Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Binding tips

I love binding quilts.  Maybe it’s because it means the quilt is finally done and ready to gift, use, or hang on the wall.  Maybe it’s because I enjoy hand sewing while watching TV.  I don’t know why, but I do love it. 
I generally make my own binding.  After piecing the strips together and pressing the binding in half, I roll the binding up. 

If I’m binding anything larger than a mini quilts, I keep the binding in a drawer underneath my sewing table while I attach it to the quilt front using my sewing machine.  It sits in a plastic cover that some notion or other came in.  The binding neatly unrolls as it gets sewed on.

This keeps the binding from getting:
·         tangled
·         caught in the wheels of my sewing chair J
·         full of lint & pieces of thread
·         full of pet hair from one of my furry friends that likes to keep me company while I sew.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Quilting and Binding the Underground Railroad Quilt

One of my goals this year was to finally finish quilting the Underground Railroad quilt.  I started the quilt in October, 2011, and worked at piecing a couple blocks a month at first.  While recuperating from knee surgery in the summer of 2012, I finished piecing all the blocks.  All that was left was to quilt it.  This is the quilt that made me say I don’t want to quilt any more big quilts on my regular sewing machine. 

With sashing, this quilt comes out to 58” X 58”, so it’s not too big, but it was a bear to wrangle through the neck of my sewing machine.  Most of the other large quilts I’ve done were all straight line quilting or free-motion quilted in a large stipple.  Because this quilt is a sampler quilt, I wanted to quilt each block differently in a design to complement the piecing. 

Even though most of the quilting is either outlining the patches or stitch-in-the ditch, I still had to change direction a lot and it just isn’t easy shoving that much quilt through my sewing machine.  I did manage to get 6 of the 16 blocks quilted before my neck surgery last spring, but afterwards, I just couldn’t get back to it.

Since I had the three day weekend without any major commitments, I decided I was going to finish the quilting and get it bound this weekend.  I’m happy to say I did it! Yay!  My neck and shoulders are really aching, but the hard part is done!  Now I just have to hand sew the binding to the back and add a label and it will finally be finished and ready to hang. (After I use the lint roller that is - I can't believe how much lint and stray thread shows up on the black sashing!)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I have two Valentine's Mini Quilts to share with you. 

The first one I started around 4 years ago.  I started with a pack of die-cut hearts that I bought from Keepsake Quilting more than 20 years ago!  I picked out my favorite of the red hearts in the pack and embroidered them to 6-inch squares of muslin using black embroidery floss.  Unfortunately, I obviously forgot how to do a blanket stitch and had 4 of them completed before I realized I did the blanket stitch backwards. 

Two years later, I found the blocks in one of my storage ottomans, figured my family would never know the embroidery was backwards and finished the remaining 2 blocks the same way.  I hand quilted just outside each of the hearts, added black sashing and a black tone-on-tone fabric for the back and binding. 

I've been using this mini quilt for a few years.  For the months where I still don't have any mini quilts yet, I alternate between this one with hearts and my 4th of July Flag mini quilt.

I started the second Valentine mini quilt in January.  I don't have very many red fabrics in my stash or scraps (a situation I intend to remedy), so I auditioned pink and purple strips from my scrap baskets.  None of the purple strips made the final cut.

I made one string foundation block using a scrap of muslin. 

To get the heart shape, I traced around a foam heart decoration from A.C. Moore, then traced that heart onto a square of Kona White.  Next I cut away 1/4" inside the traced heart then basted the string foundation block so it fit in the heart shape. 

I originally wanted the strips to run diagonally across the heart, but decided I liked the vertical strips instead.  I have never done any reverse applique  before this project, but I enjoyed it.  I will probably do it again (maybe for an Easter egg block).

My original plan was to do big stitch hand quilting using pretty pink perle cotton, but after just a few stitches, I thought it looked awful so I ripped it all out.  I think the needle I used was too large because it  was puckering the fabric and the stitching just generally looked B-A-D.  Then I decided to hand quilt the block using regular thread - this was during the 2-week period I was without my sewing machine.  I did hand quilt the inside of the heart using pink thread and stitching in the ditch between all the strips.  I started to hand quilt the background and got about 1/4 of the way finished before deciding I really would like to use this mini quilt this month, so I ripped out all the white thread and machine quilted the background grid.

