for Benartex and English Oak from Moda, both about 10 years old.    (SEE THE NOTE AT THE BOTTOM FOR SMALLER SIZES)

I decided to construct it on the Bernina Q20--no feed dogs, no quarter inch foot, just free motion sewing.  That would be fast and give me a bit of practice with ruler work.  Here are the supplies I gathered:

5.5" x 60" strips of fabric, I cut and pieced 13 from fat quarters and width of fabric (WOF) yardage
60" x 60" Throw size cotton batt, this was Legacy from Pellon
Pieced back from 2 flannels, 60" x 60"

13 strips laid out in order

Back taped to table, center marked

Back face down on table, batting centered on back, first strip centered on batting

Second Strip pinned face down on first strip, ready to sew through all four layers
This process took the morning to accomplish.  I got to this stage and took a short lunch break.

OK, ready to sew.  With both extensions in place, my sewing table is 78" wide, very nice for working with this large project.  The machine was set to 10 stitches/inch, since the piecing is also the quilting. I would be creating a straight line of quilting as the strips were pieced together, sewing through the 2 seams of fabric, the batting and backing.

The ruler work foot is 1/2" wide, with the needle precisely in the center.  By placing the right edge of the foot along the raw edges of the 2 fabric strips, and the left edge of the foot along the 1/4" thick ruler, I was able to sew a mostly straight line, all the way down the 60":

This was really very quick, much faster than if I were using my regular machine due to the bulk.

After sewing the strip in place, I took it to the big ironing surface, and pressed the strip over onto the batting.  Then I pinned the next strip in place and repeated the process until the first half, from center to the outside edge, was covered:

Turn the quilt around, start back in the middle again, and cover the other half of the batting/backing.  Here it is completely covered:

You might notice there are only 11 strips sewn to the back.  I had pieced the back just a little small, the seam allowances were a tiny bit more than 1/4" mostly, and the batting may have been a bit short.  So I only needed 11 strips to complete the top.  The remaining 2 strips were a green fabric, perfect for the binding.

One more thing--because the strips are wide, 5" finished, I needed to add more quilting.  So at this point, I started again in the center and free-motion quilted a squiggly line with occasional hearts down the center, more or less, of each strip.  That put quilting on every seam, the straight lines from construction, and a curvy line about 2.5" from the straight lines.  This will hold up well with washing.  It really needed the extra quilting and I enjoyed the free motion practice.

The quilting and squaring up process took the afternoon BUT by 5:30 it was dinner time and I was done.  My husband brought dinner home when I told him I'd been working hard all day.  Good man!

Friday morning I cut those two long 5.5" green strips in half, 2.75", and made a slightly wider than usual binding.  Using the Bernina 630 and the walking foot, I sewed the binding in place, adding a hand-written label in the seam on the back.  That afternoon and evening I hand sewed the binding to the back of the quilt, a task I enjoy.  Saturday morning it's off to the Post Office and this project is done, less than 48 hours from conception to completion.

The completed quilt, approx. 57" square

The back

Hard to read but I quilted the recipient's name here

Back flipped over so you can see the simple label


This is such a fast way to make a simple quilt, it makes a great baby, kid's quilt or Charity quilt.  Use a crib size batt, 45" x 60", or Craft size, 36" x 46" and use strips that are 2.5" by 45", or the width of fabric (WOF).  This will require no additional quilting on the surface, as the 2" lines created from construction are enough for most batting.  Read the label!    Think Jelly-Rolls--30 strips will cover a 60" batt.  

Here is one of these quilts I made years ago for my husband.  He uses this every night, Fall through Winter, to keep comfy in his big manly chair.  It's about 42" x 64".   It's been washed many times and has held up very well.  Most of these fabrics are flannel or brushed cotton.  The back is the same floral flannel used on the chemo quilt--he keeps the plaid side up:

I could have made my sister-in-law a much more  beautiful quilt, with lots more work but that would have taken a lot of time.  This quilt is needed NOW.  I hope she likes it and that it provides a warm hug as she goes through her days of treatment.

