Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Upcoming Classes

It is almost September when class schedules at local quilt shops ramp back up. I have several new classes and several "back by popular demand" classes to offer this Fall locally.

At Patches & Stitches in addition to two sessions of my long-running Quiltmaking 101 5 week Beginners class, I am teaching:

Super Southern Star:  my "go-to" gift quilt because I can make the top in a weekend. In this all-day class students finish about a third of the top and know how to complete it. Many love it and make more than one. From Calico Carriage Quilt Designs:

About 76" square

Little Handful of Scraps: a variation of a quilt from Edyta Sitar's book. Emphasis on careful piecing and design work will be the focus:

About 12" x 14" 

Creative Log Cabin: who doesn't love a Log Cabin quilt? I've made several with different techniques and rulers. At Quilt Market this Spring I saw a demo on the Creative Grids 8" Trim Tool for Log Cabin blocks and wanted to try it. It worked well, everyone will get perfect blocks:

About 58" square
Another local store I will be teaching at is Huntsville Sew and Vac.

Long Time Gone: a very popular Jen Kingwell pattern. This six month class will meet for 3 hours once a month. No sewing machines are needed in class. Students will bring their book and fabrics and cutting tools. I will demo the steps for the various blocks we'll be making that month and they can get help with fabric selection and cut their blocks out in class, sewing at home. At the last class we will audition various sashing fabrics to select the best.

Spellbound: a pattern from Calico Carriage Quilt Designs, this quilt uses your choice of two Jelly Rolls, both the same, one background and one fat quarter for the center. A great quilt to practice free motion quilting on when it's done:

Flip N Sew Throw: such an easy quilt that makes a fast gift. Start with a back fabric, add a cotton batt, cut a bunch of strips or use a Jelly roll and piece and quilt at the same time, through all layers, 3 hour class:

37" x 41", using a crib size batt
Mug Rugs: another 3 hour class for making fast quilted gifts. Enlarge the batt and back to make placemats:

If you are local, I hope you find something of interest. Sign up soon, spots fill quickly and we want to have all the supplies you will need on hand when class begins.

If you are not local, I have added my Teaching Calendar to the top bar so you can see where I will be. I would love to see you in class.

Let's Quilt! 


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Batting and Basting

What do you do? When you come into a bunch of batting and you have tops that ought to get quilted?

You: 1. Do an archaeological dig to find those tops that need finishing.
         2.  Find some have backs and batts with them--Score!
         3. Dig through excess/discarded fabrics in deep storage to find backs that will work.
         4. Figure out how many batts you can cut from a Queen size batt for those tops
         5. Cut the backs and also sleeves from the back fabrics.
         6. Cut that Queen size batt into the needed sizes.
         7. Clear the Dining Room table and pin baste until you run out of pins.

I was pleased and surprised to find all the backs I needed in the closet where I am storing the stuff that didn't sell last summer--some of which needs to find it's way to my Etsy shop. No fabric had to come from my studio stash, AKA "the good stuff".

Here is the sketch for dividing up the Queen size batt:

It helps to have a plan before you open up and start cutting into that very big batt. Three of the quilt tops already had batting and backs stored with them so I only needed to cut 6 batts of various sizes from this batt and so there is leftover for the next small quilts I make.

Now I have 9 quilts ready to go, to practice and to finish.

How did I happen to have extra batt? The Quilters Dream Batting company had a little giveaway on Facebook a couple weeks ago. Now I love that batt, using it almost exclusively, in Request weight, their thinnest. In addition to batting they were throwing in a copy of Catherine Redford's new book Modern Machine Quilting. I have taken a machine quilting class with Catherine in Chicago and find her a delightful instructor. She will be teaching and lecturing at my guild next month but I will be teaching out of state myself so will miss her.  I rarely enter these giveaways but this was easy to do: "Like" their page and tell them what you were currently quilting. As I had "Long Time Gone" under the needle, with Quilters Dream Request batting in it, I took a couple seconds to post that.

