Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pictures of second phase of the quilt piecing.

Darlene Zimmerman to the rescue...remember I talked about Lavendar Hill Farm and my beautiful Frosty Morn quilt? She is the one who led that class. I am going to quote from her book on this one, she writes better than I do. Taken from Lavender Hill Farm quilting book, page 9, @2008 published by Krause publications. I think this is really important and has made a difference in my quilt piecing. " Tip try this quick check to see if you are sewing an exact 1/4" seam allowance: Cut three 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" strips. Sew them together on the long edges. Press. The square should now measure 3 1/2". If not, adjust your seam allowance. (Also check that you have pressed correctly)."
I discuss setting seams in just a few paragraphs here on this post. 

Once you have determined the perfect edge of your seam line, mark it with the painters tape as
shown.  I like it towards the front of the pressure food as that is where you actually guide your fabric.
(Yes, I do have my own spool of painters tape...one for my drawer close to my machine, and another in my tool box to take to retreats)



As you start sewing each seam, please be very cautious...some machines just love to eat up the fabric, right down in that little hole....Set your needle down into the fabric, or better start with that little square of fabric that I talked about earlier.  Start and finish each lenght of sewing with that little scrap of fabric.

Now is the time to sew the long narrow strips to all four sides of your center block.  I press each side as I go.  (Yes we press alot as we quilt...and that is why I like my iron as close to me as possible.)

Pressing? This makes this seam lie as flat as can be. It will make the piecing work better, plus the finished product looks nicer...just as in garment sewing. (no use in having a sewing machine if you do not have an iron). First set that seam by setting the iron down on the just sewn seam. 2nd flip open and iron from the right side with the seam laying towards the darkest fabric. If you want, a burst of starch works well here. I just push right into that seam...don't stretch your fabric.

 Now, remember, set that needle carefully, place the edge of the fabric on that blue painters tape that marks your exact quarter inch seam line.  Then ....trim off the extra strip that is hanging past your block.  Then.....

Set your seam, as showing on the picture on the left below, then flip your fabric and press that seam nice and flat on the right side of the fabric.    Remember the up and down movement of the iron, not sliding across the fabric.

After the borders (my orange strips) are all sewn on, and pressed, arrange your 2" blocks in a pleasing pattern, or, just pull them out of a paper bag.... After you have the blocks placed as you like carefully stack them, go to your machine and sew them with those careful quarter inch seams, with right sides of fabric together.     For this quilt you should sew about 11 blocks together.    Set and press the seams , then pin to the orange border.


With this strip of blocks on the top and bottom of your square, carefully pin, sew that nice little seam, set your seam, press and this is what you end up....the beginnings of a small pieced top.  Next time look for the blog to talk about half square triangles.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Phase two quilters blog

Today, we will start sewing seams.  What?  are you aghast...you think I'm going to teach you a thing or two about sewing seams???

Do you remember my choice of threads?  On the upper spool I like to use at a minimum a 50 weight thread...I love it more if I can find a nice silk to use...but that is expensive and used only on my bestest quilts.  On the bobbin?  Lets use the bobbin thread.  What is bobbin thread?  It is a 60 weight thread.  And some machines have been calibrated to use certain brands.  I know both my machines are fussy little buggers when it comes to the bobbin.  Both love Finishing Touch.  I think mainly because it is pretty low lint producing for some reason.  I know one of my machines does not care for pre wound bobbins--especially when I am machine embroidering.  So, I have decided to just stay away from them.  I think the Brother machines (which is a sister to mine) loves the prewounds.  I really don't think that the thread is as fine as Finishing Touch.  But, that is my humble opinion...not my dealers.    There is that beer budget with champagne tastes, I imagine.  However, I have not done a cost comparison.