Let's Quilt!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

In Between Projects

Now that the big Stars in a Time Warp top is done, I've been catching up on smaller projects.  Here is the free motion quilting project I tackled this week on a top completed in 2011:

It's not the best quilting you've ever seen but it's a big step up for me.  Here is a detail:

Each quilt I free-motion quilt with my Bernina Q20 improves my skills.  And that's progress.  Here's the next piece ready for some free-motion magic, a pre-printed panel from 2008:

I did ruler work for all the straight lines around the borders and outside edges.  Now it's time to play with various designs in all the sections of the quilt.  "Cheaters cloth" is great for practicing quilting, either by machine or by hand as there are no seams to distract you, the top is usually fairly inexpensive and the time for top preparation is almost none, just cut back and batting and baste. This was basted with basting spray years ago and was separating so the straight line quilting now holds it all together and I'm ready to free-motion.

As usual, I am chomping at the bit to get back to a few tops that have been in progress too long.  Like:

Replica of antique top I bought in 2015

String Lemoyne Star--12" block

Paducah Round Robin from 2014

And then there is my Diamond Jubilee Feathered Star quilt, intended to celebrate my 60th birthday--that happened 2 years ago--time to get back to THIS one:

The other day I completed this gold star for that quilt--here it is laid out, all the paper pieces ready, then the 3 rows ready to be joined.  Pattern by Sue Garman

And here is the design wall--I need to see something up there, so when Stars in a Time Warp came down, I threw these pieces up.  

None of these are what I'm actually going to work on next.  Stay tuned...

Let's Quilt!


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Barbara Brackman, John Hewson, and Me

Here it is, my first quilt top finished in 2016:

It is the Stars in a Time Warp blocks with a pre-printed John Hewson panel in the center.  It measures 99" square.  The stars are from Barbara Brackman's Stars in a Time Warp Quilt Along.  I wrote about John Hewson, a Philadelphia textile manufacturer during Colonial times here.  Completing this top took a lot of time this past week and I am very glad it is done.

Here it is on our King size bed:

Oops--it's just a little too small.  Another border of 6 inch stars would be perfect.  BUT that's 72 more stars and that is just NOT going to happen.

SO, here it is on a Queen size bed:


Now, here is the IRONIC part of this story.  During the year Barbara Brackman was presenting these blocks online and giving so much historical information about fabrics and colors and design styles, she also posted lots of suggestions for how to set the stack of blocks we were making.  I had several options I really liked.  And of the finished tops that are appearing online now, I have found two I just LOVE:

This is by Lori DeJarnette of Humble Quilts.  I had the good fortune to meet Lori in person last summer in Portland, OR.  We've followed each other online for a few years now.  I love that yellow/cheddar and isn't this just a happy quilt?!  Simple, cheerful, warm and wonderful.  What a great quilt, Lori!

This one is by Edith Shanholt, a Facebook friend.  She  used alternate blocks of many of the great reproduction fabrics used in the stars.  I would love to have her scraps!  The dark perimeter triangles set off the bright blocks brilliantly. Once again, it's a simple set, on-point, a style I really like and have made often.  This is a fabric lover's treasure and will be an amazing historical piece 100 years from now.  Well done, Edith!

SO, why did I make mine so complicated??  Well, the quilt collage at the top of my blog shows I've made more than a few Medallion-style quilts over the years.  They've become my "trademark".  How did that happen?  When I first started quilting in 1985 I saw a picture of this quilt, Ray of Light,  by Jinny Beyer:

From Jinny's website:

Ray of Light is one of the most-recognized American quilts. In 1977, at the height of the resurgence of quiltmaking, it won the Good Housekeeping and U.S. Historical Society contest for The Great American Quilt, besting 10,000 entries.

I clearly remember saying to my quilting friends at the time:  "Someday I want to make a quilt like this."  I became a fan of Jinny Beyer from her first fabric line designed for RJR Fabrics. And I have all her books--I've even read them.

I love the complexity of Medallion quilts.  I love the math that goes into making those borders.  I love the design work it takes to pull it all together.  And I love all the fabrics that go into these quilts.  In my world, there is no such thing as TOO MUCH fabric!  

Speaking of fitting those borders, I learned how to do that from Sue Garman, and the quilt she designed for The Quilt Show in 2009.  You can find her patterns here.  Sue has become a dear friend and I am in awe of her talent as a quiltmaker, designer, hand and machine quilter.  An amazing woman.

My high school yearbook used a quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson that I took to heart:

"I am a part of all that I have met."  That is true for me, maybe in quiltmaking more than in any other part of my life.  The people who I have had the good fortune to cross paths with, the well-known and the everyday quilters, have made me the quilter I am today.  I thank them for all they've shared with me.  I hope I can do the same.