Imagine my surprise a few days later when they announced I was the lucky winner, selected at random from 1350 entrants!  Maybe I need to buy a lottery ticket. Here is what they sent:

7 lbs.of greatness

Twin and Queen Request weight, Twin and Queen Select weight, Queen Deluxe weight, and about 50 8.5" x 11.5" samples of Select, perfect for using in upcoming classes. AND an autographed copy of the book, which I am reading carefully and enjoying. Thanks, Quilters Dream and Catherine!

I've got a use for the Deluxe Queen batt I hope to tell you about later...

Another shot of all 9 of the quilts, now ready for quilting magic. The small Amish quilts at the top were made more than 30 years ago, when I handquilted everything--which is why they never got done. And the first one at the bottom is waiting for more pins:

Let's Quilt!


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quilt Labels--Don't Leave Home Without Them

I am a serious proponent of putting labels on all your quilts. In case of loss, you have a better chance of getting your quilt back. But more importantly, this is information someone in the future should want to know:

As soon as I finish a quilt, I write my name and the year on the back with an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie black permanent marker. No quilt leaves my home without at least this information on it.

Because I am a woman of many words, I want more information on my quilts so I print labels on my computer with the "who, what, when, where and why" on them.  Information should include:

Who made this quilt--the top. If it was a group effort, explain that
Who designed it--the pattern designer/book author if it's not an original design
Why was it made--gift, celebration, commemoration, for love of the fabric or design
Who is it for--if being given directly to a person
Who quilted it--if not the maker of the top. That person deserves recognition
When--some of my labels show a range, the longest one says 2004-2011
Where--the maker and/or the recipient, where do they live

By preserving this information for your family now, the quilt may get more respect from future generations. Historians and collectors will thank you. One of my quilts that I made in 1995 says "to be given to the first of her sons to marry". My eldest son was 16 at the time. It is now the property of Andrew, my younger son, and a new label was added on the left corner. It has a dedication to my son and his bride, the date of their marriage and this--"To be handed down to the first of their children to marry." Long term thinking here.

There are several fabric products available to run through an ink-jet printer. Today I am using this, Printed Treasures:

Another favorite brand is EQ Printables from Electric Quilt Company. I am out of that at the moment so will restock soon. These products are paper-backed 8.5" x 11" white fabric sheets that are designed to be run through an ink jet printer and the ink remains permanent, even through many washings. Do not use a laser printer--they print with heat and you could damage the printer. These products also come in "sew-on" and "iron-on" styles--I prefer the "sew-on"--it is softer and leaves no residue on the quilt.

If you have lovely handwriting, you can use any light fabric and a permanent pen to write your information on the quilt. My handwriting isn't very good so I prefer to print my labels.

I keep a running list of quilts that need labels and when I have enough to fill an entire page I make them. I work in Word but you could use Publisher or a greeting card template.

This time I had a label I wanted to add a photo to: Stella's Splendid Sampler. In October 2016 when she visited us at 16 months old, we spent some time looking at her quilt blocks on the design wall. She could point out specific things like a bird, a dress, a heart, a cupcake, a flower. I loved this shot of us and knew I would use it on her label. At first, this was to be her "big girl bed" quilt but it's pretty big so now I'm thinking it's more likely her dorm quilt, way in the future.

Here is the label after it came out of the printer. Read and follow ALL the directions. Double check your spelling, there is nothing more disheartening than a label with a misspelled word--ask me how I know:

 Here I have cut the labels apart, the blank piece at the top may be a handwritten label later:

When I first starting using these products for labels I loved that I could put as much information as I wanted on the label. What I didn't love is that it was somewhat difficult to turn the raw edges over to needle-turn in place--the fabric is tightly woven so it holds the images/printing well. One day I had a label with very narrow margins, too small to turn under, so I added a border of the back fabric, using a 1/8" seam allowance and VOILA! Problem solved. From then on I have used the back fabric to create a frame around the label and it is as easy to stitch in place as any applique' would be.

