Fun Fabrics for a New Quilt Project

Here’s a bit of the work of the day so far, for a new show quilt to enter into the IQA show this year, codename Accessorize Me!:

fun fabrics

This is going to be a fun quilt! The print fabrics in the middle are (l-r): Michael Miller’s Bubble Blast, Patti Paisley, Peace Flower and Pretty Stripe. Fabrics on the outside from stash. I just ordered more of all of the prints, just in case since these were fat quarters and the shop here is all out. Ordered lots of the paisley print for backing. (I know that my best friend Dawn is reading this and nodding her head, thinking “It’s about time you got started on that quilt!”)

All of these will be combined with a Hoffman Bali Batik in a rich brown for some fun appliqué blocks, and quilted with variegated Rainbows thread. There just may be some silk thread, jumbo ric rac and embellishments added (yeah, that was a teaser). At least, that’s plan A. 😉 I’m off to play some more with the block designs. Stay tuned!

Quilt Blocking–A Short Tutorial

Do you block your quilts when they’re complete? Most of the time, I do. Blocking helps the quilt lay flat and hang straight, and can help counteract slight ruffling or waviness in the borders. Here’s what you’ll need:

Blocking a quilt

  • An old, clean sheet or piece of fabric bigger than the quilt (helpful to keep lint or pet hair off the quilt, and a bit of the moisture off the carpet)
  • One wet quilt (I wash most of my quilts in the washer, either with a clear water pre-wash and then soap, or just clear water; you can also start with a dry quilt, and sprinkle or spray water on it to thoroughly wet while it’s on the floor)
  • A tape measure
  • A Stanley S2 Laser Level Square (more on this tool here), or a 15″-24″ square acrylic ruler
  • An oscillating fan or even a ceiling fan if you are lucky enough to have one
  • One cat (optional)

Spread out the sheet on the floor, ideally in a room or area that you can close off for 24 hours to keep curious pets or kids away from the quilt while it dries flat. Carefully spread out the quilt on the sheet, patting it into shape, but not stretching it. Smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles, and try to make the borders look square and even.

Blocking a quilt

Once the quilt is looking as flat as possible, measure across the top, middle and bottom of the quilt. If these measurements are not the same on the top middle and bottom, pat, smoosh, and mash the quilt lightly until they are. Yes, these are very technical methods here, smooshing and mashing. 🙂

Blocking a quilt

Keep working with it until the the measurements are even, and then measure the left, right and center of the quilt top to bottom and repeat the smooshing and mashing process until these three measurements are equal as well.

Once the measurements in each direction are equal, use the Laser Level Square (or the large square ruler) to square up the quilt. The Laser Level Square shines a red laser line all the way down each side of the quilt from the corner to help you straighten the quilt. Using a large square ruler isn’t as easy, but you can at least square up each corner, and eyeball the sides between them to make them straighter. More smooshing and mashing may be required to make the quilt look like a square or rectangle rather than a parallelogram. Examine each corner and side and smoosh and mash until everything is straight and each corner is a 90 degree angle.

Blocking a quilt

Use the measuring tape to check the measurements one more time, just in case anything changed while you were squaring it up. Leave the quilt to dry on the floor for 24 hours, or until completely dry. Picking the quilt up while it’s still damp undoes all your hard work! Use a fan to help speed the drying process.

I block my quilts before I sew on a hanging sleeve or a label. If a quilt is ever washed after it’s been hanging a while, it should be blocked again while drying. I do block most of my quilts that are meant to hang, even king size show quilts, but I don’t block lap or bed quilts if they won’t ever be hung on a wall.

That’s my quilt blocking method. If you have anything to add or a link to your method, share it!

Let’s Talk Machine Quilting (and a Giveaway!)

I treated myself today, and spent a little while machine quilting on a small quilt. Many of my projects these days are small-ish, and I’m really enjoying the machine quilting breaks that come along every few days. (If you’ve been following along, you’ll probably be able to figure out why most of my projects these days are on the small side… 🙂 ) I’ve spent years making these huge, long and involved show quilts, where they take forever to piece, then forever to mark for quilting, and then when I finally get to the quilting part, it’s just so huge that it’s daunting. That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable (mostly), but making smaller projects, where I can piece a little, mark a little, and then quilt the thing is just a really nice change.

And I do mean “treat myself” when I talk about machine quilting. It’s my favorite part of quilting, hands down. It’s just so cool to see a flat piece of fabric take on texture and dimension and life when it’s quilted. I love playing with all the cool threads I’ve collected over the years, like this variegated one:

Rainbows thread from Superior Threads

Which looks like this when quilted:

Quilted with Superior Threads Rainbows Thread

How fun is this? For the curious, the thread is Superior Threads Rainbows, which is a Trilobal Polyester, 40wt., color #801, with 50 wt. Mettler Silk Finish in a blue that matches the fabric in the bobbin; the fabric is an old Nancy Crow design that looks like crushed suede, with a scene from a Laurel Burch Fanciful Felines panel; batting is Quilter’s Dream Poly Request Loft; the quilting stencil is the continuous line 4″ Dancing Flowers by Judy Allen.

