Akasha with the Kinetic Energy quilt

The Year Without Quilting

I didn’t plan it really. It just happened.

I stopped quilting. And it was good. Really good.

I spent January and February of 2015 designing and stitching like a maniac, making a couple of art quilts to submit to a juried exhibit. I didn’t expect that they would be accepted, so I wasn’t surprised to receive the “Thanks, but not this time” letters.

It’s not that they were no good, but I am realistic enough to say that when it comes to the type of design that the quilting world considers “art” these days, I have neither the experience nor the artistic eye to compete. It was the first time I’d really tried to “say something” with a quilt, and probably no one but me actually “gets it” which is fine. Read More

Patchwork Times–Birthdays, Un-Decorating and Finishes

Since the New Year’s holiday, I’ve been trying to find my motivation. It seems to have gone on walkabout without me. I know this is what happens when I “take a break” from major projects, which is exactly why I don’t do it to often. I find it really difficult to get into the grove again, even after just a day or two of being away from work, whatever the “work” is at that moment. So I can’t say that I’ve been terribly constructive in the past week and a half, partly due to that absent motivation, but also partly due to normal “stuff,” like:

A birthday

LittleOne’s 12th Birthday celebration, and

Patches and XMAS

The Christmas take-down, despite the cats “helping”.

Finished quilt!

I did, however, finish up the last few quilts for The Book, and I mailed them to AQS yesterday.

WooHoo! Now that the manuscript is really finished, I can move on to some other related tasks: creating classes and workshops, programming the website that goes with the book, and programming my online shop so it can open by mid-May. Whew! Stage 2, comin’ up! Motivation, please come home…

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Shortcuts and Binding Relationships

I have this love/hate relationship with binding. I love it, because it means that I’m almost done with the quilt, but when I get to that point, there are all these variables that have to be thought about, worked out, tried, discarded, tried again, and still when you put the binding on the actual quilt, any number of things could go wrong no matter how good things look before you start. Variables like batting thickness, binding width, which foot to use, binding fabric thickness, quilt fabric thickness, etc., etc., etc., not to mention the relationships between all of these variables and how they affect each other. And those variables can multiply exponentially if there is any fluff or border waving going on on the edges of the quilt. What’s not to hate?

I even made notes a while back about binding and the measurements that I use for strips and which foot and so on, but for the last couple of quilts I’ve finished recently, I’ve used different batting and much experimenting was necessary. The current batting is Quilter’s Dream Poly Request Loft, which is very thin, lots thinner than the Hobbs PolyDown or Heirloom/Tuscany Wool that I’ve used for many of my quilts in the past.

I almost always use a double French fold binding on my quilts. I’ve finished a couple recently with a facing, but after the second one didn’t really turn out better than the first, and still looked like it had fat dog ears, I’ve gone back to my regular binding method for now. For this Dream Poly batting, I decided to use 2¼” cut strips for the binding, since I wanted the binding a bit narrower than my usual treatment, and the battling is very thin.

When I sewed the binding onto the quilt with the machine, after some experimenting, I lined up the edge of the folded binding with the edge of the quilt, used the Pfaff #0A foot, set the needle at the 5.5 position, and guided the edge of the quilt along the right edge of the foot. This was basically a fat ¼” seam on the binding, and when I flipped it, it lined up perfectly with the folded edge sitting just above the sewn line, ready to hand stitch down.