The backing fabric is a tone-on-tone pink heart fabric from Joann's Fabrics and the binding is the remnants of a fucshia fat quarter (also from Joann's).  The whole mini quilt was made with stash fabrics - nothing purchased for this project!  The finished product is gracing my cubicle wall at work now.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day with your special someone!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hot Cross and Ohio Star Progress

Because I spent so much time designing and graphing my next few quilts, I didn’t have a lot of time for sewing.  I did manage to get in about an hour each day over the weekend.
The results:
5 more Hot Cross blocks (still loving these)

2 Ohio Star blocks (fairly quick construction)

I’m making oversized hourglass blocks and using the Fit to be Quarter 6.5 ruler from Open Gate Quilts to trim the blocks to 4 ½”. 

Did I tell you how much I love this ruler?   It makes it so easy to evenly trim these blocks.  This ruler is worth every penny of the cost!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Look at what the mailman brought!

This is the kind of mail we are all excited to receive – new fabric! 

The fat quarter bundle is a Fat Quarter Shop Blogger’s Choice bundle chosen by Sinta Borland of the Pink Pincushion blog.  The charm packs are Meadow by Blackbird Designs for Moda and Paris Flea Market by 3 Sisters for Moda, ordered from The Thrifty Needle.
The charm packs will be used for my next 2 monthly charm pack quilts.  I’ll be making “Cindy Lou Who” from the book Another Bite of Schnibbles by Carrie Nelson with the Paris Flea Market charm packs.  The Meadow charm packs will go into an upsized version of “Lateness is Rudeness” from the book Back to Charm School by Country Threads.
I didn’t have a specific project in mind when I purchased the Sinta’s choice fat quarter bundle, but I knew I wanted the quilt for the full-sized bed in my guest room.  I also knew I wanted the quilt to have stars (I love star quilts).  I looked through some of my magazines and pattern books before settling on an Ohio Star block.
I spent about 7 hours charting and coloring graph paper layouts of the quilts.
First I drafted the Ohio Star quilt. 

I will use 4 of the light prints as the star centers.  The solids will be the next square and the blues will be the star points with white Kona for the background.  The red dot will be sashing squares with Kona Navy sashing strips.  The yellow print and white with red hearts print will be used with scraps left from the blocks for a piano key border.

I also graphed out the color placement for the two charm pack quilts.  I like scrappy quilts but I’m really a “controlled” scrappy quilt kind of girl.  I don’t know if I could ever make a truly “random” scrappy quilt.

For the Cindy Lou Who quilt, I ordered some yardage in a few of the prints for borders and binding.
Locally, I haven’t yet found matching solids for the “Lateness is Rudeness” quilt (I have to find another name for that one).  I won’t be working on that quilt until April, so I still have time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hot Cross

These little cross blocks are so cute!  My son is always ribbing me about calling little things "cute", but these blocks really are cute!  Thankfully, they are really quick to put together, because it took forever to cut all the pieces out.  Okay, part of the reason it took foreer is that I obsessed over fabric placement.  I spent at least an hour just sorting the charm squares into pieces to use for the background and complementary pieces to use as the crosses.  I wanted to maker sure I didn't use any square twice as a background (duplicates are going in the border).  I alos changed up the cutting directions and only used solids for the tiny center squre (I do mean tiny - they finish at only 5/8").

I am using two "Fellowship" charm packs (Howard Marcus for Moda fabrics).  These charm packs have 5 colors - brown, tan, cream, red and blue.  Since the small version of Hot Cross has 25 blocks in the center, I wanted to have 5 blocks of each color.  Then I wanted to balance the busy backgrounds with calmer crosses and vice versa.  That involved a lot of arranging and rearranging.

