Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is It A Quilt Yet?

Remember my Civil War Sampler I posted about a while ago?

I actually "finished" it a few weeks ago, ie quilted all the blocks - albeit sparsely, thinking that was all it really needed - and put the binding on. So it is technically finished.

Simple quilting in the ditch here.

Some of the blocks called for a little more detail, so I obligingly gave them the appropriate extra stitching.

Of course as soon as that happened, one by one some of the other already sparsely quilted blocks got the idea that they needed more. So here I am, going back over and adding more quilting to several more blocks.

So this block looks like this now (minus the white marking lines).

And several more I've added to:

I even started experimenting with quilting the sashing, which you can see here. I have to admit, those three little ovals look pretty dang cute.

This one (above) could still use a little more quilting, I think...

Maybe this one too? see that's the problem, I'm not sure where to stop.

The whole other thing is, I am so enjoying the process of quilting these blocks, part of me doesn't want it to end. Being a sampler, each block has been like its own little project - from the fabric selection and piecing, to the quilting. Whenever I finish a block, I find I can't wait to start the next one.

Although I keep within a theme with my quilting and some motifs - notably the "orange peel" (why do they call it this, anyway?)  - are repeated frequently, each block presents a new opportunity or different challenge, and the result from one to another. I find this both exciting, and visually rewarding. 

Knowing when to stop is definitely a problem. At this point I don't think I want to add more quilting to the setting blocks - really, I don't - and I don't think I really want to quilt the sashing ... or do I??  

I'm afraid the more quilting I put in, the more it will demand. And because I don't want to wreck my hands, this may end up being an ongoing and very lengthy project! The good news is, the binding is on so I'm already using the quilt (I put it on my bed at my quilt retreat last month) however I doubt I'll wash it until "all" the quilting is in, whenever that may be ~ ~ ~

Meanwhile, I finished my little Bow Tie quilt over the weekend, and have attempted to stage it in a nice vignette for your viewing pleasure ~

Bow Tie with Rhubarb, Yard Junk and Drip Irrigation

Bow Tie on Bench with Fallen Maple Leaves

***a note on hand quilting***

  Since I started quilting something like 25 or so years ago, I've always started off my quilting line by simply burying the knot then continuing with the running stitch, and ending in much the same way - a small knot, pulled straight into the batting away from the quilting line. I've never had any problem with this method, and never had any knots pull out. Now for some reason - I suppose I read somewhere along the line that this was not "good enough" I started doing a back stitch at the beginning after burying the knot, and at the end before the knot. Well guess what. I've noticed places where the knot has pulled out and is now sitting on top of the quilt. And where that hasn't happened, the first and/or last stitch are often "baggy". Not pretty. I really don't know how to correct this once its done, beyond pulling the stitch line out and starting over. I've already done this in a few instances, but mostly its just too fussy and I've decided I'll just have to live with my mistake. Needless to say, I am now back to my old method. I would love to hear your comments on this.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More Doll Quilts

I went to a quilt retreat last weekend, in beautiful San Juan Bautista. This is what I came home with:

The first thing I worked on was this little bow tie quilt. I had already pre-cut the pieces, so it went pretty quickly. This is the first time I've ever made the bow tie block. It was very easy, but next time I'd like to try doing it the "real" way, with the center as a separate piece, and requires set-in seams. ha ha. I feel the same way about that subject as Audrey over at Quilty Folk. But see how much cuter her bow ties are than mine? I also need to learn to hand piece ~ 

When I got home I pin basted it, and marked it with my hera. I guess I should have taken a pix of the hera. Its this plastic thingie with a sharpish edge, that you run down the side of a ruler onto your quilt, to mark your quilting lines. It makes a dent in the fabric. You can kinda see it on the pink bow tie.

Next one I worked on was this little "Americana" type quilt. I had intended to make a star medallion quilt with hourglasses and triangle squares, but something told me to make this instead. I marked this with my chalk roller because I wasn't sure of the spacing of the lines at first, and the chalk rubs off so easily when you need to make a change. 

Lastly, I worked on this. About a year or so ago I acquired a tiny bundle of fat eighths of Cocheco Mills prints, and was saving them for some unknown special project. More recently I bought half yard cuts of the Dressing Gowns line, and thought they'd make a pretty good combination so I thought I'd give it a try. Some of them came out sorta blend-y, but I like it. The blocks will finish at four inches. I'm not sure how many more I'll make, or how I will set them, but I want to keep it small.