French fold binding, back

After stitching it down by hand right above the machine stitched line with a ladder or blind stitch, it looks like this (well, this is a different quilt, but the same idea anyway):

French fold binding, back, after hand stitching

The corners are always a bit of trial and error. (See the McCalls website for diagrams that are much more clear than the pictures that I took of the corner folding process for mitered bindings!) On the first binding I did with this batting, I think I got two of the four corners mitered perfectly (or at least what I thought of as perfectly). The others were pretty good, but two were nearly perfectly square with a perfect miter and looked like this:

French fold binding, mitered corner

On the second quilt binding, for some reason I didn’t trim the quilt top before sewing the binding on as I usually do, which meant that I couldn’t flip the binding to the back as I went, and check the corners as I did each one to make sure they would miter somewhat close to perfectly. The batting was the same, there was nothing different about the borders from the first quilt to the second one, so I just “did it.” I folded the corners the same way I’d done the previous binding and trimmed the edges after I machine sewed the binding on, and didn’t check the corners by folding to the front along the way to check the miter. So I ended up with corners like this:

French fold binding, bad corner

Meh. Rounded corners. Corners that look like they got chopped off with a rotary cutter. Not good, not good at all. I may have to re-do the whole binding, which isn’t as bad as it sounds since the quilt is only 12″ square. (Okay, it’s not a show quilt, so maybe I’ll just live with it. Maybe.) The difference may have been the binding fabric itself since everything else was virtually the same. The plaid fabric was a bit “heftier” if that makes any sense. It just felt a bit thicker than the black solid that I’d used for the other binding.

Lesson learned: always, ALWAYS check the corners. And making a test quilt sandwich and putting binding on a corner with all the same materials as you plan to use in the real quilt probably isn’t a bad idea either. Too many variables left unchecked spoil the binding. You’d think I’d have learned these things by now, and I guess I have really, but we all take shortcuts sometimes. Most times when I do though, I end up being sorry for one reason or another…

Inchie Addictions Take Shape

Whenever I’ve shown Inchies or talked about them to quilter friends, almost the first question out of everyone’s mouth is “What do you do with them?” I mean, really, where’s everybody’s imagination? 😉 I’ve had a plan all along:

Inchie Quilt

Sure, you can make them, trade them with other quilters if you’re so inclined, keep them stashed away in a box, or make jewelry out of them, but why not create larger quilt art pieces with them? These were the first Inchies I made, and they’re all from the same chunk of fabric. You can see closeups of the Inchies here.

The Inchies are made from two layers of fabric fused to either side of Timtex, and attached to this simple background quilt with Velcro Fabric Fusions. I wouldn’t use Timtex again, because while I like the stiffness and ease of construction use, it’s just too hard to hand sew beads and embellishments to the Inchies through the Timtex. I’ve discovered a better combination to use as a base from now on (more on that later).

The iron-on Velcro isn’t very user friendly either (or maybe I’m just challenged by fusible things). I’ve had a terrible time getting it to stick permanently like it’s supposed to; it seems to be stuck just fine until about an hour later when it’s completely cool, and then all the glue becomes goopy again and the pieces peel right off the fabric. Part of the problem is undoubtedly that I’m fusing it to two layers of fabric and batting or Timtex, but it’s completely strange that it seems stuck right after fusing, and then unsticks when it cools. I’ve started fusing it twice to see if that will help.

I wasn’t even sure I’d like the Velcro treatment since it might make the Inchies stick out too far from the quilt surface, but now that it’s done, I really love it! It gives the Inchies a “mounted” look and adds some dimensional interest. I was planning to tack the Inchies to the quilt with thread, but I did a couple that way and didn’t like doing it or the way it looked, so I switched to the Velcro. The Velcro has other advantages as well, since I can rearrange the Inchies on the quilt, or switch them out to display a different set.

When the quilt was ready for binding, I wasn’t too keen on adding anything visible around the edge. I remembered keeping an article about facing quilts during the great magazine purge, so I went digging. Thanks to a most excellent article by Katleen Loomis in American Quilter Ultimate Projects 2007 Magazine, I learned a new technique and the back of the quilt looks like this:

Facing on Inchie Quilt

Her technique uses a one-piece curved corner facing and some dressmaking techniques to keep the facing from rolling to the front of the quilt. Where the corner and side facings meet a little pocket is formed, and if you don’t sew it closed, it makes the perfect place to put a piece of dowel rod for hanging a small quilt like this.

