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!

Easy Grid Quilting

I did a small bit of machine quilting today, and I thought I’d share some quick tips to make machine guided grid quilting easier. I’m making a small background quilt to display Inchies, so all I needed was some straight line quilting to hold the layers together and create some visual interest.

Clover Hera MarkerOn a small quilt sandwich with unpieced bali fabrics on both sides and Hobbs 80/20 Black batting in the middle, I used a ruler and a hera marker to mark the straight quilting lines on the sandwich. A hera marker is simply a piece of plastic with a nicely tapered, curved edge which, when pressed on the fabric, compresses the fibers and leaves a mark that is fairly easy to see. Note that this particular model by Clover is the one I’ve had the best luck with; the others that I’ve tried have been made of softer plastic and didn’t make as nice a mark.

I marked the lines on the quilt sandwich in one direction only, meaning all the lines that are parallel to each other in an up and down direction. If you mark all the grid lines in both directions before you start quilting, you may find that when you mark the second set of lines across the first, the first set of lines will have little waves or points where the second set crosses them, and it will be difficult to quilt straight lines later.

When I’m quilting a grid, whether it’s big or small, I always start with a line of quilting close to the center of the quilt or space, and then work outward to the right and left. I always begin quilting at the top of the piece or area, and quilt toward the bottom, which means rolling up the bulk of the quilt to fit under the machine head when working on the left side. Even with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed, the layers of a quilt sandwich will shift; it’s just a fact of life.

Starting each line of quilting at the top will prevent diagonal wrinkles from forming on the quilt top or back from stitching lines in both directions. Remember this “top-to-bottom” stitching technique the next time you’re putting down stitch in the ditch between rows and blocks on a large quilt, too, as the same idea applies and the same diagonal wrinkles can happen, just on a larger scale.

Once the first set of gridlines was quilted, I marked the second set perpendicular to the first. The second set of quilting lines needs a bit more attention to detail than the first. When you start adding quilting lines that cross other lines, you can run into trouble when the fabric starts shifting. As you come up to a previous line of quilting, you may find that the top fabric of the quilt sandwich starts to form a little hill, which will become a pleat if you keep sewing.

Fabric pleating at quilting line

The solution is to slow down and pay special attention in this area. You can use your fingers on the top of the quilt to gently nudge the top fabric toward the presser foot, essentially forcing the top fabric to feed more quickly into the machine to reverse the negative pushing effect that the presser foot is having on the quilt sandwich. Not just for grids, this little nudging technique is infinitely useful whenever I do any kind of machine guided quilting with a walking foot or IDT/dual feed.

Nudging the top fabric

A few simple techniques made quick work of this little display quilt, so stay tuned for pics!

Piping Hot Binding tool–I like it!

Piping Hot Binding tool and bookI purchased this Piping Hot Binding tool and book on my last trip to the States (I think), intending to use it to put piping on the edge of The Misery Quilt when the time comes. I finally used it last week on a smaller quilt for a bit of practice before just diving in on a show quilt.

The directions are very thorough and straightforward, though obviously the method adds a bit more time to the binding process since you have to make the piping and then apply it before putting the binding on. I used my Pfaff 2056 to make the piping and bind the quilt since it has the dual feed, and I figured it would be way easier to find a Pfaff foot to use to make the piping because I have a much better selection of Pfaff feet around.

Pfaff appliqué footI used a Pfaff appliqué foot and moved the needle to the right just enough to clear the cording to make the piping. The foot has a channel on the underside so that the piping slides under it nicely and it’s easy to guide it through the machine. The Groovin’ Piping Trimming Tool made it super easy to accurately trim the piping to an even width after sewing. I used a regular 0A foot on the Pfaff to sew the piping to the edge of the quilt; I tried an open toe appliqué foot, but found that the 0A foot held the piping steadier with less shifting around while sewing it down.

I think my only issue with the whole process would be the fact that after you apply the piping, you have to put the binding on “upside down” so to speak. Usually I lay the quilt edge on the machine, and ever so slightly stretch the binding fabric as I sew it on. It makes the bindings firm, and takes care of any slight ruffling at the edges of the quilt by drawing it in a bit so it’s flat. (If I’m working on a show quilt, I do things a bit differently if the edges are ruffly, but on non-show quilts this is my quick and dirty cheater method of choice, and it usually works pretty well.) Read More

Bernina 440 – My favorite “feature”

When I was twelve and I asked my mom to teach me to sew, one of the first lessons was how to use her Riccar sewing machine. It was a pretty high-end model, built to last, and as far as I know, still runs great. The only thing I specifically remember from that lesson was my mother’s stern admonition: “Never, NEVER, turn the hand wheel backwards.” She threatened me with death if I did it, and demonstrated how to turn the handwheel properly. She meant that the handwheel on the machine should never be turned away from me as I was seated at the machine, and she explained that that would cause the threads to tangle and possibly break the machine.

Many years later, I was quite surprised by how many people I saw doing just that in classes, and wondering why the threads were all jammed up and they couldn’t get the fabric out of the machine. I guess they missed that part of the lesson? More recently, I’ve (carefully) risked my mother’s wrath by turning the handwheel on my Pfaff backwards just one half of a complete turn, to get the needle to come back up without completing the stitch if I’ve taken just that one stitch too many (or the stitch landed in the wrong place) when I’m machine quilting. (Theoretically my mother wouldn’t care anymore, since it’s not her costly machine I’d be breaking, but do me a favor and keep my malefaction between you and me!)

One half of a complete rotation of the handwheel doesn’t seem to damage the machine, but frequently it will tangle the threads, so sometimes the technique works and other times it doesn’t. If it works, I’ve saved myself taking out a whole line of machine quilting because there’s one wrong stitch at the end. If it doesn’t, sometimes I can keep stitching (and ignore the little jig of the misplaced stitch or try to work it into the design somehow) and other times the threads are so tangled that stopping and restarting is the only option. It’s a 50-50 chance with the Pfaff. Read More