Before really putting the needle to the fabric there are several things to review...
  • Clean your machine--open your manual and see what they suggest.  My biggest trouble area in each of my machines is in the drop in bobbin area.  Whewie...what a lot of lint.  (BTW, please stop and clean this area each morning.  If you get those funny little birdsnests, that is probably the problem.
  • Change your needle--we are told to do this with each new project...I don't necessarily do that.  My machine tells me when it is tired of the needle by acting up.  But, I do put a fresh one in often.  I use an 80 or a 100 when quilting.  I think there are even quilting needles--I use the universal, most often.
  • And, if your machine likes to eat fabric--so easy to do when piecing--start and end with a scrap of fabric.  A friend gave me a bunch of squares for a secret sister gift one time.  ;*))
  • Find a bottle of water, and go to the chain sewing...if what you are sewing merits it.  I don't think we will do that til we the half square triangles.  Chain sewing is just keep feeding the machine pieces without cutting the treads or lifting the pressure foot.
  • Make sure you are sitting ergonomically at your machine.  Please, please protect your body.  Google "ergonomics for sewing".   Remember to get up and move around periodically.
Yes, the weight of the thread is important.  But the heavier thread does increase that seam.  Oh, shucks, what am I thinking?  even the 50 and 60 wts take up space.  So what do we do? 

Darlene Zimmerman to the rescue...remember I talked about Lavendar Hill Farm and my beautiful Frosty Morn quilt?  She is the one who led that class.  I am going to quote from her book on this one, she writes better than I do.  Taken from Lavender Hill Farm quilting book, page 9, @2008 published by Krause publications.    I think this is really important and has made a difference in my quilt piecing.  "  Tip   try this quick check to see if you are sewing an exact 1/4" seam allowance:  Cut three 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" strips.  Sew them together on the long edges.  Press.  The square should now measure 3 1/2".  If not, adjust your seam allowance.  (Also check that you have pressed correctly)."

Pressing?  This makes this seam lie as flat as can be.  It will make the piecing work better, plus the finished product looks nicer...just as in garment sewing.  (no use in having a sewing machine if you do not have an iron).  First set that seam by setting the iron down on the just sewn seam.  2nd  flip open and iron from the right side with the seam laying towards the darkest fabric.  If you want, a burst of starch works well here.  I just push right into that seam...don't stretch your fabric. 

Stitching a 9, 12, or 16 patch. Not included in our blog quilt

I've been working on another project that involves chain piecing.  This is  using nickel blocks (5x5) and making a 4 x 4 set of blocks.  This will work for any chain of blocks, I use this method when I'm stitching big blocks together.

First one has to decide how they want to place their blocks.  If you are working with a lot of different prints, you may just decide to pull your blocks out of a paper bag.  Or you can divide your blocks in darks and lights and alternate them.  Or do an even number of big units of all darks or all lights.  These methods is about as simple as it can be, and look great.

So after you have tested your seam measurement, just join two blocks together, only take a couple stitches without lifting the pressure foot or cutting your thread stitch the next two blocks, and repeat until you have stitched  four roses of these blocks.  At the end of that row just cut your thread ....no back stitching!  Then at the top of that chain of blocks and chain stitching add another block, repeat with the next row.  Now you have a dangly set of 16 nickel squares sewn together.  Press your seams with one row all the seams going the same direction and alternate the next.  This will keep the bulk down in the seams at the joins.

Now just take 2 rows and pin at the corner of each block...I go straight down in the seam to be sure I'm at the same place in the under block.  Sew up those open seams in one long strip of 4 blocks.  (This will be 3 seams). Press, and you have one block complete.  I think you should have an 18.5" block.  This what you would measure for center focus fabric.  We will discuss sashing later.

In this last step in sewing the blocks together, hopefully all your seams on top are pressed upward, and on the underside they face downward.  This will make a nice flat corner.  It also helps your seams  match better.  That pressure foot just find of pushes one seam up to the other.

