Sunday, May 29, 2011

I got the last row of stitching on the Yellow Brick Road this afternoon, and so it now officially counts as a finish as well. The colors are pretty tame by my usual standards, and the free-motion quilting is pretty much gosh-awful. But it has a soft flannel backing, and I hope it will bring someone comfort in spite of its shortcomings.

One thing I did that was new and different with this quilt was I tried a fusible batting. In the end I would say the review is mixed. The quilt feels stiff to me, in spite of its flannel backing. On the other hand, in spite of the fact that this quilt has languished unfinished for several years, the bonding held up pretty well; I did not need to rebaste the borders.

Once that was done, then I was casting about for the next project. I ironed the flannel I had planned for the back of the Disappearing 4-Patch, but when I measured, it wasn't quite large enough. I looked at John Flynn's method of making a backing with a diagonal seam, but that didn't seem to do the trick either. So I'll hunt for a different fabric the next time I'm in Monroe.

Then I got out the Super 9-Patch baby quilts and their prospective flannel backs, and that was the same deal - not quite large enough. So those ended up going back to the table as well. In the end I pulled out a quilt I had basted last summer that was made with blocks from a block swap. It, too, had been intended all along as a charity quilt, so it's time has come. It's all going to be straight-line quilting, mostly in the ditch, so I decided that would be the next project. I seem to be in quilt-it-and-finish-it mode, which is not the worst place to be. In the morning I'll look at thread options and get bobbins wound and all that good stuff.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Today I finished the scrap quilt. This morning I did the final stitching of the binding by hand. And then I decided that since I had done the hard part of lining up the edges front and back in the process I might as well do the feather stitching anyway. So I did that too. And here are the final pictures of the front and the back.

Not all of the cross sashings are lined up perfectly. If this were to be a finer quilt I would probably have redone at least some sections of some seams. But the objective was to get it done, and done it is.

The part I really liked was sewing the label into the binding. With the help of the manual, I was able to remember how to do this with my machine; when I got the memory open, I found that I had done this before, about 10 years ago. All I had to do was change the date and location and I was good to go. This one is stitched in pink thread on the blue background so it's more obvious. Later in the day I did one in dark blue thread on medium blue fabric; that one is definitely more subtle. The best part was that once the binding was sewn down the quilt was done - completely done.

Since this quilt was finished well before lunch I decided that I wasn't done for the day. I swept the floor and tidied up a little, cleared the sewing table off completely and got out the Yellow Brick Road that I had started free-motion quilting a few years ago. I was not at all happy with the quality of my quilting, so I put it aside and went on to other things. I decided that if today was the day for finishing imperfect quilts, then today was its day. Except for one final row of decorative stitching it is completely finished. I won't take the pictures until that stitching is done, but it is also bound and labeled. When I pulled it out I realized it didn't have nearly as much quilting left to do as I had remembered; evidently I had decided at some point to only to the center in a free-motion squiggle. That gave me a chance to put the walking foot on and do some wavy lines in the borders; since that stitching shows more, I wanted something that I was more willing to have seen.

I decided to just put a solid binding on it, since every other part of it is pretty busy. I pulled out a blue piece from the bottom of the solids pile and discovered it had a Piece Goods Shop remnant tag on it dated 2-90. I suspect it of being a polyester blend, but I went ahead and used it anyway. I did the label the same way I did on the scrap quilt, so now that the binding is sewn down, it's labeled as well. I was tempted to plow on and do the last bit of decorative stitching, but decided it was late enough that I could royally mess something up, and I'd hate to do that at this point in the day. So I'll work on that tomorrow, then post some pictures.

At some point in the day Diane came to visit and I took her into the studio to show her what I have been working on. That's when I discovered that I've misplaced the Disappearing Four-Patch; I've looked through every pile on every table, and it's not there. So I'll have to hunt for that some more tomorrow as well. I may have a chance this week to go to Monroe and shop for backing for it, so it would be really nice to have it measured before then.

Anyway, it was a good day in the studio. I may not have gotten much churchy stuff done, but there's always tomorrow morning. And if there isn't tomorrow morning, it won't matter that I don't have it done anyway.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I've been working steadily on the scrap quilt; in fact I'm ready to sew down the free edge of the binding. I've decided to do that by hand, even though everything else is machine stitched, because I made my seam allowance a little skimpy and matching up the front and back would be a little tricky. If I had more fusible tape, I could do it, but I don't have enough to do the whole thing, so I'll just do it by hand tomorrow morning while the quilt shows are on. Besides, it will give me a little prayer time which needs to go with this quilt, since it will go to someone who has been through the trauma of a tornado.