What am I working on now?  Something easy for the next few days!  Like my Lifetime Quilt:

This is coming along quickly.  Last night one of my best quilting buddies, Ellen, said: "If this is your lifetime quilt, you must not plan to live all that long."   These blocks are like Doritos, you can't stop at one.  First, those tiny half-square triangles practically make themselves as Leaders/Enders.  Then it's fun to put four rows of four HST together.  That block of 4 x 4 want friends, so I make another 3 sets of 4 x 4, and voila! A 10" block is done.  So far, the 10" blocks are just sitting there.  I'll decide later where and how to sew them together.

And yesterday I finally finished my own We Wish You a Mini Christmas from Temecula Quilt Company:

We'll just say I'm early for next Christmas.

Barbara Brackman has a new Quilt Along coming soon,Westering Women.  Read more about it here. I'm sure it will be full of wonderful historical information and great quilt blocks.

Let's Quilt!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Time to Make More Stars

Yesterday I got this far with Stars in a Time Warp with John Hewson.  I first wrote about it here.

Currently, 72" square

There are still four more borders to add, a row of stars next, a narrow blue, a 3" flying geese border and finally, one last narrow blue border.  The flying geese borders will take some time to complete.

This morning I counted the remaining stars and came up 18 short.  So, time to make more stars.  First, I divided up the remaining blocks into my favorites and not-so favorites:

This is my opportunity to make more blocks that are definitely favorites.  The less-than favorites have their place in any quilt:  they let the favorite ones really shine, they provide a "supporting cast" for the "most favorite" ones.  I just didn't want to find myself at the end of this quilt with only the "less-thans" left.

Next, I dug into my stash of my favorite reproduction fabrics and selected the ones to use in these last 18 blocks.  Some are repeats, some are new additions.

Then it was time to start cutting.  I make these blocks in groups of 4--the most efficient way for me to work.  Here are the first four in process:

You'll also notice some of my leader/ender project laid out too.  This is my Lifetime Quilt, I wrote about it here,  Those little half square triangles blocks are coming together quickly.  I have 3 complete 10" blocks done, each has 64 HST in each, that's 128 pieces of fabric/block.  And one more will be done soon.  I cut the triangle pairs from fabrics I am using for the John Hewson quilt, almost all repros.  Then I sew the triangle pairs together, trim them to 1.75" HST, sew pairs together, then sew twos to become fours.  Eventually, I lay out four rows of fours and join those.  When I have four units of four rows each, I join those into the 10" block.  So far, I haven't sewn any of the 10" blocks together.  I'm waiting until I have a wide selection of fabrics in those 10" blocks so the fabrics will be spread out over the entire quilt.  At least, that's my current plan, always subject to change.

Here are the first four stars done.  Along with four units of the Lifetime Quilt ready to be joined.

To finish the remaining 14 stars in a timely manner, I'll stop working on the Lifetime Quilt, other than using the triangle pairs in true Leader/Ender fashion, as I'm making the stars.  The star blocks will be done today, and I'll lay out the remaining borders ready for a day of sewing tomorrow.

Let's quilt!


Monday, January 4, 2016

Stars in a Time Warp with John Hewson

I am on a roll with this quilt:

The star blocks are from the wonderful Barbara Brackman's Stars in a Time Warp Quilt-Along-from 2015.  Find more info here.  Along with the weekly fabric choices, she provides so much historical information about quilitng fabrics,

Throughout the year, there were also suggestions for setting designs.  I made 2 of each block so have over 100 blocks to use.  I love medallion style quilts and have made several.  I remembered I bought the John Hewson Medallion panel a couple years ago, and fortunately could even find it.  This is the perfect center for me and this quilt.

John Hewson immigrated to Philadelphia from London about 1774.  He was a textile manufacturer who was known to make the best quality calico fabrics. He custom designed prints for Martha Washington, wife of George.  

I was born and grew up in Philadelphia, where Colonial History is a big part of elementary and secondary education.  Some of the places John Hewson lived and had his business are still there today.  And the Marine Corps was formed at Tun Tavern in 1775--since I became a Marine in 1975 I love that connection too.  John Hewson probably dined a Tun Tavern--it is close to his shop location.
If you Google "John Hewson Medallion" you will find these images.  Both quilts featuring his original prints and reproduction prints are shown here.  There is an entire Pinterest Board on him:  Quilting-John Hewson.  Pretty cool, yes?

