Some Swanky Quilting

Here’s a little more “stream of consciousness” quilting on the Swanky quilt:

I drew a loopy little quilt design to coordinate with the border stencil I chose, and then only used part of it! I decided the middle part was okay since it was just four little loopy bits, but the side parts were just too strange looking, like some alien spider thingy maybe. My oh-so-excellent drawing skills were hard at work again!

I found the perfect thread in my stash! Superior Threads Rainbows #808. Just look at it, the perfect combination of colors to go with the Swanky fabrics! I’ve used this type of thread for machine quilting a lot lately, so I was expecting it to be easy to quilt with. It wasn’t, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Hobbs Thermore has been my batting of choice since Hobbs Bonded Fibers was generous enough to donate a queen-size package of it to me when I was at Quilt Market last October. Did you know that Hobbs also makes fibers for industries other than quilting? One of their newest products called Fibertect is “A three layer, inert, flexible, drapable, nonwoven composite substrate for decontamination that is effective in neutralizing and adsorbing toxic chemical agents potentially used in chemical warfare, toxic industrial chemicals, and pesticides.” Wow! Interesting…next time I need to clean house, I’ll know where to go for my outfit!

Anyway, Thermore is my favorite batting right now. From Hobbs: “This unique and patented product was developed as a thin, drapable, migration free polyester batt. ” Yup, that “migration free” part is why. After I tried Quilter’s Dream and it was bearding like crazy, I switched to Thermore and found that Hobbs doesn’t lie. Thermore just doesn’t beard, period.

But like all battings when they come out of the package, it’s a bit wrinkly and crinkly, so I’ve just been laying it on the ironing board and steaming it before basting. Just float the iron over it, not actually touching it, with the steam function cranked up to high and then smooth the wrinkles out with your hand as you go. Flip and repeat for the other side if necessary. You can also pop it into the dryer on low heat for five or ten minutes, but my dryer is two floors down so I use the iron on small pieces.

Since all the quilts I’ve been making lately are pretty small, I’ve been pin basting (with straight pins, not safety pins) instead of my usual trick with the tagging gun. I really like the pin basting because the holes are smaller! It’s also just quicker to pin it than get out the gun and the tags on something smallish.

I think I’ve also solved the “human pincushion” issue when using straight pins. I call these my Basting Buddies! They’re little caps that fit on the ends of the straight pins, so they keep the sharp ends from putting holes in me and they keep the pins from slipping out of the quilt as it’s moved around during machine quilting. It’s just as easy to get these on and off the pins as it would be to close and open safety pins, maybe even easier, and the point quality is much higher on a straight pin than it is on a safety pin, so it’s better for your fabrics.

I love the way the quilting turned out on this little quilt! Simple and easy quilting designs, but totally effective! But the quilting itself was NOT easy. I think this spool of Rainbows thread is some of the original version, and Superior Threads changed the thread slightly a few years ago and made it better. The newer spools that I have are quite easy to machine quilt with; I’d even say as easy as quilting with cotton, but the thread on this particular spool shredded and broke a lot during quilting. It happened so often that I was getting really frustrated with it, and I usually don’t get that way! Well, not about machine quilting anyway! I did get through it, but if I need this color combination of Rainbows thread again, I’ll probably just buy a new spool.

All in all, this was a really fun little quilt to make. I still have some more pictures that I took of the process, some while fitting the border quilting design (since Joyce asked) and some while hand stitching the binding down with a ladder stitch. I’ll share these in the next week or so!

Conversations of an OC Quilter

Ok, I’ll just say it: There is a part of me that’s a little bit obsessive-compulsive about some aspects of quilting, or certain projects. Here is the latest conversation with my OCQ (Obsessive-Compulsive Quilter) self after quilting one of the motifs in the setting triangles of the current project with some Valdani 35wt (very thick) variegated thread:

Me: This is looking pretty good. See?

Quilting with Valdani thread

OCQ: Hmmm, I’m not so sure about this fat, variegated thread for this quilting design here. I can’t quite decide if I like it.

Me: No, no it’s good, it really is. Isn’t it? I mean, I like the texture of the fat thread, and the cool variegated colors, and I even got the tension to behave so that there aren’t too many spots on the back where the top thread is showing. So it’s all good, right?

OCQ: Well, maybe if the design wasn’t so dense and detailed, it would be better with the fat thread, but for this design, some thinner thread and a color that didn’t show so much would look better. That blue-green variegated is just too much for the quilt, dear.

Me: Ok, maybe you’re right, and it would look better with different thread, but you know, this isn’t for show, it’s for LittleOne’s room in the new house, and it’s just a “get it finished” item off of the Creativity List anyway. It’s not like Quilter’s Newsletter is going to show up at the door for a photo op or anything. I’m using the thread I started with and you just get to live with it.