Trim the label so it is neat and square--I try to have an equal amount of margin around the words. I cut the fabric strips about 1.25" usually. The left and right strips are the same size as the label, the top and bottom are about 1" wider than the label with the sides on will be:

 First, I turn in one edge about 1/4". This is easy to do before sewing the strips to the label:

I sew the left and right sides in place using a 1/4" seam allowance usually. Sometimes there is not much margin--then I use a 1/8" seam allowance. Press the two sides away from the label and trim the ends even with the top and bottom of the label:

Sew the top and bottom strips on the label, centering the strips:

Turn the tails to the back of the label and press them firmly over the ends. I use a hot, dry iron for this. Then I use just a drop or two of washable glue, here is Elmer's washable school glue, but a washable fabric glue stick would work too. I put the glue on the folded over ends and use the hot, dry iron to dry the ends in place. I started doing this after finding it too fiddly to keep the ends nice and flat while sewing it to the quilt. This solution works great:

 Now the label is pinned in place on the lower back, ready to hand sew in place, with thread that matches the back fabric, a bright pink in this case. It goes over my handwritten name and date:

There is one more photo of Stella enjoying this quilt as I was making it. In August 2016, when she was 14 months old, we had a family beach vacation. That week I was making the purple coneflower with hand applique'. When it was done I showed it to her as her Pop Pop held her and she made her "face of the week"--her "surprised" face:

That's my girl!

Don't let your quilts leave home without a label.

Let's quilt!


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Quilting and Binding

Last weekend I spent the day in a free motion quilting class, read about that here.

This week I've concentrated on finishing the quilting on two quilts:

Long Time Gone, a Jen Kingwell Design:

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul--this needs a much better name. I made the top a few years ago, finally done.The blocks are needle turn hand applique', no pattern, just an old quilt block design:

Now both are ready for the hand stitching on the bindings. There is about 16 hours of handwork ahead of me:

In recent years I've taken to making the binding and sleeve as soon as the top is done. They are labeled as to which quilt they are for and put in a basket. This saves me from having to hunt for the fabric I intended for binding, or the sleeve--the back fabric--only to find I used it up on some other project. It can take me years to get around to finishing a top. These bindings and sleeves were done and waiting for the quilting to be finished.

I always put a sleeve on my quilts, no matter what size, incorporating the top edge into the binding. The reason I do this is so I only have to hand-sew the bottom edge of the sleeve. I've known many quilters who spend hours right before a show deadline getting those sleeves in place--and they have to hand-sew both edges since their quilt binding is finished--that's twice the work. Here they are machine basted along the top edge:

On a bed-size quilt I cut the sleeve 8.5", turn both ends in with a double fold and stitch the ends down while the sleeve is flat. The finished sleeve width is the width of the quilt minus about 2".  Then I fold the sleeve right side out and press. On big quilts like these I also create a second fold 1/2" below the first fold so the front of the sleeve is wider than the back--this allows the hanging pole to fit the sleeve and not be visible on the front when hanging.

Both of these quilts have my favorite batting: Quilters Dream Cotton, Request weight. It is easy to quilt by hand or machine, is comfy to sleep under, and washes and dries beautifully. I rarely use anything else, except when I use wool batt. That is reserved for quilts for our bed--it is so comfortable to sleep under year-round. The only drawback to wool is the cost and need to air dry--I'm not taking a chance machine drying a quilt with wool batt.

Long Time Gone was fun to quilt. First, I used the Line Tamer ruler, my favorite ruler, to free motion stitch in the ditch along both sides of all the sashings. As the sashings don't go from top to bottom or side to side, I just did them, ending the stitching when I got to the end of that sashing.

I decided what to quilt in each block as I got to it. To "audition" quilting designs, I use a sheet of plexiglass with painters tape all around the edge to prevent slipping with the Expo marker onto the quilt:

Sometimes I changed my mind a little once I got the quilt under the needle, the corner flowers became hearts and I used very light thread--the strong contrast on the white background was distracting in the small corners, but just what I wanted to fill the middle:

The thread is Bottom Line, 60 wt. polyester in the bobbin and Microquilter, 80 wt. polyester on the top, both by Superior Threads. The fine thread helps to minimize the designs, because I am still working on my free motion quilting skills. Here are a few more shots of some of the quilting.