After I finished sewing on the binding tonight, I decided I needed to get the table cleared off for the next big job, which is the binding on the double wedding ring. On one corner of the table were some blocks for a tesselated flower quilt that I'm contemplating, so I decided to do a little more sewing and have a bigger sample of both versions, so that I can hopefully make a decision about which to use.

Both samples start with a 3-inch square. The one on the right has triangles made from 1.5-inch squares. The one on the right has triangles made from 2-inch squares. The problem is that I can't make up my mind which is better. In fact, I'm not sure I'm happy with either one of them, but going to a 1.75-inch square seems ridiculous. The triangles on the left seem too big, and the ones on the right seem too small. So I'll leave the two samples on the design wall for a while and stare at them.

I should have pictures of the scrap quilt tomorrow. Meanwhile I'm off to watch one of my favorite moves - Men in Black.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Today I had a chance to spend some quality time in the studio and finished a set of scrap blocks, so I thought this would be a good time to post pictures and a tutorial of sorts.

The first step was cutting backing and batting squares. I had started with some 9-inch squares from another project, and that turned out to be a good size to work with, so I started cutting more of my larger scraps to that size. The batting is also scraps left over from other quilts, and I cut it closer to 10 inches square. The block begins with a backing square turned wrong side up, and a batting square laid across the top of it:

Then comes the fun part - digging into the bin of scraps and pulling out the first strips. This scrap bin has been going for quite a while, and I had great fun digging down to the bottom to see what treasures were buried down there and then trying to remember what quilt(s) I had used that fabric in. I started with a strip near the center, right side up, then pinned another strip to it, right side down, and stitched thru both strips, the batting, and the backing, thus quilting all the layers together as I stitched the strips together. Using the sew-and-flip method I worked my way across half the block, then did the same for the other half. I lengthened my stitch just a bit to a 3.0 mm and used a thread that would be appealing on all the fabrics used in the back; in this case, lime green.

When I was done, I had a block that looked like this.

The next step was to run a narrow zig-zag all around the outside edge of the block. I used a 1.0 mm width and a stitch length of 3.0 mm. With the right toe of the open-toe foot right up against the edge of the fabric, I moved the needle over to the right so that the stitching was right on the edge of the backing fabric. This step accomplishes a couple of things. One is to get those corner pieces, which otherwise want to

flop around and be uncooperative, firmly sewn down. The other is that it compresses the seam allowance, which will make doing the sashing easier.

Then it was time to trim and square up the squares:

I found when I went to do this that my block was now slightly smaller than 9 inches because the stitching had caused it to draw up just a little. Since I was only concerned that the blocks be the same size, and not that they be exactly 9 inches, I just trimmed them to 8 3/4 and was happy with that. If the exact size mattered in a project, I would start with a background square about half an inch larger than that size.

A couple of times when I was digging through the scraps I came across strip sets left over from some other project. I just treated them the same as if they were a single fabric and worked them right in. I even found some orphan blocks that I sewed together into a strip and incorporated. And if I had a piece of fabric I wanted in the center of the block but it wasn't long enough, I sewed another fabric to it and created a custom strip. The only thing I was careful about was making sure the very last strip in the corner wasn't too narrow; I didn't want a lot of seam bulk in that place, or a piece of fabric that was too small to really be seen once the sashing was added to the final blocks.

Once I had the 20 blocks I needed for the quilt finished I put them up on the design wall and laid them out in a pattern. Then I did a "background check." I turned each block over in place on the wall, so that I could see how all the different backing fabrics related to each other. I didn't want two pieces nearly the same color adjacent to each other, and I didn't want obvious directional fabrics turned sideways. I made the changes I wanted, then turned the blocks to the front again, rotating blocks as needed to recreate my original design.

Now I'm in the process of adding the sashing. I'm using the technique Sharon Pederson outlines in her book Reversible Quilts: Two at a Time, so I won't show all the steps. Here is the top row of the quilt with all the sashing strips machine stitched in place. All that's left is to hand stitch the free edge down. Since this is to be a charity quilt, and I'm interested in getting it finished (as well as pretty), I may opt for a machine zig-zag or other decorative stitch instead.

I have learned several things in the process of making this quilt. One is that I need another scrap bin for my more "mature" fabrics, the ones with more subtle colors. I have pulled several pieces out as I have worked my way through this quilt that just don't play well with this bright color palette. They will find their way into other types of quilts. I have also learned that I really like making this type of quilt. The blocks are like potato chips; you just have to have one more. And the best part is that I don't end up with yet another unquilted top to deal with; once it's assembled it's ready to be bound and done. And since my scrap bin is clearly overflowing, I know there will be more of these quilts made before the summer is over. Especially since the tornadoes seem to keep coming.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Today was not a quilting frenzy, but I did get a few things done. First I went through the pile of pieces I created in cutting super 9-patches last night and came up with a combination of center and larger border pieces. A fat quarter cut into 9-inch squares created the corner pieces, and another super-9-patch top is ready for quilting. That sent me into the flannel drawer looking for backings. I found some great possibilities, but once they were washed and dried, they were just a tad skimpy. I don't want to cut the tops down to fit, although that could certainly be done, so for now I put those away and I will look for alternate possibilities when I go to Monroe on Thursday. I need to remember to buy at least a yard and a quarter, if not a yard and a half in order to have the length I need.