Up next are half-square triangles.  I want quite a few but want to sew them as quickly as possible so here is the plan:

Eleven pairs of 6.5" squares, dark and light,
 draw a 3" grid and diagonal lines through the four squares.
Sew on both sides of the diagonal lines

Cut apart on the drawn lines, press toward the darker fabric

Trim to 2,5" square.  This plan will make 88 Half-Square Triangles (HST)

I designed this in EQ7--still haven't settled on all the pieced borders yet--they will come together as I get to them. I also didn't worry about putting all different color stars or search too hard for a medallion for the center.  Using EQ7 for this quilt is mainly to help me organize and plan the solid fabric and pieced borders, working out what size each will be.

The blue border stripe print I am using for "floater borders" is from Barbara Brackman's Union Blues collection--that was just serendipity.

This is perfect for the 1" finished floater borders--it is very easy to cut that size.  The panel is not square so I had to use 2" borders on the left/right sides of the panel, 1" on the top and bottom.  Again, this stripe was very easy to cut that size.

This month was going to be very busy. Yesterday I got 5 days back later this month that were going to have me out of town.  SO, I decided this is the perfect month to get this large quilt top assembled.  Check back as John Hewson grows.

Let's quilt!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Back to the Future

Happy New Year--it's 2016!

I've been working on my two favorite Leader/Ender projects currently--when I really have at least two "real" quilt projects I am eager to get back to.  But sometimes a quilter just has to do what she/he really wants to do right now.

My Tumbler quilt--I've been working on this since July 2015, just not very often. The rows have 61 tumblers in each, cut from 2.5" strips or squares, mostly from leftover fabrics used in current projects or my stash boxes.  First, I lay out a handful of dark and light pairs, sew the pairs into fours, sew the fours into eights, then pick 7 eights and one four--sew those into one long strip, add a dark or light on the end, depending on what is needed for that strip.  I sew 4 long rows together then add that to the "mother ship"--easier than having the whole thing in my lap each time I add a row.

Here you can see a stack of eights on the left, piles of lights and darks with a few pairs in the back, and a bunch of laid out singles, waiting to be sewn into pairs.  If I was just working on this while doing another quilt, I would only be concerned with making pairs--they would become longer units later.

With this quilt I am not at all concerned about what type of fabrics are included:  batiks, reproductions, modern, anything I like and have at least a 2.5" square of is fair game.

Here is my new favorite:

I call this my "Lifetime" quilt and first wrote about it here.  With this project, I am trying to keep the fabrics looking "old"--most are reproductions or look like them.  This quilt will include fabrics I haven't bought yet as I know it will take lots of time to make.

Chain, chain, chain

Clover thread cutter pendant in a toy block

Easy way to separate chain-pieced units

Pressed toward the darker fabric, ready to be trimmed

Trimmed to 1.75" 

"Trimmed to Perfection" my method for precise piecing, oversize and custom cut

The small plastic tubs hold triangle units ready for use.  In the front are 16 squares laid out ready for sewing.  In the back are 4 sets of 4 units.

Rather than make these into long rows of 1.25" finished squares, which would be tedious, I am sewing them into sixteen patches.  Usually I lay out 16 squares and sew them into rows, 4 x 4.  This makes them 5.5" raw edge to raw edge.  Then I'll sew four of those units into a large four-patch.  That block will measure 10.5" square, raw edge to raw edge.  That will make it easy to measure.

Currently, my plan is to have 8 x 10 large squares, or 80" x 100".  Time will tell.  I also think I will make this quilt with four quadrants so if I decide to rotate the quilt into a barn-raising set, I can easily do that.  I still think I like the original best, with all the triangles going in this same direction:

Now that I've gotten this somewhat out of my system for now, it's time to get to those other projects that are calling me.  I will be teaching a class on Leaders/Enders next month and am eager to share this fun way to make "free" quilts--the class is almost full already--we will have fun!

My husband is still recuperating from his leg injury but is getting better, too slowly to suit him, but at least he's improving.  We had a wonderful time with our sons, their women, and of course, Stella.  Here is the only good photo of she and I together--I got lots of hands-on baby time!

Let's Quilt!