The back is a busy batik, a good choice when you don't want stops and starts to show:

The second quilt top was made a few years ago when I wanted a hand-sewing project to carry with me on my travels. It's an old block, sometimes called "Rob Peter to Pay Paul" or "Orange Peel". The thread on this one is Bottom Line in the bobbin and King Tut on the top on the blocks. In the border I switched the top thread to Microquilter, again because I wasn't sure my feathers would be beautiful enough to want them clearly visible:

The blocks have a good bit of ruler work in them. On the border I used a ruler to create the feather spine and two straight lines to define the space the feathers needed to fill.

I wasn't too happy that I really didn't make those feathers completely fill the space so I added another line on both sides of the feather. There are no photos of that because it was so awful I took those two lines out. LESSON LEARNED: if you don't like how the stitching is going, STOP! It took a long time to remove those lines of stitching, due to how perfectly the thread matched the top and back.

After  the offending threads were removed, I switched feet to an open-toe offset free motion foot, Bernina #24. I was amazed how much better I could see with this foot compared to the ruler foot. Now I echoed both sides of the feathers and they look better. Not competition quality for sure, but better.

Once all the quilting was done, I trimmed both quilts' edges, attached the sleeve and the binding and am now hand-stitching the binding in place.

Binding is one of my favorite parts of the quiltmaking process. I have a Binding Tutorial if you want detailed info on that process, including my very easy way to join the final seam on your binding. The hand sewing is done with thread that closely matches the binding fabric, using very small blindstitches.

How I achieve the 3/8" seam allowance I prefer with binding cut 2.5". The walking foot is in place, and the needle position is moved 5 steps to the right. I keep the edge of the foot along the edge of the fabrics:

Be sure to lengthen your stitch length, I use 3.0 for mine. You will be sewing through at least 5 layers: quilt top, batt, back and two layers of binding. On the top edge, where the sleeve has been basted in place, I am sewing through 7 layers.

The only thing these quilts still need are labels and I now have enough quilts that need them that I can fill a page with printed labels. Just as soon as I get ink replacements for my printer I'll get those done. Stay tuned.

Let's Quilt!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Practice Makes Better

I recently took a Free-Motion Quilting (FMQ) class at my local quilt shop, Patches & Stitches. The teacher was a local woman I've known for about 20 years, a guild member and a dedicated quilter, Elaine Poplin, AKA @messygoat on Instagram. While her quilts are more "modern" than mine, her FMQ designs can easily be adapted to any kind of quilt.

For the last almost 2 years all my FMQ has been done on the Bernina Q20 Sit Down Longarm machine:

Since it weighs 350 lbs and is not portable, I had to take my other Bernina to class, the B765, a special edition of the 770QE:

It is a great machine for quilting, with a 10" throat space and the BSR, the Bernina Stitch Regulator. The Q20 has two BSRs and my stitches are perfect with it, leaving me to concentrate on making good designs: smooth curves, sharp points, etc. With the domestic machine I had to be a bit more careful with my speed of hands movement and speed of foot pedal action, but still achieved good stitches.

What I was most surprised to realize: all that practice on the Q20 has paid off--my FMQ has really improved over the last two years! Amazing--practice really does help! Here is what I did in the morning session:

The first thing Elaine had us stitch was our name.  Then I tried "Stella". Then it was just play with various designs from her handout.  She brought several quilts which she used to explain how she chooses thread color/weight, how she decides what to quilt, where. She was very encouraging to everyone, beginners and the more experienced. Mostly, it's about practice, practice, practice. Nothing worth learning comes overnight, usually.

Here is what I did in the afternoon session:

Just more playing, some of Elaine's designs from her quilts, some favorites I have saved on Pinterest over  the years. I ended by stitching my name again, just to see if it was better at the end of the day than the beginning--about the same, I'd say.

Here is Elaine's demo piece that I was lucky enough to bring home:

Something to strive for. As she taught herself FMQ on a sit down machine for 8 years and has had a longarm for the past year, she is really good--practice makes perfect for some! When I described my FMQ style as "Primitive Free Motion", Elaine said that sounded too negative--well, yeah, that was kind of the point. She suggested "Organic--it sounds trendy and hipster". That's funny,  now I'm "trendy" and a "hipster. It's all in how you look at it.