While I was working on that top, I got an idea for using the rest of the fabric and some of my scraps as well. Since I already had some 9-inch squares, I went ahead and cut some more. Then I cut some batting a little bit larger, and created a top by sewing and flipping strips onto this foundation. Here is the result:

The process of sewing down the strips creates enough quilting through the back to hold things together. The blocks can then be joined together with sashing strips. The quilt I often nap under was made with this technique, and it has served me well for several years. Notice that I pieced the center strip to make it wide enough. The plan is for a quilt 4 blocks wide and 5 blocks long; that should be a good size for a child's quilt. I think for this one I'll make all the backs from different fabrics, but I may change my mind before I'm done.

So not exactly a frenzy, but forward momentum just the same. And since the scrap bin is overflowing at the moment, this idea comes at the right time.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The quilting frenzy of the past five days has finally blown itself out. Tomorrow I will do ordinary things like laundry and cooking and my job. But it sure has been good while it lasted.

Today I finished the Disappearing 4-Patch. It took about an hour to sew the chunks together, and another hour to add the borders, and it was done. I'll just say that some quilts are art, and I certainly consider some of the things that I have made to be art. Other quilts are just meant to do their job of providing warmth and comfort; this is definitely one of those quilts. But I like the technique, and I expect I will use it again in the near future; given the right mix of fabrics it could even be quite elegant.

I was quite proud of the fact that I managed to get the borders on with the orientation that I meant them to have. I wanted the text to read right side up toward the edge of the quilt, and that's what happened. I know it doesn't show that way in the picture, but it really worked for real.

Once that was done I pulled out the fabrics for the tessellated flowers and started cutting. Once I started sewing I realized I wasn't absolutely sure about my choice of size for the small triangle pieces. I had originally cut them 1-1/2 inches, half the size of the 3-inch block. But then they seemed a bit skimpy, and I wasn't sure. So it was time to make another set using 2-inch triangles. Here are the results of the two experiments: I'm still not sure. I've decided to set that aside and just look at them for a while, then chose. I've also decided that this is going to be like the tilted stars and be a "leader and ender" project - one where the blocks get sewn in and around other projects. Once in a while a simple project is good to have around, but after a while it can become mind-numbingly dull if that's all I work on. So I'll have pieces cut and ready on the work table. When I run out of fabric I'll sew it together and see what I've got.

Once I set that project aside, then there was the question of what to do next. I remembered the Super 9-Patch baby quilts ( that I've made in the past and remembered that I had bought a set of fabrics to make some for Taigen, only I made her another quilt instead and these got set aside. It was easy enough to pull out the fabrics and cut. If I had paid attention to where the fold was on the first set, the sewing would be easy as well. As it is, I've pulled some other pieces out of the scrap drawers to make some substitutions, and we'll see what we eventually end up with. The one I was able to complete from pieces that ended up (mostly) cut to the right size is this one:

So at the end of 5 days I have 3 tops completed, 2 more that will just be a matter of figuring out what will fit together, cutting a few new pieces and sewing the 9-patches together, and the beginning of a lovely napping quilt for myself. The Tilted Stars and the Disappearing 4-Patch will go to the long-armer on Thursday for basting; the baby quilts will just get a flannel backing and I can handle those myself. I consider it a successful frenzy.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Got a lot of sewing done today for a Sunday. It helped that it was picnic Sunday and I only had one service and that one here. The disappearing 4-patch isn't quite done, but I've gotten as far as sewing the blocks together into chunks of 4. So only a few seams to do tomorrow, then add the borders and I'm done. I even found a piece of flannel I like for the back, so I'll get it into the wash tomorrow to preshrink it.

I did find in sewing the blocks together that I had to pay more attention to orientation than I had thought at first. I should have done the pin in the upper left corner before I took anything down from the design wall, but I muddled through the hard way.

The one thing I did differently with this quilt that seems to have made a difference in the end was that I pressed the seams open. I know it violates some sort of rule, but with all the turning of pieces, I wasn't sure how the seams would end up in adjoining blocks. I think in the end it saved some grief. We'll see how it looks in the finished quilt.

Now I've worked too late and I'm tired. I'll finish up tomorrow and see what else I can get done before I have to deal with reality on Tuesday.