Pictures of actually doing first task

Hello,  I was remiss in not doing some pictures for all of you to follow along with.  I am such a visual learner, I'm not sure why I did that.  Just new to writing tutorials:

This is one of the fabrics I have selected.  Notice the ravelly edge.  I could have avoided a lot of this had I made a little cat-ear cut at each of the four corners before laundering.    If I have a small piece of fabric, I do not prewash...just because most of it will be lost in the washer and dryer;  I just spray starch and press very carefully in an up and down motion so you do not lose the integrity of the straight cut of the fabric.  You do not use the motion you use when pressing clothing.

Here are the fabrics I selected to start the quilt...since this is strictly stash, I may add more pieces as I go along trying to keep some of the first selection for the last borders blocks of a quilt.

They all neatly starched and ironed.  My focus fabric is at the bottom and is a sweet little block print with teddies.  This quilt will most likely end up in the community Christmas project.

I am straightening the width of my focus fabric.  Note the placement of my hand.  I have "walked" my hand along with the ruler as I cut.  This helps it stay stable.    (see the white masking tape on my ruler...don't use white...use the blue painters tape.  Old white tape does not peel off very well)

I placed the folded edge even with a measure line on my cutting board...trying to maintain an even edge and not running kitty rompus
Next, I trim the selvedge off...maintaining the straight integrity...I have placed the width straight on a line on my cutting board...so I will have a perfectly even edge.

I also like to make sure the line that I'm cutting on is at the same measure mark at the beginning as it is at the end of the strip of fabric.

But, in trimming this selvege, do you see what I see...my blade is not working properly...it is dull and did not cut through all the layers.   Very carefully, replace the blade.  Do pay attention so you make sure you put the whole rotary cutter back together in the proper order.  That new blade is very sharp...And, you can have the old one sharpened...inquire at your local quilting shop.  I tape up my old blades in the original cardboard and plastic carton.  My new package contains 5 blades.

I am measuring the focus fabric, very carefully at 14 1/2 inches.

 Here, you will see the blue painters tape on my ruler marking two inches.  That is the size of blocks I want to cut from the two inch strips of  fabric.  I start with the blue tape at the left edge of the fabric, and move it up without disturbing the fabric, so the blue edge is on another two inch cutting line.  Walla...to the left you see the cut squares, the third set is separated to see the stack of fabrics I cut.

Can you believe it...here is the focus fabric, the strip of border fabric, and the next border of squares. 

See you in the morning with sewing pictures and Darlene Zimmerman's tip on sewing seams....

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Quilting Tutorial in the Rose Garden

I'm writing a blog about quilting...just because...someone asked me to help them with a quilt, then several others chimed in and once this makes Facebook and the sewing forum I participate in I expect more may be interested.   This is my most recent quilt.  It is called Frosty Morn (more appropriate for a lead in to this blog on this wintery evening).  Frosty Morn is designed by Darlene Zimmerman.  Darlene is a very interesting woman and is better known as the Feedsack Lady.  Frosty Morn is in the the book from Lavender Hill Farms.   I have attended workshops and lectures given by Darlene.  Some of the other workshops and lectures I have attended have been given by by Pat Speth of Nickel Quilts; Marianne and Liz of Fons & Porter; Judy Martin, the lady who designs and publishes so much with Log Cabins.  Another evening, you will see my Log Cabin; Marsha McCloskey with Feathered Stars.  So what I will be sharing with you are just little gleanings floating around in my brain. 

Let me show you a picture....It is from the magazine Easy Quilts by Fons & Porter, Summer 2009. The quilt is designed by Jodie Davis.  This will help you understand how simple quilting can be, if you only think in terms of segments.  A few slices of the scissors and joining and sewing some fabric together and you can create stars out of what was once simply a square.  Sound exciting? 