I've read some blog posts in which quilters seem to complain that they had to buy 3 charm packs in order to get the same color feel as the original in the pattern (lights to darks, etc.) I agree that could be a problem, but I think you can solve that issue if you pick the pattern first, then the charm pack.  Pay attention to the number of light vs. dark and busy vs. calm fabrics.  If you want your version to have the same feel, try to find a fabric line that has most of the same quantities as the pattern sample.  You can gauge this a bit by checking out the fabric line on the manufacturer's Web site, or on the Fat Quarter Shop's Web site where they usually show a little collage of all the fabrics in a collection.  The best way to check out your charm pack, though, is in person at your LQS.  You can flip through the charm pack and count the lights/darks, busy/calm fabrics.

Once I got my combinations all set, I cut the pieces for each block one at a time so I could keep my chosen backgrounds and crosses together.  Then I neatly stacked all the matching sets in little bins from my local dollar store. 

It would probably be faster to chain piece thse blocks, but I really want to make sure I keep the sets together (since it took so long to get them just right), so I am sewing one block at a time.  Even so, these little cuties only take me 10 minutes each to put together.  Wow - almost instant gratification!

I used the Fit to be Quarter 6.5 ruler from Open Gate Quilts to square up the blocks.  It was so easy to get the little center square exactly centered at 2 1/2" and to line up the diagonal using this ruler.  I think this is going to be a favorite tool for me.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

BGBOM Month 2

I have two more blocks completed for the Blogger Girls Block of the Month. 

Step 3 gave me a few headaches.  I wasn’t sure I was drawing the line for sewing in the correct place.  I figured it had to go through the point of the HST block, so I made sure it went through one corner of the rectangle and the point.  Even so, when I square up the blocks after that stop, they were a little shy of 4 ½”. 

That became a problem later on when I went to square up the final block to 12 ½”.  The block needed to be trimmed, leaving me with only about 1/8” seam allowance. 

If I leave the block as is I will end up with some chopped off points.  I’m going to have to take apart that seam, make another 2 ½” block and try to fix it.  I won’t be satisfied with the chopped off points if I don’t try to fix it.
The funny-looking piece left after Step 4 reminded me of the cornette (head piece) Sally Fields wore in the Flying Nun.  Remember that show?

I guess I was starting to get tired by the time I got to the second version of the block because I sewed the 4 ½” squares to the wrong side of the blocks – Oops! 

Luckily I noticed before I trimmed the blocks.  A little “unsewing” and “resewing” later, and they were all fixed.
If you are also participating in the BGBOM, I would like to know how long it takes you to complete one block.  It’s taking me about 1 ½ hours for each one.  I think it’s because I am unfamiliar with the rulers and some of the construction methods.  I have to fiddle around with the pieces and look at the pictures for a while until it becomes clear to me!  I thought the second block would go together a little quicker, but due to errors on my part, it took just as long.  All in all, I really enjoy participating in this BOM.
Here are my blocks after 2 months:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Sunday of Sewing and Soup

She's Back - my sewing machine is back from being serviced (after 2 loong weeks)!  Seriously though, with my son here during week 1 and working all week during week 2, I only started missing her Saturday morning.  Lucky for me, the shop called around 11 am and she was back in the house by 3pm. 

I spent Saturday afternoon cutting, cutting, cutting - for the Blogger Girl's Block of the Month (BGBOM) February Blocks and all the little bitty pieces for Hot Cross, my February charm pack project and a Schnibble pattern by Carrie Nelson.

So today is Super Bowl Sunday and I spent the day doing two things I love - sewing and making soup.  Since my neck surgery last year, I can't spend too long at the sewing machine at any one time - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours max.  So in between sewing sessions, I made 3 different kinds of soups/stews.  The day went kind of like this:

7:30-9:30 finished quilting my Valentine's mini quilt, made the binding and sewed it on.
9:30-11:15 Cleaned the bathrooms, made green chile pork stew, made brunch, washed the dishes
11:15 - 12:45 Completed the BGBOM Block 2, Version 1

12:45 - 2 Made ham,spinach and pea soup, washed dishes, did a load of laundry
2 - 3:30 Completed BGBOM Block 2, Version 2

3:30 - 4:45 Completed 5 Hot Cross blocks

4:45 - 7 Got everything ready for work tomorrow, folded laundry, made soup # 3 - shrimp & corn chowder

Wow - what a day.  I'm exhausted.  Now it's time to actually watch the Super Bowl (or at least as much as I can until I get too tired).

Details about all the projects later this week.