I enjoyed the class and left feeling like I was really getting the hang of this FMQ thing. That's good because I have an ever-growing stack of basted quilt tops ready for some FMQ love.While I enjoy Ruler Work, it is not super-fast so adding more FMQ will speed up quilt completion

Here is just a bit of Long Time Gone in progress--I have some new design ideas to try on this now:

Thanks, Elaine, for a terrific class. If you are on Instagram, I encourage you to take a look at Elaine's feed: @messygoat.  And I'm sure I'll have a quilt or two of hers to show you from our guild show in October--she is entering one of my favorites of hers: Linus--go look for it.

Let's Quilt!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Halo Star Medallion--Month 8

This month we will finish the pinwheel borders, attach them to the quilt, and start making flying geese borders.

Making the remaining pinwheel borders is just a matter of repeating the steps from month 7, to create the bottom and side borders. 

Now let's talk about those "floaters". On page 4 of the instructions, Sue talks about using two fabrics to fill the space between the pinwheel border (57.5") and the quilt center (54.5"). If you have everything perfect, the space to fill is 1.5" finished on both sides.. Sue said she prefers smaller floaters over one large floater.  Here is what she did:

First, Sue added a 1/2" finished "border" to the center of the quilt--this increases the size of the quilt by 1" finished. Now, if you are perfectly the same as her measurements, you will add a 1" finished size "floater" to join the pinwheel borders (57.5")  to the quilt center, which is now 55.5" after you added that small .5" "border". 

Here is what I did. I looked in my stash for a border print stripe that might work--Sue mentioned using border prints to fill all that space, instead of using two borders/floaters. The complex fabric makes it look like you did complex piecing. Of course, I didn't have any border stripe that would work. So I decided to use only ONE fabric, the dark purple woven fabric I  had used earlier as a floater. 

Lucky for me, my quilt center has grown by .5" and my pinwheel borders are also .5" larger than they should be--don't know why, they should be perfect, but that's just quilt life sometimes. I had 3" to fill, 1.5" per side, so my purple floaters were cut 2" wide and the  proper lengths needed. I was happy to only make one "floater" and I think it looks just fine.  I will do this same fabric in the same size later in the quilt. Stay tuned...

Now it's time to make ONE flying geese border, with 43 geese. If you did all the fabric cutting last month, you are ready to get started. Flying geese shapes are one large triangle--the "goose"--and 2 two small background triangles--the "sky". These geese finish at 3" wide by 1.5" high--you can and should check your paper patterns to be sure that is the size you printed. 

IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO PAPER PIECE: you do not have to. I usually prefer to make four geese at a time, oversized so I can "trim to perfection". I have a tutorial here  for this process, use the measurements in the chart for a 3" x 1.5" goose unit. Make 11 sets for 44 geese, save one for next month for the other side.

Here is what I DID NOT do--I did not tape all the papers together to make one long paper with 43 geese. That would be too unwieldy for me. I preferred to sew the papers in separate segments, laying out the geese fabrics for each one. How about some photos:

Ready to sew
Sewing on the line

The first "goose" is in place

Fold the line for the base of the second goose down over a postcard

Use the Add-a-Quarter ruler to trim away the excess "sky" fabric 

Place the second goose on the line you just trimmed, it is now exactly a 1/4" seam allowance

After sewing the second goose in place, fold over the paper and trim the seam where you will add the "sky"
Continue to add geese and sky until you fill the paper.  Here is what NOT TO DO and when you know it might be time to stop for the night:

After all the geese are sewn trim the paper exactly 3.5" wide, using the printed lines

Two rows done, ready to sit on the porch swing and remove the paper
Once I had all 7 segments and one lonely single guy made, I removed all the paper and joined the segments together to make one side border with 43 geese. 

Guess what? In keeping with my .5" too big process, this border is 65.5"--a half inch too big. Don't know why but since the second one was exactly the same size, made later, I just rolled with it. Remember, my center is still a half inch too big too. Just don't tell anybody.

You are done for this month, unless you want to make the other side border--and I know some of you will. The process is exactly the same for the right border as it is for the left.

Let's Quilt!