This beautiful quilt is just made with squares and half square triangles.  After you make this first quilt, you will know how to make squares and half square triangles....  I really like this magazine for all level of quilters; but particularly for the first time quilters.    I also like the book Fons and Porter Complete Guide to Quilting.  If that is the only book I could have for a resource...that would be it.  Having said that...Darlene Zimmerman tells us many useful things in her Quilts from Lavender Hill Farm--as she probably does in her other books as well.  Judy Martin's Ultimate Rotary Cutting Reference book is tops...and I gain a lot from her other books too.    TV and you-tubes are good to use as a resource.  A new one that I have learned about on you-tube is Jenny Doane of Missouri Star Quilters.  (I'll be going to her workshop at Okoboji in March).  I would recommend checking out your public television stations for their quilting and sewing shows.  Most are excellent.   And, you can google Alex Anderson for her show on the computer.  
Tools:  For cutting you need 1) a self healing cutting mat.  Get one at least 18" x 24".  It is a nice size and will handle that 42 inch wide fabric folded in half-from selvedge to selvedge. I like the grid lines on mine...however, many do not and turn the board over and cut on that side.   2) Rotary cutter: a nice medium sized  ergonomic one is nice and  handles most jobs you want to do.  Perhaps when you become more skilled you will want a smaller one to cut curves...but don't worry about that now.   3) A long wide rotary ruler.  Mine has a lip on one short end to hang tight to the cutting board, and helps the ruler stay in its place.  Some of the rulers are made with little grooves on the wrong side--this keeps it from slipping around on the fabric.  Or you can buy little round felt sticky grippers to put on the bottom...or simply glue on strips of sandpaper.

Let me stray from the tool list now...just to talk about the rotary cutting tools.  Blades are expensive; keep pins and needles and other stray objects off of your cutting mat...or else they may jump into the path of the blade.  And, remember, extreme caution with your rotary cutter.  I always try to remember to put the safety lock on when I'm not actually cutting with it.  (I don't mean after I'm all done cutting- mean every time I lay down my cutter.)  Those blades are very very sharp...and do keep the pets and small children away from the Rotary Cutter.  When you are cutting, keep your fingers out of the path of the blade.  And, cut away from your body.  When I use the cutter and ruler...I am right handed so I like the ruler to the left side of the blade.  But, do what ever is comfortable for you.  There are situations where you might do the reverse for a moment. 

Be kind to you cutting mat...Store your mat flat; do not bend it, roll it, or store it in a stack of junk.  It isn't pretty when you bring it out.  Periodically use a nylon net scrubby on it to get all the lint and junk off of it.  And, please at least once a year if not oftener...give it a nice bubbly bath in your tub.  Yes, just dish soap and a little warm water and let it soak for a while.  After the workout and being sliced all the time, it well deserves some coddling!  :-))

Be kind to your ruler; it is made of a very nice acrylic that can chip if dropped on a concrete floor.  Don't ask??? 

Other tools
  •  A good pair of sharp scissors.  I use the same ones I use for other sewing.
  • Fine pins and pincushion
  • A 5" square acrylic ruler with the grippers
  • Another square ruler I find invaluable is a 10 or 12" square ruler for squaring up your blocks.  For now the 5" ruler is all you need.
  • An iron; essential item  (a small one is nice, and I don't use the steam)
  • Thread...no more than a 50 weight thread, and I like to use bobbin thread  in the bobbin.  The less thread space the more accurate your seams will be. 
  • A marking pencil that comes out with heat or a spritz of water.
  • One more ruler, just a short school type ruler.

And, last but very not least, is a seam ripper...practice using it alot.  And, if you have the choice or a birthday coming up...get one with that rubber end on it...great for picking up those threads.  Yes, I use it alot!!

Of course, you say...what will I make. I would suggest a simple quilt with a block in the center...or at the top...or placed off to the side. We will call that block your feature fabric, then we will do borders that work well with your feature fabric and make pinwheels, square blocks, half-square triangles, flying geese, and whatever else I may dream up before we are finished. Once you have mastered these, you will be ready to go.  