Dowel rod for hanging

I think I was a little too vigorous when I pushed out the corners after turning the facing, so the corners of the quilt look a tiny bit dog-eared, but it isn’t as bad in person as it looks in the photos. That’s just something to remember for next time I use a facing to finish a quilt.

If I had the whole quilt to do again, I’d either leave more space around the outside of the Inchies, or shrink the space between the sets a bit. I had a moment when I wasn’t thinking ahead about binding and finishing at all, and forgot to leave a seam allowance for that when I trimmed the edges, so there’s a bit less space around the outside than I originally intended. There’s always next time. All in all though, I’m quite happy with the finished product!

On a “Finishing Roll”

Flower BlockAfter finishing the Dresden Plate Drama quilt (by the way, it’s been claimed by Guitar Girl for her bed, and christened “Rosette;” I was somewhat surprised that she liked it that much!), I still didn’t have my rayon thread in hand for The Misery Quilt (Grrrr!), so I pulled out another large work in progress and just kept going. I realized that this other quilt may be even older (!) than the Dresden Plate quilt. 😦 Ouch. Anyway, there was surprisingly little to be done, relatively speaking. Two or three easy days of quilting and then binding saw it done!

Did you know that metallic thread can tarnish?? Yup, it can…

I started making this one for my bed way back when. It began as a pattern from a book, and I modified the flower block and changed the border. I hand dyed the fabrics for the Log Cabin blocks with my friend Carla. I quilted most of it with silver metallic thread, and what I learned from that was “never again.” Did you know that metallic thread can tarnish?? Yup, it can, and even though Sulky America swears that’s not true, I have the proof sitting right here on this quilt. Aside from the tarnishing issue, machine quilting is difficult enough at times without throwing sensitive, difficult to manage, breakage-prone thread into the bargain. I finished up the outer border in cotton, thank you very much, since the floral fabric had silver overprinting on it anyway so why torture myself? At this point, done is more important than perfect!

Garden Quilt Center

There was a contest sponsored by Better Homes and Gardens at some point, and I thought I would finish this up and enter it, and even though I didn’t get it done in time (obviously), in my head it’s always been called “Homes and Gardens.” Now I have to come up with another name! Read More

The quiet, the memories and the quilting

I was a bachelorette this weekend, as ITMan took the girls to Girl Scout Camp (is he a great dad, or what? Good thing he likes that kind of stuff, because nobody will ever get me to do that camping thing ever again. “Roughing it” in my book is a hotel without room service and a spa!). I decided that I wouldn’t go check the mail on Friday to see if my thread was there, since I began to see light at the end of the 11-year-long tunnel that was the Dresden Plate Drama quilt. I started this quilt in 1996 (I might have said ’95 here before, but I really think ’96 now), so it’s long past time to see it finished!

This quilt carries many memories with it; not surprising considering it’s older than my youngest daughter. I spent a lot of time sifting through them as I finished it up. The pattern is from the May, 1994 issue of McCall’s Quilting, the first quilting magazine issue I ever bought, even before I was “a quilter.” I can’t lay my hands on it right at the moment, but I do still have that magazine. I know I have it somewhere, because there’s another quilt in it that I’ve always wanted to make, and besides that you all know I’m a confirmed packrat. The fabric is my absolute favorite fabric of all time, a Christmas print from VIP Fabrics. I had to have my mom search out more of it for me and ship it over, and I ended up with a total of 18 yards of the stuff, 13-14 of which went into this quilt in one place or another. (I still have the rest, wonder where it’ll end up?) This was the first block I made (you can see all these pics bigger if you click, but beware, they’re big files!):

Dresden Drama Block

This wonderful kaleidoscopic effect is just so stunning in this fabric. Every single plate in this quilt is slightly different. I cut a total of 364 (or was it 384?) petals the old fashioned way, by hand with a template. I took my first appliqué stitches on these plates, sad as they were! Too big, too far apart, using the wrong weight and color of thread, Read More