Quilted with Superior Threads Rainbows Thread

Another thing I like about small quilts is that I can quickly pin-baste on the cutting table with flower head pins and they don’t get caught up in the free motion foot since the heads are flat against the quilt. With large quilts, I spend hours crawling around on the floor basting with the basting gun, and then I’m just wiped out for the rest of the day when it’s done. You can pin-baste just about anything up to a certain size, as long as it’s not so big that you become a human pincushion while trying to push it through the machine. Heck, if you’ve been sewing all your life and a few pinpricks don’t even faze you anymore, you could pin-baste even larger quilts this way. 😉

I realize that not everyone feels this way about machine quilting, and some folks don’t find free motion quilting to be relaxing at all. So let’s have a chat about that, shall we? What don’t you like about machine quilting? What’s the part that you feel like you just can’t get right? If you do like machine quilting, and you have wisdom or a fabulous tip to share, let’s hear about that too!

I’m going to send a copy of the Machine Quilting—Master the Basics Workshop on CD to one lucky reader. To enter the drawing leave a comment on this post and share some of your machine quilting wisdom and great tips, or if you need help with machine quilting, leave a question that you’d like me to discuss in a future post. A winner will be chosen by random drawing this Saturday. Luck to all!

Paisley Pavane Visits Quilt Odyssey in Pennsylvania

Paisley Pavane traveled to Pennsylvania for the Quilt Odyssey show a couple of weeks ago. I almost forgot entirely that it was there, partly because of the moving confusion still hanging around on some things, and partly because I didn’t actually pack up the quilt and send it there myself; the nice folks at the NQA show sent it on to Quilt Odyssey after the show in Columbus.

Since I’d kind of put it out of my mind for a bit, I was surprised to hear that the quilt was awarded the Husqvarna-Viking Award for Best Machine Quilting! Wow! How cool! Now I’m feeling that fever, that inner prompting to work on a show quilt. I have one partly done, as you may remember, but it’s The Misery Quilt. I may not be feeling quite enough of the fever to tackle THAT right now, and I have some other things on my plate that need to take precedence anyway. Eh, I think I’ll just enjoy the little boost, and hope that Paisley Pavane makes it into the AQS Show in Des Moines, especially since I’ll be there to see it in the show! 😀

Paisley Pavane goes to Ohio

Paisley Pavane is on it’s way to Columbus, Ohio, and will be on display at the National Quilt Association Quilt show June 19-21, 2008. At one point, I was planning on going to the show with the quilt, and with my girlfriend Dawn, but ITMan’s new job and the move got in the way. 😦

That’s okay, since that means I have some more time to finish up something really grand to enter in the show when I’m going to be able to be there too. Not that Paisley Pavane isn’t grand, it is, but I have some other things waiting in the wings that might be even better.

The funny thing right now is that in the midst of the pre-move craziness, I entered this quilt into two other shows as well, only one of which I can remember! So I’ll probably be getting a couple of envelopes at some point, with what I hope is good news inside, but I have no idea where one of them will be coming from or when to look for it. 🙂 This is a great argument for photocopying entry forms before sending them in!

I haven’t entered anything in a show for a while, and I’m really looking forward to some feedback from the judges on this quilt. Paisley Pavane was the Third Place winner in the New Quilts from an Old Favorite contest from MAQS, but even though the quilt gets published in the book and goes on tour and all, you don’t get any feedback in the form of critique or judging sheets from the judges at all. It will also be interesting to see how the quilt fares in a much larger venue than the MAQS contest, where it will be shown with and compared to so many more quilts.

If you’re headed to Columbus for the show, keep an eye out for Paisley Pavane. It’ll be the one sparkling at you from across the room, with it’s 3,000 Swarovski crystals!

Quilt shows and the fall of traditional quilting

During my travels on the Internet this morning, I thought I’d stop in at IQA and see if the entry form for the 2008 show was available yet, thinking I might be able to finish up The Misery Quilt in time to enter, and wondering in the back of my mind what category I’d enter it in. It’s beyond “traditional,” what with the embroidery already there, the original layout, the mixed techniques, and the embellishments that I plan to add later.

…there were only two lonely categories for traditional quilts, one for appliquéd quilts and one for pieced quilts…

The entry form wasn’t there yet, but I looked at the page with the winning quilts from the 2007 show, and I was quite surprised when the categories for art quilts just went on and on and on, in multiple (but seemingly) minuscule variations for different sizes, types, and styles, and then way down at the bottom, there were only two lonely categories for traditional quilts, one for appliquéd quilts and one for pieced quilts which were not even further divided into “small” and “large.”

I didn’t enter the IQA show last year, but seeing the winners page reminded me that I’d been meaning to go on about this very issue for quite some time, ever since I read Paula’s post that referred to Jeanna Kimball’s post about judging the Houston Show in late September, 2007. Jeanna Kimball is a traditional quilter, obviously a good one since she’s out there judging, and she made some interesting observations about the number of traditional quilts that were entered in the Houston show:

One element of the contest, however, surprised me a great deal—I still can’t get over it. The last time I paid attention to quilt contests, the categories with the most quilts seemed to be traditional quilts.

It is not so any longer. The entries have dropped so low in traditional pieced and traditional appliqué that there is only one category for each—no longer are there two categories with one being large quilts and the other being small. What happened!? Where are all of the traditional quilts?

I have to second that question, but I’m afraid I know what happened to the traditional quilts. The quilters who enter the larger shows have discovered that traditional doesn’t win big. Oh sure, if you have the best traditional quilt in the show, you get the first place award in the traditional category, but when was the last time a quilt from the traditional category was awarded “Best of Show” with the big money attached? Truthfully, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ve watched (and entered) the major shows since 2001, and my overall feeling about it just from what I’ve seen and experienced is that it’s been many years. Continue reading “Quilt shows and the fall of traditional quilting”