Here are the leftover triangle squares - the start of another doll quilt! 


Monday, November 4, 2013

Machine Quilting

I started calling this a tutorial, but really its no more than an explanation of my method of machine quilting - with a few tips thrown in. Nothing too revolutionary here, but you might find something you can use. 

Here is my quilt, pin basted, in preparation for machine quilting. 
I'm using Hobbs 80/20 in black, which feels a little like a brillo pad. 
(btw your 80/20 batt scraps make excellent soft scrubbers. I'm serious! Try it.) The black showing around the edge sort of puts me in mind of using black binding. Hmm....

I'm going to start out by quilting in the ditch between the blocks, 
on the diagonal, so I put pins alongside those seams. I don't feel its necessary to pin more inside the blocks, as once that grid is quilted it keeps everything locked down.

 I love my Sewline white pencil for marking on dark fabric. Strong (ceramic?) lead, sticks to the fabric significantly longer than chalk, but still erasable. I bought a couple of these when they first came out, paid about $15 apiece for them.  Fons and Porter now make a similar (exactly the same?) pencil, and you can find them at Connecting Threads for much less $. 

Here's how I set myself up. 
I roll both sides toward the center, start quilting there, and roll out as I go. Then I turn it around and go out from the middle again, down the other side. It sort of goes crazy after awhile, rolls coming unrolled etc, and I still do plenty of fluffing to keep it from hanging up. This set-up is not perfect, but its the best I can manage for now, and it works fine. Yes that's my dining room table, so I need to get this done asap.

Please excuse the following blurry photos.
Hopefully its clear enough for a beginner to "get".

At the beginning of the row, I pull the bobbin thread up so both thread tails are on top. This avoids a big mess on the back of the quilt. Later, I will bury the tails in the layers, so no knots, no glue, no nests.

I then sink the needle nice and tight into the corner, move forward one stitch, then take a back stitch before I continue forward again, along the ditch.

When I first started machine quilting in the ditch, I used to get my hands right in there and pull the seam open as I quilted, which results in a nicely buried and nearly invisible stitch. Unfortunately, not only is this method very stressful on the hands, but I found I consistently ended up with tucks on the back of the quilt. 
Not nice.

The method I use now takes a bit more hand/eye coordination and a lot of focus, but its infinitely easier on the hands. My left hand is lightly gripping the left roll from underneath, and I "steer" the quilt through, letting the machine do the work.  Making sure your seams are pressed correctly - all the way open with no folds - is essential. The goal is to slide the needle right along side the "bluff" and down into the ditch. It takes some practice, but when you get into the Zen of it, it moves along quite nicely with near perfect results.

Choosing the right color thread when you have multiple colors and both lights and darks going on can be challenging. I settled on this one for the stitching that went on top of the blue and between the lighter fabrics. 
I believe its called "Weathered Wood"  and its from Connecting Threads. The trouble with CT threads is that once you remove the cellophane wrapping, you have no reference to the name of the color, so I'm guessing on this one.

When I wasn't going over top of blue I used this, a favorite of mine called "Latte" (I marked the color on the inside of the spool - no easy task) also by Connecting Threads.

 I did "mark as you go" across the big triangle squares, with my Clover chalk roller. Which I thought was in the picture - oh well. I find it easier/faster than the pencil in this instance, and it doesn't matter that it rubs right off because by then you've already sewn through it.

The only place the stitching shows is on the blue sashing, and across those larger triangle squares. The "Weathered Wood" sinks right in to the blue so you can hardly see it. The "Latte" thread blends nicely with the lights, and does not stand out too horribly bad on the darks. Because the quilting is not a design element here, I want to see texture, rather than the color of the thread, and I think I've accomplished that fairly successfully.

After machine basting the edges, I marked the border thusly, also with the chalk roller, with the idea of quilting a wavy line.

 I figured out the area I wanted the the quilting within, and marked the area.

 I marked x's approximately where I wanted the line to bend

 then roughed in the wavy line.

It didn't need to be perfect, as I don't need to follow the line exactly. Mainly I needed it to be in the right spot, and be somewhat consistent.

Looking at the back, you can see what it looks like 
without the chalk lines.

I can't wait to get the binding on and wash this thing. I used all unwashed fabrics - a jelly roll and a couple of charm packs for the blocks - so I kept it consistent by not prewashing the border/sashing/backing fabric. I have to say, I'm not crazy about working with unwashed fabric - I pretty much hate the feel of it. It sort of makes my skin itch.

Well that's all for today!