OCQ: Hmfph. (goes off muttering and mumbling) Read More

Surprises in the Mail

So, it’s that time again, and this year, it’s the big 4-0 coming up this month. Now, despite the fact that I told DH exactly what I wanted some time ago (it’s a car thing, not a quilt thing, so don’t be surprised when you look at it!), he still looked at me across the dinner table the other night, and asked “What do you want for your birthday??” GRRR. Should be pretty obvious why I usually just buy what I want when I want it. Why wait?

On the other hand, I was really excited when an unexpected package showed up in the mail from my friend Liz! Liz went to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show to see her quilt that was in the show! She started this quilt when she lived here in Germany after taking a class with the Black Forest Quilt Guild, I think, and I’m so happy that it’s finished and she took the plunge and entered it into Mid-Atlantic!

Liz's quilt at Mid-Atlantic

I can’t for the life of me remember what she named this quilt (sorry Liz!), but it’s beautiful! edit: She named it City Lights. This was her first entry into a major show, and it’s so cool that she was able to go to the show to see it there. It’s so exciting to see your own quilt hanging in a show with so many other beautiful ones. Oh, and the package? She shopped while she was at the show, of course, and here’s what she found for me:

Birthday Surprises

I love it! Liz always knows just what I’ll like! These batiks are so yummy, and I LOVE variegated threads. These just may find their way right into my next project! And check out the card:

Birthday Card

Now THAT is cool! Definitely one of my favorite things to do: shopping! The card is dimensional, with lots of different textures and gizmos, like the little handles on the shopping bags. Thanks Liz!

A new quilt!!

Aspens on my Mind

And it’s even mostly finished! This is the new project that I started so that I would have a quilt to use for the Swarovski crystals demo at the guild in March, and I do love the way it turned out. I think if I had to do it again, I would use a different batting, probably a very low loft cotton or something like that. I used a chunk of polyester that I had around, and it’s kinda over-puffy, which I usually like, but for an artsy quilt like this it’s not quite right. I think I discovered this once before, maybe, but as I usually don’t do these types of quilts, it didn’t stick in my head. Live and learn, again. That’s what I love about quilting: there’s always more to learn, and sometimes you even get more than one opportunity to learn something!!

My mom liked it so much, she said “Oooooo – I LOVE that one!” and “As a matter of fact, it would be perfect on a wall in the new house…” Since I had thought that I would eventually ask if my Mom and Dad liked it enough to have it, I took the “hitting you over the head with a brickbat” hint (as she put it!) and told her it was hers!

It really needed to be their quilt anyway, since it made me think of the aspen trees in Pine Valley, Utah, where my parents and I used to camp and hike when I was a kid. I do have some fond memories of those camping trips when I was little, even though camping wasn’t (and isn’t) my thing, and I’m positive that I was a complete pain about it all back then (and oh, am I getting paid back in spades by my own daughter now!).

I could hear the breeze in the aspen trees in my head when I looked at this piece, so I quilted tree trunks in the left border area, waving lines in the middle for wind, and aspen leaves in the right border. I will add a few Swarovski crystals to it before it becomes part of Mom and Dad’s collection. I named the quilt Aspens on my Mind. See bigger pics in the Gallery and let me know what you think!

Favorite Things: Valdani Hand Dyed Variegated Threads

Valdani ThreadsI discovered Valdani Hand Dyed Threads about a year ago, when I was working on my Paisley Pavane quilt. I absolutely love them! They really are hand-dyed though I can’t imagine how they go about doing that without losing their minds. I mean, hand dyed fabric is one thing, but thread? Anyway, Valdani is a cotton thread, and it comes in two weights and a pretty large assortment of colors. Variegated thread adds such a wonderful touch to quilts, and cotton thread is so much easier to work with than rayon.

I used a lot of different variegated rayon threads Read More

Eye on the Machine—Quilt of Many Colors

Here’s the view today:

Lots of different colors of thread!

I was looking forward to using many different colors of thread on this quilt, since I wanted to match or coordinate with the appliqué pieces for the quilting. I have been collecting threads for a while (variegated threads are just as hard to resist as fat quarter bundles for me!) and getting to actually use them on something was exciting. So, all that being said, changing the thread color every few minutes is somewhat painful, as is winding a bobbin with every different thread. I’m running out of empty bobbins! I used a white Fairy Frost fabric for the backing, and I wanted to see the quilting on the back in all the different colors. I’m hoping the back will look sort of like a line drawing of the front when it’s done.

I really didn’t even consider using just one color of thread on the back (which would have taken care of the bobbin problem), because I would have had pop-throughs of different colors of thread on the back, as well as bobbin thread on the top, no matter how well the tension was adjusted on the machine. That’s just the way of it when free motion quilting in all directions, you’re always going to have a spot where the tension doesn’t behave just right, and it has nothing to do with how good your machine or your technique is. My standard rule is to always match the threads on the top and backing to avoid this problem.