 Don't let me scare you...You would use your little square of focus fabric in the center...then we will develop borders on each side.  We won't do the blocks shown in this picture...instead we will do the ones I talked about before.    That center focus fabric could be a fabric with wildlife; big splashy flowers; a bright print with fish or puppydogs; or the one with all sorts of balls; as well as purses and high heels, or fairies.    Or if you want, you could embroider or applique something on a fabric.
Or, you could use several strips of your focus fabric and place rows of our quilted blocks in between.  This is a really poor example.  But, I could not find a pic of any of the baby quilts or laprobes I have done that way...only my DH's train quilt.  Shhhhh...don't tell him...it is a Christmas Gift when I get it finished.

 This is a patriotic panel quilt, and I used a log cabin and half square triangle on the borders of it.
This is a winter scene as the focus fabric, with pin wheels, snowballs, and 9-patch blocks used in the borders.  I love pinwheels.  Especially in childrens quilt.  They just give such motion to a quilt, don't you think.
SORRY DON"T KNOW HOW I GOT EXTRAS, and can't figure out how to delete them...

 So, now...your assignment is to select your focus fabric and several fabrics that blend well.  When selecting your matching fabric, remember we want a variety--small, medium sized prints.  Some darks, some mediums, and some light colored fabrics.  Do the eye squint to see how they look together.   I would also use all the same weight fabrics.  Don't mix a denim or corduroy in with your cottons. 

So you will want a  the focus fabric, and scraps of other fabrics. 

Focus fabric:
Cut 1 - 14 1/2" square of your focus fabric....unless you want it to run border to border...as in the train.  Then you will just want to figure out what each strip needs to be according to the repeat of the design.

Dark fabric:
cut 2 - 1 3/4" strips for frame of focus square.(1st border)

Medium fabric: 
cut 6 - 3" strips x width of fabric strips for 5th and 7th borders  (if you are using stash you may cut 4 strips of one color and two of another color

Light fabric:
Cut 4 - 2 1/2" strips x width of fabric fabric for flying geese squares.  These will be cut into 2 1/2" squares.

Cut 4 - 4" strips for a 3rd border

Scrappy fabric:  Light, medium, and dark fabrics
Cut 22 - 2" squares for second border

Scrappy fabric will be used for the flying geese...you may need as many as 60 - 2 1/2" x 4 1/2" rectangles (dependent on size of your quilt at that point).

5" squares for half square triangles (fourth border) and for pinwheels (final border).  5" strips of various fabrics.  Some light, dark, and medium colors.

Preparing the fabric:  I like to spray starch my fabric and press one last time before any cutting.  (I don't like to steam or spray the small strips of fabrics that you see.  They tend to distort very easily when you are pressing.  Do cut the selvedges off, and square up your fabric...checking right angles with your ruler (I lay the short end of the ruler on the fold, and trim off anything that isn't running even with the long side of the ruler.)  Likewise, when you cut your strips, please square up that short side. 

You may go ahead and cut that nice square of focus fabric; and the dark strips for the second border.
You may also cut the 2 inch squares.  Please do not cut any other pieces yet.

When cutting, be sure to hold the ruler in place by inching your left hand up the ruler as you cut.   After you cut the strips...it is easiest if you just place your ruler at the left end of your strip, and square up that end.  Then, by moving your ruler across at multiples of 2 inches cut each block.  You don't pick up a thing, or move any fabric until finished with that strip.  Leave your fabric doubled, and you may stack your fabric before cutting.  (You may not want to cut the entire lenght so you have more colors)  If you are cutting just little pieces of fabric...go ahead and square up by using the 5" square....I use masking tape taped to the appropriate line to see an easy measure.

Good luck with your cutting...do not sew anything...special tip from my friend Darlene Zimmerman for seams.

Remember to cut carefully and accurately.   The cutting and the sewing is very important so the blocks don't go wonky.  

I plan to be back tomorrow with the second step (the sewing).